What think ye of the parables? Do you see them as neat little stories that could be understood easily and embraced by all with equal comfort. Well, nothing could be further from the truth!

The parables of Jesus, precious and memorable as they are, were the source of great controversy. It was here that a great separation of the ways occurred between His followers and His would-be followers. This was all part of the plan, the plan to winnow the harvest of followers so that only the cream of the crop was left. Jesus was not surprised by the reaction of the masses; He knew this would happen even as it had been spoken of in advance in the Old Testament. Lest we lose sight of this fact, I want to make a statement upfront and then revisit it later; here is the statement: The parables were not the cause of division, they were just the catalyzing effect that made existing divisions obvious!

“And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' He answered and said to them, 'Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: “Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.” But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.'” (Matthew 13.10-17).

Earlier in this article, it was stated that parables were part of “...the plan to winnow the harvest of followers so that only the cream of the crop was left. Jesus was not surprised by the reaction of the masses; He knew this would happen even as it had been spoken of in advance in the Old Testament.” This fact becomes obvious from a statement made by Matthew in the very same context in which this great collection of parables is presented. Here is Matthew’s inspired commentary: “All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: 'I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.'” (Matthew 13.34-35). In this particular case, the prophet was also a poet (see Psalm 78.2). By means of his comment, Matthew notes that teaching by parables was expected of prophets in general and Jesus in particular.

The impact of the parables was and still is tremendous. However, not everyone hears them now any more than everyone heard [believed and obeyed] them then. As He said immediately after delivering the parable of the Soils/Sower, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’” (Matthew 13.15).

Cute stories? Yes, but much, much more. The Parables were and are Jesus’ winnowing fan! They separate the chaff from the wheat so to speak. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13.9).

Questions:

1. Did the parables cause division, or did they only “highlight” the divisions that already existed? Why did you answer the way you did?

2. What did Matthew say Asaph was (if indeed Psalm 78 was written by him)? What was he called in 2 Chronicles 29.30?

3. What prophet foretold that some would not hear because they would close their eyes and ears?

4. What is a winnowing fan (see Matthew 3.12)? How were the parables like a winnowing fan?