Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Benefiting From Jesus’ Illustrations
WHEN the disciples come to Jesus after his speech to the crowds on the beach, they are curious about his new method of teaching. Oh, they have heard him use illustrations before but never so extensively. So they want to know: “Why is it you speak to them by the use of illustrations?”
One reason he does so is to fulfill the prophet’s words: “I will open my mouth with illustrations, I will publish things hidden since the founding.” But there is more to it than this. His use of illustrations serves the purpose of helping to reveal the heart attitude of people.
Actually, most people are interested in Jesus simply as a masterful storyteller and miracle worker, not as one to be served as Lord and to be unselfishly followed. They do not want to be disturbed in their view of things or their way of life. They do not want the message to penetrate to that extent. So Jesus says:
“This is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations, because, looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah is having fulfillment, which says, ‘ . . . For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive.’”
“However,” Jesus continues, “happy are your eyes because they behold, and your ears because they hear. For I truly say to you, Many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things you are beholding and did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing and did not hear them.”
Yes, the 12 apostles and those with them have receptive hearts. Therefore Jesus says: “To you it is granted to understand the sacred secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, but to those people it is not granted.” Because of their desire for understanding, Jesus provides his disciples an explanation of the illustration of the sower.
“The seed is the word of God,” Jesus says, and the soil is the heart. Of the seed sown on the hard roadside surface, he explains: “The Devil comes and takes the word away from their hearts in order that they may not believe and be saved.”
On the other hand, seed sown on soil with an underlying rock-mass refers to the hearts of people who receive the word with joy. However, because the word cannot take deep root in such hearts, these people fall away when a time of testing or persecution comes.
As for the seed that fell among the thorns, Jesus continues, this refers to people who have heard the word. These ones, however, are carried away by anxieties and riches and pleasures of this life, so they are completely choked and bring nothing to perfection.
Finally, as for the seed sown on fine soil, Jesus says, these are the ones who, after hearing the word with a fine and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.
How blessed are these disciples who have sought out Jesus to obtain an explanation of his teachings! Jesus intends that his illustrations be understood, to impart truth to others. “A lamp is not brought to be put under a measuring basket or under a bed, is it?” he asks. No, “it is brought to be put upon a lampstand.” Thus Jesus adds: “Therefore, pay attention to how you listen.” Matthew 13:10-23, 34-36; Mark 4:10-25, 33, 34; Luke 8:9-18; Psalm 78:2; Isaiah 6:9, 10.
◆ Why did Jesus speak in illustrations?
◆ How do Jesus’ disciples show themselves to be different from the crowds?
◆ What explanation does Jesus provide of the illustration of the sower?