“The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.’” ?—Matthew 13:10-11
Huge crowds often followed Jesus around wherever He went and for varying reasons. Some wanted to see a miracle and be entertained; others wanted to be fed or to be healed, while others simply wanted an outing, but few were those who genuinely sought the truth and wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. On this particular day, He was sitting by a lake, but such large crowds had gathered around Him that He got into a boat to teach them.
Jesus spoke in parables, which many found confusing and did not understand. The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” He expands further, telling His disciples, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them” (Matthew 13:12).
What the disciples already had and the crowds did not have was the ground upon which they would go on receiving and will “have an abundance,” while others, “even what he has will be taken from him.” In effect, Jesus is saying that these parables are going to confuse those who are not His disciples, undermining what they thought they already knew, but will add to the understanding of those who are His disciples.
What is the key ingredient that makes sense of spiritual truth? The answer lies in the relationship the disciples had with Jesus. The first ingredient to understanding spiritual truth is not intellectual in nature, but a moral disposition toward God. The fundamental prerequisite to understanding the things of the Spirit is the Spirit Himself. It is important to note that any lack of understanding was not due to the teacher, but to the hearer and was a symptom of their unwillingness to believe.
Jesus said on one occasion, “...you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26). The people’s incapacity to believe did not derive from an intellectual barrier, but from a lack of relationship with Jesus and their will to know Him. Alan Redpath has said, “Capacity to receive God’s truth depends upon the surrender of the will. Moral conquest of the will must precede intellectual enlightenment of the mind.” To those who believed, Jesus could say, “...blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matthew 13:16). It is our disposition toward Christ and submission to His Spirit that enables us to hear God and creates in us the capacity to understand and believe.