“And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.” —Mark 4:33
When Jesus taught the parable of the sower and the seeds, His disciples didn’t understand it. “And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables” (Mark 4:10, ESV). The Lord told them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven’” (Mark 4:11-12, ESV).
It’s interesting that when the Lord taught in parables, the disciples were confused but the scribes, the Pharisees, and the religious and self-righteous Jews recognized when Jesus spoke a parable that illustrated their sinfulness, Matthew 21:45,
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
Though they could not perceive or understand the truth of Christ unto salvation, they could clearly understand much of what Jesus taught. The disciples, on the other hand, required constant explanations, Mark 4:34,
But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
We realize that “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14); yet, if the hard-hearted, religious Jews could understand when Jesus spoke a parable concerning their sin, why did the disciples often have trouble understanding the teachings of Christ?
The answer is simple. Christ must teach them; explain it to them; expound all things to unto them. This is the work of the Triune God: of the Son (Mark 4:34); of the Father (John 6:45); and of the Spirit (John 14:26).
Though Christ has ascended into heaven, it hasn’t changed for His disciples: we still must ask Him about the parables, learn of Him, learn from Him, trust in Him, and rely upon Him. As the things of the Spirit of God are spiritually discerned, the truth of Christ must come from the Spirit of Christ to be known and understood.
Therefore, we may take comfort that “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). Why? The apostle answers that in the next verse, 1 Corinthians 1:29,
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
It is not only a comfort, but it is a cause for great rejoicing! For as we see that we are not wise, mighty or noble (1 Corinthians 1:26), we must go to the Lord and ask Him. We must go to Him for wisdom; we must receive our strength from Him and in Him. We must constantly be with Him, and He with us, in order for that to take place. We must ever dwell in His presence…
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. —Psalm 16:11
Speak to us Lord. Teach us your truth. Open our understanding.