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by | Jan 30, 2023 | Kingdom

KINGDOM: Who gets to see the Kingdom? (Matthew 13:10-17)

by | Jan 30, 2023 | Kingdom

One of the unique things about Jesus’ manner of teaching is that He often used parables. You know this. You’ve read them countless times, I’m sure.

And I suspect you too have had the same befuddling experience with the parables that I have at times. I’m sure of it. Here’s the situation…

You’re reading along in the gospels and come upon yet another parable. At first, you’re excited because there’s something about a story that engages the mind and puts you on the edge of your seat. You want to understand it, you want to know what Jesus is saying, you want to get to the deeper meaning.

But for some reason – maybe the way Jesus tells the parable, the words He chooses, or unfamiliar cultural imagery He draws upon – you don’t get it. Worse, you’re more confused after reading the parable than you were when you began.

I know you’ve been there.

Every true believer has, because our Teacher and Friend, Jesus, is also the eternal Son. The things He understands are beyond our comprehension. The ways He describes them are often beyond our grasp.

But more to the point, according to His infinite wisdom and purpose, He doesn’t always want us to understand.


Why does our God sometimes not want us (or others) to understand His teaching? If you can get far enough past the troublesome implications of the question to truly seek the answer, you’ll come up with at least a couple of well-reasoned, scripture-based reasons, no doubt.

But they may not be the real reasons, the definitive reason, the answer that shuts every questioning mouth and satisfies every curious mind, even yours and mine.

There comes a point where we can’t fully answer the “why” questions related to our King.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.


Prophet of God, Isaiah 55:8-9

Let’s step back to our thoughts about Jesus’ parables now.

Jesus’ 12 disciples experienced the same questions about parables we do. They heard them first hand from the very mouth of Jesus, with all the inflection, tone, expression, and emotion that comes with the experience of hearing a great story, told by a master storyteller. And even THEY were confused at times.

In fact, they wanted to know why Jesus spoke in parables in the first place.

Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”


Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:10

At this point in history, the Jewish people have been waiting hundreds of years for their promised Messiah, and these 12 disciples have invested their time and attention in the belief that Jesus just might be Him.

Their expectation was that when the Messiah arrived, He would rise up as the promised Davidic King, take up a literal throne, and militarily throw off the subjugation of Rome to establish their own national identity, geographical borders, and social order. It was anticipated as a time of God’s deliverance and blessing, resulting in a lasting peace.

With this background in mind, it’s not hard to understand why these 12 guys have questions about his use of parables.

His parables were inspiring, to be sure; helpful in many ways. But wouldn’t it be more efficient for Jesus to simply declare, “I’m the Messiah you’ve been waiting for, just look at My miracles if you need proof. Alright now, let’s get down to business…” and then use His evident miraculous power to set the existing religious and civil leaders straight, drive out their Roman occupiers, and establish the physical kingdom of Israel once more?

Then everyone could get on with enjoying God’s promised peace, you know, that wolf laying down with the lamb stuff (Isaiah 11:6).

So they simply ask Jesus, “Why are You spending so much time telling stories?”

And He answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:11-12

We have to be careful as we read this, that we don’t put our modern, cultural perspective on the 12 disciples.

What I mean is this: When we read statements like this we immediately think that something unfair is being described. It sounds familiar to us, similar to that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” line that has been spouted since the 19th century.

But neither Jesus nor his 12 disciples would have had those concepts in mind. At all.

Jesus is explaining that their sovereign God, Yahweh (the one who sent Jesus, the Messiah, by the way), IS indeed establishing His Kingdom, just as they hoped. But it’s being done in a way they didn’t anticipate. They, the 12 disciples, are among those Yahweh has chosen to reveal the “secrets of the Kingdom of heaven.” The crowds? The Jewish nation as a whole? Not so much.

It’s not clear in this passage what Jesus means by “the secrets to the Kingdom of heaven,” so we shouldn’t speculate on what this hidden knowledge might be. Instead, let’s stay focused on His answer to the disciples’ original question: Why are You speaking to the crowds in parables? His answer (so far) is that they, the crowds, aren’t meant to understand everything about the Kingdom of heaven at this time, but you 12 men are.

So what’s with verse 12 — the “to the one who has, more will be given” and the “one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” — lines?

Again, to our modern ears this sounds unfair, like the poor are being mistreated or those who are in a bad way are being made even more bad off. But before we grab our picket signs and bullhorn to organize a protest, let’s state a couple of obvious textual facts.

1) We are reading this from outside the time and culture into which it came. There is a high likelihood that we do not have the cultural savvy and background knowledge required to fully understand what Jesus is saying.

2) We’ve also stopped reading midstream. Jesus made the statement, but He hasn’t explained it, yet. So we’d do well to keep reading.

OK, let’s do that, shall we?

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:13

I LOVE it when Jesus says, “Here’s why I’m doing what I’m doing,” or “Here’s why I’m saying what I’m saying.” He’s uncovering His motives, His purpose, His reasons for something, and I want to know all of that kind of thing I can about my King.

Verse 13 is Jesus’ direct answer to the disciples’ question, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (vs. 10)

So, what is His answer?

Because they, the Jewish people of His day as a whole, don’t see as they should. They don’t hear as they should. They are already blind. They are already deaf. They already fail to understand. It sounds as if He’s even saying, “They wouldn’t know the Messiah if He healed their every disease and malady.

Let’s linger here instead of jumping ahead too quickly. We need to get the “oomph” of what He’s describing, which is what we might call the pre-existing condition of the hearers of His parables.

The Jewish culture of His day was already convinced that the Messiah would be a certain type of guy, would show up in a particular fashion, and would do certain things in a certain way. They’d been taught such things by respectable religious leaders, educated men whose job it was to know such things. These Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees quoted the Law of Moses and revered prophets like Isaiah as scriptural substantiation of their understanding of Yahweh’s plan for the Nation of Israel.

It was all quite orthodox, quite rudimentary and proper.

But it was also quite wrong.

Jesus is saying, “Even though they have eyes and are looking actively for the Messiah, they can’t see Me. Even though they have ears and have heard over and over what the Messiah is going to be like, they can’t hear My voice. They simply don’t understand the real purpose and plan of Yahweh,” which we shall see as we continue in this study of the Kingdom, is bigger and better than anything they had been taught.

Let’s linger here just a bit more to apply this to ourselves.

I’m not one to say that scripture is an amalgamation of spiritual truths that are so vast in their scope that we have no hope of understanding them. No, scripture itself says that’s the not case (2 Timothy 3:16-17). But I do want to caution us to be careful that we don’t become entrenched in doctrinal positions that are less than clear, even in scripture.

This is especially important when it comes to the prophetic, those things we are told are going to come to pass but are lacking in detail to one degree or another.

You may detect a bit of a hobby horse here, which is fair. But I don’t think it’s quite gotten to that point yet.

I’m simply concerned that we do right by the text of scripture, being very careful that we are not quoting Yahweh with words He never uttered (Deuteronomy 13:3, Jeremiah 14:14. 23:16, Ezekiel 13:6).

It goes without saying that it is presumptuous to do. It’s also disrespectful to a colossal degree. But let’s not forget it’s damaging to human beings too, perhaps to an eternal level.

Don’t hang your doctrinal hat on a rack with short or non existent scriptural pegs.

Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will ineed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:14-15

Jesus quotes Isaiah to shine another light on what’s happened in the hearts of the unhearing hearers of His day.

First, don’t miss the fact that Jesus is declaring that the unhearing hearers of His day are the fulfillment of one of Isaiah’s prophecies. In other words, Jesus is telling his disciples (in answer to their question), “Yahweh said this kind of obtuseness was going to happen, and look, here it is happening, just like He said it would.” But it’s a bit more than just that.

The passage Jesus quotes is a passage from Isaiah chapter 6, the famous retelling of Isaiah’s vision before the throne of Yahweh. In it, Isaiah sees the grandeur and glory of Yahweh, bizarre looking angelic Seraphim, and hears the declaration, “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of hosts; the whole earth is full of HIs glory.” Isaiah feels the magnitude of the declaration and discovers himself unworthy to even be there. He notes his own unworthy speech as the reason.

Then, in an act of divine grace, one of the Seraphim flies to Isaiah, touches his lips with a burning coal from the altar, and declares that his sin has been atoned for.

It’s right after this that Yahweh speaks and He says, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Here I am! Send me.”

A moment please…

It is stirring to realize that, as was done for Isaiah, in spite of our sinfulness, our God wants to clean us up and use us to do His will. It’s a privilege and an honor and an unthinkable thing we get to do, made possible by the grace of Yahweh.

But as I suspect was the case for Isaiah, the bullet points He places on our job description are often not what we imagine they would be.

We picture ourselves having a Billy Graham type of influence, or a Joseph type of ability to interpret dreams (wouldn’t that be neat?) and save entire nations and people groups. We imagine ourselves being the next great figure in the history of Christendom, leading masses in repentance and revival.

And while God can and at times does appoint people just as messed up as us (and Isaiah) to roles like that, He seems to just as often assign us what amounts to a miserable task.

Why am I saying that? Because the task Yahweh gave to Isaiah is not only less than glamorous, it’s downright miserable. First comes his message: 

Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’


Prophet of God, quoting God, Isaiah 6:9

Isaiah did not have an optimistic message to give.

Yahweh’s plan for the people of Isaiah’s day was to harden their hearts, to close their ears, to spiritually blind their eyes so that His glory, which Isaiah just experienced, would not be noticed. And Yahweh intended to use Isaiah to affect the change.

Isaiah’s “ministry” was to…

Make the hearts of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.


Prophet of God, quoting God, Isaiah 6:10

And this less-than-glamorous ministry was to go on for, well, you can read it for yourself…

Then I said, “How long, O YAHWEH?” And He said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and Yahweh removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.”


Prophet of God, quoting God, Isaiah 6:11-12


That’s not quite what we have in mind when we sign up for the work Yahweh invites us into, is it?

I’m not saying that Isaiah’s type of calling is necessarily going to be ours, but I am warning against assuming that when you become a Christ-follower everything gets better and that you’ll have a visibly flourishing ministry. I’m saying that because it seems to be where Jesus goes in answering His disciple’s question.

If I may be so bold as to paraphrase Jesus’ meaning…

“Yahweh planned for these people, this generation, to be unable to hear the truth about the new Kingdom He’s establishing right before their eyes. That means they won’t see Me as the Messiah, they won’t accept Me as the Messiah, and in fact, they’ll be instrumental in seeing to it that the nation as a whole rejects me. And let Me say it again, that’s how Yahweh intends it to be. So, you need to get the idea that I’m here to conquer Rome and set up a physical government OUT of your minds. That’s not the way this is going to go down. Just like the people in Isaiah’s day were not to see, hear, or understand because Yahweh had judgement and discipline in store for them, so it is with the people of this generation. So, I speak in parables, expressing the truth of the Kingdom in stories and images that only those illuminated by the Spirit will be able to understand.”

But Jesus also wanted his 12 disciples to understand that like Isaiah, they were blessed, through Yahweh’s great grace, to be included in the plan.

Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear and did not hear it.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:16-17


If you’ve not felt a bit of discomfort with what Jesus, quoting Isaiah, quoting Yahweh said in this passage, maybe I can help you get there.

Yahweh planned for people in Isaiah’s day, and in Jesus’ day, to NOT be able to see the good things He was doing. In fact, He didn’t want them to see. Yes, yes, they chose not to see, hear, or understand, as recounted by Jesus from Isaiah…

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus, quoting Isaiah

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:15

…but WHY did their hearts grow dull? HOW did it come about?

We are not told the specifics in either account, but we can see that Yahweh is behind it, clearly implied in the fact that the marching orders He gave to Isaiah was to herald a sort of unseeing, unhearing, un-understanding destiny for them.

Why would Yahweh do this? Hasn’t He given us the choice whether to follow Him or not?

Yes, and no.

We are responsible to choose obedience and devotion, and we will be held accountable for that choice. But we are only able to make that choice within the confines and capabilities of what we are as finite creatures. Without the eye-opening, ear-unstopping, understanding-giving grace of God, we won’t see such a choice as appealing in the least, which reveals the extent to which paradise has been lost to us.

Our fallen souls crave our own way through and through, every time, without fail. That is our capacity, our capability, our short-sighted inclination, and it is also the reason Jesus gives for speaking Yahweh’s truth so often in parables.

To be painfully clear, He spoke in metaphors and stories intentionally, providing no interpretation much of the time, so that the message of the Kingdom would be veiled to those who Yahweh had not chosen to reveal it. Jesus’ method of teaching was part of HOW Yahweh was revealing the truth of the Kingdom to some and not to others.

The every suggestion of that kind of “choice” on God’s part rails against our notion of fairness. It doesn’t seem right to our self-focused perspective that God would intentionally withhold good news from certain people.

We believe that in order for fairness to exist, everyone has to have the same opportunity, but that false belief is rooted in another; that we have the capacity to avail ourselves of the best opportunity, were it presented to us. But that is where we are wrong.

We don’t have such a capacity. We are corrupt to the core, saturated by sin. From an entirely “fair” perspective, we should all be thrown into the fires of hell, rejected as “unholy” and unfit for the Kingdom.

So our notion is right, God is unfair, but not in the way we suppose.

He’s unfair to keep us from our hell-bound destiny.

He’s unfair to provide grace to any of us, but He does.

And should He leave some of us on our sin-saturated, hell-bound path rather than redeem us through the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit, that is His prerogative alone.

Jesus’ final comment to His disciples is all the more impacting in light of this truth.

Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Matthew, Quoting Jesus, quoting Isaiah

Disciple & Apostle of Jesus Christ, Matthew 13:16

We who have seen the truth that Jesus is the Messiah are equally blessed. Our ability to choose to follow Him by faith is evidence of that blessing. We are recipients of grace we didn’t know we needed – until we knew it by His grace. And now that we know it, we join the prophets and righteous people of old who Yahweh also called by His grace to serve Him, to follow His commands, and to advance His purposes in this world.

What ARE those purposes?

Ultimately it is the declared end recorded for us in 1 Corinthians 15:28.

When all things are subjected to Him (Jesus), then the Son Himself wil also be subjected to Him (Yahweh) who put all things in subjection under Him (Jesus), that God may be all in all.


Apostle of Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:28

Every tick of the clock, each era and epoch of history is a step along the continuum toward that end, progressively leading to it.

This means that God’s “purpose” at any given time is one necessary link in a long chain of events.

In Isaiah’s day, it was a time of judgement for the nation of Israel through the exile to Babylon. This laid the necessary groundwork for things like Phariseeism and Sadduceeism and talmudic teaching to rise to the forefront of Jewish life over the next 500 years. These are the very traditions and approaches to faith that Jesus condemned over and over.

It put in place the historical context for Samaritans VS Jews.

It lay the foundations upon which the Greek empire would be built and the Hellenization of the majority of the Middle East and Europe. From there, the ascendance of the Roman empire and its insistence that all people groups under its domain adhere to its religious syncretism with Caesar and Rome at the pinnacle.

Which brings us to Jesus’ day and the further application of Isaiah’s prophecy as we see it explained by Jesus, through Matthew’s pen.

It was in this historical, purposefully arranged context that the Kingdom of heaven came to earth in the person of Jesus, to grow from a mustard seed of faith in Him into a mighty tree that is ordained to fill the whole earth with its righteous branches.

Those in Jesus day who were steeped irrevocably in the legalistic rabbinic approaches to Judaism were not to be a part of the Kingdom. In fact, their judgment was right around the corner; the complete destruction of the Old Covenant practices and forms (the temple, animal sacrifice, etc.) in 70 A.D.

And as the dust settled on that time of destructive judgment such as the world had never seen, the good news of the Kingdom of heaven would spread, grow, and flourish, reaching over 2000 years into the future, to us.

Yahweh’s purpose for the Kingdom is more vast than Mount Everest, deeper than the sea, higher than the heavens… and will continue to grow to the realization of the prophecies of Habakkuk.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD (Yahweh) as the waters cover the sea.


Prophet of God, Habakkuk 2:14

Prayer Response

Would you join me in this prayer?

Our God, we bow before Your great purposes and refuse to question Your ways. We see You as the Mighty Sovereign and submit to your realm and methods of moving history in the direction You have ordained.

Thank You for making us such blessed people, to be able to see and know the Kingdom of God has come, in Your dear Son, Jesus.

Teach us to follow Him. Give us the power to do so in bold faith and endurance.

Kingdom Insights (cumulative list)

The Kingdom of heaven/God was long anticipated by the Jewish people (and others)

Entrance into the Kingdom requires repentance

The entrance of the Kingdom brought the Messiah and judgment

The Kingdom began with the advent of Jesus and continues growing, even today

The Kingdom of heaven is characterized by humility and righteousness

Those who enter the kingdom must do so by the righteousness of Jesus

Kingdom citizens are to be praying for the Kingdom to come and grow

Trust enables us to focus on the Kingdom first

The Kingdom is populated by those who trust what the King says

POST 10:
Kingdom citizens should speak and act to spread the Kingdom and ask the Lord to send more workers into it.

POST 11:
The Kingdom of Heaven was present, being inaugurated in Jesus’ day.

POST 12: 
The Kingdom of God always triumphs over the evil plans of the devil. Kingdom citizens should be bold and hopeful as a result.

POST 13: (this one)
Those who are able to see the Kingdom of God and understand Jesus’ centrality in it, are blessed by God.

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