Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  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.  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.  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 13:10-13 ESV)
In these difficult times many have their attention on Jesus, let’s take a good look at His parables. Parables are simple stories used to illustrate deeper moral or spiritual lessons. No one in history had a more important deeper message, or was as skilled a storyteller as Jesus Christ. The translators of the Message version of the Bible use paraphrase as their approach to translating the Scriptures. I’m sure you can see the root connection is storytelling. The Message attempts to be more like a story than a “word for word” translation like the English Standard Version.
10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”
11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won’t have to look,
so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
16-17 “But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance. (Matthew 13:10-17 The Message)
In this passage “Christ quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain why He was using parables: the hearts, ears, and eyes of the people had become dull, hard, and blind. By using parables, He was exciting the curiosity of the concerned, those who really wanted to know the truth. But He was also hiding the truth from the rebellious; He would not cast these pearls of truth before swine (Matthew 7:6). The parables did not keep people from learning the truth; rather, the parables excited their interest and encouraged them to learn.” (Weirsbe’s Expository Outlines: WEO)
I considered “Don’t Be a Blockhead!” as the title of this message series, but then I “unscrewed” my eyes and saw the bigger picture. Jesus always used the parables to teach the brand-new vision of the approaching covenant, not to tape up old eyeglasses for blockheads.
What are some of your favorite parables, and why are they meaningful to you?
Fasting can be a great discipline in times of stress and anxiety. Fasting is purposely refraining from food, television, or even Facebook with the intent of focusing on your faith for a designated time. Remember that Jesus was teaching in an old covenant context. And the new customs that his disciples engaged in were very counter-cultural. This created frequent teachable moments for Jesus. This parable began with a question about fasting. (also found in Matthew 9:16-17 and Mark 2:21-22)
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.”  And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”  He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.  And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” (Luke 5:33-39 ESV)
What are your initial thoughts about this parable?
First, let’s look at the surface story. If you patch old garments with new cloth, the cloth will shrink when washed, and you will have a bigger tear than before. If you put new wine into old brittle wineskins, the fermenting liquid will produce gas, and the skins will burst. These would have been very familiar concepts to the ancient audience. Now it’s rare to find someone who patches their clothes instead of buying new, and I have never seen anyone serve wine from a goat stomach. While the surface story might peak some interest for us now, the ancient audience would have used the Aramaic word for “Duh!”.
What truth did Jesus want to entice them to consider, or prepare for?
“Now that Jesus is no longer on earth, His people may fast if they wish (Mat_6:16-18; Act_13:2-3; 2Co_6:5; 2Co_11:27). The phrase “taken away” in is a hint of His future death (Isaiah 53:7).
Jesus did not come to “patch” people’s lives but to make them whole. He did not come to mix the old and the new but to bring new life to all who trust Him.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
The tragedy is, people say “the old is better!” and do not want the new. The Book of Hebrews was written to explain how much better the new covenant faith is.” (WEO)
But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,
 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Hebrews 8:6-10 ESV)
So, is it a good time in your life for a fast? If so, what is your motivation? How will you use the symbolic sacrifice to draw yourself and those around you closer to Christ?