Parables: to enlighten, to conceal

August 29, 2016 Bethel Admin

by Randy Bushey

lantern in the dark

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light (Luke 8:16).

The parables of Jesus are usually thought of as common stories or simple analogies to clarify by illustration a point of His teaching.

But that’s not what He said.

His disciples probably had some perception that the Master used parables to illustrate divine truth; after all, the concepts of the Kingdom were not always readily understood, even to Jews who had been awaiting the coming kingdom – and the kingdom’s Messiah – for generations.

However, when they asked Him why He used parables, they got an answer that none of them expected. And it’s a response that often frustrates contemporary readers, leading them to charge Jesus with arbitrary unfairness in His teaching: a deliberate withholding of knowledge from those hungry to learn.

Here’s what He said: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “’though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’” (Luke 8:10).

He clearly was not using illustrations simply to elucidate the truth. His use of parables would enlighten some, and conceal the meaning of His teaching to others.

In answering the why question, Jesus used language that His disciples would instantly recognize as reminiscent of the great Hebrew prophet Isaiah from 7 centuries earlier.

When God commissioned His prophet to minister to Judah as a spiritual advisor to 4 major kings, the Lord warned Isaiah that his would be dreadful mission of frustration to a people who were mired in spiritual apathy, and therefore would be blasé and unresponsive to his urgent warnings.

Although Isaiah carried out his prophetic role with godly distinction and ardent fidelity, the Lord had predicted the response of his hearers would “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving” (Isaiah 6:9).

Of his Jewish audience, God observed that the message would “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise
they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (v.10).

The parable of the lantern bridges the concept.

In antiquity, lamps were expensive, as was the oil to fuel them. But like a flashlight, they were indispensable in darkness.

That’s because the nature of darkness is to obscure and conceal; everything in the dark is hidden from view.

But like a powerful lamp, the light of teaching of Jesus cuts through obscurity and blackness. It cannot not be shielded or hidden, and in a future day will lay everything – actions, thoughts, attitudes, motivations – bare.

That’s why Jesus declared, “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open” (Luke 8:16,17).

And yet the dual purpose of parables – to reveal and to conceal – is really about the response of the hearer. Those who embrace the light, responding in faith to it will receive spiritual understanding, discerning the truth of Christ’s kingdom.

Conversely, those whose necks are stiff and whose hearts are hardened, will reject, ignore, avoid, even scorn His Word. They hate Him because He can see through the façade; He sees clearly every perverse thought, attitude and motivation. To them, His simple stories and analogies confuse the issue; educated adults are prevented from recognizing simple spiritual truth that a child perceives and embraces.

Takeaway: Jesus provides the application. I am called to be humble, attentive, receptive and diligent in responding to His instruction, the infallible Word of God. “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them” (Luke 8:18).