Why did Jesus speak in parables when one can’t really understand what is being said? Jesus said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path” (Matthew 13:19, ESV). In a different translation it reads, “When anyone hears the message of the kingdom and does not understand it, the wicked one comes and carries off the seed that was sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path” (Williams New Testament).
Is it really the case that a person can’t understand, or won’t?
Jesus plainly said that if one can’t understand the message he preaches, then Satan comes and takes away the seed (Luke 8:11), not allowing anything to take root. How can this be fair to the one who does not understand?
Adding to this complexity, Jesus was not speaking of the other three types of people He mentioned because one can easily see there was understanding in the responses they made. If one does not understand and Satan comes along and takes away what is sown, then how can those not understanding be guilty of any kind of sin in rejecting Jesus? This seems rather unfair to say they are!
Those who do not understand are not as innocent as one might think. In John 6 we have illustrated for us those who do not understand. The context begins in John 6:22 when many people interacted with Jesus after having seen and experienced the feeding of so many people with so little food. Jesus, however, knew they were there less for His message and more for that which He could give them. Thus, the people started off with a badly placed foundation, so badly placed it is easily seen to be the wrong foundation. There was no interest in hearing that which came from His mouth, only an interest in that which they could put in their own mouths (so to speak)!
Nevertheless, Jesus worked with what He had.
This wrong foundation did not seem to change much – at least with some of them. Try as the Lord might, some were just not interested in altering their own foundation, altering their own way of thinking in a direction that headed toward God, to that which He wanted to consider.
Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:27-29, ESV).
Consequently, near the end of that which the Lord said, those who failed to understand turned and walked away.
Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Then many of his disciples, when they heard these things, said, “This is a difficult saying! Who can understand it?” When Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining about this, he said to them, “Does this cause you to be offended? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) So Jesus added, “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” (John 6:59-66, NET)
Who are those who don’t understand? It will not be those who are incapable of understanding, but those who start with the wrong foundation and choose to stay put – regardless of the evidence to the contrary. RT