What I find so interesting about Jesus’ teaching style is that He taught only in parables to the crowds. Even His most important messages were shrouded in mystery to the disinterested. He only explained them to those whose hearts were open. When it comes things that matter most, the condition of our heart is more important than our intelligence.
A closed heart receives nothing from God; an open heart can potentially receive the deepest, most life-giving revelations of heaven. This is actually a maxim for a life well-lived in every area of our lives.
I want to peer into this aspect of Jesus’ teaching, and human nature in general, by looking at Matthew chapter 13. Here’s how Jesus explained His teaching style to His disciples:
11 He explained, “You’ve been given the intimate experience of insight into the hidden mysteries of the realm of heaven’s kingdom, but they have not. 12 For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation until he has more than enough. But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them. 13 That’s why I teach the people using parables, because they think they’re looking for truth, yet because their hearts are unteachable, they never discover it. Although they will listen to me, they never fully perceive the message I speak.” 14 The prophecy of Isaiah describes them perfectly:
Although they listen carefully to everything I speak,
they don’t understand a thing I say.
They look and pretend to see,
but the eyes of their hearts are closed.
15 Their minds are dull and slow to perceive,
their ears are plugged and are hard of hearing,
and they have deliberately shut their eyes to the truth.
Otherwise they would open their eyes to see,
and open their ears to hear,
and open their minds to understand.
Then they would turn to me
and I would instantly heal them. (Matt. 13:11-15 TPT*)
The heart is the great equalizer with God. It wasn’t that Jesus’ disciples were smarter or more perceptive and anyone else. The difference was that their hearts were open to Jesus.
Jesus equates those with a closed heart with minds that are “dull and slow to perceive.” The disciples got a good case in point with the Pharisees earlier:
38 Then a few Jewish scholars and Pharisees spoke up and said, “Teacher, why don’t you perform a miraculous sign for us.” 39 Jesus replied, “Only evil people who are unfaithful to God would demand a sign. (Matt.12:38-39 TPT*)
What’s funny about this is that these same Pharisees just witnessed Jesus freeing a demonized man who was deaf and mute (vs.22). In fact, they accused Him of casting out the demon by the power of Satan! The truth is, they saw all kinds of miraculous signs. Their question was totally ingenuous and deceitful (sounds like the devil’s questions to Jesus in the wilderness).
37 Even with the overwhelming evidence of all the many signs and wonders that Jesus had performed in front of them, his critics still refused to believe. (John 12:37 TPT)
What this tells us about human nature is that no amount of evidence is going to convince a closed heart. If they see someone get healed of a broken finger, the skeptic will demand that an arm sprout out!
Getting back to Jesus’ teaching style, it’s evident to me that He didn’t bother to explain anything He said to people whose hearts were not open. Even critically important things.
Think about it. Jesus gives a parables in chapter 13 about the final judgment—the “parable of the weeds” (or “tares.” See Matt.13:37-43). What’s so interesting here is that Jesus doesn’t even bother explaining His parable about the final judgment to the crowd! You would think something so important to everyone as judgment day would be thoroughly explained to every single person there. At least that’s what we modern preachers seem to think needs to happen. But Jesus doesn’t bother explaining it at all to those who aren’t interested (in this case, at their own peril!)
Basically, Jesus is saying, “If you don’t care enough to understand what’s at stake for you, I’m not going to explain it to you.”
What does this tell us about Jesus’ teaching style and, for that matter, human nature?
What it says to me is that Jesus only revealed mysteries to people who had ears to hear, because He knew that it would be a waste of time to try to teach someone whose heart is closed. I’ve learned this from personal experience!
It means that we cannot blame God for what happens to us because of our unwillingness to hear.
It also shows why it’s a total waste of time to have an honest discussion with trolls.
But it also tells me that revelation is relational. It’s an intimate experience that opens the door to greater insight, as Jesus told His disciples earlier:
“You’ve been given the intimate experience of insight into the hidden mysteries of the realm of heaven’s kingdom, but they have not. (Matt.13:11 TPT*)
One more point about chapter 13 and the heart. It’s here where Jesus gives one of most familiar parables of all—the parable of the sower.
19 “The seed that fell on the [type of soil] represents the heart of one who hears the message of the kingdom.[result]….” (Matt.13:19a TPT, bracket inserts mine*)
Basically, the condition of our heart (“soil”) not only determines our fruitfulness, but it also determines what we will understand, or not understand, even to our own peril in the case of final judgment. (Safety tip…keep your heart open!)
Hopefully, this will show us something about the nature of spiritual blindness and knowing when we’re having an honest conversation with someone and when we’re just wasting our time.