The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
16But blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
This passage has always bothered me. Jesus seems to say that he does not want some people to understand the gospel and be saved, and only his 12 disciples are intended to really understand the “secrets of the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus died to save the world. He did not want anyone to be lost, so what did he mean here? The key to understanding this passage is understanding what he referred to as “secret.”
The word translated secret, or mystery in other places, is from the Greek word musterion (μυστήριον). It refers to something that is hidden or secret. It does not mean something is unknowable, but rather that something is unknown at that time. Today we would say it is “classified.”
The word translated secret or mystery is used 28 times in the New Testament, but Mat. 13.11, Mark 4.11 and Luke 8.9 are the only places in the gospel accounts where it is used. However, Paul used it 21 times. He used it to refer to various things, such as in Rom. 11.25 he refers to the mystery of the partial hardening of Israel’s heart, in 1Cor. 15.51 he uses the word to describe our transformation at the resurrection, but it is in reference to the gospel message that we will find our key to understanding “the secret of the kingdom of heaven.” Notice how he refers to the message that he was commissioned to teach:
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness - 26the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but now disclosed to the saints. 27To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches to this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
Paul taught the complete message from God. There was something that at one time was hidden, but it was revealed to the saints and Paul revealed it to the Gentiles. The thing that used to be a secret was Christ. Look at what he wrote in the next chapter:
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
You can not take the New Testament and cut out Christ and still have the gospel message. The Good News is Jesus is the Christ. Paul wrote that Christ was what he taught:
1Cor. 1.23 “...we preach Christ crucified….”
1Cor. 2.2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
Don’t overlook that Paul is using the word “Christ.” We say “Jesus Christ” so much that we forget that “Christ” is not his last name. Christ is a title, it means that Jesus is the anointed one of God. This was the “secret of the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples knew Jesus was the Christ, but the Jews did not believe that.
The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”
The Jews said “tell us plainly” because Jesus spoke to them in parables, he never said “I am the Christ.” These were the people Jesus was speaking about when he said in Mat. 13.15, “...they hardly hear with their ears and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” The Jews might believe that he was a prophet, but they didn’t believe that he was the Christ. This was not because Jesus taught in parable, it because they chose to ignore what the miracles clearly indicated: Jesus was the Christ.
The disciples, however, believed that Jesus was the Christ.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
“Some say John the Baptist;
others say Elijah;
and still others
Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15“But what about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
Verse 20 “Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.”
And in the next chapter:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah”
5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them, “Get up,” he said, “Don’t be afraid.” 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
This was the secret that was revealed to the saints, but it was not revealed to the world. The world would not be told that Jesus was the Christ until after they had killed him and God raised him from the dead. Paul explained why this had to be done.
1 Cor. 2.6-8
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Jesus told his disciples not to tell people what they had seen until after he was raised from the dead. On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and told the people what they had done.
“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
When Jesus answered his disciples in Mat. 13.10-17, he told them that the reason he taught in parables was that “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (verse 12). As we have seen, Jesus did not openly reveal that he was the Christ, that was done by the apostles after he had been raised from the dead (Mat. 17.9 and Acts 2.36-37). But for those who were not one of his twelve disciples he taught in parables and showed his miracles. This was ample testimony that he as the Christ: “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26but you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10.25-26). Many did believe, “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him” (John 8.30) and “‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him,’I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.’”
To those who believed more would be give, but to the ones who refused to believe, even what they had would be taken away. When the Sanhedrin was told that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead they did not deny it or the other miracles “...Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11.47-48). Despite their vast knowledge of the scriptures they refused to believe what their own eyes showed them. Even what they did have would be taken away.
Even now, 2,000 years after the secret has been revealed most people do not understand that Jesus was more than a good man, and his words are more than amusing stories. There is nothing wrong with their eyes or ears to keep the message from them. Just as people did back then they choose to ignore who Jesus is. Those who do believe do the same thing that people 2,000 years ago did. We confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.