Christ Alone with His Disciples
Mark 4:33-34
And with many such parables spoke he the word to them, as they were able to hear it.…

I. THE PARABLES A PUZZLE. It is very striking that the very means of instruction should have hid the truth, and even from His followers. The parables of Christ were sometimes obscure and confounding to His foes; that is not strange. Where there is no taste or desire for instruction, the clearest and simplest lessons may be vain. It was a judgment, but not an arbitrary and cruel one. It was a punishment which the blinded deserved, and it was one which they inflicted upon themselves. Parables were among the easiest and most interesting methods of instruction. They addressed a variety of powers; and thus were suited to a variety of minds, and a variety of faculties in the same mind. But if the eye was at fault, and could not see, or could not see aright, then the windows had no use; and the means of light conveyed no image, or a false one. There is often, and especially in moral matters, more in the learner than the lessons. Parables would have been no judgment, if there had been no obtuseness and perverseness in the hearers. It is harder to understand how "the disciples," who had some insight and sympathy, should have been perplexed. But why did Christ employ a method which had the effect of concealing what, if stated without a parable, they must have seen and appreciated at once? We are here, my brethren, right upon a great and blessed truth. The parable taught minds by taxing them. It made truth plain to the thoughtful; but required sometimes more, sometimes less thought for its comprehension. It was a way of teaching, but by calling out the desire and effort to learn. If a man only heard it, the truth was hidden; if he were bent on getting at its sense, the truth became more plain and powerful by its means. To look at it was to see nothing; to look through it was to behold most beautiful and glorious things. When it fell upon a passive nature, it left no impression; when it fell on one quick and active, and in quest of truth, it realized a blessed end. As soon as the disciples, failing to apprehend Christ's sense, came to the prayer, "Declare unto us the parable," they had reached the highest end of teaching: they not only were in the way to know, they were exercising the powers of knowledge. All things He does as well as says, in this sense, are parables: they are intended to teach, but they teach in the way of training; they have in them an element of difficulty mercifully fitted to make easy, an element of obscurity mercifully fitted to make clear. He wishes to excite, to awaken the dormant and stimulate the sluggish; to call out our powers; not only to bless us, but to bless us by quickening us; not only to impart knowledge, but make us knowing; not only to enrich us with goodness and happiness, but to enlarge our capacity for both. And a heaven on lighter terms would be a heaven of smaller joy.

II. THE DIFFERENT WAYS IN WHICH THE PARABLES WERE TREATED. Some gaze upon the mystery scornfully or listlessly, others seek with deep anxiety to have it solved. Difficulty offends or disheartens these, but stirs up those to activity and zeal. Truth is often difficult. What is needful to salvation is within the reach of all, for an inaccessible boon cannot be an indispensable blessing. But truth of most sorts, as well as religious, is not unavoidable, and frequently it is hard to get. And if we pass from what is to be known to what is to be done, from the difficulty of apprehension to the difficulty of the performance, the same kind of remark applies, "Is there not a warfare to man upon the earth?" Is any promise of good in other than the apocalyptic form, "To him that overcometh will I give"?

III. THE PRIVATE SOLUTION OF THE PARABLES. When the multitude were sent away, Matthew says that the disciples came to Jesus, requesting an explanation of His teaching. This is not the only occasion mentioned (Matthew 15:15), and we may be sure there were many. They had the right, and availed themselves of it. And there are now those who have access, so to speak, to the solitude of the Saviour. Many only know Him in the world, and the face of day; in His written word, in His general providence; as the Teacher of crowds, as the Worker of wonders. They might know Him otherwise. Had this multitude cared for His intimacy, they might have had it. We, like the disciples, may be "alone," and alone with Jesus. It is not necessary, in order to this, that we should be absent from men. There is a solitude of the flesh, and a solitude of the spirit. Christ is the best revelation of spiritual truth, its strongest evidence, and its only quickening force; and we may say of Him and Christianity, what Cowper says of God and Providence —He is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.Perhaps your parable is evil, the evil in the world, in yourselves. Christ has this explanation. And the same remark applies to duties. More faith in Him will lighten the burden and ease the yoke, however hard and heavy. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." He is model, motive, might of all obedience; and the life we live is His life, and we follow Him, and all we do is from His love constraining us. There is a lesson for all. Some are painfully exercised with doubts and difficulties "great upon" them. They "walk in darkness," "a darkness that may be felt." Let me entreat such to "come to Jesus in the house;" to seek the secret Saviour.

(A. J. Morris.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

WEB: With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it.

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