I don’t understand.
This doesn’t make sense.
I’m so confused.
What the what?
Life sometimes seems like an enigma wrapped in a riddle, stuffed inside a cryptogram and sealed with another riddle.
Why was that allowed? What are you trying to say? What’s going on here? Why does none of this make sense?
No wonder so many of us find ourselves perplexed. In the kingdom of God, down is the new up and two plus two rarely equal four.
Perhaps it’s confusion, doubt, uncertainty or curiosity, but something drives the disciples to ask the question all of wonder deep down inside:
“Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matthew 18:10)
What, I suspect, the disciples really want to know, what we really want to know, is why do you speak to us in parables.
If you’ve been following along in the #LentChallenge and reading through the Gospels during the 40 days leading up to Easter (download your free reading guide, here), then you know that Matthew has only recorded one other parable prior to this one.
Leon Morris suggests that clearly Jesus had been using the parable teaching method far more than Matthew records.
Jesus response points to Isaiah 6:9-10—those who were ever-listening but never-hearing, ever-watching but never-seeing. Morris writes:
“(Jesus) is saying that although the people heard the words, they did not understand them and did not want to understand them. That was the fault of the people in Isaiah’s day, and it was the fault of the people in Jesus’ day.”*
Parables, those simple stories with a deeper meaning, are often easy or delightful to listen to but leave the listener—including me—with furrowed brows of confusion. What’s he trying to say? Can someone spell it out for me?
But the gift of the parable is that it invites us to dig deeper. We read the parable and then we allow the parable to read us.
Parables ask us to use our hearts and minds and souls and friends along with a childlike dependence on God to decipher. And the real understanding comes, not when we get the story, but when the story gets us.
In today’s reading of Matthew 13-14 (read about the Color Method, here), parable stacks atop parable. A riddler’s handbook of the kingdom of God. Stories of Sowers and Weeds and Mustard Seed and Yeast and Hidden Treasures and Pearls and Nets, oh my! The backdrop of the agrarian world bursting forth, all arrows pointing upward and within.
The irony is that after all these magnificent stories, we find the leaders and disciples as confused as ever. Herod still beheads John. The disciples still don’t understand the significance of the miraculous bakery and fish factory. Jesus is still mistaken for a zombie.
Parables aren’t just told, they are lived.
The mysteries of God have a way of bursting forth in the midst of our 9 to 5 and 5 to 9 in unpredictable ways.
Will we recognize them? Will we cry out to God for understand—for ourselves and others? Will we develop ears that strain for God’s voice and eyes that squint for His presence?
The question I’m challenging everyone to ask this Lent is simply:
What do I most need to read and least want to hear?
I confess that I am blind and deaf. Thousands of years ago the disciples needed Christ to unlock the parables. Thousands of years later, I still need Christ to unlock the parables of Scripture and everyday life.
Herod was blind and deaf. The disciples were blind and deaf to the miracle before them (Mark 6:33-52).
If them, how much more me?
My prayer today is for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart tender to presence of God. I want to be someone who Jesus pulls aside to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom. I want to stand on tiptoe as He unveils the beauty and depth of His teaching that I may glimmer more like Him.
What do you most need to read but least want to hear from today’s reading?
Share in the comments below.