“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.”

storytelling“Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13.34-35).

Why parables? Why not just tell us how the kingdom of heaven is? Why not just describe it for us? Why all this “without a parable he told them nothing” mysteriousness? What’s that supposed to mean? Are you hiding something from us? Can’t you just lay it out for us, tell it like it is? How do I know that what I think about when I hear your parable is what you were thinking about when you told it?

 

Have you felt these questions rising in you, or other ones, when you’ve read or listened to the parables of Jesus?

 

As we’ve looked at the parables in Matthew Chapter 13 over that last three Sundays, verses 10 and 11 have been left out of our readings. These verses show that Jesus’ disciples had noticed a dramatic change in Jesus’ teaching style now the crowds had started showing up wherever he went. They too wanted some answers and Jesus’ response doesn’t make it any easier: “Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 

He answered, “To you

it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,

but to them it has not.”

 

Could it really be that Jesus was deliberately trying to confuse his listeners and that it has been given to the lucky chosen few to understand the kingdom of God but the rest of humanity is shut out by a literary smoke screen? The second century Gnostics thought so but they were heretics.

 

I don’t think Jesus means that at all but he speaks from experience. Some people understand something about themselves, about God and about life and truth, when they hear Jesus or see him perform signs of the kingdom. Others do not. But it is not because of any divine masking or concealing. They don’t see because

they don’t

want to.

 

Jesus’ parables are not complicated. They are delivered in the street Aramaic language of the people and they contain imagery from their everyday lives. They are short and memorable, easily passed on through oral tradition. That’s why they survived the years before the evangelists realized they should write them down. However, the parables demand a response from the listener. They show the way of God’s kingdom and hold up a mirror to the lives of Jesus’ audiences.

 

This mirror Jesus holds up is not like the ones in the gym, curving in and out in all the ‘right places’, urging your ego to shout “pecs!” or “arms!” while you squeeze out one more rep. No. Jesus’ mirror is clear enough for you to see your soul, your bald patch and your gut. Look or look away. The choice is yours.

 

But if you dare to look, then look deeply. Look below the surface, with humility and with faith. Let the God who loves you more than you could ever dream draw you into herself. Let the parables disarm you and catch you off-guard. They will help you discover who you really are and open to you the kingdom of heaven that is already breaking in on you. It is treasure for which you might rightly sell all you possess. Croeso adre. Welcome home.

 

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~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on July 25, 2014.

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