“The man in the boat was such fun. I loved his stories! He told them so well. What did they say his name was?”
“I forget his name, but he’s great. I especially liked the one about the seeds and the birds that gobbled most of them up. Let’s find out where he’s speaking next and arrive early before it gets too crowded.”
“The disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to [the crowds] in parables?’ Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’” (Matt. 13:10-13)
Jesus had just told His famous parable with its cast of symbols: pesky birds, vicious thorns, obstructive rocks, and mysterious seeds sown by a nameless sower. It is the only parable that Jesus ever explained.
Luke is the most honest. He says that the disciples approached Jesus later. “By the way, Jesus, what did your story actually mean?” Matthew hides their ignorance. Regardless, Jesus explained the plot to His handpicked followers. At first, it seems unfair, even exclusive, that they should get the special edition, the Director’s Cut.
But wait, parables are a heart test. Scatter a few carefully chosen words among a crowd and see what responses sprout up. Give it a few minutes and some people will have lost every word to a flock of fluttering distractions. Wait until the crowd faces the mid-week heat of their tough careers, and lush resolutions will have shriveled. Within a month, life’s thorns will have squeezed the last sap out of any remaining seedling that did not find good soil. You see, Jesus was not making a point that we should avoid seed-snatching Satan, worrisome weeds, and a rubble-strewn life. He was pointing to good soil—soft hearts, which kingdom words can penetrate to produce fruit.
Jesus was not giving His disciples a preferential explanation so they could pass a test that the crowd would fail. Even when the disciples had a cast list and knew the storyline, their response to the parable still depended on the condition of their hearts. God is the revealer of mysteries; He will gladly show us what we need when we ask. And then His words test our hearts.
Are the ears and eyes of our hearts open? Are our hearts soft and warm to the things of God, and pulsing with faith? Or are they coated with the plaque of intellectualism or religious business as usual? The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are like seeds; humble, teachable hearts are fertile soil that will bear fruit.
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