I was trained as an educator and learned a variety of methods of disseminating information, creating transferable concepts, and working towards the transference of information as well as the actuality of life formation based on the information. Yet I marvel at the way Jesus taught.
We default to talking a lot and assuming the audience hears, understands, and “gets” what we hope they will get. We might even use a “prop” to illustrate a point in order to help the student(s) learn more effectively. In contrast, Jesus asked a lot of questions and listened to the assumptions behind people’s statements in order to understand the people He was trying to influence. Consider His extensive use of parables. What was He trying to accomplish?
Read Matthew 13:10-17.
In Matthew 13, Jesus told his first parable – the parable of the Sower – in which he related a story from everyday life that explained a spiritual truth. But his followers (i.e., disciples) had trouble understanding what Jesus was saying. Was their education and life experience insufficient to understand a story centered around agrarian society? Was Jesus too intellectual for the disciples?
Midway through Matthew 13, Jesus paused (a good teaching technique) between the parable and its explanation (another teaching technique) and told them why (yet another teaching technique). He chose to use parables to teach about the Kingdom of God. As you read Matthew’s account, it is easy to assume Jesus deliberately used this technique because He wanted to hide truth from unbelieving listeners, especially Pharisees. The P’s were significant religious and cultural leaders in first century Jewish life and quite skeptical about the carpenter-turned-rabbi and his antics.
But why would Jesus do that? Doesn’t it seem a bit inconsistent that the “One who came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), whose life radiated life and love, who does not want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and who desired to teach everyone about the Father, would purposely hide any truth from anyone? Feel free to admit that Matthew 13:10-17 is a bit troubling.
A seminary professor of mine once said, “If you want to “get” a parable, you will, but if you don’t, you won’t.” I learned that Jesus is not hiding truth from anybody, but it is more realistic that we are not interested in seeking and finding truth. I recall many students who have told me “they will get serious about faith when they get older, have children, or get in trouble.”
In the parable about the Sower, Jesus taught about four different types of soil. The first, not so much like dirt, but concrete, could represent the hearts of the Pharisees, or your roommate, or English professor who used the Bible in Western Literature class as a relic, not inspired truth. No wonder the P’s did not get the parables. Their hearts were conditioned to rejection and cynicism.
Do you want to “get” the parables? Not just to understand, but learn, apply, and benefit from? If so, then the parables will be “food for your soul.” But if your heart resists God’s leadership, those passages will leave you scratching your head.
Jesus was not trying to hide anything by using parables. You and I have to be sure we are not hiding our hearts from Him. Grow devotionally. How can you make the soil of your life more receptive to the seed of God’s Word? God uses ordinary things to teach us extraordinary truth.
Love is a verb,
©2014 by Mike Olejarz