Speaking in parables
Listening and Understanding — beyond hearing
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?” He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. (Mathew 13: 10–14)
When I read these words, it troubled me. What is the point of keeping the mystery of the kingdom of God away from the crowd and limiting it to the disciples (which is surely more than twelve even in those times). Or is it the style of the Saviour of the world? May be the context of the sayings helps us to have some understanding; Jesus repeatedly says here, they hear, but don't understand.
The thirteenth chapter is a chapter on parables. The above mentioned passage is in between the parable of the sower and its explanation. Parable of the sower mentions about the seed falling in four kinds of soil; when the first three didn't produce any fruit, the last one produced fruits. There is a certain division already in the scene, the one who produces fruit and one who doesn't. Or a disciple and a crowd. An insider and outsider.
What makes us insider is not colour, race or anything, but the ability to produce fruits. For that the soil has to be good; or the soil should be receptive; it should not only hear the word, but also listen and understand. When everyone hears the parable, only an insider listens to it, or produce fruits from there.
Another point to be noted here is that outsider — insider are not water tight compartments. There are options to move from one side to the other; movement may have external signs and symbols, but it includes the internal disposition — to understand and live out the parables, which in other words is following the one who gives those parables.
I end with two questions….
- Just because someone is baptised or part of the church, is s/he an insider?
- Just because someone is not baptised or not part of the church, is he an outsider?
Being an insider gives you the privilege of understanding, but no other special privileges. Remember Mary and his brothers waiting outside; they were followers and insiders, but no privileges were given to meet Jesus. The greatest disciple, Mary never seek any privilege too.