Jesus is wanting us to see how God is actually constantly at work: creating what he calls ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ That is what the parables are most essentially all about! We are all so easily defined by the limited perspective from which we see our lives when there is in all actuality this other infinitely more real reality – revealed by Christ, given by God – for us to realize and live into. Jesus’ parables are meant to sensitize us to THAT reality, for those of us who, as Jesus said, are given to have ears that hear/ eyes to see.
The truth that Jesus teaches is far truer than what we are ever able simply to catch the first time we hear it! It’s too deep! Too profound! It can’t just be caught in one hearing.
Its truth needs to be allowed to be worked/ insinuated into our consciousness by our various exposures to it, probably a little like learning how to play a musical instrument or to ride a bicycle. We may quickly learn the theory, but it takes a while for our eyes, ears, and hearts to be opened and aligned with the internal principles. …the internal algorithms… Until we develop actual muscle memory – perhaps spiritual muscle memory – it all remains just remote & theoretical, opaque, unprocessed, leaving us kind of distant from it all, aloof, unaffected…
And so we find Jesus drawing our consciousness towards himself by exposing us time and again to these truth implication/ these applications, these vignettes, the complex illustrations that we call parables. They’re meant to align us with Christ’s deeper truth in ways that not merely superficially informative but authentically transformative. Christ would have us embrace what it means to be brought back to what we have always been intended by God to be. It’s God’s Spirit working on us – and in us. It happens in and through Christ’s whole Self: through Christ’s work, his person, and his teachings
And so starting with the parable of the Mustard Seed. It actually doesn’t make too much sense because while we know that the mustard seed is among the smallest of seeds, we also know that it does NOT grow into the largest of shrubs, nor does it become a tree where masses of birds come to nest! It’s just a small bush. But I think that’s maybe just Jesus’ point here. He isn’t talking botany so much as God’s kingdom economics! He’s teaching that as we sow even the tiniest kingdom principles of kindness, love, justice, mercy, reconciliation, hope, so the results are bound to be waaay beyond what we could ever possibly expect. That’s just the way God’s economy works! …where a mustard seed can actually become a tree of blessing!!!!
And then the parable of the yeast, where just a bit of yeast enough to leaven some 40 l of flour, enough feed over 100 people. Again, Jesus is emphasizing how in God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, even the least amount of authentic holiness is enough for God to use to sanctify all of where we are. I also love that the yeast is ‘hidden’ in the dough, perhaps emphasizing ‘the secret inconspicuous way the kingdom of heaven begins to take effect’[i]
Who knows what difference just one kind smile, one sincere phone call, one act of kindness, of respectfulness can make…
Desmond Tutu[ii] tells of the tall white man who stepped off the sidewalk for his mother and himself during fiercely divided apartheid South Africa. He was just a little boy. The white man was Trevor Huddleston, an Anglican priest who was bitterly opposed to apartheid. It changed Tutu’s life. He described how when his mother told him that Trevor Huddleston had stepped off the sidewalk because he was a “man of God,” Tutu says that ‘he found his calling’. Just one small act, but with impossible to fathom consequences. Let anyone with ears (to hear) LISTEN! Jesus says in vs 43…
What are you most beginning to hear? What are you being convicted about? How does this teaching challenge you? Bless you?
And then there is the parable of the treasure, and of the pearl. In both of these we’re told of this ‘someone’ who makes an utterly captivating discovery – and is willing to do WHATEVER it takes to realize their potential ownership of that find! They both ‘sold all they had’ in order to do so! Their selling is not meant to be understood sacrificially so much as joyfully!
They were gladly willing to give it all up in order to gain something which they’d discerned was of infinitely more value!
What would you be prepared to lose everything you have in order to possess?
What could ever be that valuable to you?
HOW ABOUT YOUR TRUEST, BEST POSSIBLE SELF: YOU AS GOD MADE YOU TO BE! “What does it profit someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”[iii]
Fr Richard Rohr describes our Truest Selves/our soul-selves as the ‘Immortal Diamond’ which lives at the very center of every one of our beings, but which life forces us to bury under so many layers of survival practice. As toddlers we quite quickly learn selfish entitlement! As children we learn how to be people pleasers… We earn nicknames and come to believe them, we become husbands, wives, partners, become divorced, widowed, parents perhaps, and so easily find ourselves believing that’s all of who or what we are. We develop careers, succeed, fail, do things we’re proud of, ashamed of, we make mistakes. In time we lose all sense of who we actually are, believing ourselves simply to be the sum total – good and bad – of all the roles we have played in our lives. And then, perhaps, like that someone who stumbles across treasure, or the merchant who finds the pearl, we discover that we are so much more and are prepared to lose all of what we’ve accumulated in order to embrace what we’ve found! Is that something of what the impact of God’s kingdom of Heaven happening in our lives is actually all about? In Christ we are restored back into God’s original image of ourselves.
By God’s Spirit we are given to embrace it!
Our text then ends with the parable of the fishing catch, followed by the question with all the subtlety of a scorpion sting: “Have you understood all this?” to which they glibly answer that they have. Have we? Perhaps briefly, for now! I think we’re being told in this last parable that like those fish still swimming free – while it seems we ARE given seemingly infinite latitude to embrace or regret the reality for Christ ultimately, there will be a reckoning!
This parable suggests a time when all that is good and clean and of God, authentic and pure, will be allowed to endure while all that is NOT, will end! Kind of like what we looked at last week with the ultimate separation of wheat and weeds which for now are allowed to grow together! Or at the end of Mt.25, with the ultimate separation of sheep and goats.
Of course we believe in a God of love who is eternally embracing, amazing grace, but it seems that this is also a God that will not be mocked! In this text we have Christ pointing us toward embracing a way of living that is ultimately life-giving – however tortuous it may at times seem as we journey – as opposed to a way of life that will ultimately be exposed as destructive, however superficially amusing and enjoyable it may seem to be in the moment.
He is wanting us NOT to be defined only by what may seem to BE, simply because it’s apparent, but rather to look deeper, listen more intently, in order to live into this other, infinitely more real reality. We’re talking God’s economy here, and with this last parable Jesus is intending to communicate how we should make no mistake – ULTIMATELY, ‘LOVE WINS!’ We must know that! Embrace that! Live lives that embrace that – becoming the blessing that God intends
In Jesus’ name may it be so
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
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[i] Matthew R.T. France, IVP Eerdmans (2001:228)
[iii] Mark 8:36