Read: Mark 4:1-12
For those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand.” (vv. 11-12)
Those of us who teach preaching to seminary students cannot emphasize enough how vital it is to be clear. Preachers must be clear communicators. So why is it that in his parables Jesus seems intent on (to use a phrase from professor of preaching Tom Long) pumping fog into the sanctuary? When the disciples hear a parable that neither they nor anyone else really understood, Jesus tells them not to worry because confusing people was his goal. He quotes Isaiah to say that he speaks in parables so that folks won’t understand. Huh? You want people to be befuddled, Jesus? What can account for this?
Obviously Jesus did want people to understand. Eventually. But he also wanted people to grasp the depths of the gospel, not just its surface. The gospel was a whole new way of thinking about life. And few people can shift their thinking in a heartbeat. It takes time. Parables puzzled people in order to make them ponder matters more deeply. No one should think that the things of God are easy to fathom.
Today we think Jesus’ parables were simple stories designed to hook people’s attention and make them understand more quickly. Jesus’ view was rather different, and there is a lesson in that fact for all of us today who live in a society of sound bites and tweets. It takes time to understand the big things of God.
Instruct us by your Spirit, Lord, and make us patient learners.