The Work of Being A Disciple

10When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve began to ask him about the parables. 11And he told them, “The mystery of the kingdom of heaven is given to you, but to those on the outside everything comes in parables, 12so that
They might look, but they won’t see,
They might try to hear, but they won’t comprehend,
Lest they should turn back to God, and he would forgive them.”
13Then he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How can you understand all the parables?”  — Mark 4:10-13 (TFBV)

We make a lot of assumptions about what Jesus would do or say about a particular situation, but one that I rarely hear is this:  Perhaps Jesus would like you to do some serious thinking and work it out for yourself.

Now I’m not telling you to abandon all of your principles and start from scratch, or to ignore God’s clear revelation, but often things are not that clear.

Jesus often didn’t answer the question that people asked.  Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan?  You can find it in Luke 10:25-37.  The lawyer asked Jesus how he could identify his neighbor.  I suspect Jesus didn’t think that was a very good question!  The question Jesus actually answered was:  Who behaves like a neighbor?

Do you hear some of Jesus’ disappointment in Mark 4:13 when he asks, “Do you not understand this parable?”  He has just told them that the mystery of the kingdom belongs to them.  This is something they should be able to understand, yet he has to explain it to them.  We modern students tend to go straight to the explanation that Jesus gave, but I don’t think that was all that Jesus intended the disciples—or us—to do.

Verse 12 is troubling to many people. Why would Jesus intentionally talk to people in a way that they could not understand?  Why would he not want to make the message clear?  Surely if he just gave people all of the facts, they would understand and turn to the right.

But the problem with the disciples, with the larger audience, and with us is that Jesus has different goals than we do!  We would like to get a list of the facts, so we could follow along easily.  Jesus wants to transform our hearts so we’ll be his type of people.  We want the answers handed to us.  Jesus wants us to learn how to understand the answers.

Jesus wants to change us into a different type of people:  Kingdom people.  To do that requires more than knowing stuff.  It requires more than information.  It requires commitment.  It requires determination.  It requires faithfulness.  It requires action.

Jesus could tell you everything about tomorrow.  He could provide you with the best answer to every question.  He could keep you from having any moments of doubt and uncertainty.  At the same time he would prevent you from ever becoming the joyful, committed, mature follower that he’d like you to be.

For those who are concerned with the last phrase of verse 12, “Lest they should turn back to God . . .” let me just say that I hear a bit of irony there.  In Isaiah 6:9-10 from which Jesus is quoting, these verses tell us that God chose to speak to Israel through folks whose language they could not understand, because they had refused to understand when God spoke to them plainly.  God’s choice of ways to communicate can be seen as turning people aside as they are offended.  Did God cause the fear of the Israelites when he commanded them not to touch the mountain (Exodus 19), and came down with thunder and lightning?  Certainly, he brought out their fear.  In that sense you could say that God made them afraid.  But if God had chosen to come gently, the fear would still have been there and would never be overcome.

If Jesus had taught the crowds directly and plainly at all times, they might well of understood what he was saying, but would that have made them disciples?  No!  There is no shortcut to discipleship.  Part of that process is getting the word inside you, welcoming it, and letting it grow, all of which takes time and effort.

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