SPEAKING IN RIDDLES
“And when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parables. And He said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ -Mark 4:10-12
Riddles can be so time-consuming to figure out. Unless, of course, you are one of those unique people who are attracted to solving every riddle you come across. Otherwise you won’t bother. Why not just speak in straight-forward language, you say? Isn’t this the purpose of language – to communicate, to be understood?
Jesus spoke in parables, many of which were just insolvable riddles to many of the people who heard them. One third of all Jesus’ public discourses were in parables. So at least one third of what He spoke was not understood by many of His hearers. Who were those who understood? And who were those who did not?
Jesus answered His disciples when they asked Him why He taught in parables which so many were oblivious to the meaning of. His answer was certainly not one you would expect. Jesus said He spoke in parables so that some of His hearers would NOT understand, unless they would understand, turn, and be forgiven. What? Did you read that correctly? What is Jesus saying?
He did explain that He spoke in parables because those who had been given the secret of the kingdom of God would understand and benefit from these parables, but those “outside would see and not perceive, would hear but not understand. Genuine disciples would truly benefit, but those who were not His disciples would neither understand nor profit from what those parables taught, and they would perish.
What is the purpose in this? Do we not want all hearers to understand these truths? Do we not want all hearers to not only understand, but turn and be forgiven? A vital part of being able to hear and understand is wanting to hear and wanting to understand. It is “I need to hear this, I must understand, and I will find forgiveness! Jesus wants His hearers to know that He came to save sinners but not those who consider themselves sinless, nor those who say they have no need of a physician.
The secrets of the kingdom are given freely to those who are hungry for and seeking the Savior. They are those who hunger for righteousness, as Jesus said in the Beatitudes; such are genuinely blessed.
Those who are only half-listening do not think they really need Jesus or think they are fine the way they are; they will naturally be very dull to spiritual truths. The parables of Jesus will be unimportant to them. The truths of the parables will not penetrate between their ears. Jesus gives understanding to those who hunger for it; those who do not remain oblivious.
Do you understand the parables of Jesus? If you are a student of His Word, you know of His explanations of the more difficult ones, and you have the spiritual insight to know and apply the truths which come from each of them – again, one third of all Jesus taught.
What Jesus taught in His parables are critical truths of your salvation, of being ready for His coming, of what you do with the gifts He has given you, of understanding the Great White Throne Judgment, of what you do with His Word…those things necessary to living Christianly and rightfully claiming your reward in heaven.
If you are bored by them, they will be impenetrable mysteries, insolvable riddles to you. But if they engage you, if they energize your will in hungering for understanding, Jesus by His Holy Spirit will enlighten you to understand the glories He wants you to see, even your own glory in Jesus.
You must ask regularly for enlightening by His Holy Spirit. “Open my eyes that I may see! Even if you are a long-time Christian, quite familiar with the Bible, continue to ask the Holy Spirit to energize your mind, refresh your thinking, and bring the knowledge of Jesus to you ever more intimately. Please remember this: “His mercies are NEW every morning.
“Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings; it is the Lord who rises with healing in His wings. When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again a season of clear shining to cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue the theme of God’s salvation and find it ever new. Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say, ‘Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.’
(First and second verses of William Cowper’s hymn, “Sometimes a Light Surprises the Christian While He Sings, 1779)