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On your Mark

The secret

Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ ” (Mark 4:9-12, NIV)

Jesus spoke in parables. Why?

The answer lies in His strategy for gradual disclosure of His identity and mission.

Have you ever wanted to know everything at once? What the future held? How you can make sure that you are making the right decision now on the limited information you have available at the moment?

That’s the position the disciples were in. Clearly they were attracted to the magnetism of Jesus, to the wonder of His works and the splendor of His words. But they didn’t see the whole picture.

It’s the difference between being guided by a small flashlight or a floodlight.

In discerning the future, most of us would prefer that the Lord beamed a floodlight so that the whole landscape of tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow opened up before us. But He only lets us use a pen flashlight, a small beam aimed at the path directly in front of our feet. We only see a step or two forward, but never the whole.

Fortunately, He sees everything. As we follow Him, we begin to have ears that hear and eyes that see.

Jesus’ opponents and the adoring crowds didn’t have a clue as to what Jesus’ real mission was. He had come — not to bring a political and external kingdom — but to bring a spiritual and internal reign. The kingdom of God is within you.

How could Jesus slowly unpack that truth for His disciples who expected Him to rule in place of Rome, who thought He was the One to bring national independence to Israel and free them from all oppression?

Jesus chose the parables as a way of revealing and concealing truth.

For those who had ears but didn’t really hear, the parables hid what Jesus taught. As example, the parable of the sower and the soils — the most basic of Jesus’ parables — was just another story to them. They didn’t catch its inner meaning. The great truths of the gospel are never understood by nonbelievers — not because they are incapable of learning, but because they lack relationship with the One who unlocks the mystery of the Kingdom to them.

Slowly, however, the disciples began to catch it. They had “ears.” The Kingdom was like the seed — it had to be received. Seed, like the Kingdom, is not visible once it’s planted. During its germination stage you cannot notice anything happening. When it falls on hard soil, the Kingdom dies. When it falls on rocky places or thorny ground, it does not endure for long. You must become the good soil into which the seed falls.

Jesus says those who “get” this are in on the secret — that relationship with God is a matter of choice. Your response determines whether you will receive the Kingdom. Jesus says that those who make this decision are forgiven.

A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, I want my ears to hear and my heart to listen. Like the disciples, I too am learning from You — and my education does not come all at once. Let me always remain in Your classroom, knowing You more, loving You better.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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