The Mysteries of Living our Christian Life
When the disciples asked Jesus why He taught many of his lessons by telling stories or parables, He answered with these words: “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (Matthew 13:11) Jesus admitted that He taught with parables to make his lessons clearer to some but also to hide the meanings of his lessons from others! Is Jesus saying that God shows the mystery of kingdom of heaven to some people and doesn’t give that knowledge to others? Doesn’t the Bible say that God wants everyone to know Him? (2 Peter 3:9)
Jesus went on to say: “For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance: but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore, I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:12-13)
Jesus stopped and quoted the prophet Isaiah as saying that the people in Jesus’ day who would hear Him would have hearts that had grown dull and eyes that would be closed and ears that would be hard of hearing. If these people could only see with their eyes and hear with their ears, then they could understand with their hearts. And then they would want to turn and let Jesus heal them.
Again, why is God hiding salvation from some people and not others? Couldn’t God just open a person’s spiritual eyes and ears so that they could see and hear and believe? Bible scholars believe that Jesus was telling his disciples that His parables would make the things of God easy to understand for anyone who was willing to be taught – whose eyes were straining to see and whose ears were open to hear. But at the same time Jesus’ parables would hide God’s truths from those who weren’t interested or who didn’t care – those who did not want to see with their spiritual eyes or hear with their spiritual ears. Spiritual things bored these folks and they had other interests. It would seem that God isn’t interested in forcing people into the kingdom of heaven who aren’t interested or who don’t want to try to obey His laws.
It seems one of the mysteries of our Christian walk is that if we want to understand God’s truths, our eyes will be opened to see them and our ears will be able to hear. But if we don’t care about His mysteries then we won’t see or hear them at all. It’s up to us! We get what we want! “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) God gives His gifts to those who want them and who improve them, but He takes his gifts away from those who bury them. (The Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30)
When we live out our Christian life, Scripture says that we are living it in another kingdom – the kingdom of heaven. And some people are worldly and do not want to live in the kingdom of heaven. These people will not understand Christ or His parables because they don’t want to understand Christ or His parables.
Jesus explains this mystery of the Door of Salvation opening or closing according to a person’s wants and desires by telling another story or parable. (Matthew 13:18-23) Jesus’ story begins with a Farmer planting seeds. The Farmer spreads some of the seeds on roads where there is heavy traffic. The seeds cannot sink into the ground since it is so hard so the wicked one comes and snatches the seed away. The farmer plants more seeds on stony ground. The seed tries to grow but the root doesn’t develop surrounded by rocks and when the storms (troubles) come, the plant dies. More seed is planted in ground where there are thorny bushes. The thorns are the cares of this world and the love of money and they choke out the seed so the plant withers and dies. And then finally the farmer plants more seed on good ground with fertile soil and the seed takes root and grows and bears good fruit. Some plants produce a hundred fold, some sixty and some thirty.
In this parable the Farmer is God and the seed is the Word of God. And the various places that the seed is planted – the hard ground, the stony ground and the good ground – this ground or soil represents our hearts. The condition of the ground is all important and makes all the difference in whether the seed will grow and produce good fruit or whether it will struggle and die. We can ask God to prepare our hearts for the seed and give us willing hearts.
The Good News of the Word is there for all of us to partake. If we want the seed to grow in our lives it will take root. It will grow and spread and give us great joy. And the seed will change us and fit us for the kingdom of heaven. If our hearts are hard and uninviting, the seed will never have a chance. And if our hearts are cluttered with so many things that crowd the seed, it may never have room to grow at all. But if our hearts are open to Christ and His gospel, and if we want to know the Truth, then we will know the Truth. And this mysterious little seed will grow up in us and make us new and we will produce good things in our lives and be a blessing to many.
God our Father (the Farmer) sends His Word (the seed) out to the hearts (the ground) of the people. One of the mysteries of the Christian life is that God’s Word is alive like a seed. Jesus continued teaching the crowds with several more parables about the kingdom of heaven -parables to help us understand this mystery of the kingdom of heaven better.
The first parable Jesus told was the “Parable of the Mustard Seed”. These are His words: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in the field. The mustard seed is the least of all the seeds: but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
And the second parable Jesus told about the kingdom of heaven was “The Parable of the Leaven”. Here is what He said: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal. And the leaven spread all over all of the meal and everything was leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)
In these two parables Jesus seems to be teaching that in the beginning the Kingdom of Heaven comes to us like a tiny seed or a tiny pinch of leaven. We are in church and the pastor’s sermon moves us and we believe in Jesus as our Savior and want to follow Him. At the time this seems like an invisible decision as we quietly believe – a tiny mustard seed – and we don’t realize what has happened. When our heart opens to believe, the tiny invisible seed of the Word slips in and, if we tend it, soon it begins to grow and multiply. It takes root in our life and gradually over time spreads into all of our actions and thoughts like leaven leavening the whole loaf of bread. It moves us and molds us and soon we are filled with joy and changed.
Time goes by and we grow and mature and join other Christians who like us also started out from that tiny mustard gospel seeds! Other Christians who have grown and matured like us, were moved by that same invisible seed growing and taking root. They come and join us and we all come together as one in Christ because we are moved to do this by this leaven that is moving and spreading and re-making our lives. A mystery that we cannot comprehend!
And we all become the Church, the Body of Christ. And what started out looking like an insignificant little mustard seed has grown and spread into the Worldwide Church Militant! Fighting evil and feeding the hungry and healing the sick and spreading the seeds of the Gospel and giving to the poor. And spreading out across the world with the peace of Christ like a great tree with nurturing healing branches. Jesus told us it would be this way in His parables. This tiny mustard seed would grow into a great tree and the birds of the air would come and nest in its branches. And this is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.