Storyteller are you just a teller of some stories or can you perform a miracle in me? – Storyteller CD, Track 4: Teller of Some Stories. Unknown release date. Unknown Artist.
Jesus is a master story-teller. In this chapter of Matthew, seven stories are recorded but we are told there are many more (v.3). Each of these seven stories is told in a particular form called a “parable” in which familiar things are often compared to unfamiliar things. The purpose is for spiritual truth to be understood through everyday objects and relationships (Study Bible, p. 1568). Why would the Christ use parables? Why not just plainly speak the truth? Sometimes He did, and other times He didn’t. His disciples also wanted to know why He did this (v.10).
It’s certainly not for entertainment value. Jesus was a compelling enough speaker that He didn’t need gimmicks to get people to pay attention. But if you speak in parables, only the people who are truly listening will understand the point being made. Jesus was revealing the mysteries of Heaven (v. 11) in these little stories and He only wanted truth-seekers to understand what He was saying. Let’s face it, not everyone who came out to listen to Jesus speak was truly interested in hearing the truth. Some hearts were too lazy or too stubborn to want to understand Him. Some hearts were just there for the spectacle, and Jesus knew it. He didn’t begrudge them – but He would not cater to them either. He had a mission to fulfill, and He wasn’t going to get sidetracked doing magic tricks the entire time.
Most of the time, after Jesus would finish telling a parable – He would explain what He really meant to His disciples. Matthew also recorded a couple of these explanations so we could see what Jesus was trying to convey with certainty. You see, it’s tempting to read too much into a parable – and Jesus wanted to make sure there wasn’t any confusion when it came to the interpretation. Who knows? Maybe He did this for us – knowing His words would later be written down and read by those who did not walk with Him in the flesh. Maybe He knew some of us would be tempted to put our own spin on what He was trying to say – and He deliberately made an end run around this problem. I don’t know – this is all speculation on my part. Maybe His real reasons are lost to the ages or beyond our understanding.
In any event, in this particular chapter all the parables “teach us about God and His Kingdom. They explain what the Kingdom is really like as opposed to our expectations of it” (Study Bible, p. 1569). This is important to know because just like in Jesus’ day, people sometimes expect the Kingdom of Heaven to be a geographical location instead of a spiritual realm where God the Father reigns. I still suspect some “Christian” leaders of today are trying to usher in God’s Kingdom on earth by seeking to establish theocracies in many places of government. In the process, they ignore living a lifestyle that attracts people to God and focus instead on forcing exterior rules on others who don’t share their beliefs. They make it all about being “right” while others are “wrong”. There’s a time and place for that, to be sure, but government isn’t one of them. Our great country was founded on the principles that the church and state should be kept separate from one another, and that while there is freedom to worship, there is also freedom FROM worship. That’s why the Founding Fathers didn’t use “In God We Trust” on their initial currency. Literally, aside from acknowledging that “all men are CREATED equal and endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights” there really is no other mention of a higher power or the directive to worship Him in our founding documents.
Back to the parables and the Kingdom of Heaven. I’m sure if Jesus had been the slightest bit interested in establishing an earthly Kingdom He would have had no problem doing so. After all, all of Heaven’s army was His to command. He chose instead to keep things on a spiritual plane of existence. In verse 12, Jesus makes it clear that each individual is “responsible to use well what we have. When people reject Jesus, their hardness of heart drives away or renders useless even the little understanding they had” (Study Bible, p. 1568). We must be careful not to be like this. And I believe most Christians have true intentions to be good doers of the Word.
What gets me angry is when Christians deliberately do something to force God and their beliefs on someone else, and then when that person rejects Jesus – they still feel justified in their approach. No, no. Case in point, I have a friend (several actually) who is an agnostic. This person was recently assaulted by a “Christian” in a department store who recited Scripture at her in hopes of “converting her to Christ”. That is NOT the way of Jesus. Never ONCE did Jesus walk up to a complete stranger and recite Scripture at them in hopes they would follow Him. NOT ONCE.
For one, it’s a complete waste of time. For two, it’s completely disrespectful to that person. Maybe you’ve never done this (thank God) but maybe you’ve left a bible track somewhere public in hopes of “witnessing” to someone. Can God use that to speak to others? Absolutely. But does He? I think His preferred method of communicating His love for people comes in having us LIVE the lifestyle on a consistent basis. And no, that doesn’t mean being a perfect person. God doesn’t need us to be perfect He needs for us to be present. Present in our relationship with Him and others. Present in the good times. Present in the bad times. Otherwise, we are just stories without meaning.