"Am I Really a Scribe?" (Part II)
What is a parable? Ask any young student, and he, or she will quickly respond, "A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." Generally, Jesus' parables are considered to be illustrations for the common man, meant to help him understand spiritual truths that were beyond him. Certainly, there is some truth to this idea, because we read:
All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 13:34-35)
Through the use of parables, Jesus was able to communicate eternal truths that transcended the experience of mortal man. However, is this the primary reason He chose parables to convey the gospel of the then impending kingdom? Did He make this choice because He was the Master Teacher, or because He was the Eternal Judge?
"Why do you speak in parables?"
After telling the parable of the sower to the multitudes, Jesus' disciples privately approached Him and asked about His use of parables.
But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that 'Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them..'" (Mark 4:10-12)
From this passage we learn that Jesus deliberately used parables to prevent those "outside" from understanding the truth; however, when He was alone with His disciples, "He explained all things" (Mark 4:34). The purpose as foretold by Isaiah and explained by Jesus was to prevent the hearers from responding to the message, repenting, and thereby avoid destruction (Isaiah 6:9-10)!
The God Who Wants All to Be Saved
How do we reconcile this seemingly prejudicial decision with God's merciful and loving characterization by Peter (II Peter 3:9)? How can God want all men to be saved, but yet prevent some from understanding the very message that could save them?
Although God wants all to be saved, He does not want them to be saved and remain sinners. He does not want people to go through an outward checklist of motions and deeds for the purpose of avoiding destruction, while their heart remains darkened and steadfast in rebellion (Micah 6:6-8; Amos 5:18-27; Matthew 23:25-28). God instead desires man's whole heart, willing to give itself over to the transformation that ultimately yields a spirit conformed to the image of Jesus (Mark 12:28-33; Psalm 51:16-17; Romans 12:1-2; Romans 8:29; I John 3:2-3).
Unfortunately, not all are willing to submit themselves to God's transforming will. Instead, some close their eyes to the truth - the first truths being their accountability before their Creator, their own spiritual bankruptcy, and their desperate need for redemption (Matthew 5:3-6; Romans 1:18-21; 3:23). Consequently, as Paul said:
they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (II Thessalonians 2:10-12)
Therefore, it is not God Who prejudges men by hiding truths in parables, but rather, it is man who refuses to dig into the parables, because he is uninterested or fearful of what he may find, thereby judging himself unworthy of salvation (Acts 13:46). Please recall that Jesus was gladly willing to explain all things to His disciples (Mark 4:34). They merely had to seek His presence when the multitudes left, just as some did (Mark 4:10). The multitudes departed and never understood the parable, but they were content in their ignorance and thereby fulfilled the wayside soil from parable of the sower:
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. (Matthew 13:19)
Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. (Luke 8:12)
The parables served as a dividing tool, manifesting those who truly desired to be saved. Even today, God's Word continues this function of piercing into the depths of our souls, revealing our innermost thoughts and intentions (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Jesus spoke in parables to mask the truth from those unwilling to truly obey it. However, for those who were willing to hear, the parables communicated divine, redeeming truths. To understand these truths, they had to come to Jesus. They had to open their eyes to their spiritual blindness and ask for help from the One Who walked in the light (Mark 4:10; John 9:39-41; 11:8-10; I John 1:5-10).
Who am I? (Part II)
In addition to being limited to quoting Scripture for authority, scribes were also characterized by their hard work and long hours spent seeking to understand God's Word. As Jesus closed His explanation of the early parables to His true disciples, He asked them if they finally understood.
Jesus said to them, "Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He said to them, "Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old." (Matthew 13:51-52)
Like the scribes of old who became instructed in the Old Law,
we must be scribes instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven. Like the scribe
of this closing parable, if we give forth similar diligence (II
Timothy 2:15), then we will be like the rich person, who is constantly
finding treasure among his large storehouse of possessions. Some of it will
be new to us, expanding our knowledge and wisdom. Other treasures found will
be old to us, familiar truths bolstering our faith and hope, which grant us
a deeper appreciation of God's love. So then brethren, are we really scribes?
As we consider the purpose of parables, we must ask ourselves,
"Are we scribes instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven?" Are
we diligently bringing spiritual treasures out of God's Word on a regular
basis? Or, are we like the multitude, who heard great truths and could not
grasp them, but walked away unwilling to seek further instruction from the
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