Matthew 13 – I Hope You Like Subtext

Matthew 13 Bible with Tonys Chocolonely Cherry Meringue Dark Chocolate

Today’s Chocolate: Tony’s Chocolonely Cherry Meringue Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageMatthew 13

If you’ve ever wondered what the kingdom of heaven is like, you came to the right chapter. Matthew 13 is over 90% parables by verse, each one a simile comparing the kingdom of heaven to something else. So what is the kingdom of heaven like? It’s like a sower sowing seed, a man whose enemy sows weeds in his wheat field, a mustard seed, leaven, a treasure hidden in a field, a merchant seeking fine pearls, and a dragnet. Need an explanation? If so, you’re in good company, because the disciples ask for one as well.

And Jesus provides explanations, at least for the one about the sower and the one where the enemy sows weeds. But for some, the explanation may prove to be more problematic than the parable. He prefaces his response to the disciples:

To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (11-13)

There are some troubling implications here. And as unfond as I am of paradoxes, I’m not talking about “while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear;” it’s pretty clear that Jesus means that while the words enter their ears, the meaning doesn’t truly register with their mind. It may not be how I would choose to put the point, but Jesus doesn’t want us to view this as a violation of the Law of Non-Contradiction.

No, the troubling part is the possibility that these people are deprived of the parable’s meaning seemingly through no fault of their own. Has God destined them to be forever ignorant? Has he placed the truth deliberately just beyond their grasp? Honestly, I can’t say for sure, but I’m disinclined to think so. After all, Jesus quickly directs his disciples to a passage from Isaiah: “For the heart of this people has become dull…and they have closed their eyes” (Matt. 13:15, Isaiah 6:10). Isaiah, at least as the Septuagint translates his words, appears to place the blame on these unseeing individuals for closing their own eyes and dulling their own hearts. And why does God not grant insight into these spiritual truths to certain people? Perhaps because they chose not to be receptive.

And the parable of the sower itself seems to reflect this ambiguity. In this scenario, the gospel is the seed, and we are the soil. But how much and in what ways are we like soil? Soil can’t choose, soil can’t think, soil doesn’t have free will. But we are humans, created in the image of God. We can think and choose. And perhaps God has given us the freedom to decide what kind of soil we will be, whether we will harden up or invite rocks or grow thorns.

Perhaps not. But perhaps.

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