In the past couple of weeks, I hope you have noticed a trend that religious people totally missed Jesus. Those who were diligent in studying the scriptures missed Jesus because religion had become a major sin, a roadblock in recognizing Jesus for who he was.
Now in this chapter, we see how even Jesus’ own disciples missed Jesus.
On closer reading, it appears that Jesus is intentionally making it difficult for people to understand his true identity as the Son of God by speaking about himself through parables.
Why does Jesus speak in parables? Is he trying to hide himself or is there some other intention at work here?
If you read v38-41, it becomes fairly apparent that even the disciples are shocked by Jesus’ ability to calm the storms. Of course, Jesus can calm the storms. He’s the Son of God. Yet, they lacked true understanding of who Jesus is.
So why does Jesus speak in parables to the point that even his own disciples seem to lack understanding of Jesus? How do we get to know Jesus personally?
Let’s start with the parable of the growing seed in v26-29.
I think for the purposes of our study, the key phrase in that parable is v27 —
27Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.
This farmer who is scattering seed sees seeds eventually sprouting and growing, but he does not know how. “He does not know how” — this needs to be our humble starting point when it comes to knowing God.
This speaks to the inscrutability of God. It’s a fancy term, but it simply means that God is mysterious. Many Christians talk as if Jesus is their buddy, their best friend, which he is, but he is more than a guy down the street who has long hair and wears birkenstocks.
We can’t put God in a box. He cannot be fully figured out, nor understood. He is much more than a 4 bullet point tract that you can fit into your back pocket and pass out to others.
God is mysterious, meaning in many ways, he is veiled, he intentionally hides himself. Why is that? In basketball, I veil my true ability because I don’t want to overwhelm others by my high level of play because it won’t be fun for them. I don’t want to blow people away by revealing my true skills because people might give up the game of basketball if I didn’t hold back. Just kidding.
But God is like that. Every OT figure who entered into the presence of God fell facedown and thought they were going to die. Isaiah came into God’s throne room and he said, woe to me, I am undone. God’s overwhelming presence caused Isaiah to feel like he was unraveling at the seams. This speaks to the awesome holiness of God. And to come into his presence is to tremble in fear.
So God veils himself. He doesn’t overwhelm us with his power, although he could. He could place flaming letters in the night sky which said, repent now, believe in Jesus Christ. He could send an email to the entire world simultaneously inviting everyone to click this button and receive salvation. But he doesn’t overwhelm us, he instead veils himself. He remains mysterious.
In our culture, we know nothing about veiling ourselves. If something good happens to us or we accomplish something, we are calling all of our friends, we are updating our facebook and twitter, sending mass emails, writing blogs, and if what we did is really noteworthy, we write an autobiography. We broadcast ourselves. There is no veiling when it comes to our greatness.
But Jesus veiled himself. Why? Because he wanted to give humanity a chance to respond to him in genuine adoration and love, not coercion. Jesus veiled himself. He spoke in parables about himself and the kingdom of God because he wanted an authentic relationship of trust and intimacy.
With Jackie, I could have coerced her by pointing a gun to her head and say, you will marry me. But I would not be giving her a chance to voluntarily love me. Or let’s say I was a millionaire or really famous and Jackie said, I want to marry you. I might wonder, does she love me because of my greatness or because of who I am. The only way to know is for me to veil myself and to pretend to be your average Joe who worked down the street at Ralph’s and if she still wanted to marry me, then I could be sure she loves me for who I am.
The same goes for Jesus. Jesus veiled himself because he wanted us to respond voluntarily out of our love and need for a Savior. Not because we are blown over by evidence. Or bowled over by miraculous signs. We are in this period of grace when we have been given this room and space to respond to God voluntarily.
For most people who hear Jesus speak, all they hear is a parable, a nice moral story like Aesop’s fables. Good advice or a wise saying to improve oneself.
But for those who recognize that there is something more to the parable, that there is something more to the man giving these teachings, then there is an invitation to look behind the curtains and find out more.
So in a sense, this invitation to learn the meaning behind the parables and to look beyond the veil was reserved for those who were genuine truth seekers.
However, I must say one thing. You can be sure, when Christ comes back a second time, he will come back in full glory, not holding anything back. The veil will be off and we will be blown away by his power and might and holiness.
And when we see God face to face, it won’t be just a smiley carpenter with a lamb on his shoulders. Jesus will be unveiled and we will be cowering in his awesome presence.