"Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given... This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand..." (Matthew 13:10-11,13, ESV)
That's a quote that amazes me every time I read it... Christ spoke in parables that absolutely did distill profound things down to the level of our comprehension. The people hearing these illustrations should've been able to have an "A ha!" moment wherein they got what Jesus was talking about and believed. But, in reality, the reactions were usually different:
- Some folks got the story, and it ticked them off. When Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son, you can bet that there were those in the crowd who felt the barb hit them. But their reaction, by and large, was not to repent but rather to get mad. In them we see enmity with the message of Christ, true wickedness. They heard, and they hated it.
- Some people never got it... Even after the illustration was given, some people in the crowd were left scratching their heads. Isn't that interesting! Especially when, in many cases (like Matthew 13) Jesus told parables with very similar meanings in rapid succession. Why did that repetition not break through?
- Then there's the group that got it. They heard the words Christ spoke and it found soft soil in their hearts. Something in them was changed, they were effected, and believed.
Of course, none of those explanations really satisfy. So what else could possibly be at work to explain why simply illustrated truth garnered such varied reactions?
"We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Co 4:2b-6, ESV)
No blind person can command themselves to see. No person can, by sheer will, instantaneously expand their brain to grasp glories that were previously way out of reach. In the same way, even a parable - a clear illustration of a spiritual point - is insufficient to make sinful minds awaken to spiritual things.
What makes the difference between you, if you are a believer, and the unbeliever who has head all the same sermons and read all the same books? Not your work, merit, intellect, humility, or anything else that starts with "your". What makes the difference is Him. God whispered into the darkness of your heart and caused a light to shine.
If you see - really see - the praise Christ for the grace that was shown to you. If you don't see, keep looking. Consider Christ. Wrestle in your soul with who He claimed to be. Honestly reflect on the story of the Bible. God may yet be pleased to shine the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ into your soul.