Does it seem cruel, or at the very least curious, that Jesus interacts with seekers by telling them riddles? Honestly, is it strange to you that Jesus seems to go out of his way to preach to his own choir?
Imagine you are invited to a speech by Bill Gates on the great usefulness of his incredible world of techological advances. You are marking off the days on your calendar leading up to the grand day. Imagine the questions you may have for him. “What,” you wonder, “had he thought of when he started out? Did he envision such a rapid advancement, from a computer large enough to fill a room, to one small enough to be lost in a purse?” “What,” you may wonder, “was his secret to success?” The anticipation builds as the day nears.
Finally the day arrives. You make yourself comfortable and perch at the edge of your seat. And as the pioneer of personal computting takes the stage, you are first struck by his . . . well, his unstriking presence. You may well have passed by this guy just the other day on the street.
Yet as he begins to speak, it hits you that this guy has changed the very way you view the world. You move even closer to the edge of your seat. And you hear him. Sort of.
You strain your ears to listen, only to find that the discourse was being delivered in binary code! “001 110 0101011” he says, and a faint chuckle spreads through the crowd.
How are you feeling now? Amused, possibly. Annoyed, more likely.
But there are some people in the crowd who are getting their proverbial money’s worth and then some. Those silly computer programmers, who never seem to catch onto anything happening in the world, are having their day. And they are loving it.
And this is a bit like Jesus’ choice to abandon speaking directly to his crowd, in favor of parables. As he himself says, “those who have will be given more, and those who have nothing will have even that taken away from them.” The purpose of parables, according to Jesus, is to speak to “those with ears”.
In other words, the point in preaching the message of his kingdom inside of stories is to weed out those who are about figuring him out- about pinning him down. He preaches to the choir because his choir, a bunch of misfit fishermen, in this case, are the only ones genuinely interested in knowing what his kingdom is like.
And to us, who follow after the original hearers, Jesus offers an Interpreter. We have come to know him as the Holy Spirit. He opens our ears, enlightens our eyes, he awakes our hearts to what Jesus is saying to us.
And so the question becomes less “Why are Jesus’ words so easy to miss”, and more “How can I get on the inside of all of this?”
If that is our question, then the kingdom of God is nearer to us than we might have thought. All we have to do is ask.