Thursday 21 July – Holy Communion at St Giles
Gospel Matthew 13
When the Gospel is announced the reader says
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to N.
All Glory to you, O Lord.
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.
A commentary on this chapter starts remarkably: this discourse is not a solution to the problem of evil in general, but a solution to the rejection of Christ in particular.
Striking – I thought this part of Matthew as all about Jesus’ teaching in parables. The heading is “Explaining Israel’s Response.”
I started sermon a fortnight ago with the words ‘Parables are so stupid.’ This from the lips of a teenager. It was about Parable of Sower. Why did sower broadcast his seed all over the path, rocks, shallow, choked and thorny soils with same abandon he use for good soil? Reason: it’s not about agriculture. It’s about spreading the Word. It’s about God’s grace, and how he treats all of us just the same, regardless of what soil type we are.
The Sower is one of only 2 parables with a clear explanation. Why doesn’t Jesus explain all his parables, so we can be sure to understand? Why does he use this form of teaching at all? Is it just so the memorable images stick in our mind? Or is it more than that?
The Sower is also all about rejection. It was told as opposition to Jesus’ message was growing. Even his own family rejected him. Only the crowds hung on his every word, and they would shortly turn and cry for his blood.
Rejection was illustrated by the poor soil types. They get just as much chance as anyone else to hear and accept the Word leading to God’s Kingdom, but for one of many reasons they do not receive it and accept it.
So when Jesus answers the disciples’ question and says: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” – he’s not saying the message has been deliberately concealed, but that for those hearers who are distracted, or who ignore it, or are too worldly, or for whatever other reason they reject it, - to them it is a secret.
When my mother used to teach me there were jolly unfair bits in the gospels, taking them out of context they were a secret to her because she had not fully understood what they meant. For her, the workers in the vineyard were treated unfairly and should be unionised. For her, it was wrong that: 12 Those who have will be given more, and they will have an abundance. As for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” – but that was a literal interpretation, and not an explanation about the revelation of God’s word through parables.
What is all means is this. Only those who hear the word and do the will of God will understand Jesus’ parables. The so-called mysteries of the Kingdom are given by God’s grace through the parables, which is why the teaching they contain falls on closed as well as open ears. The one who has ears to hear, let him hear. Amen