September 24, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today continues with Mark 4:33-34.
With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
We’ve already read that Jesus used parables as a way to engage his listeners, to get them to think on their own instead of preaching at them. But why does Mark reiterate that Jesus explained the meaning of these parables or metaphors or riddles to his disciples and no one else?
Moloney points out that the “outsiders” were not excluded from understanding his teaching, but they had to have ears to hear. “It [a parable] can be understood, for all its obscurity, buy only but those who lay themselves open to the word of God as it is revealed in the word and person of Jesus.”
Why were the disciples, the “insiders,” given the privilege of private instruction? Maybe because they had already shown that they had laid themselves open to Jesus. They had forsaken family and occupations. They had given up everything to follow this man Jesus. They had shown that they had ears to hear. They questioned, they quarreled, they jockeyed for position, but they always tried to understand and to follow Jesus’ teachings. They often failed, but there was something in their hearts that compelled them to persevere, to stay with Jesus, to be forgiven, and to try again. That’s what it means to follow Jesus. Do my best, accept his forgiveness when I fall short, and try again.
Darren and I were talking over coffee Saturday about the difference between being like Jesus and following Jesus. I had been thinning that I was called to be like Jesus. However, that is the perfectionist in me that leads me to think like that. Equality with Jesus is not something to be grasped as the gospels tells me. Darren, on the other hand, was of the mind that we are called to follow Jesus, to do the best we can all the while knowing we won’t get it right all the time, maybe not even most of the time. We are not perfect; we are not Jesus. We are called to do the best we can, seek forgiveness when we fall short, and accepting the fullness of his love anew all over again. That’s what Jesus’ disciples, his followers, did in story after story in the gospels. They were all very human, very fallible men must like me. Jesus chose them for their ordinariness but also for their hearts that they were willing to open to him, their willingness to drop everything and follow him.
That’s why they were privileged to be given private instruction about the meaning of his parables. Jesus was convinced that they would follow him even after his death and resurrection when he would be with them only in the Spirit. Barclay puts it this way, “The man who wishes to learn from Christ must company with Christ. If he does that he will win, not only learning, but life itself.” I am trying my best to keep company with Jesus, to follow him, and to give up trying to be like him. I hope I have ears to listen.