Veiled Truth Is A Test
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Parables, in themselves, were impossible to unravel. Unless explained, the speaker’s ultimate meaning remained hidden. Thus, the disciples were curious. Why did Jesus tell stories which at first concealed truth, and only later revealed it?
Let’s digress to be crystal clear about two facts. One, Jesus never taught in ways that people would find impossible to understand. Christ came to reveal, not hide, truth. Had He wanted us ignorant, He would never have spoken at all.
Two, Jesus did not limit truth to an elite few. There’s no first class and second class, no bluebirds and buzzards. He loves all, His mercy is infinite. Even what looks harsh at first glance on the surface is tempered with and dipped in love.
Now we come back to the Disciples’ question. Why did Jesus use parables?
Matt. 13:11 (Holman) He answered them, “Because the secrets of the
kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it
has not been given to them.”
Jesus said He spoke in parables because the Twelve would understand them, but unbelievers would not. This certainly seems to contradict the two points I just digressed to make. We would be wise to explore this baffling labyrinth farther.
Matt. 13:12 “For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have
more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what
he has will be taken away from him.”
Veiling the truth in parables is a test. How we respond to Jesus’ revealed lessons lets us evaluate ourselves, allows us to know where we stand spiritually.
Parables expose what we are. All who have salvation can know they have it because they seek to investigate in Christ’s words what they at first do not understand. All who do not have salvation can know they don’t have it because they are too bored to seek out Jesus’ deeper meanings.
In practical terms, this means our attitude toward knowing the Bible better yells volumes about the level of our spirituality. The humble and teachable, the ones who are pleasing to God, chase Scriptural clues. They show they are believers by staying on task, studying, learning more. Unbelievers, the worldly-minded, can’t stay at it. They seem oblivious to feeling any need for more truth.
This is serious, because when confronted with Jesus’ words, no one remains spiritually the same. Hearing Jesus makes standing still not an option. Each time we are in the presence of the Word, we advance or retreat, progress or regress.
People of faith are made better in the Bible’s presence. They receive it and investigate it to gain more understanding. Unbelievers, on the other hand, yawn and show little interest in knowing more. They thus grow blinder to God’s truth.
Each time they snub God’s Word, they sin, and thus cannot escape punishment. Refusal to investigate truth more fully today is punished by it being harder to look into truth tomorrow. Beware secret, silent deterioration of spiritual capacity. It is dangerous to recede deeper and deeper into darkness.
Faculties we use increase, what we don’t use decreases. Our character evolves according to abilities in us we cultivate and use, or ignore and don’t use.
Thus, the Word itself is not ultimately responsible for a person’s spiritual condition. Those who have gain more; those who choose to have not lose more. People are responsible for their own state of advantage or disadvantage.
To hear something we don’t understand in God’s Word brings us to a crossroad of decision, a moment of crisis. It forces us to face the truth about us.
Are we really what we claim to be? Does God’s Word matter to us? Many in this room are spiritually content, yet bored to tears with God’s Word. Beware.
One way we know we are saved is by a desire to unravel God’s truth, to understand it ever more fully. To believers, knowing all we can of God matters.
Let me illustrate what Jesus meant. In preparing to preach these sermons on the parable of the sower, I considered having a logo of some kind for the series.
On the internet, I saw Van Gogh’s “The Sower.” It did nothing for me. I was totally unimpressed, but knew his paintings sell for millions of dollars (one for $86.5 million, another for $78.1 million). I asked an artist in our church, Tracy Bruton, what I would need to know in order to understand Van Gogh’s success.
She gave me questions I would need to investigate. How did his many failures in life, including the ministry, affect his painting? Did he use symbols? How did being self-taught and going insane affect his originality? Why did he not idealize working people, though he had profound compassion for them and the poor? In what way did the camera’s invention influence his interpretations? What role did his brother and sister-in-law play in the ultimate success of his paintings?
I returned to my office with a stark choice to make. Would I become a serious student of Van Gogh, or let my fleeting interest die away? I had to choose, and whichever way I decided would profoundly affect my understanding of Van Gogh. More important, it would tell me how much I valued Van Gogh’s work.
This illustrates the same crux each person faces when they hear a parable or other part of God’s Word. Their response tells them how much they value Jesus.
For some, the Holy Spirit blows past them, making no more impression on them than wind blowing through an archway. Ask yourself, “Do I hear Him? Do I want to hear Him? Am I obeying? Do I want to obey? Am I more surrendered than ever before? Do I love to pray, love to read the Bible, love God’s people?”
These questions matter. They reveal which direction the spiritual winds are blowing in our lives. The good news is, if the wind is unfavorable, we can change its direction.
The benefit of God’s Word is lost on unconcerned hearts, but the moment they become willing to learn, what had been hidden truth suddenly becomes revealed truth. As long as people say no to Jesus’ message, they worsen, but the instant they begin to say yes, the same parables and other teachings which made little sense before now prove profitable.