Listen, there was a woman who wore make-up everyday of her life. She would not entertain the idea of being outside without it. Even jogging, she wore make-up. One day as she ran her regular route an old man stood in her way, and, producing a digital camera, asked her to take his picture. With some impatience she took it and in bringing it to her eye she saw her image in the two-inch screen. Her face was blotchy and streaked black, ugly. Horrified, she ran home, washed all the cake off. Looking up from the sink she saw herself, as if for the first time, healthy and beautiful. She vowed never to wear make-up again, well, at least never while jogging. Then she sat down to her phone and reported the old man to Police.
Okay, my parable needs work. But I’m leading to a point about this sticky bit of scripture.
Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.
It sounds like Jesus plays the Gnostic here, revealing knowledge to a special few and hiding it within parabolic code from the vulgar. But here’s a gospel thought: What if Jesus has no interest in segregation, no desire for spiritual apartheid?
Why, years ago, did I think otherwise? Because I liked the idea of being on the inside? Liked the idea that Jesus spoke in parables to trip up, even take something away from those on the outside. After all, they were the pretentious blatherers and deserved being shut out.
But suppose Jesus spoke in parables to unstop all ears and brighten all our eyes.
Parables are not hard. They are truths told in storied ways so as to bring meaning to light and fullness to meaning. They are stories, curious enough for the ponderous, direct enough for the pragmatic and beautiful and open-ended enough for the artists.
And what of the perceived hardness of Jesus’ words? That’s only the hardness in me, and in every pastor’s sermon that alludes to Jesus as secret-keeper. And in that case, the even-what-they-have that is taken away from those of us with nothing, is really the offering of new lenses and new music.