When his disciples asked about the meaning of the parable of the sower and the seed Jesus provided a strange and confusing explanation.
“And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” (Mark 4:11, 12)
I ran across a group that, based on this passage, said parables were not meant to be understood. From there they did the traditional cult thing that has been around since the first century “BUT, we have this great insight so let us explain to you what these deep secrets are.”
Well, Jesus did say he didn’t want folks to understand, right? So, maybe these guys are on to something. At least they hope you will think so.
The answer to this dilemma is really pretty simple. Did the Lord want folks to “be forgiven”? Of course He does. It is not His will that any perish. (2 Peter 3:9) Did He want folks to understand Kingdom truths so they could “see” and “understand”? Of course He did. It would be rather foolish for Him to wander the earth three years teaching and making sure it was all stuff no one could understand. So why this seeming contradiction?
The best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible, which means Biblical questions are often answered if we simply continue to study the Word. You don’t have to come up with some weird, off-the-wall explanation – although that is the lazy way to do it and we can make it say whatever we want that way. But, we will find the truth if we just seek a little harder – with all our heart.
In this case, the necessary insight is close by, in what Jesus said as he concluded this message. Just read the rest of the passage instead of jerking it out of the context and deciding it is saying something really weird.
And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Don’t you, instead, set it on a candlestick?
In other words, “Would I be teaching all this stuff if I didn’t want it exposed to bring light to the whole world?”
He goes on to give the answer: Mark 4:22
For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
There will be a time for the world to understand. In fact, the disciples will be the ones sent to the world to proclaim the kingdom in such a way that many “hearing will hear and understand and return and be forgiven.” There is no secret code stuff here that you have to follow some gnostic guru to understand. It is just a matter of timing. When He spoke to His disciples He had not gone to the cross. It was not time. First He, the seed, had to be planted. Then a harvest time would come.
He hammers this point home by closing this section saying, “The kingdom is like a man who plants seed” – Jesus is the seed to be planted in the earth. “While he sleeps the seed grows.” Three days Jesus would be in the grave. “The seed produces a blade, an ear and then it is time for harvest.” Harvest time was coming but it was not yet.
Think about this: You may have a great harvest coming and it just is not time. You can’t rush it. When the seed has been planted you just have to wait. Keep being faithful. Keep doing what God has told you to do even if you see no fruit from it. It is all a matter of timing. Don’t give up prematurely. Don’t dig the seed up to see if anything is happening. Wait upon the Lord. Just like there was coming a time Jesus would send His disciples to all nations to proclaim the clear message of these parables, a harvest time is coming for your life also. Right now you need patience.
Hebrews 10:35, 36
So don’t give up. Hold tight to your confidence in the Lord. It will be rewarded.
For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.