December 19

Text: Matthew 13:2, 3

And great multitudes gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole multitude was standing on the beach.   And He spoke many things to them in parables . . .  (NASB)

Matthew saw in Jesus a man who was dedicated to bringing understanding to the common person.  Jewish religion had become quite complex.  There were God’s instructions.  There were the interpretations and applications of God’s instructions.  There were the ancient traditions.  There were the “fences around the law” that originally were intended to alert Jews that they were too close to violating the law.  The results were two primary conditions.  (1) The lines separating obedience from rebellion were blurred.  (2) “Obeying the Law” became a system of “do this” and “do not do that” delivered by “recognized authorities” who were supposed to “know what is proper and correct.”  Understanding what one did and why it was done was not essential for the common person—just do what the authorities told you to do.  Why one did it was not as important as doing the correct thing in the correct way.

At the conclusion of The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew wrote this statement: “The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28, 29 [NASB]).  Note that it was the multitude, not the religious leaders, who were amazed at Jesus’ teachings.  The people were accustomed to hearing a string of authorities cited—“rabbi so-and-so said, and rabbi such-and-such said, and rabbi who- is-who said, etc.”  No one ever taught by saying, “I say . . .”   Jesus was different.  The common person could understand him.

One way Jesus promoted understanding among common people was by his use of parables.  Think of parables as insightful illustrations.  The common person “got it” quickly.  The “officially informed” found parables to be meaningless stories that had nothing to do with anything important.  Because they used one recognized authority after another in their teaching, Jesus’ parables were confusing and “not relevant to the point.”  Thus, they saw without seeing and heard without understanding.  The common person could say, “Amen,” while the informed said, “That is a ridiculous story!”

Suggestion for reflection: How well do you understand Jesus?  (Read Matthew 13:10-17.)

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