Mark 4:10-12 – But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that 'Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.'" (NKJV)
When I go on long trips by car, I love to watch road signs, not only to keep me safe, but also to help pass the time. Sometimes they even make me think of something else, such as the parables of Jesus.
When Jesus taught, he often taught in parables, which, to me, are a lot like road signs. Road signs help guide us through life. Sometimes those signs are very clear, such as a stop sign, or a sign with a picture of a deer jumping. [As an aside, in 40 some years of driving, I don't remember ever seeing one deer cross in those areas!] Some signs, though, are not as clearly or quickly understood, such as signs with a number of lines telling us what the road is going to do.
Many of the people Jesus taught — even his disciples — often found His parables hard to understand. Often, after telling a parable, Jesus would have to take His disciples aside and explain it to them. If these men, who travelled with Jesus and knew him well, didn't get the parable, then how are we, seeing Him from afar, supposed to understand what the teaching means? We live in very different societies and cultures from the one in which Jesus lived. Most of His parables had a rural setting, but most of us live in urban settings.
We, however, are fortunate to have the Holy Spirit in our lives to help us with many things, one of those being interpretation. We need to rely on the Spirit to help us dig into the parables and see what that road sign of life is saying to us. At a quick glance, we may think it is saying one thing, but as we dig deeper, it may be saying something different. It is like the road sign I saw, which seemed to be just a number of lines. To me, it looked like the lane that I was in was going to end, but when I got to the spot marked, it wasn't only that my lane was ending, it was that the divided highway was ending also, and now there were only two lanes, one in each direction. When I got there, it made sense, but about 300 metres earlier it made no sense. It was enough to make me slow down, but I had no idea what was going to happen to the road.
Many of Jesus' parables are like this also, until we ask for guidance from the Holy Spirit, in interpretation. Sometimes we need to be right there, in the presence of the Spirit, to actually see what the parable means to our lives.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to see and understand your parables as they pertain to our lives. Amen.