|Matthew 13: 10-16: "The
disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
"He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom
of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. [. . .] In them is fulfilled the
prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will ever be hearing but never understanding; you will ever be
seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly
hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with
their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal
them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they
How do you engage those who will not be engaged? How do you
communicate when seemingly an audience hasn't the capactiy to understand? You
can't speak. You can't sign or write because they are listening with closed ears and eyes.
They don't even realize that you have a message they need to decipher.
Jesus grasped this quandry well, so he spoke in parables. He
continued to teach despite many of his "hearers" not really hearing what he was
driving at. Often, we are tempted with two kinds of self-delusion about our
abilities to communicate -- we either lack an awareness that others might not understand
us, or we assume that we are special and can always cross that barrier to someone.
Jesus the Word recognized that his proclamation of the kingdom of God was not necessarily
an explanation. It takes a certain kind of person to grasp and receive truth: those
who are humbly aware of their own limitations and who are willing to act on the truth they
So why did Jesus communicate a message he knew many were not
comprehending? In part he recognized that you shouldn't try to sort out the hearers
from the non-hearers in a crowd. In one of his parables he compared this to good
grain and weeds growing up together in the same field. Only at harvest time, do you
sort out who's who. Equally, Jesus recognized that all deserve the chance for a
future hearing. His message, he noted, is like a seed that grows up into a mighty
tree or a pinch of yeast that works its way through a loaf of bread. Sometimes the
message has to sink in longterm for an audience to be ready to receive it. Suddenly,
what seemed closed, opens up, and with a shock of recognation, someone believes.