I asked the question in the previous Gem “How does each gospel writer start this unit”? It is worth looking at the introduction to this explanation of the parable of the soils.
9 His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.
Before we come to the details here we need to deal with the matter of to whom this explanation was addressed. Remember Mark is the base account here. I.e. Matthew and Luke are aware of Mark’s account and have made changes knowingly. Note the audience to whom this explanation is addressed. The parable in the first instance was told to a large crowd. Mark has a curious setting for the explanation as he tells us Jesus was alone when His followers, along with the twelve came to Him to ask Him about the parable. His followers, along with the twelve. Matthew and Luke just use the term disciples. But there are many times where the disciples means more than just the twelve named disciples. Don’t forget also in association with the large crowd from many towns, there was a band of women who travelled along with Jesus and supported Him and the team financially. I would imagine that they heard this explanation too.
The verbal use (imperfect) in this passage infers that the question asked was repeated and impassioned. They really wanted to know the answer and persisted in their asking. What does this parable mean? I think it is not so much what does it mean because the meaning is clear by implication of the examples Jesus chose to illustrate the point. Rather it is a matter of the application. What is the significance to us and its application? Isn’t that what lies behind our questions most often? How does this apply to me?
The really astute ones among you will note there is a difference from what I gave you yesterday in that I have now added a colour change to the word mysteries. Mysteries Mystery Mysteries
I left them all yellow first time around but realized I probably should have highlighted the difference between the singular and plural use of the word mysteries. Mark had the singular “mystery” but both Luke and Matthew have changed it to “mysteries”. What is the significance of the change? The singular seems to infer the secret of the kingdom, the overall plan of salvation. The plural carries the notion of the various elements of Jesus teaching, the different segments which together make up the whole plan of salvation. I.e. The thoughts, plans and dispensations of the grand scheme. So singular means the grand scheme in its over arching schema and the plural signifies all of the combined details which combine together to make up the whole.
In what way is it a secret or mystery? Is it that God wishes to hide it from most and only disclose it to a chosen few? No, God wants all to find it but some won’t because of the condition of their heart. It is not a case of the privileged and those who are on the outside without privilege. We determine our privileges by the way we respond to the things of God. God grants the ability to know the secrets or the mysteries. But it must be on His terms not ours. That is why the soils depict the various conditions of the human heart. God sets the principles; we determine our destiny by our interaction with God’s principles. Our ability to hear is determined by us ourselves. The Rabbinical use of the parable was to make things easier to understand. Using illustrations and parables was supposed to bring the lesson alive and connect it to the people where they were at. But notice the fact that this passage from Isaiah is set in the midst of God’s judgment on Israel. The hearts of Israel were hard and by allowing a hard heart they cut themselves off from the blessing God intended. God many times in the Old Testament sent the prophets to bring His judgement message. In this case the parable is a sign of judgement.
Notice the purpose found in the “so that” [the hina clause in Greek] before the shortened quote from Isaiah in Luke accounts. There is much debate about this use of [hina]. Hina can carry the sense of purpose or result in Greek. Experts debate whether it signifies purpose or does it signify result. To the masses these secrets are set in parables so that they won’t understand. Or does it carry the force that the message is conveyed in parables and so the result is they won’t understand. Let me use the analogy or parallel of Pharaoh in the Exodus story. Many wonder why the Bible says God hardened Pharoah’s heart in Exodus 10:1, 20 & 27 and 11:10. It seems cruel and unfair of God doesn’t it? But look at all the times before where it’s recorded that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Exo 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19; 9:7, 12, 34 and 35. God merely confirmed him in the way he set for himself. Can you see the reason why Jesus tells this parable like He does? Each person is responsible for their own end position. We can sit around and debate whether the hina clause is purpose or result till the cows come home but the end result is a hardened heart and a lack of understanding of the parable. That which was meant to make it clear, and in fact does to those who have been granted revelation, is the very thing which blocks the truth from others. Furthermore it is no one’s fault but their own.
The verb involved in “to you has been granted” is a perfect passive tense. God has given “you” the ability or privilege of knowing / understanding. This “knowing” parallels the “understand” at the end of the quote. You understand; they don’t understand. You understand the parable because God Himself reveals it to you. Hence Jesus explains more to the disciples. God will always grant to those whose hearts soft and open to Him the understanding of His ways and principles. But the hard hearted will always work to exclude themselves as a result of the condition of their own hearts. Effectively we bring judgement upon ourselves when we don’t take care of our heart condition. Thus these soils are indicative of the heart condition. We render ourselves open to God and responsive when our hearts are open. When we take the time to break up the fallow ground, in agricultural terms. If we allow the ground (or our hearts) to harden nothing grows. This parable ought to have been crystal clear to those in a rural setting who were always doing this in their yearly cycle. As the Rabbis expected the parable should have made the concept easier to grasp. But for those who chose not to hear, it made it harder to grasp until judgment came upon them. God didn’t give Pharaoh a hard heart. He simply sealed Pharaoh in the state he had created for himself. So too here.
Luke omits the Markan segment [And He *said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?} “The sower sows the word. Mark 4:13-14
Luke just goes straight to introducing the parable with the line “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11 Above they are reminded what happened to ancient Israel with the use of parables. Now pointedly Luke writes Now the parable is this . . . The seed is the Word of God. Luke missed out Mark’s line – If you don’t understand this parable how on earth are you going to understand the others. This one is straight forward and furthermore God Himself is revealing the answer to you.
Take care of the soil of your own heart. Pay heed to the Word of the Lord to your heart. Don’t harden your hearts like Pharaoh.
You’ll ultimately loose what you don’t understand.Jeffrey Rachmat
What part of “Thou Shalt Not…” didn’t you understand?God
Life Is Not About Understanding Your Practices But Practicing Your Understandings.Robb Thompson
Gathering information is KNOWLEDGE; Interpreting the meaning is UNDERSTANDING; (then) DOING what’s right is WISDOM.Rick Warren
There are many of God’s commandments you won’t understand until you first obey them.Bob Gass
God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.Vance Havner