Once upon a time there was a very wise, gentle, and loving king, who ruled over his land with great skill. The people loved him very much. And as this king grew older, he had to determine who would rule in his place as an honest and loving king. He had three sons from which to choose. Making the right decision would not be easy. Then he had an idea. He gave each of his sons a pack of flower seeds and told them that the one who grows the most beautiful flowers from these seeds will have his throne. Six months later, the king came and visited his sons to check on the progress of their flowers. Now, the first two sons had beautiful flower beds, while the third son had nothing in his plot but weeds and thistles. Yet, the king chose this son to have the throne. Why?
Why would the king give his throne to the son who grew no flowers? When I tell you the key to the story, it will all make sense. I’ll get to that in my sermon on Sunday, and for those of you who are not local, I will also provide the answer in next week’s article. Are you feeling some suspense?
A couple of weeks ago in Sunday School when we were discussing the Parable of the Tenants, Lisa DiNaso asked an interesting question—“Why did Jesus speak in parables?” My brief answer went something like this: “When I tell you the key to understanding the parables, you will be absolutely fascinated. But we don’t have time for that now. You’ll have to wait until the Sunday after Easter.”
When you have to wait, you feel the tension in the story more intensely. But being confused as to its meaning adds to the tension. That's the feeling the disciples had when they heard Jesus telling parables to the crowds who were following Him. When Jesus had finished teaching, the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (Matt. 13:10). In the next verse, Jesus answers by saying “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven….” In other words, Jesus is saying that he is going to give them the key to understanding the story he had just told.
The situation here is remarkably similar to the teaching session the resurrected Lord had with Cleopas and his traveling companion on the road to Emmaus. Even though these travelers were followers of Jesus, they didn’t recognize him when he joined them on their journey. Cleopas had just expressed his great disappointment that Jesus had died. Although he had heard reports that Jesus had resurrected, he was not convinced that this could be true.
In response to Cleopas’ reluctance to believe, Jesus provided the key to understanding—the resurrection. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (Luke 24:6-7). Then in the next verse we see something remarkable: “And then they remembered his words.” The resurrection made all the difference. It helped them understand Jesus' words.
Here’s an amazing thing about the Word of God: All of the information is there; all of the pieces of the puzzle are in the Scriptures. Once you see truth revealed, you wonder how anyone could not see it. But here’s the amazing thing—unless God gives you understanding, you won’t be able to see. Understanding and embracing the gospel is always a matter of grace. And we must recognize that the reason that we are believers is not because of our innate goodness, or because of our wisdom, or because of our position; it is only because of the sheer grace of Christ. Man is responsible to believe, but seeing the kingdom, understanding the kingdom, embracing the kingdom is the work of the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can cause that.