“Jesus replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.'” Matthew 13:11
Not everyone connects with the Gospel when they first hear it, not even after they have heard it repeatedly. Nor do they always connect for the long haul after first being excited about what they heard at the beginning. For some others, after seeming to connect, different things become far more important and take precedence over what should be all in all. Yet, a genuine connection with the Gospel eventually is one in which the Gospel completes the goal of capturing its object unconditionally.
That is the secret to hearing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly, according to the Lord’s own words. Only one group out of four who hear the Gospel truly understands it and continues in it. Three other groups to varying degrees hear the Gospel but do not persevere in it. These three other groups of “hearers” eventually end up in the same place with the same result; in time, they all reject the claims of the Gospel on their lives. The Gospel does not save them from unbelief. The secret of the kingdom of God is not revealed to their understanding, and consequently, they deny any efficacious claim of the Gospel on themselves.
The secret is revealed to the one group of hearers, but to the other three, it remains opaque to their minds for a variety of reasons. Satan snatches the word of the Gospel away immediately, before any understanding can even gain a foothold; another group actually receives the Gospel with joy, hears it with happiness, but it takes no root in their lives and so shrivels away in the heat of the sun and lack of depth of the soil necessary for plants to grow and produce fruit; the third is beset with the weeds and thorns of life that choke off the life-producing nutrients of the Gospel, and because of the cares and worries of life, the Gospel does not take hold in transforming the life of its object. Why do these three groups fail in the achievement of the goal of the Gospel of grace? And why does the Gospel find success in this fourth group? It has to do with the secret of God’s kingdom being revealed to the one and not the other three groups, according to Jesus.
The Lord quotes a passage from Isaiah to describe the three groups who do not believe the Gospel: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not understand.” Of the one group who believes, Jesus says, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” One has to ask, then, is it possible to move from one of the non-seeing, non-hearing groups to the one group who discovers the secret and believes the Gospel? Jesus’ response to all is, “He who has ears, let him hear.” If an individual’s heart is not permanently calloused to see, hear, or understand, and if he perseveres to be one who believes the Gospel presented and turns from his previous ways, Jesus promises, “I would heal them.” Otherwise, he remains among those without the secret of the kingdom of heaven. Their stopped up ears, unseeing eyes, and misunderstanding minds tell the story. The parables of Jesus are an adequate warning. Apparently, there are those who will not hear, nor see, nor understand, no matter what warning they receive or how often it is given.
This parable ought to give us a picture of the world’s population – those who have the secret of the Gospel and consequently believe it, and those who do not. It also gives us a picture of those who have some dalliance with the Gospel but in the end reject it. In other words, been there, tried that, and it did not work for me. Can we say they were oh so close but failed in the end? This reaffirms the requirement to persevere in the faith. To him who overcomes, Jesus says, “I will give a right to eat from the tree of life; I will give them the crown of life; they will not be hurt by the second death; they will be dressed in white; I will write on them my new name; I will give the right to sit with me on my throne (Revelation 2-3). It is a sure promise to those who persevere in the faith and overcome every obstacle to believe. But it also shows an open door to perseverance in presenting the Gospel to those who appear for a time to lack seeing eyes and hearing ears.
To the one who perseveres in the speaking and persuading of the Gospel into seemingly unhearing ears, the promise of the Lord is always held out, “He who has ears to hear, let him [eventually] hear.” If he or she at some time does hear and turns, then Jesus says, “I will heal them.” Keep on keeping on until time truly runs out. It is never not worth it.
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth, and followed thee.”
(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”, 1738)
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