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Are You Listening?

Tales of the Kingdom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Tales of the Kingdom book:
There is a King,” his mother had always insisted. “A real King.” She believed the ancient tales even though signs were posted all over Enchanted City: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KING. DEATH TO PRETENDERS! “Once a great King ruled our city,” She had said. “All the people thought him beautiful and served him willingly. But the Enchanter came and deceived the people and put a spell on the city. The King was exiled. Those who would find him must hunt for him in the place where trees grow—.”
The book is full of unreal stories that point to the deepest reality there is: the Kingdom of God. Throughout the Bible, Jesus teaches people using stories like this, called parables. So, we’re going to spend a few weeks looking at these parables, these tales of the kingdom from Matthew chapter 13. What do they teach us about God and his world?

Tools for reading parables

So, before we start, here are a couple things you need to know about parables:
1. Parables (usually) have just one main point
2. The context of the parable matters
3. Parables (usually) have a twist or surprise ending
4. Not every detail is significant

Why Parables?

But, the most important thing I want to talk about is, why even do parables in the first place? Jesus could have just explained it clearly, given us charts and lists. But he didn’t. Why?
Well, the disciples asked this same question.
Like, why not just tell me what you want to tell me?
Matthew 13:10–17 NLT
His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, ‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.
Matt 13:34-35
Matthew 13:34–35 NLT
Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet: “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Have you ever read a parable that helped you learn something about God? What was it & what did you learn?
Why would Jesus tell stories so that people wouldn’t understand?
What do you find confusing about Jesus’ teaching?

Jesus wants you to listen and follow him

So, this is maybe a little weird right. Why would Jesus say, I’m telling these stories so that some people won’t get it? That seems kinda lame.
Well, here’s the thing: Jesus’ is explaining how his teaching works two ways. For people who follow Jesus, it will make more sense, but for those who refuse to listen to him, it is utterly confusing. It depends on what kind of person you choose to be. If you choose to be a person who listens to Jesus, parables will make things more clear. If not, then you will hear the parables and miss the point.
It’s like this: my family and I love golf. When Karly visited for the first time, she met my family and we would sit in the living room and have conversations like this: “Well, I was gonna hit a little baby cut around the dogleg right, but I was afraid I’d spin it too much and end up in the heather, so I just hit a knockdown 4-iron down to keep it below the wind.” And she was like…uhhhh? What are you even saying? Are you speaking a different language? So, for a golf outsider, golf-talk sounds like a different language. It’s super confusing. But, since Karly loves me, she became interested in what I was interested in and tried to listen, to understand, and to become a golf-insider.
It’s the same with God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is so fundamentally different from the rest of the world that if you’re not going to go all in, then it’s only going to be more confusing to you. It doesn’t make any sense to world why Christians are willing to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of others. It doesn’t make any sense to the world why Christians care so much about their personal morality. It doesn’t make any sense to the world why Christians put God ahead of so many good things in this life. But for Christians, people who follow Jesus, who are listening to him, these things make perfect sense.
That’s the point of the parables: to make clear who is listening and who isn’t, to separate who is a disciple, a true follower, and who is just in the crowd, who is only interested in Jesus for what he can give them.
This is what the reference to Isaiah is about. In Isaiah, God tells him that the people won’t understand, because he knows that they will kind of half-change their ways, but not really mean it. So, instead, he disciplines them to make them fully understand and fully change their ways.
Jesus is doing the same kind of thing. He wants real followers who really get it. Are you?

The Clearest Picture of God

There’s one more thing I want to point out here: In v. 17, he says that prophets wanted to know what the disciples now know. And in v. 35, he quotes , saying that he speaks in parables to explain things hidden from the beginning.
There’s this idea in Christian theology that God explained himself more clearly as time went on. At the beginning, in Moses’ day, they had a picture of God that was true, but incomplete. And throughout the Bible, that picture is filled out more and more. And then we get Jesus, and there’s this huge jump—like all the blank spots start getting filled in. And it all leads to his death and resurrection.
Christ’s death and resurrection are the clearest picture of God that we have. If you want to understand the parables, or any of the Bible really, you have to get the death and resurrection of Jesus. You have to be all-in for Jesus, allowing the cross to shape your life and the empty tomb to give you hope.
Listen to Jesus. He’s speaking to you. He’s speaking in dying breaths and whispers on the quiet Easter morning.
How might the parables of Jesus be misunderstood by people who don’t follow him?
What are some ways you can listen to Jesus better?
What are some ways you can encourage your friends to listen to Jesus?
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