I had a math problem at work last week.
Anyone who truly knows me, knows I love words. I love to write. I love to put together sentences and paragraphs. But numbers? They are the bane of my existence. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be a numbers lover.
This problem had me so stumped. It was an accounting/billing issue. First off, I didn’t understand the instructions, and secondly my eyes just couldn’t get the numbers to match. I was so frustrated. I posted my frustration on Facebook on a whim; not something I normally do. One of the replies back was from a teacher friend of mine. She said to step back and take a look at the problem from a different perspective. Hmmm.
All along I had been trying to do it one way. But at her suggestion, I shredded all my papers, printed out new papers and looked again, this time starting from the end goal. Sure enough, within minutes I discovered I was doing the problem backwards. Once I got that straightened out, I was able to complete the assignment.
As I thought over my silly mistake, I considered the idea of a new perspective. A different perspective. And I thought about Jesus and His parables.
Jesus often taught in parables: word pictures. But sometimes these parables, or stories, were not easy to understand. Especially for the crowds gathered around Him. I’ve often wondered why He used parables so much, instead of just coming out and saying what he was thinking, or teaching in a more straightforward way. Sometimes the crowds would go away not understanding what they had just heard. Even the disciples struggled to understand these word pictures.
Sometimes, though, Jesus would take His disciples aside and explain what the parable meant. Once, after a perplexing parable, one of the disciples got up the nerve to ask Jesus why He taught in parables. Look at this exchange:
10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
You see, the disciples were given a special gift–the gift of a different perspective. This was because of their belief in Jesus. The crowds often did not understand, because “seeing they do not see” and “hearing they do not hear”. But I wonder if some in the crowds did believe, and if those believers understood while those who were around them did not. I don’t know. But I think it is terribly interesting and important that we see that the disciples were given a new perspective; a different perspective.
The passage goes on to say:
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The disciples were blessed, because they saw and heard. And were given explanations and meanings. They were blessed because they had Jesus amongst them to give them these perspectives. Many prophets and righteous people, who knew the Messiah was coming one day, had longed for what the disciples had. But they has died without this first-hand perspective from Jesus, the Messiah.
Did the disciples really understand how blessed they were to be eye-witnesses? Did they truly understand the magnitude of the gift they had been given? I think maybe not; not until after the resurrection and the growth of the first century church.
But what about us? What do we have?
We have scripture. We have God’s word right at our fingertips. We have the accounts of the eye-witnesses. We have the words that Jesus spoke and taught with. We, as believers, have the gift of a new perspective through the Holy Spirit (whom I still don’t understand) who teaches us and is a help to us.
Do we know how blessed we are? Do we know how much God has gifted us with His word? I know it is something I take for granted.
I want to be like the disciples who sat at Jesus’ feet and saw and heard. I want to see and hear through the scriptures. I want to see; to hear; to learn.