So they will Hear, but not Understand
You know that troubling passage in Mark where Jesus claims he speaks in parables so that the people will…
See but not comprehend. Hear but not understand. Otherwise they would turn and be forgiven.
It has super bugged me for a long time. Why wouldn’t he want them to turn and be forgiven!? But I’ve learned that when things in the Bible seem really not right, it’s an invitation to dig deeper because a much more profound glimpse of a deeper truth is waiting there.
So here’s what I found.
He is actually quoting Isaiah 6 in which some apocalyptic instructions are given. Isaiah is supposed to proclaim something that the people just don’t understand, so that they won’t turn and be healed. Yes this time he uses healed instead of forgiven. But I think for now maybe we can assume Jesus is offering forgiveness as a type of healing.
Well, I thought more of this Old Testament context could help us understand why he says this. So I read on. And in fact Isaiah asks God, why he should do this? And God says so that they will be wiped out until only only a tenth of them are left. Then he will be able to start over from there. He calls it a stump, but it is a seed from which to grow something new.
In our modern context where we are all prize our individuality it’s really unsavory to hear God say, just obliterate all those people. But I get the feeling that back then a nation considered itself much more like a body working together than a ton of individuals acting independently. But I’ve found some satisfaction in knowing that was then. And for now maybe we can apply what was for the whole nation then, to be for each whole human today.
I feel a lot better about God wiping out all the dirty parts of me so he has something less tainted to start again from.
And that gave me new insight when I dove back into why Jesus wouldn’t want people to simply hear his message and turn and be forgiven.
I think it is because he knew that huge parts of us have to be worked out of us, sometimes through very difficult times, in order for us to actually change our ways. We may need to go through something really hard to actually make us truly repent and change. If we were to turn and be forgiven having never really been shaken into changing our ways, his forgiveness would be like taking an advil so we don’t have to feel a cancer still growing in us.
Raw Spoon. 12-5-18