Readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
You’ve probably noticed that Jesus is very fussy about what people call him. He usually refutes what they say, whether it’s Messiah, Son of God or even good. But the one title he doesn’t refute is Teacher.
This is the third Sunday in a row that the Gospel narrates the parables of Jesus, parables being his favorite way of teaching. Like any teacher, Jesus is striving to put in familiar terms what his audience doesn’t yet know. That’s why his parables begin with such ordinary things as farming, cleaning, buying, baking…
Like any good teacher, he’s eager to get his insight across; as for any teacher–bad, indifferent or good–his audience isn’t always responsive. Matthew describes Jesus’ frustrations as a teacher. The people he’s addressing sometimes don’t seem to want to know what he’s talking about and that hurts. Like any engaged teacher, what’s he’s really communicating is his deepest self. In a very particular sense, different from any other teacher, Jesus is the Kingdom that his parables proclaim.
Whether I will be a part of that Kingdom rises or falls on my ability to listen and respond.
We heard that challenge a couple of Sundays ago: people who hear the words of Jesus aren’t really listening. Don’t we know what that’s like? We even know people who cannot hear what they themselves are saying as they speak to us.
How frustrating that is! It’s not just a question of misinformation–which is bad enough; they’re not bothering to connect. In a real sense, they’re shutting everyone else out. They feel no need to adjust to anyone but themselves and that’s really pathetic. And the Kingdom of heaven is nothing like that.
I said that Jesus refutes the identities we’d give him. He’s not being coy or modest or devious; he’s being realistic. The depth of who he is, of what the Kingdom is, cannot be pinned down like my height and weight, my Social Security Number or the elemental composition of carbon dioxide.
Jesus’ parabolic teaching, like the hidden treasure found and hidden anew, is a summons to realize that there’s more to reality than meets the eye.