By Russ Johnson
Confession: As the New Year rang in, I found myself getting increasingly frustrated as I looked at what’s on the docket for 2020. Despite all the good things we have seen happen, fear of failure, the pressure to perform, and doubt spun through my mind like a 1990’s Rolodex.
As I pressed in (because the FOMO wasn’t subsiding), I was reminded of something Jesus said in Luke 8 that, thankfully, goes far beyond someone telling me: “You got this! You need to believe, get the right tools, and work hard!”
So what was the reminder? According to Jesus, God hasn’t given us a life of riddles to solve, maps to draw, or ladders to climb. Instead, He’s given us a life of trusting him as we respond to our everyday roles, work our regular jobs, and pay attention to the needs of others.
Yes. There’s not a whole lot of “likes” in that. And yes, there’s nothing in that approach that’s going “viral” in 2020. But should this surprise us considering just how ordinary Jesus’ life was?
Sure, after his 30 years in the construction trade, his ministry begins with a few short bursts of miracles he performed. But look how quickly he shut that operation down when people saw temporary healing as their need or his purpose on earth.
And the ordinary doesn’t end there.
You find the same under the radar approach in how Jesus taught others, a chosen method known as “parables.” Jesus taught through stories, He said, not to make things more transparent but to confuse.
To see Jesus teaching in a way that confuses doesn’t compute. Hell, I hate frustration! Frustration is a sign that something is wrong, and you need to fix it. But the frustration Jesus brings through parables is precisely their point BECAUSE the frustration leads us somewhere we can never get to with New Year resolutions, goals, or disciplines.
In Luke 8, we find a scene where Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Why do you teach this way?” Jesus responds, “Well you guys have the secrets to the kingdom, but for those outside, I teach in parables to frustrate them ‘so that in seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” (vs. 10)
This statement, no doubt, frustrated the disciples to no end. These are the guys on the billboard with Jesus, and despite being told they “have the secrets to the kingdom,” they don’t understand what Jesus is teaching!!!
Contrary to the views of God handed down through religion, Jesus says “insiders” aren’t the ones clever enough to solve the riddles, and “outsiders” are just too lazy to do so. Instead, Jesus says those who are on the outside are, well, outside. And those who are on the inside are, yeah, they’re just inside.
If you’re at the table with Jesus, then you’re listening to his teachings, learning from him, and “you have been given the secrets to the kingdom of God.” But if you’re outside, trying to understand him from the door so you can build a framework for your life, then you’re outside.
The parables aren’t tools that help us build ladders, they’re stories about what God is like, and they can only be heard from inside the life of Jesus. They are an invitation to faith. Their truth, their relevance, their wisdom cannot be found from studying the menu at the door. And that’s how the WHOLE Christian life seems to work. To follow Jesus is to sit at his feet, and by faith, respond to what he’s doing TODAY.
After all, tomorrow is a myth.