Parables are given as think pieces. They are intended to stretch the mind toward the higher understanding, or to provide the enlightened vision. In Mark 4.13 Jesus alludes to this importance of understanding parable, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” Directly after, Jesus gives the disciples the Parable of the Sower of the Word.
It seems apparent there are many more parables to which Jesus is referring. This would include parables not mentioned in the four gospels. Although our references for this work primarily remain within the four gospels, here is one example from the Book of Philip:
If one goes down into the water and comes up without having received anything, and says “I am a Christian,” he has borrowed the name at interest. But if he receives the Holy Spirit, he has the name as a gift. He who has received a gift does not have to give it back, but of him who has borrowed it at interest, payment is demanded. This is the way it happens to one when he experiences a mystery.
Jesus taught by parable,
use of scripture,
imparting esoteric knowledge,
taught by his own example,
taught by questioning.
Jesus’ teachings are diverse in
style and content, often mixing
teaching styles within one speaking.
Teaching parable near the treasury
The above parable illustrates the difference between the truer enlightenment or conversion, and the conversion which arrives content with words only. The word agreement is better than nothing, and many modern religionists believe that words are all that are necessary. However, a words only conversion may not embrace any true awakening. The person may be ‘word again’, but they are not ‘born again’. The higher relationship with God is left to flounder.
‘Born again’ is an experience, and references a true awakening to the spirit of God within. It has similarities to the Buddhist enlightenment, with the major difference that God is perceived as personal in Christianity, but in Buddhism He is not. Some Christians I have known experience the true revelation twenty years after entering into a word agreement. They then assume understanding into the ‘awake part’, not just the ‘word part’. During the awakening conviction may play a role, for others the warm glow of omnipresent love overwhelms them, some experience the overwhelming presence of God. It is also true that some people awaken far more than others. It is an omnibus enlightenment experience intended for anyone who wishes to receive, but best brought under the authority of he who revealed this basic awakening, Yeshua Messiah.
As the parable states, without receiving the Shekinah (Holy Spirit) the debt incurred is paid through unnecessary limitation, or there may be no change in the soul at all. This type of practitioner pays a heavy price. Limited into a staid faith that plods along through one day and the next, they may live uninspired lives, opportunity may elude them, they may remain an unteachable spirit, or what they seek may slip away. After all, the Pharisees believed in the sanctity of their performed sacrifice, and they, much like the modern religionist, may be able to explain their practice, but the assumption of the true awakening arrives by entering a different door. It is more than heartfelt, it is the awareness and the confirmation, the light and the knowing. This blessing of the spirit soars far beyond words.
Philip’s ‘mystery’ refers to what for us is an unknown quality, the ‘dark mystery’ in that we cannot see it, nor can it be experienced in any other way but by deeper revelation. Even the Buddhist announces his or her enlightenment experience as shades falling from the eyes, ‘and now I see’. This scripture in John 9.19 serves well: And they asked him, saying, “Is this your son who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?” We are all born blind, and then born again with the second awakening or birth which begins the journey into the spirit of God, truly walking in the enlightenment Way.
Philip relates a mystery which is solved when one awakens. If you receive the gift it is yours, if not you have only taken the name and you are a pretender. Philip’s resolution of the mystery emerges as a full confirmation of the spirit, and one that only the spirit of God can perform. Even if the awakening is considered religious conversion, baptism practiced as a ritual cannot be taken as the heart of conversion. Even though well intended, and perhaps it will foster some beginning, words which stand alone lie dormant. Meditation and prayer may lead one forward, but true conversion may only occur by the movement and acceptance of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that is, the awakening to the kingdom within. Whether it is done sooner or it is done later, it is only then that the Way can be properly engaged.
Similar to Philip, Jesus speaks of this mysterious engagement in Luke 8.10, and gives the disciples an almost cryptic message concerning parable. “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that: ‘Seeing they may not see [(perceive) Mk. 4.12], and hearing they may not understand.’ Luke’s shortened version separates those who have a more comprehending mind from those who do not, or perhaps those who seek and knock and those who wonder where the door is. If “faith comes by hearing (hearing often), and hearing by the word of God,” Rom. 10.17, then it seems clear that the word of truth must be spoken, but only some will be able to understand. Only some might awaken. They may have accepted the kingdom, which is very important, for belief is present. Yet there is not enough faith to carry them over into the true revelation.
In the teaching of the Way, belief-faith are intimately connected. Belief is cause, recognized but lying dormant; faith initiates action, and provides thought structure for how you will proceed. Two men may believe the same thing, but faith may make them move in very different directions. In both the Philip and Jesus parables they point out the something missing. Philip tells us that he who has not truly received, but makes the claim, will walk a very different life than he who awakened. Jesus tells us that only at certain times will his words be truly perceived, and only by certain people. All who may be listening may think they are gleaning something, but only those who awaken know the difference between what is only an intellectual understanding, and the other wherein Jesus’ words and Philips conversion give life. For those asleep the words they hear fall on a dead spirit.
The fact that some understand and that others may only grasp a portion creates an important dynamic within the Jesus ministry. For those who do not understand Jesus’ words, they will ask of those who gleaned more. Much sharing and conversation and teaching may then occur, especially by the disciples, who would end up reaching far more people than Jesus himself. Beneath this ministry turbulence God’s plan can be observed, or perhaps better described as His method of working. God may allow a part to be understood by others, but not the whole, which engenders a further quest into the knowledge Jesus offers. The Jesus ministry begins to rouse itself as the inspection into parable is undertaken.
TRANSITION into the WAY
Mark’s addition (4.12) to Lk. 8.10, “Lest they should turn (convert or return to the Lord), and their sins be forgiven them,” obviously points to a transition from the old and coming into the new. This separation is defined as those who not only hear, but also understand, they awaken. Orthodoxy too often accepts the message on faith, but without the works within, spoken in James 2.17, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead being alone,” there is scant to recommend it. Without the revelation awakening, faith rescinds itself back to belief– potential, but very little gain. Further, each person must also choose to enter into enlightenment (kingdom) consciousness by turning in a whole other direction, much as John the Baptist’s ministry of changed thinking toward Messiah and acceptance of the new baptism. Jesus chastised the offering of the same old sacrifices (limitation, excuses) when true enlightenment had already arrived!
Luke speaks of “mysteries,” and leads us to accept a broader understanding of the kingdom. It is not only a place, such as heaven, it is a state of mind or awakening. His use of the word “mysteries” tells us there is much to understand, and points to the deeper elements of parable. Luke’s scripture points to unfolding knowledge and wisdom, in fact never ending. This unfolding knowledge will later become one important root within Christianity.
Mark, however, speaks of “the mystery of the kingdom of God.” Mark points to the single mystery couched within parable, which is Jesus himself. ‘Why is Jesus here? Why do you think he is here? Why do you think he is teaching these things? Why is there a Jesus at all?’ Mark sees Jesus as self-evident and focuses on identity; Luke focuses on the parable itself and the many mysteries of the kingdom. On this point Mark would be considered much more of a faith gospel. It is the man himself, and not the various teachings. Regardless of emphasis, and much as John the Baptist also taught, the faith to accept both the person and the message of Messiah becomes preeminent. The Christian ethos will much later become built around both.
If a person truly repents of their heart, it is then a change occurs and the ears open to the expanded teachings. Isiah 6.5-10 is paraphrased by Jesus, especially verses nine and ten:
And He (Isaiah) said, “Go, and tell the people: ‘Keep on hearing, but [you] do not [heart] understand; keep on seeing, but [you] do not perceive [awaken].’ “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” To hear is to hear with the heart, and does not refer to personal emotions, and to perceive deals with the mind and the will. Regardless of strong feelings, each person is left with what is in their mind and how they will themselves forward, and the heart of faith to do so.
Isaiah speaks of a complete change in the hearts and minds of the people. Yet, because they are so sodden, least they truly hear the message of Adonai, they would rebel all the more, thus, this message is couched in the negative parlance and is meant to convict. Continuing through verse 13 tells us the truth about the Jewish people, that they had a hard time understanding the higher message of Isaiah. As Jesus quotes the same scripture he reveals that he also brings the true message of God, but is immersed within similar times. That so, many will be able to hear with their physical ears and see with their eyes, such as healing miracle, but only the tenth portion will be able to receive the great blessing and cross the river.
Isaiah chapter five deals with impending judgment of the Jewish people based upon the inability to yield proper fruit, “(the vineyard) brought forth wild grapes,” from Is. 5.2. Chapter six refers to God’s calling of Isaiah into his prophetical ministry, with the above scripture describing how hard it can be to call people forth. Isaiah is considered by the people of Jesus’ times as the greatest of the prophets. Jesus clearly makes an allusion to himself, and also refers to Isaiah while in Nazara (transposed into Nazareth), “sent to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives,” Luke 4.18 (Is. 61.1).
All higher spiritual teachings embrace parable, the presentation of a puzzle that may be understood on many different levels. Parable, or inscrutability, allows for both those who may be more intent to grasp the unseeable as well as those who may suffer a lagging step. Many elements are fomented within one simple parable, and requires the student to give thought not only to its meaning, but what it means to them personally.
THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED AND THE YEAST
Matt. 13.31-35 (NIV) He told them another parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is
like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in the field.
Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows,
it is the largest of the garden plants and becomes a tree,
so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.”
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a yeast
that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour
(three satas, about 1/2 bushel) until it worked all through the dough.”
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables:
he did not say anything to them without using a parable.
So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world (ref.Ps. 78).
The allusion to a tiny seed eventually yielding a tree describes how the kingdom not only begins, but how it grows. As a single individual Jesus must be accounted as a tiny seed. However, as Jesus is in the flesh just as you are, you also represent the tiny seed. You may also become the bush which will provide shelter for the many. As much as Jesus describes the kingdom, he is also describing the nature of the ministry itself.
Further, a good pinch of mustard seed can yield many bushes. The mustard plant will spread throughout the field, and references the expanding heavenly kingdom which will invasively spread across the land. Yet, being an herb the mustard plant is at first hard to detect. That being so, it is then suddenly sprouting everywhere. Some can grow even unto the height of a small tree, large enough for birds to make nests– “…birds of the air come and perch” illustrates there is room for anyone and everyone.
There is a third factor concerning our spiritual vision. Even though the mustard seed is the smallest, it is after all what is inside that gives the seed its size and impact. Like a mustard seed, anyone may in fact qualify for the kingdom, even if at the moment there seems no hope. Anyone may contribute to the kingdom when at first there may seem no way, or believing time has run out. Anyone who decides to do so may awaken. What is inside the soul is what counts.
The Parable of the Yeast is similar. Yeast cannot be separated once it is mixed in the dough, and it will work throughout the dough to yield good bread. ‘You should let my yeast work in you the same way’, he is telling them. A small amount of yeast may work throughout the dough to give us the finished product, alluding to a small work may eventually spread to affect many.
When Matthew’s scripture was written (AD 40), the reader would be able to make the leap into Psalm 78, which locates the last sentence in Matthew, “…things hidden since the creation of the world,” but with a slight difference. Ps. 78.2, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark (not fully understood) sayings of old.” The psalmist is referring to lessons learned in the past, but lessons that now have to be repeated, as Matthew sees it, by Jesus, since Jesus is the one giving the lesson.
Again, in Matt. 13.35, as Matthew refers to ‘hidden things’ he places Jesus in the midst of Psalm 78. This should become clear when reading the rest of Psalm 78 through v. 8. To save time:
“(4) We will not hide them from our children, but tell them to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has wrought.
(5) He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed the law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children;
(6) That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them for their children:
(7) That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:
(8) And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their hearts aright, and whose spirit is not steadfast with God.” Matthew reminds the people to not forget, and that they remain steadfast with God, much as Jesus did throughout his ministry.
Psalm 78 expresses God’s beneficence to a “rebellious generation” (v. 8), finally ending in v. 72, “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of His heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of His hands.” Those familiar with scripture could not miss Matthew’s reference to Jesus as he pronounces the current generation as rebellious, and then essentially refers to Jesus as he who shepherds, and then references Jesus’ skillfulness in doing so. These statements would have a profound effect upon the disciples, and later with those whom they shared the understanding as Matthew did. Jesus points to himself in a manner no other rabbi or prophet before him, as Matthew confirms with the whole of this scripture. The study of Matthew 13.31-35 combined with Psalm 78 through v. 11 forms an integrated parable study, and gives the reader a more comprehensive grasp of the internal workings of scripture.
DISCIPLES of the WAY
Jesus tells us that God’s kingdom is expansive, and is viewed as within everything, as in the yeast inseparable, or as with the mustard plant, abounding everywhere. It is not locked up in a room, and by definition cannot be defined or ordered by rules or laws as the guiding element. A new spiritual order of events must now come into being, must be heard, seen and perceived. The depth of such a parable does not reveal itself at first inspection, nor always on the second or third. Intellectually we may be able to interpret the words, but spiritually remain uncomprehending. Parable teaching thus offers an in-depth view that may only be resolved after years of study and experience, therein yielding the nuanced wisdom teachings.
Jesus offers God’s mercy, and associates God’s mercy with his own. God abides everywhere, Jesus tells us. He is within us and He is without us. Both the Parable of the Mustard Seed and The Parable of the Yeast give the kingdom of God not as a place, but in every place, and as active presence, that once the seed is sown the sprouting becomes apparent, thence to the harvest when ripe. Those who practice in the enlightenment teaching of the Way find this component central to their understanding of God, as well as their individual place or relationship with God.
Jesus refers to himself as the leaven, the yeast that gives rise to what becomes eatable bread, or in Jesus’ case as understanding that can be received into the mind, thus the kingdom which can be partaken of. Different listeners would gather these ever deeper meanings which in more subtle and obvious ways point to Jesus himself, and by such repeated inferences point to his identity as Messiah. Only a few would understand this last, and perhaps that is exactly what occurred when Jesus is finally confronted by the Sanhedrin– at last they understood his true meaning, and it is they themselves who first mention Messiah. “So you have said,” Jesus replies.
Jesus also lends himself to the mustard seed, for once it begins to spread it is very hard to rid the field. Jesus plants many seeds, speaks to the new creation consciousness, or some might describe it as the new kingdom consciousness, and that if one wants to receive the harvest then these seeds Jesus sows begin the process, just as we see planted seed in the physical world. The “mysteries” mentioned by Luke, and the “things hidden” by Matthew, refer to deeper and deeper growth the further we remove ourselves into parable understanding. It is known by scholars that a major part of the final teachings within the Essene priesthood are the knowledge and wisdom teachings given within parable.
So, we see Jesus in three different roles: first, he enhances, he is the yeast; second, he or his message is invasive, even irritating, and certainly disturbing to many; and third, he is the one who will be casting seed upon humanity, as in v. 37 of Matt. 13, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man (Anointed One).” Many of us are so familiar with these scriptures we think little about them, yet Jesus’ statements are far more startling than at first observed. If we give thought to this powerful message it becomes clear that he intended to change the consciousness of the world, not just reform Judaism. In essence his ministry statements will later bring the Christian enlightenment message to a place where every man may participate should he choose.
Jesus initiates the preparation of the soil, specifically the disciples as this ‘good soil’. He then sows the seed, especially when he speaks to them privately, for they will be the first to have this seed sown upon the grounds of their soul. This is reflected in the following verse, 13.38, “the good seed are the children [sons (family)] of the kingdom,” wherein he speaks to the disciples privately as The Parable of the Tares is explained. This certainly gives the disciples a special role. Yet, it is also true if “the field is the world,” with “the good seed are the sons,” rather this leaves the calling open to any who choose the kingdom, take upon themselves this sonship, and therein any good soil will grow this good fruit.
The above directly points to each individual, and not just the disciples, and offers universality and inclusion. Universality is a form of oneness, not only among individuals in what will become the body of Jesus followers, but lends itself to the principle of oneness itself, as in, “I in them, and You in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent me, and have loved them as You have loved me,” John 17.23. Although this is not a parable, it is a speaking which lends itself to the revelation of “mysteries” and “things hidden.” What is this oneness Jesus speaks of so often? What is this absolute unity Jesus has with the Father, and that he wishes to share with us?
As to the disciples, if once seen as this good soil then they must also mature and spread new seed. For they are the first, they are the disciples. They will become like the mustard plant moving into every field. They must become this good fruit that will abound and yield an ever greater crop. On a personal level this part of the private message must have given them pause to consider, just as we may now consider ourselves in the same context.
With these few scriptures we come into the real beginning of the Jesus ministry, the grassroots if you will, the very seed, the preparatory efforts that will bring the disciples into the soul development required for such a mission. Our life grows in much the same as the disciples, inward out and then upward. What we put into life, the seeds, and what we actually cultivate, nourish and then harvest, this gives us the daily walk and contributes to our personal messianic vision.
By planting good seed Messiah Jesus reveals the most practical aspects of the Way. Through parable the depth of Jesus’ mind is also revealed. He explains cause and effect with simple but accurate examples, giving structure to thought itself. He essentially tells us how to build the mind, the enlightened godly mind he extolls.