There is something that I came across in the Gospels that doesn’t make sense. Is Jesus for everybody, or just some people? Is his message for everyone, or just a select group? Did he come for all, or a few?
At times, Jesus seems to be misdirecting people. He had just given the parable of the sower. It is here –
On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore. 3 Then He told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. 4 As he was sowing, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep.6 But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered. 7 Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them. 8 Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. 9 Anyone who has ears should listen!”
But his disciples – those people who he handpicked to help him and to spread His words, are confused. They wonder why He is using parables.
10 Then the disciples came up and asked Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered them, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. 12 For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.13 For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. 14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You will listen and listen,
yet never understand;
and you will look and look,
yet never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn back—
and I would cure them.
This seems to not be inclusive at all, and in fact excludes some people. Aren’t all supposed to be cured? Isn’t the message for all?
He explains this parable to His disciples later –
18 “You, then, listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 Yet he has no root in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown.”
Then He tells another parable. This one is one about sowing seed as well.
24 He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this!’ he told them.
“‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him.
29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”
His disciples still don’t get it. They’ve been given the template for understanding one of the parables, but they can’t make it fit for this one.
36 Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”
37 He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38 the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!
If his disciples can’t get it, even after having it explained to them, then what is the chance of anybody else understanding it? He used parables all the time, and explained them later. Sadly, those explanations aren’t recorded. Why? To further hide the message?
33 He would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand.34 And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples.
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables, and He would not speak anything to them without a parable, 35 so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:
I will open My mouth in parables;
I will declare things kept secret
from the foundation of the world.
Now, from this next verse, it seems that Jesus chooses who knows Him, and through Him, God the Father.
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, because this was Your good pleasure. 27 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.
Then, during the Last Supper, Jesus says something really interesting. In Matthew and Mark he says it is for “many” – not all. In Luke, he just says it is “for you.” The Last Supper is not in the Gospel of John.
26 As they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take and eat it; this is My body.” 27 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.
22 As they were eating, He took bread, blessed and broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.”
23 Then He took a cup, and after giving thanks, He gave it to them, and so they all drank from it.24 He said to them, “This is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many.
Note that in this Gospel he doesn’t say “for the forgiveness of sins.”
Then lastly, we have –
19 And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”
20 In the same way He also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant established by My blood; it is shed for you.
So, if Jesus’ message and sacrifice isn’t for everybody, then why do Christians get so upset about people not being Christian? From these verses it appears that it means that they haven’t been called to hear the message or be part of the new covenant. If so, then it isn’t for Christians to push the point. Sure – tell people about who Jesus is.
If they get it, then they were meant to. If they don’t, then it means they weren’t meant to.
This approach seems to me to be the most Christ-like of all. Don’t push. Let people approach you. Jesus never pushed His agenda on anybody. Neither should we.
(All Bible quotes come from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, using the Bible Gateway website.)