This message is for many, but not all.

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 –

Matt. 13:1-9
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.

Matt. 13:10-15
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 –

Matt. 13:18-23
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.

Matt. 13:24-30
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.

Matt. 13:36-43
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?

Mark 4:33-34
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.

Matt. 13:34-35
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.

Matt. 11:25-27
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.

Matt. 26:26-28
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.

Mark 14:22-24
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 –

Luke 22:19-20
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.

Once.

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.)

“Good News” vs. Hellfire

We are told to preach the Gospel – that is, the Good News. We are told to preach the message of Jesus – that we are forgiven, that God loves us so much that He came down to be with us, that there is life after death. So often, people don’t preach the Good News. They preach hellfire and damnation. What is “Good” about that?

We aren’t told to be fearmongers. We are specifically told not to judge others. Paul tells that we are to challenge our brother if he has issue with us, but Jesus didn’t.

What drew you to following Jesus? Was it out of love, or fear?

What habits are you likely to do – ones out of love, or fear? Do you exercise and eat well out of love – love for the precious gift that is your body, or fear of death? What attitude is more likely to make you want to keep taking care of your body?

Jesus says that only those that He calls to himself are those that will come. So yelling at and judging people who don’t follow Jesus is pointless and not Christ-like behavior. They will come only if He calls them.

Helen Keller, deaf and dumb from early childhood, was locked in her world of silence. Someone finally told her about God, and she was grateful. She said that it was nice to have a name for the feeling she had. She had already been called.

We shouldn’t try to drag people to Jesus out of fear. We need to do it out of love.

Instead of telling people that they will go to hell if they don’t follow Jesus, why not tell them how they will life more abundantly if they do?

In John 10:10, Jesus says
“I assure you: Anyone who doesn’t enter the sheep pen by the door but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger; instead they will run away from him, because they don’t recognize the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus gave them this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. 7 So Jesus said again, “I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”

Praying at a football game. On inclusion and good witness.

If Mary, the mother of Jesus, came to take Communion at a Catholic church, she would be refused. She wasn’t even baptized as a Christian. She was Jewish.

If she showed up as a potential church member, an unwed mother, she would be shunned in most churches. Tongues would wag.

How many times have we as a church turned away someone because they didn’t measure up to our standards? How many times have we not acted in a Christ-like manner because we think someone isn’t acting “Christian” enough?

It isn’t for them to act Christian. It is for us to. And Christ was radical about inclusion.

I recently mentioned about Mary not being able to take Communion in a Catholic church and a Catholic friend stopped and thought about it and realized I was right. She’d never had to think about this before, had never even thought about the exclusionary rules. Of course not. She was in. The rules don’t affect her. She hadn’t had to think about it.

This reminds me of when I attended a public high school and the majority of my friends weren’t Christian. They were either Jewish or Hindu. I felt so awkward for them when we had prayers before football games. The principal of the school would come on the intercom while we were in the bleachers and pray to God and Jesus before a football game.

I noticed that he never did this before tests or anything else that really mattered.

I’ve never understood public prayers before football games. Sure, it is good to be mindful and hope that they play safely and with respect. But not everybody there is Christian. It is strange for the principal of a public school to pray to God in a situation where everybody has to be there. We didn’t have a choice. It was mandatory attendance at these gatherings. It isn’t like it was just for the Christians, or those who chose to be there. I felt bad for my friends. They couldn’t leave. I wanted to leave as well, and I was Christian. This guy, this authority figure, didn’t represent me. It just didn’t feel right. It felt like some line had been crossed.

What would parents have said if the principal had been Wiccan and said a prayer before the game? This is important to consider. If you feel there is a difference if it is one faith or another, then think about that for a moment. Why is it different?

Remember, this was a public school, not a faith-based one.

I can hear one of my coworkers now saying “If they don’t like it, they can go back to where they came from. It is our country.” She says this about us having a Christmas tree set up in our public library. I’m opposed to that too. If we have one image from a faith, we need to have all of them, or none.

She says “our” country quite possessively. She gets very defensive about this.

The problem is, it isn’t “our” country if “our” only means one group. “Our” means all of us. Remember how the Puritans came over the sea to America to have the freedom to practice their religion as they wished? Remember the first sentence in the first Amendment to the Constitution – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

This also means we have freedom from religion. We don’t have to practice anything.

For Christians to force their viewpoint and their faith on others or to force them to listen or participate in public prayer isn’t Christ-like. Jesus never did this. It is insensitive.

I don’t care if they think they have “it” right. When Christians do this, they are doing it wrong.

Sure, you can pray in a public school. Nobody is taking away that right. Anybody can pray. You just can’t pray in a way that forces other people to participate. You can pray privately. You can pray with a prayer group. You can pray with your friends. You just can’t pray over an intercom to the whole school, or pray in a classroom to the whole class.

Not everybody is on the same page. Not everybody shares the same belief system. And that is OK. In fact, it’s not only OK, it is wonderful. It is part of what America is supposed to be about.

Forcing your belief system on someone else isn’t going to turn them into converts. In fact, it is going to turn them off. It does the exact opposite of what you want. It says that Christians are more interested in sharing a message than in having a relationship. It says that Christians are more interested in talking than listening.

The best way to get people interested in the message of Jesus is to live like Jesus. Be kind. Be loving. Welcome the stranger. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick. Work for justice and peace.

Let your life be your testimony.