It’s not easy to understand the sayings of Yeshua. He was a figure of his time, a teacher in an Israelite mode, one versed in the Hebrew Bible and best understood by Jewish hearers. He did not intend to be clear really. He said to his disciples, “To you the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given; but to those outside, everything is in parables” (Mark 4:11). Many don’t believe he really meant this. Surely the kind Jesus would not speak in ways that many could not understand?
The best teachers challenge us to rise above ourselves. So, the crowds who attended Yeshua’s outdoor speeches heard many intriguing, inviting similes and stories, but would have needed more time and explanation to penetrate their meaning. They heard mysterious sayings about vineyards and kings and servants. Only after many stories and repetitions would it become clear who these kings and servants were. Disturbing images of eyes plucked out and of hardly anyone finding the narrow way to life unsettled people who then needed to stop and pay attention.
This is a short excerpt from chapter 6 of my upcoming book, a discipleship guide for Messianic Judaism. To get news about my writing, about projects and travels, and for extras sign up for the MJ Musings weekly email list. For daily commentary on readings from the Torah and Gospels sign up here for the Daily D’var.
The inner circle got private explanations. They heard teachings repeated with variations. No doubt the figures of speech became clearer with time. Yeshua’s use and reuse of tropes from the Israelite prophets and the wisdom literature of Israel were not simple. They could be interpreted in many different ways (and have been in the history of interpretation ever since).
“Don’t you understand ?” Yeshua often asked his confused inner circle. “If you have ears, then hear!” he urged. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he invited, “and you will find rest for your souls.” He promised solid assurance, an eternal dwelling built on a rock for those who heard and practiced his words. But it took much listening and concentration to understand. And they did not, until after the great event that changed everything, the resurrection of the Son of God.