There’s no way around it – Jesus was ambiguous. He always seemed to send people away scratching their heads – even his disciples. He was not a man with easy answers. He never gave a three-point message. His sermons don’t outline very well.
His favorite phrase when speaking a public message was “He who has an ear, let him hear.” Hear. He used it as an activity – something that some people do with their ears, but not necessarily everybody.
Jesus had a favorite method of speaking to people. He put it in a story – a parable. When his disciples asked him why he spoke to the people in parables, he replied: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables” (Matthew 13:11-123).
Thanks, Jesus. That about clears it up. You speak in parables and you answer in riddles. “He who has…” He who has what? Cars, boats, swimming pools, friends, truth? What does he mean? Now we have two questions: “Why did he speak in parables?” and “What does his answer mean?”
To each of his disciples Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” That was an invitation, not a requirement. An invitation respects the freedom of the invitee to accept or decline. Indeed, the “no” answer is perhaps the greatest expression of human dignity possible. That men and women can go to heaven is an expression of God’s love; that they can go to hell is an expression of the value he places on their freedom,
God desires – not requires – a relationship with us. It is not a one-sided affair; we are co-participants with him, both in our relationship with him and in our work in the world.
A woman with a hemorrhage struggled through the press of the crowd in order to touch his garment; four men opened a hole in the ceiling of a crowded house and let down their paralyzed friend in front of Jesus; a centurion soldier asked that Jesus only speak a word so his servant would be healed; a blind man went and washed the clay and the darkness from his eyes; a little boy offered his meager lunch to feed a multitude. Even the miracles of Jesus involved human participation. This was not just a Messianic Magic Show; this was God interacting in human experience – giving and taking, relating with us as Son of Man.
God does not pull all the strings. He counts us as too important for that. To find without seeking, to hear without listening, to say yes without the possibility of saying no is to negate the value of my seeking, my hearing, and my participating. I am not a puppet.