Connections 07.26.2020: Yes, But…

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

The short parables in this week’s lesson are fascinating, and they give us much to think and talk about. They also give us much to do something about.

But I want to focus on a verse in our lesson text that isn’t part of a parable. In verse 51, which comes after Jesus has shared many parables with his disciples, he asks them, “Have you understood all this?” “Yes,” they answer.

Whenever I read this passage, that “Yes” always stops me in my tracks. I find myself wondering what the disciples could possibly mean by it.

(I also find myself wondering if they said “Yes” in unison. I wonder what their tone of voice was, what their attitude was, and what their body language said. I also wonder if they said it with conviction. I’m sure Simon Peter did. I can imagine the rest of them being more noncommittal.)

However they said it, what might they have meant by it?

Maybe they mean that they think they understand. Maybe they’re trying their best to understand. Maybe they think they understand well enough to have crossed the line from not understanding to understanding, even if they’ve just barely crossed it.

Maybe they mean that they don’t understand but don’t want to admit that they don’t understand.

Or maybe they really mean that they understand. Maybe they really think that they’ve really grasped what Jesus has been trying to teach them.

It’s possible that they have a decent understanding of what Jesus has been saying in the parables. But it’s unlikely that they fully understand his teaching. Let’s face it: the overall witness of the Gospels is that the disciples have trouble grasping Jesus’ teachings.

The overall witness of our lives is that we struggle to understand too.

Here’s the thing: no matter how well we understand what Jesus teaches us by his life and by his words, we always have a long way to go in our understanding. Even if we understand a lot, we still have a lot to learn.

When the disciples said “Yes,” maybe they meant what we should mean: “Yes, I understand as well as I can at this point, but I know I need to keep learning.”

So let’s keep learning. Let’s keep growing. Let’s keep making progress in our understanding. Let’s grow in hope, in peace, in faith, in grace, and in love.

Discussion

  • What themes run through the parables in this week’s lesson text?
  • How can the church take seriously the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast? How would taking them seriously affect our perspective? Our faith? Our actions?
  • What makes the kingdom of heaven a great treasure or a valuable pearl? Why is it worth so much? What gives it great value? What kind of value does it have?
  • The parable of the net (vv. 47-50) is similar to the parable of the wheat and the weeds (13:24-30, 36-43). Why do you think Jesus told two such similarly-themed parables? What was important about the point he was making in them?
  • How would you evaluate the disciples’ “Yes” (v. 51)?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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