This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don’t really see; and although they hear, they don’t really hear or understand. What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them: You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeing. For this people’s senses have become calloused, and they’ve become hard of hearing, and they’ve shut their eyes so that they won’t see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them. “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear. I assure you that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn’t. (Matthew 13:13-17 CEB)
Oftentimes when I read this passage, and apparently when other Christians do to, we imagine ourselves in the same position as the disciples rather than the crowd. I hope we aren’t deceiving ourselves. The crowd saw, heard and experienced this time with Jesus, but didn’t get it. The disciples saw, heard and had the same experience, and understood. But what is the difference between the two? And where do we really stand?
There were a lot of people who came out to hear Jesus teach, in person. So many people were crowding around Him that He had to get in a boat to get some space. They had heard about Him and wanted to come check Him out. They were hungry for His message. They were in His presence that day just like the disciples were, hearing the same message. The disciples had the advantage of an intimate relationship with Jesus. They didn’t just come hear Him for a day. As “disciples”, they were modeling their lives after Him.
Before I started my devotional today, before I even knew what the passage was, I prayed and asked God to help me understand. The thought came into my spirit and mind that there’s a difference between a “devotional time” and spending time in God’s presence. I have been guilty lately of being busy and just “doing” devotion (daily Bible reading and tossing up prayers as needs arose). However, to make sure my mind is oriented according to God’s kingdom, I have to spend time hanging out with Him. This involves the same activities, but with different intent and focus, and it involves a reorientation of priorities.
Our perspectives and ways of thinking are strongly influenced by those around us. Robert Kiyosaki addresses this in his Philosophy of Cash Flow workbook. He has built a large successful business on the premise of changing people’s belief systems about money. He teaches that belief system drives behavior. With the promise of greater wealth, more financial security, and a happier life, he entices people to follow him and learn a different financial belief system than what has been taught to the majority of people in society. All you need is a “Rich Dad” mentor. Clever.
And I don’t disagree with his philosophy. Our belief systems do drive our behaviors. And our belief systems are influenced and strengthened by those whom we love and/or admire and with whom we spend the most time: parents, friends, mentors, television…and God.
So are you part of the crowd, spending a little bit of time hearing some of His teaching maybe once a week at church or maybe for a few minutes of “devotional time” each day? Or are you a disciple, modeling your life after Jesus, seeking to let Him change your belief systems about pretty much everything, which will drive your behavior and make you very different from the world around you?