The Hunt is On!

This year, I was hoping my eleven-year-old daughter had outgrown the easter egg hunt. Nope. She assured me that she hadn’t.

So, after seventy-two plastic eggs were distributed around the yard, she began the hunt.

As her eye spied the first egg laying partially hidden in a tuft of grass, she began to scold.

“Mom. Seriously? This is going to be way too easy. I’m not a baby. I hope you hid the rest of them better.”

I made a face at her and kept silent. After a decade of hiding eggs in the yard, I know how children look for eggs. They look too quickly. They are limited to what they can see at eye level. And they give up after the first round of looking.

Sure enough, she missed egg after egg that were “hidden” in plain sight. On the third walk around the yard, she finally asked me for help in finding the last few. Instead of showing her the hiding spots, I had her stand with me and look in the right direction. Silently, we stood, just using our eyes. The last few hidden eggs could all be seen if you looked from the right perspective.

Eventually, with my help, she found them all.

Listening to Jesus’ parables is a bit like that easter egg hunt.

Here is what Mark said about Jesus’ parables in Mark 4:33-34.

With many parables like these, [Jesus] was speaking the word to them, as they were able to hear. Further, he never spoke to them without parables. But in private, to own disciples, he continued to explain everything.

Jesus’ preferred teaching method was to use parables.

“He never spoke to them without parables.” Mark uses this hyperbolic statement to indicate that Jesus mostly taught in story form. This is quite different from modern methods of teaching which emphasize lists, definitions, and clear instruction. Why did Jesus prefer to teach through stories?

To explain, I’ll continue my story of the easter egg hunt.

When I was trying to convince my daughter that she was too old for the hunt, I offered to just buy her bags of her favorite candy. She refused.

Why? Because the hunt wasn’t just about the candy. The hunt was a way for her to feel my love. She knew I set up the whole hunt just for her. This involved my intentional time. I watched her as she hunted. This involved my full attention. I cheered her on. This involved my encouragement. I shared candy with her. This involved my investment.

With each found egg, my daughter not only received the reward candy, she interacted with me. In the same way, a truth told through a story requires interacting with the storyteller to get the full reward.

Jesus gave parables as they were able to hear.

I hid easter eggs as my daughter would be able to find them. I wanted to make sure that if she looked, she could find them all. In the same way, Jesus used the method of parables to create a hunt for truth that could be found.

The first time we hear one of Jesus’ parables, we understand the simple message laid in plain sight. Yet, there is more truth to be discovered as we look closer and listen harder. Sometimes, it just takes time to wrestle with Jesus’ words and meaning to gain a personal understanding. A shift in perspective reveals another truth.

For instance, I have probed the depth of the parable of the soils throughout my life. As a child, I loved the images it gave. I prayed that I had soft soil to receive the seed of God’s Word. I was convicted when I allowed fears and worries about physical things crowd out my faith in God. However, as I became a teacher, my perspective of the parable changed. I gleaned comfort from the story when someone rejected the word I taught. I understood Jesus’ meaning that different people react differently, and I didn’t take the failure personally. The parable has also informed my parenting as I moved into that phase of life. I knew I could not force faith on my children. Instead, my parenting goal was to work the soil of their hearts, so they would be ready to receive the word of God when it landed.

Jesus’ simple stories hide a depth of meaning that always give more as our hearing develops.

Jesus will explain his meaning when asked.

Like my daughter, who went around the yard a few times before asking for my help to find the last few missing eggs, some of us don’t realize that Jesus wants us to ask him for help in understanding his parables. Jesus’ parables are meant to engage us not just with Jesus’ words, but with Jesus himself.

Jesus’ parables invite us to stand beside him and allow him to guide our vision. We learn to look at the world in a different way as we seek his guidance. If we ask for help in understanding God’s Word, Jesus assures us that he will explain.  

As we listen to Jesus’ parables to hunt down meaning for our lives, the hunt itself becomes a way for us to feel God’s love. Jesus told the stories just for us, his listeners. He wants to personally engage with us as we seek his presence, attention, encouragement and explanations.

Jesus himself is the sweet reward of the hunt.

Jesus’ parables are like an easter egg hunt.

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