8.22.12 "Calloused Hearts"

Welcome to today’s Blog...  today’s reading is Matthew 13: 1-23 That same day Jesus went out of the house(D) and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat(E) and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred,(F) sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”(G) 10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven(H) has been given to you,(I) but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.(J) 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.(K) 14 In them is fulfilled(L) the prophecy of Isaiah:  “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears,  and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’[a](M)

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.(N) 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see(O) but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. 18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom(P) and does not understand it, the evil one(Q) comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.(R) 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth(S) choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”(T)

I asked God to show me what I needed to hear and receive in this passage and parable.  I’ve read the Parable of the Sower many times, and didn’t want to miss something fresh or new by rushing through the reading of it.  Normally, I’m focusing on the actual parable and the explanation of it that Jesus gives,  but what caught my attention today was the in-between parts.  The part about, “Whoever has will be given more... and Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” And the part where Jesus says, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.....” And then the real attention grabber for me, “For this people’s heart has become calloused......”.   I kept asking the question, why would He give more to those who have a lot... and take away more from those who don’t have much?  What does that mean coming from a loving God???

I believe it all boils down to having a calloused heart.  That’s why God had that grab my attention.  So here’s Jesus... loving people, healing people, forgiving people, blessing people, dying for people... and so many never get it, yet they are right there in the midst of it, watching it all unfold - seeing the miracles for themselves, but can’t believe, can’t understand, can’t receive.  But then, there are those who do get it, see it, receive it, believe it, and become followers of Jesus.  What’s the difference in the two?  Calloused hearts, hard hearts, angry, selfish and prideful hearts, kept people from understanding who Jesus was and what He had to offer.   Jesus talks about these things in the parable.  A hard and calloused heart has no openings for seeds to fall into.  It’s protected and has boundaries and is afraid that opening up may create a change that takes it out of the center of things.  A hard heart has no room for surrender.  So Jesus says those with calloused hearts will hear, but they won’t get it because they are stubborn and hard.  They will see all the miracles and healings, but won’t even perceive what’s going on because they are too busy tending to their hard hearts!   So for those who get it, who receive Jesus and see the miracles and sacrifice... they will receive even more - because they are able to surrender and their hearts are soft soil for it all.  Those who don’t get it because they have no room for receptivity, will loose it all because nothing good takes root in their hearts.  It’s not what Jesus desires, because He says if they would turn, He would heal them.  It only takes an open heart, a heart that gives way to possibility, a heart that says I don’t understand now, but I want to.

This took me in a different direction than what I originally thought today... thank you Lord for new insights into your Word.

One last thought that just crossed my heart.... What helps promote having an open and soft heart?  I know the Holy Spirit gives the gift of faith and ability to surrender, but what can we do as lights for Jesus to help hard hearts open up?  I think the way we live out our lives in front of people can make a hard heart soften.  I think a kind word, a hug, a listening ear, and an authentic care for someone can soften a heart.  I also think of the Alpha Course as a “softener”.  It’s a place to hear the Word without confrontation or judgment, a place that gives time (11 weeks) for a hard heart to soften through exposure to prayer, the Word, Spirit-filled conversation, and authentic care and connection with others.  It’s a place where transparency is encouraged so walls around protected hearts can come down.  All of this gives the Holy Spirit room to do His work.  Please pray for the course and participants this fall!

Lord, I want my heart to stay soft and surrendered to you so when I hear, I understand and when I see, I perceive.  I also want to be an instrument for you to use, to help soften calloused hearts so they’re open to the movement of your Spirit.  Use me Lord for that, and use the Alpha Course at Point of Grace to provide an environment where a man or woman, “hears the word and understands it. Then he or she produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”!      I love you, Amen.

What did God say to you today through this reading?  I would really love to hear what’s on your heart.