Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. […] Now to you who believe, [Jesus, this chosen cornerstone,] is precious. But to those who do not believe, “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” and “a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (1 Peter 2:1-3, 1-7).
When [Jesus] was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” (Mark 4:10-12).
There is something about God that I find quite curious. Simply put, there seems to be times at which God seems eager to let people know what he is all about and to have them experience him fully, and there are other times when he seems to go out of his way to make himself obscure. In the first portion of the 1 Peter passage above, Peter speaks about tasting the Lord’s goodness. In other words, the Lord has made himself plain to us, revealed his intention for relationship, and we have experienced him. And there are lots of other passages we could look to that wouls say very much the same thing. E.g. “If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me” (Dt 4:29, Jer 29:13).
But then Peter goes on to say that into the lives of those who do not believe, God has deliberately placed on obstacle. What believers rejoice in, those who do not believe cannot help but be tripped up by. The Peter passage does suggest that these people stumble because they do not obey the message, but it is not clear whether this disobedience is wilful and knowing defiance, or whether it is based in ignorance — the Bible does not always specify, and in some instances it really doesn’t matter.
In Mark, Jesus says much the same thing — he speaks in parables almost as if he is being purposefully obscure in order to shut people out from understanding. We sometimes speak as if Jesus spoke in parables in order to make his message more understable to people — who doesn’t like stories and illustrations? But evidently his purpose was exactly the opposite — he spoke in parables so that only those whom God had evidently chosen for understanding would be able to understand.
So I ask us two questions: (1) When have you had a real experience of God’s goodness? When have you understood something about him and were almost able to taste his goodness? (2) When have you been perplexed by God? When have even tried to seek out understanding and have come up empty? And when we asks ourselves these two questions, how then do we make sense of these two things? Will they always be in tension?