The invitation quoted above is appended to the Parable of the Sower in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is rarely given specific attention in detail and seems to “hang on to” the parable like a scarcely noticed label pleading almost ineffectively for attention to Jesus’ illustrative instruction. The inattention is hardly in accord with the nature of the parable and the reason given for Jesus method of speaking in parables. Often it is said that Jesus use of stories is to simplify his teaching and make it more clear to the crowds who attended his ministry. The suggestion could not be further from the truth. With the rejection of his plain speech at the commencement of his ministry Jesus resorted to parables as a judgement. The parables were enigmatic and designed to sift the serious listener from the casual. Those hardened in their hearts failed to grasp the point of the parable because in the Saviour’s quotation from Isaiah, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’. Those softened by grace and susceptible to the message of Jesus are bidden to enquire further just as his disciples did. To them Jesus said something very precious and significant. “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables” (Luke 8:9-10). The gospel is a divine secret delivered to the human heart in an effectual call that reaches the inner ear of the recipient.
This call is distinguishing in its result. It is spoken by the Saviour to the believer’s comprehension and draws them to himself. It is Jesus’ prerogative to reveal himself to whom he will: “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11: 25-27). When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God the Redeemer’s response was, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matthew16; 17). Jesus averred ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Every one who listens to the Father and learns form him will come to me” (John 6:44-45).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the voice of the Lord. When he spoke his gracious word to dead Lazarus in the tomb and bade him come forth it was an enabling command and Lazarus came to him.
The word of the Lord is infinitely strong and effectually powerful. This observation is reiterated throughout Scripture. The Lord spoke and through various phases creation as we know it appeared. The Lord spoke and his people were victorious in battle. The Lord spoke and his people were delivered from tribulation and affliction. God’s commands are the basis of our being and our salvation. His power brings his will to pass. He commands and his will is done. Surely when he says, “He who has ears to hear let him hear” it is more than a wish, an invitation, an exhortation. It sounds like an enabling command conferring a capacity on man that he does not possess by nature. Hearing is a divine donation, as are seeking, faith, repentance, and our love of God. These things arise within through Jesus self-revelation. They are gifts from his person to us in a relationship initiated by him. Jesus saved, and is saving us, and will see to it that we are finally saved. His commands are precious to us and his love entices us into a willingness to keep them. His warnings are appreciated by us and we make every effort to heed them. He commanded us into existence. He commanded us to yield to his grace. He will command us to rise on the last day and enter into his glory.
The sovereignty of Jesus is a sweet sovereignty. It is a powerful sovereignty. It is applied to our eternal wellbeing. It presided at creation; it asserted authority over the forces of nature whilst he was among us as man. It prevailed over the afflictions and misfortunes of men and subdued and terrified evil spirits. It will separate the sheep and the goats at the last judgment. It will slam shut the cover over the pit that will confine the devil and his hordes in their endless torment. Jesus embodies and expresses the command of God that governs all things. Reverence for his word cannot be excessive. It moves the planets and galaxies across the heavens and scoops up specks of dust in little eddies that sweep over the ground. Christ’s sovereignty is micro and macro control over all things. He is in undisputed and unlimited command, a command that is governed by his wisdom, justice, and goodness.
His word in Scripture, therefore, summons us to alert and constant attention. We do not always hear it in the awareness of his heavenly majesty, loftiness, and authority. Such consistent concentration is beyond us. We can also be overwhelmed by a sense of awe because of his greatness and our unworthiness. But his command, fear inspiring as it is, happens also to be beneficent.
This glorious fact is recognized in our liturgy which is fashioned scrupulously and carefully from Holy Scripture: Lord God, you who show your almighty power most of all in showing mercy and pity: Mercifully grant us such a measure of your grace, that in obeying your holy commandments we may obtain your gracious promises, and share in your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord (Collect for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity).
Behind the divine commands fulfilling his will (of decree) or forming ours (of direction) are grace, justice, and goodness.
When Jesus announces his sovereignty in Matthew (11:25-27) he clothes it immediately in the attire of Saviourhood and Servanthood. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
We are to fear the power and commands of Almighty God but not to be deterred from approaching him for his kindness and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Intimations of his greatness are followed by invitations of his grace. We do not pry into mysteries concerning God but clutch hold of his promises. These are the secrets Jesus delights to tell us when we come to him, not as outsiders but as insiders abiding in his word. It is in the word that we take up our places near to him and learn the good news of the kingdom of God. Opening our Bibles reverently and intently is the knocking at the door that he commends. Ruminating over them is the knowing that Jesus imparts. Our receptivity, which God creates, is the opportunity for his self–revelation. The gift of hearing is granted and the speech of God becomes clear, rich, and entrancing. Like the disciples we sense ourselves being taken aside and addressed personally. “May my lips overflow with praise, for you teach me your decrees. May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous” (Psalm 119:16-17).