1 - The Kingdom revealed by the divine master
Some soldiers, sent by the religious authorities to the Temple to seize Jesus returned without fulfilling their mission. They claimed the task an impossible one because of the simple fact that no one had ever spoken as He spoke. This episode reveals the great power of expression of the truth taught by the Truth Incarnate.No one has ever been - or will ever be - Master, in the full sense of the term, as Jesus Christ. Who could surpass the Divine Preacher in pedagogy?
We can also consider how morally incapable man is of coming to a full knowledge of religious truths on his own. The aid of Revelation is necessary in attaining such knowledge. Regarding this, we might ponder: Could there be anyone better than Jesus Himself to offer this Revelation? He brought, from on high, a wealth of themes to instruct us - among which we find that of the Kingdom of God.
Objective of the teachings of Jesus
His great desire was to directly acquaint us with the marvels that the Father had prepared for us, for these are not easily expressed in human language as St. Paul himself says: ' What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him "(1 Cor 2:9). But we would lose merit if He were to show us the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than reveal it to us. Hence, it was indispensable that He use approximate images, filled with logic and verisimilitude, easily grasped by our intelligence. Being who He was, and communicating a doctrine that was eternal and filled with grandeur, in its very substance, the Master had no need to resort to bombastic rhetoric.
In light of this, and analysing how events unfolded, it becomes clear to the simple Gospel reader that, in His public life, it was not Jesus' objective to form professionals, artists or specialists in science. He strove to build up the living stones of His Church and guide them toward His eternal Kingdom. We also better understand some of the reasons which led Him to present Himself, in His mission, as a perfect excellent model for all who are called to teach. By His way of acting, He warned of the errors, deceptions and deviations of those who wish to project themselves through their teaching, or those who seek to claim ownership of the truth, while it is something belonging to everyone.
After Jesus, saints and Church doctors have greatly enlightened us on this point, among them St. Augustine, who writes "For whosoever claims to himself as his own that which Thou appointed to all to enjoy, and desires that to be his own which belongs to all, is forced away from what is common to all to that which is his own - that is, from truth to falsehood."
Truly, from this outlook, Jesus gave us the highest example of unpretentiousness, as St. Paul tells us: "Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men' (Phil 2:6-7). Thus, we invariably find Him deferring to the Father.
Supremacy of the Divine Magisterium
Let us examine some elements which deepen our understanding of the reason that Jesus stands out in the firmament of history as the Divine Master. The Angelic Doctor affirms: "Now Christ is the first and chief teacher of spiritual doctrine and faith, according to Hebrews 2:3-4: 'Which having begun to be declared by the Lord was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him, God also bearing them witness by signs and wonders.'"
One can, in fact, speak with utter certainty on the excellence of the Magisterium of Christ, since "the power of Christ's teaching is to be considered in the miracles by which He confirmed His doctrine, in the efficacy of His persuasion, and in the authority of His words, for He spoke as being Himself above the Law when He said: 'But I say to you' (Mt 5:22-44); and, again, in the force of His righteousness shown in His sinless manner of life"
Further supporting the vision of the Sacred Magisterium of the Divine Master, St. Thomas shows how sacred science surpassed all others, both in object and certainty. For it has the loftiest themes as its object - themes beyond the grasp of purely human reason. The other sciences, however, only encompass what belongs within their parameters. As to its certainty, sacred science is based on divine Light, which is infallible,while the others rely on the light of reason, which is susceptible to error. He concludes: "Hence it is clear that from every standpoint, it is nobler than other sciences."
IN light of this supremacy of the Divine Magisterium of Jesus, let us reconsider His reason for using parables in His teaching.
The method of intertwining simplicity and eternity.
Parables were commonly used in the Old Testament. Among them is the parable of the vineyard of Isaiah, and that used by Nathan to admonish David for his sins (Sam 12: 1-4). We are led to believe that during the time of the public life of Our Lord, parables had become even more commonplace, especially among rabbis. There were parables of all kinds. They always contained a comparison that aims to shed light on some difficult teaching. Despite their simplicity - or perhaps even because of it - parables were a useful pedagogic tool. Their characteristic note of ambiguity created an engaging enigma. Those who failed to grasp their full meaning were wholly intrigued, and those who understood them fully enjoyed a certain satisfaction. According;y, the Divine Master said to His listeners; "He who has ears to hear; let him hear" (Mk 4:9)
Authors have debated this point among themselves. Some analyse the parables of the Messiah from the standpoint of justice, considering them a tactic used by the Messiah to chastise those who refused to believe in Revelation, despite His miracles. Outstanding among them is Maldonado, as well as Knabenbauer and Fonk. Others, favouring an opposite perspective, based on mercy, explain that the parables' discreet veil was meant to stimulate the interest of listeners, prompting them to ask questions. St. Jerome affirms: "Mix the clear with the obscure so that, by means of what is understood that which is not can be grasped."
Within the new perspectives, it was also crucial for Jesus to form His disciples gradually rather than in an abrupt manner. From this point of view, His chosen method could not have been better. Parables were typically simple and devoid of pretension. They were always relevant when dealing with matters related to eternity. Simplicity and eternity were two terms intertwined at the heart of the Revelation brought by Jesus with regard to the Kingdom.
Two opposing visions of the Kingdom
The Jewish People had an erroneous notion of this point. They considered the coming of the Messiah to be a unique opportunity for the fulfillment of the nationalistic dream of the Chosen people: a divine intervention to establish an historical era in which political, social and economic dominion over all peoples would be gloriously and triumphantly be attained.
The content of the Revelation concerning the true Kingdom headed in exactly the opposite direction. There, we find nothing but unpretentiousness, a calm pace and the surmounting of obstacles. Hence its correlation with the images of the mustard seed and the wheat and the tare - parables opposing the erroneous visualization held by the Jewish People.
Jesus preaches to the multitude
This is the recurring theme of Chapter 13 of the Gospel of St. Matthew. In this chapter, we accompany Jesus preaching in Galilee. After leaving the house, Jesus sits by the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. He is surrounded by such an enormous multitude that He is compelled to enter a boat to address everyone. He speaks, once again, in parables: the sower, the tares, the mustard seed and the leaven. He departs from His listeners and returns to the house. Once alone with His disciples, He is asked to explain the metaphor of the tares. f we continue listening to Him, we penetrate the Gospel passage.
Although St. Matthew presents these teachings as having been given in private - to the disciples alone, rather than the multitude - Maldonado is of the opposite opinion: 'I believe it was more likely that He had previously said this to everyone along with the other parables'
(part II to follow)