(I'm reposting this from two years ago because it fits in so well here and I keep thinking of it.)
A couple nights ago, I was reading in Luke, and I got to a parable and as usual, I didn't get the gist of it.
Sometimes reading those things is just like staring at a blank wall. It's like I'm too close up to see the pattern, or something.
I think: "I should know this. How can I not know what He's talking about in this?"
Then I noticed the first line again. It said, "And He spoke a parable to them."
A parable. A single parable. I realized the possibility that all those, to me, disjointed sayings might be pulled together to illustrate one cohesive concept.
So, I tried reading it like that, from Luke 6:39 to the end of the chapter.
And I saw it differently. Here's what I saw:
"And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?"
So, I wondered anxiously, who is blind? How do we know who is blind?
How do I know I'm not blind? That would be a good thing to know, right?
Then I read further.
"A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher."
Okay, so maybe a pupil who thinks he is above his teacher is blind. Who is Jesus talking to right here? He's talking to His disciples.
What do you want to bet that some of His disciples were trying to lead some of their fellow disciples?
Maybe even a few of them were all like: "Well, all this mercy and forgiveness is good so far as it goes, but eventually, people have to be made to be good. What Joe Disciple is doing is just not right, and if Jesus won't nip that in the bud, well, I will. And don't even get me started on all these sinners all around us all the time..."
I used to buy into that way of thinking, myself.
So, I kept reading.
"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye."
My understanding opened right up. I'll bet some of Jesus' disciples were judging and condemning each other, because that is exactly what Jesus talked about just before He spoke this parable.
Also, having a beam in one's eye might very well lead to blindness, or at least some significant trouble seeing where one is going, which would make leading anyone else a risky business.
So, Jesus said, in essence, "Be like Me, your teacher."
And what was Jesus like? He was full of mercy and forgiveness, wanting individuals to be reconciled to their family and their community.
So, I read on.
"For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush."
I got frustrated. I thought, what fruit? I never get these darn fruit parables.
Then I remembered again: this is all still one parable- insofar as Jesus did not speak these parables to them, but a parable to them.
If that is true, than this is still illustrating the same concept.
So, a good tree produces mercy and forgiveness- grapes and figs, a bad tree produces judgment and condemnation- thorns and briars.
I read on.
"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."
So it might be that a person humbly comes to Jesus to take care of the beam in his eye, in order to deal with the blindness that such a condition might produce in him, and finds in Jesus mercy and forgiveness.
Then, that person has mercy and forgiveness flowing out of his good and humble heart, like good fruits from a good tree, as he conforms himself to Jesus' example.
In fact, maybe once that person is in that position, he actually is in a good position to help his brothers along, because he is able to come alongside them and lovingly help them in their troubles.
But it seems that the other person, blind from his beam but not acknowledging it, and therefore a hypocrite, brings forth judgment and condemnation and attempts to blindly lead his brothers by arrogantly telling them exactly how to shape up and fly right.
So I read on.
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?"
Another words, maybe Jesus is saying- don't just parrot what I say to others in order to control them, but actually take My words to heart, in order to transform your own life.
This made sense to me when I thought about Jesus' examples of leadership- which are of service and humility.
So I read on.
"Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”
I then saw this conclusion differently than before.
The humble disciple, who has not judged or condemned his brothers, but forgiven them and been merciful- as Jesus has been merciful and forgiving toward him- is not himself condemned or judged.
His house stands, because he has dug deep- he has laid open the deep places of his heart to Jesus and he leans on Jesus alone.
The arrogant blind man who has heard the words but never let them anywhere near his heart, only using them for power and position, is going to fall into his own ditch, and all his house with him.
Both of those conclusions have been true for me.
I have been arrogant. My life was a holy looking house built on the sands of religious performance, and I judged and condemned others who did not appear to be living up to my own holy standards.
Then that empty, lonely house fell, and the ruin of it was great, and the torrent washed it away.
But many waters cannot quench love.
"Come, all you who are not satisfied
as ruler in a lone, wallpapered room
full of mute birds, and flowers that falsely bloom,
and closets choked with dreams that long ago died!
Come, let us sweep the old streets–like a bride;
sweep out dead leaves with a relentless broom;
prepare for Spring, as though he were our groom
for whose light footstep eagerly we bide.
We’ll sweep out shadows, where the rats long fed;
sweep out our shame–and in its place we’ll make
a bower for love, a splendid marriage-bed
fragrant with flowers aquiver for the Spring.
And when he comes, our murdered dreams shall wake;
and when he comes, all the mute birds shall sing."
-Prothalamium, by Aaron Kramer