”When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 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 parables12 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
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in “The Cost of Discipleship” about cheap grace. In it he says, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession… Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
When I read the words of Mark, and what Jesus says in this passage to the disciples about the people “seeing but never perceiving and hearing but never understanding,” I think about cheap grace. I think about about God’s free gift of eternal life bestowed upon whoever will receive it – yet forced upon no one. The gift of salvation is costly, but for those who take it for granted, it’s only cheap grace.
And so Jesus told the disciples “the secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is said in parables.” Jesus taught in parables for this very reason — that people might think, consider, reason and believe. But he also taught in this way so that the gospel might have merit and people might see the value in the truths of God. The gospel is free for all but not to be given away cheaply. The veiled parables that often require interpretation speak to a depth of belief requiring deep commitment and sacrifice.
We have received God’s full grace and it’s not cheap. It is valuable. This is why we walk in holiness, striving to love God and serve others. This is the reason we imitate Christ and treat all with kindness and gentleness. We are his representatives on earth who have not only received his grace but share that good news with others.
Today I am in Napa, California and outside the hotel are a number of redwood trees. The most regal, large and stately of trees in my opinion. They are my favorite. And as mighty as the trees are, they do not grow alone. They are a part of a grove in which they depend upon the strength and the supportive root system of other redwoods growing next to them. They grow together and never alone.
We as Christians also grow in grace together. We should attempt solitary discipleship. We are to enjoy God’s grace in community. This is his costly grace taught first in parables to those who believe but also offered to those on the outside and the fringes of the faith.
Will you share the gospel today? In word, in deed and in love? Share the costly grace that only Jesus offers for the hope of humanity and for the sake of the world.
”O Lord God, thank you for loving me. For the redwoods, for the their majestic. For the lesson that we do not grow alone. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with your power and grace. Help me reflect your glory this day so all whom I encounter might know your love. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen