“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matthew 18:1).
Yesterday I told you about an encounter with the Lord I experienced during a time of Communion. A few months after this experience I was in England for a meeting with church leaders, hosted at Holy Trinity Brompton in London.
During one of the session breaks, I strolled downstairs to the “catacombs” for a refreshment. I noticed something off in the corner of a storage area and took a closer look. It was an elaborate wood carving of the Last Supper, dating from the 18th century. However, parts of it were broken, which accounted for its being in storage. Holding it gave me mixed feelings — a sense of reverence over how old it was, a sense of regret over how damaged it had become, and a sense of intrigue over the strange appearance caused by the missing pieces.
First, and most obvious, the Lord was not there! A haunting gap existed in the center of the table where one expected to see Jesus. This created an interesting image — two groupings of disciples, huddled together and talking apart from the other group.
Finally, the two figures on opposite ends of the table completed the strange sight: Both were missing their heads! I was very fascinated with this broken work of art, but even more so after I sensed the Holy Spirit say to me, “When the Lord is not present, the disciples become divided and lose their heads. They end up in storage, covered with dust.”
There was a time when I would have looked at this broken sculpture and not even have given it a second thought, or maybe I would have at most expressed dismay at someone’s negligence for breaking it. But the Holy Spirit used it to catch my eye, and when I looked I heard the Lord speak to me.
Do you see how a simple occasion of life can become an opportunity to have a conversation with God? I was merely wandering about in a church basement when I came upon a “conversation piece” that the Holy Spirit wanted to talk about!
Even though God speaks this way to all of us, some people never hear the message. Preoccupied with the cares of life, pierced through with the deceitfulness of fleeting riches and carnal pleasures, they have eyes but they do not see; ears have they but they do not hear nor understand.
They “cannot see the forest for the trees.”
Therefore Jesus said, “This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.’ In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: `You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them'” (Matthew 13:13-15).
Jesus expressed His bewilderment with Nicodemus over this very matter, “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:12).
Perhaps we are like Nicodemus, looking unto the heavens for the secrets of life while dismissing the ordinary things of earth which speak those secrets to us everyday. What “parables” might the Lord use to speak to you today? What earthly things might He use to show you something heavenly?