When Jesus explained his parable about the receptivity people have to his message, he likened one type of people to seed falling on a hardened path:
“When someone hears the word of the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart.” Matthew 13:19
These people don’t understand what he’s saying and that lack of understanding allows the Satan to easily steal away the message. This is a very frightening prospect.
I wonder what keeps a person from not understanding Jesus’ message? In Jesus’ historical context, he was speaking to his fellow Israelites. Their lack of understanding was not caused by a lack of intelligence. They were as smart then as we are today.
Rather, I think Jesus was speaking from a different story, a different narrative that didn’t make sense from the story they had embraced their entire lives.
Israel believed that their God was the one true God. If this were true, then they shouldn’t be ruled by pagans. They believed their Scriptures that one day, God would make everything right by ultimately becoming king of the entire world.
But many in Israel believed they were to bring about God’s kingdom through violent revolution, overthrowing their pagan oppressors. The problem was they were fighting darkness and violence with darkness and violence.
Jesus was calling Israel to turn back to their true calling as God’s covenantal people, who were to restore the nations and God’s creation through light and love.
Jesus was inviting them to follow him on the path of self-sacrifice and self-giving love, even to one’s enemies and even to one’s death. This message made absolutely no sense in the context of the other stories where Israel was to be the supreme nation above all others.
The other day I saw a bumper sticker that actually made me cringe. It said, “My three loves: God, Guns and Country.” An ideology that would even associate God with either Guns or Country is absolutely ludicrous. But it’s a prevalent one among Christians in the US. And this is only one of several false preconceived ideas about God that Christians embrace.
So it’s our false ideas of God that actually get in the way of understanding Jesus’ true message of God. In this way, someone who thinks they’re close to God is actually far away. And someone who thinks they understand God and his kingdom is actually not understanding at all.
And Satan is right there doing his work.