In the Lectionary

July 30, Ordinary 17A (Matthew 13:31–33, 44–52)

The kingdom of heaven inspires devotion, commitment, and downright unreasonableness.

Have you understood all this?” Jesus asks after his parables. His disciples answer yes—but we cannot possibly believe them. I doubt they believe themselves. I doubt Jesus believes them. They rarely “understand all this” when Jesus teaches.

Some have interpreted their yes as a fear or shame response. They lie and say yes because they do not want to admit their ignorance and disappoint their teacher. Maybe so. But there is another possibility.

What if we hear Jesus asking this question not seriously but humorously? What if it is not a test of understanding at all but a mutual recognition of the absurdity that any of this teaching about the kingdom of heaven, much less all of it, could be understood by mortals?