What we see and what we know are often two different things. Anyone who has studied science knows this. Sometimes what we see is an illusion, making many things that we think we know actually not real at all. This is true of our cosmos. Think of the difference between what your eyes see and what we know. As seen with our eyes, the stars, sun and moon revolve around the earth, but we all know this is not true.
More importantly, we miss the clues and things that are right in front of our face. Find me on Sunday morning when I am looking for my keys for a great example of that! But seriously, we miss so much of the world because we are not paying attention or because we discount things we deem inferior.
This reminds me of a series of parables that Jesus is teaching in Matthew 13:31-33. In this parable, Jesus equates the kingdom of heaven to things like a mustard seed and yeast. The mustard seed and the yeast are both very small, but in the right conditions become much bigger than what they were. In the case of the mustard seed, not only can it become a huge tree, but the seeds of the tree will feed the birds of the air. As for the yeast, you can take a little bit of dough and make it expand greatly, feeding more people!
Personally, I always love the image of the mustard seed, because like so many of the prophets and biblical leaders, even King David himself, the small, disregarded person often becomes the one who is most faithful and connected, and should never be underestimated.
But that's not where this series of parables ends. It goes on to talk about how the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, or a valuable pearl, expanding the theme from an understanding that heaven may look small but is great to the treasure that heaven is. At the time this scripture was written, finding a treasure in a field or discovering a pearl would be life- changing, allowing you to move from a place of struggle to a place of comfort. Heaven is like that, going from a world that is difficult at best to a place void of that strife.
It is easy to look out at this world and say there is no heaven, and the empirical data would suggest that! People often say, “I see what I see, and I know what I know.” But the fact of the matter is that just because we can't see it, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. The problem with life is that we only see a small piece of everything that goes on. In a fundamental way, we know that the world is much larger than we are, yet we can only see so far ahead, and so far behind and to the side. There's a whole world that exists beyond what you can see and what you know. One of the most interesting things that I learned from my professor when I was in college was that the more education you have, the more you realize how much you do not know, because you're able to see that there is much more to the world than your narrow understanding of it.
As people of faith, we have a responsibility to share the message of Christ. In fact, the parables go forward to put the responsibility of salvation on the disciples. It's their responsibility to share the message of Christ and the message of heaven so that all can hear it and come to believe what they cannot see, or just overlook!
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen