Matthew Chapter 13
Let me give you an overview of all that is touched on in this one Chapter…
- The Kingdom on earth as distinguished from the Kingdom to come in Heaven-
- Jesus refers in this passage to the “Mysteries of God”- so we need to define that little concept.
- Jesus is asked and then answers …Why he speak in parables?
- Jesus explains why some people understand his teaching, and some don’t…which means we will have to settle the debate over predestination and define the line between the Sovereignty of God and the free will of man.
Then we will move on to the 8 parables Jesus teaches in this chapter…
- The parable of the Sower which has 4 distinct parts
- The parable of the Wheats and the Tares which means we are going to have to dig into the issue of whether the weeds are in the world or in the church…that’s a fun little topic.
- The parable of the Mustard seed- Are the birds in the trees resting there in God’s Grace or are they evil and messing things up in the Kingdom of God?
- The parable of the field- should he have told the owner of the land about the treasure before he went back and bought it?
- The parable of the dragnet of fish- In that one we are going deal with the how, when and where of the judgment of God- I have allotted 2 minutes for that one.
And with then I will cover the 4 remaining parables and the significance of Jesus returning to his hometown after he finished this teaching.
And because that is just not near enough to cover in one message I thought we should settle once and for all that pesky question of…”Which came first the chicken or the egg?”
Many of topics we will touch on today have literally thousands and thousands of pages written about them…so clear your calendars because we may be here a while.
Obviously we are not going to be here a long time…I have 30 minutes…at 32 minutes they start playing background music like at the Oscars…and at 35 they will have me physically removed from this stage.
My point is that the teaching I will do on Matthew 13 will not even be 100% “definitive” or “complete”
You could have two potentially negative responses to that statement…
1st- “Steve, If you can’t fully explain what you read in the scriptures, then what hope do I have? This thought process often becomes an excuse not to read the Bible at all.“It is just too hard to understand”…
That is simply NOT true!
- I became a believer at age 25. I had never read the Bible before that time.
- I have NEVER had any formal instruction or teaching…not a single Bible class.
- I am not gifted when it comes to intellect in fact I have shared how I have set a hotel on fire, driven my tractor off a 6 foot embankment into a creek and had to call 911 to have my finger removed from the gear of my treadmill.
I am definitely NOT the sharpest knife in the drawer.
If I can read THIS and get treasure from it…I guarantee you can too but you have to be willing to go after it like it is indeed worth it…you have to “mine” for it like it is the treasure that it is.
When I first started preaching it took me at least 10 more hours to develop a sermon than it does today because I had to go through my 30 volume Hardback commentary library to get context and understanding…Today I can have 3 versions of the Bible, 3 commentaries , a Bible Dictionary and Greek concordance all up on my screen at one time…SO CAN YOU!
There is no excuse for you not to study the scriptures and reap the treasure that God’s Word promises…unless you just don’t believe it is worth your time?
And if that is what you believe…and if you believe that you are just plain wrong!
The 2nd objection is often…“If the scriptures are not always Black and white, not always crystal clear and make one obvious point… if the response is not 100% clear then what am I suppose to do with it, how do I respond to it?
If this is what goes through your head I want to challenge your paradigm on the scriptures.
“You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world. But you read it as if it were just good literature and nothing else.”
The Bible says of itself- “That it is living and active.”
This is NOT a text book! It is not a book to be read through once, twice, twenty times fully understood and then acted on or taught.
This is an inexhaustible storehouse of God’s wisdom, guidance, counsel and comfort and it is not to be learned as much as it is to be interacted with.
Don’t let the fact that you will never completely or fully understand all that God has given us stop you from going to it at all…that is the only really foolish response.
Eli example- Eli is our little safe family boy who lives with us often. He sits at our counter and just ask question after question with these big beautiful eyes of hope and expectation. He actually has little Pad where he writes things he wants to remember…”Don’t be a know it all”
We can and should approach God and His word with that same wide eyed anticipation…what do you have for me today Dad?
So with that hope and expectation let’s look at Matthew 13 and see what God has for us from His treasure for this day.
The parables we will look at today refer to the “KINGDOM OF HEAVEN”.
And right away we get into a wonderfully rich topic.
Is there a Kingdom of God in Heaven- YES!
Is there a Kingdom of God on earth- YES!
How much of the Kingdom of God is available to us on earth? Let the debate begin…
Some believe “a little” some believe “lots” and some believe “all”
What is clear is that Jesus came for the purpose of bringing the Kingdom NEAR,
One commentary records this truth..
“According to all three Synoptics, (Matthew, Mark, Luke) the kingdom of God was the central theme of the preaching and teaching of Jesus.”
On another day we can discuss and debate how much of the Kingdom Jesus promised is available to us in total. For today let’s rest on this point that almost ALL agree on.
Whether a little, Lots, or ALL. There is WAY MORE of the Kingdom of God available to us here and now than what we are currently seeing and experiencing in this fallen broken world.
- Jesus taught us to pray that the Kingdom would come to earth as it exists in Heaven.
- He taught is to pursue the Kingdom for own lives
- And He taught us to bring the Kingdom to others.
For today, rather than get caught up in the weeds of HOW MUCH that is possible, let’s approach Jesus teaching with the thirst for the MORE that is certain.
The section of scriptures we will look at today contains 8 parables told by Jesus so before we dive in we need to understand Parables and why Jesus used them.
Parable- A short story that illustrates a moral or religious lesson.
Jesus used parables a lot! So much so that his Disciples end up asking him (v10)
“Why not just tell everyone what you want us to know”…”Why do you teach so often in parables?”
Jesus gives a long answer (11-17)
Matthew 13:11-17 (NIV)
11 He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.
13 This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
I am going to give a brief answer but this is one of those rich, deep treasures that we all should dig deeper into on our own.
One theologian writes this truth…
“Jesus answer really cannot be softened…at least one of the functions of the parables is to conceal the truth or at least to present it in a veiled way”
One of the reasons for Jesus parables was to deliver his teachings to some, but not to others…but to who? Who would hear and understand and who would not?
Some believe that Jesus used parables so only his disciples would know what he was saying but this does not seem to be the case. The Disciples often do not understand Jesus parables and in fact in this section they come to him several times for explanation.
There is also debate on whether or not parables were a kind of test or a code. Teachings that only certain people could understand. People that God had pre-selected to understand, here is where the debate of predestination comes in.
But in the parable of the sower Jesus clearly points to the hearer’s responsibility for their reaction to the teaching that they hear…so clearly we all have some power and therefore some responsibility for our response.
There definitely is some “tension” between God’s Sovereingty and Man’s will in Jesus explanation. The truth is that tension between what God’s choice and what is my responsibility is all through the scriptures. The writers of the OT and NT were very comfortable with this tension and we need to be as well.
For today let’s rest on these points...
- Parables were not taught by Jesus to completely hide a truth. If the intention is to hide, then why teach at all?
- The hearer carries some responsibility for their response so you and I have at least some responsibility for taking in what we are about to be taught in these parables
- If we do not have eyes to see and ears to hear the truth you are about to hear will be meaningless
But…If you we do have eyes to see and ears to hear we are about to hear some of the Mysteries of God.
What does that mean?
“Mysteries” of God”- Divine council of God, the revelation of things only God knows
Jesus promises in V16..
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
If today as we hear these parables, we will have eyes to see and ears to hear we will be BLESSED! We will hear things that even the prophets and heroes of the faith knew about and longed for but never go to hear in their lifetime. We will hear things ONLY God knows and can reveal.
Think about what we have heard so far…
The Kingdom of God…
- The Kingdom of God is present and available to us
- These parables hold great things for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
- If we see with those eyes and hear with those ears we will hear the Divine Council from God.
If that doesn’t entice you then I got nothing for you
The context is that Jesus has just finished some pretty rough confrontations with people that were doubting him, challenging him, and even accusing him of being from Satan.
On that same day Jesus goes out by the sea and addresses his disciples and a crowd and he rattles off these 8 straight parables.
Today we are going to step back and rather than dive deep into each parable we are going to ask why these parables one right after another? How do they fit together?…what overall point was Jesus intending by telling this crowd these 8 separate but obviously linked parables?
How did He hope they would impact them?
How does He hope they will impact us?
PARABLE OF THE SOWER (V3)…
Matthew 13:3-9 (NIV)
3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."
This is one of few parables that Jesus actually explains in verses 18-23.
The seed that fell on the path, and the birds ate it up- these are people who hear the words and teaching of the Kingdom of God…but Satan snatches the teaching up before it has a chance to have any impact.
The seed on the rocky places- This is the person who hears (which means listens intently), receives it…with JOY, but never sets root down and when any kind of a test or hard times come…the person leaves the teaching of the Kingdom behind and falls away.
The seed sown among the thorns- represents the person who hears the teaching of the Kingdom but is pulled away by the distractions of other things.
The seed sown on the good soil-This person, hears, understands all that they have heard about the Kingdom of God and ACTS on what he/she hears and only this seed bears fruit.
I did a verse by verse message on this parable a few months ago so we will not dive deep again today.
For now I only ask you to notice this- 4 different groups hear teaching about the Kingdom of God, only ONE ultimately responds and lives out that Kingdom teaching.
Next is the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (V24)
Matthew 13:24-30 (NIV)
24 Jesus told them another parable: Jesus begins… "The kingdom of heaven is like…
So why is Jesus telling this parable? To reveal the Kingdom! Jesus was telling these parables to reveal the Kingdom to both his Disciples and to the crowds.
a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' 28 "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 29 "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"
Again, Jesus gives explanation of this parable in V37-43
(v37) The sower is the Son of Man-
(v38) the field is the world
(v38) The good seed are the people of the Kingdom
(v39) The tares are the sons of the evil one- and refer to anything that causes sin.
As I said there is a lot of discussion around the application of this weeding out. Some say it is a weeding out of the church that is riddled with problems, others see it as an explanation of how the Kingdom can be among us and still be riddled with problems.
What we do know that there is going to be a weeding out! A weeding out of all things that cause sin and we DON”T want to be a part of what is weeded out…V43)
Matthew 13:43 (NIV)
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
The righteous are the people living for the Kingdom and they will shine like the Sun in God’s eternal care!
Next is the parable of the Mustard Seed
Matthew 13:31-32 (NIV)
31 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like…
There it is again, and remember this term means the Kingdom as Jesus came to bring it.
a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."
In rabbinical thought the mustard seed was proverbial for smallness.
In contrast it becomes a tree large enough for birds to perch and rest in it’s branches.
But the main point may not be the contrast between the size of the seed and the tree. The bigger point may be that what seems to be just a little act for the Kingdom or movement towards the Kingdom actually will have HUGE impact.
Everybody in the day believed in the Greatness of the Kingdom…they just weren’t sure how it would start…It is very possible Jesus was saying…”this Kingdom will come and it will be glorious!....it just needs the little seed of YOUR LIFE!
Then Jesus immediately follows with the parable of the Leaven (V 33)
Matthew 13:33 (NIV)
33 He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like…
There it is again!
yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."
Similar to the Mustard seed but this parable highlights the power of the Kingdom from a different angle. Where as the seed is about expansive growth that comes from a little seed.
This parable is about the intense transformative power of the Kingdom of God. Just the smallest bit of the Kingdom has the power to permeate and transform all that it touches and all that is around it.
Then Jesus gives us a 2 for 1 in (v45 &46) and what statement does he start both parables with?....”The Kingdom is like”…
Matthew 13:44-46 (NIV)
44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Finding a hidden treasure in a field…would not have been a common occurrence.
Jesus uses the uncommon to dramatize the value of the Kingdom- and how valuable is the Kingdom to the one who finds it? They gladly sell all they have in order to have this new discovery…the Kingdom of God!
The pearl merchant…he dealt in pearls every day, he would have had many, many pearls and likely seen the best of the best….but this one pearl…the Kingdom of God, it is not just better than the rest, it makes all the others worthless to him. He gives all of those fine pearls for this one Divine pearl.
Then there is the parable of a Fish Dragnet- This seems to have a similar point of the Wheat and the Tares.
And Jesus Concludes with the parable of the Homeowner (v52)…and YES it is about the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 13:52 (NIV)
52 He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."
This has all kinds of interpretation and application but the overall point seems to be…
The one who has become a disciple and understands the truths of the Kingdom of God now has an inexhaustible storehouse treasure for transformation…for their own personal transformation and for the transformation of the world around them.
Wow!…that’s a lot of Ground we covered and as I said there is far more treasure in this chapter to be mined through personal study.
So let me try to pull the pieces together and see if we can find our “take away”.
Jesus has just finished facing off with some cynics and Critics.
He then turns to his Disciples and to the crowds of people and delivers one of his longer sermons.
He addresses them in parables- short stories to teach them a lesson.
The hearers had some responsibility for their response
If they would look with eyes to see and listen with ears to hear they would learn some of the Mysteries of God, they would learn things that only God knows.
If they would receive this teaching they would be BLESSED and hear things that even the prophets and Heroes of the faith longed to hear.
The main purpose of the teaching was to reveal the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God exists in Heaven but Jesus came to bring the Kingdom near, Jesus came to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
How much of the Kingdom is available to us hear and now? MORE than we or the world are experiencing currently.
What did Jesus communicate about the Kingdom of God?… (each to come up separately please…
The Kingdom is so powerful that just a touch of it permeates and transforms everything around it- parable of the yeast
The Kingdom will be massive and magnificent, but it starts with a little seed- us!- parable of the mustard seed
All those pearls you chase after and work so hard to acquire, in the blinding light of the Kingdom of God are revealed for what they really are costume jewelry fakes- The parable of the pearl
Once you taste of the Kingdom of God you will with JOY sell all that you have to keep it. - parable of the treasure.
Many will hear teaching of the Kingdom…some will not even listen. Some will listen but not go deep enough to stand when trouble comes. Some will listen and hear but be to distracted by other things…only those who listen, hear, go deep and stay will live the Kingdom and bear the fruit of the Kingdom- parable of the Sower
There is one who wants nothing more than for you to miss the Kingdom and he will put all kinds of things in your path to keep you from the discovery of the treasure of the Kingdom- Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
Some will find the Kingdom, some will miss it. The ones who miss it will regret missing the Kingdom more deeply than any regret that can be imagined.- parable of the Fish Dragnet.
The person who sees, hears and lives the Kingdom of God will draw from an inexhaustible storehouse of power for transformation of themselves and for all this fallen world- parable of the Homeowner
What is the application to us?
The World is definitely not seeking first the Kingdom of God, and sadly an honest assessment reveals that many, many Followers of Christ are also not seeking first the Kingdom of God…it’s the parable of the Sower.
We read about it,
We talk about it,
We listen to sermons about it
We even mourn the lack of the Kingdom’s presence
But still the evidence says that when we walk out these doors today, when we close our Bibles after our time in the WORD (if we have one at all), when we click off the website of our morning devotion, or when we put our Bible Study behind us we leave the ideal, belief and pursuit of the Kingdom of God behind as well.
What draws us away? We don’t have to wonder, Jesus told us when he explained the parable of the Sower…
Worries of the World
Deceitfulness of Riches
Desire for other Things
The scriptures teach of a battle inside of us, we want the Kingdom of God but we want to have control of our lives as well and that is the ONE thing that is NOT possible.
World or The Kingdom
Know this, you will either put the one first…or the other first… and if you put the world First, then you WILL miss out on the Kingdom of God.
One day thousands of years ago Jesus sat down on the side of the sea and he taught his Disciples and He taught the crowd.
His posture was not this- pointing in condemnation…
but this gesturing with an invitation…an invitation was to the very Kingdom of God.
Today he gestures to all of us…his Disciples and to those still unsure…His invitation is still the same…”seek first the Kingdom of God!”
Seek first the Kingdom of God and you will find power and Glory that impacts you and every life around you.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and your smallest act of faith will grow into giant trees of righteousness, mercy and justice
Seek first the Kingdom of God and you will find a treasure for which you will quickly sell out to all other treasures to assure the constant presence of this ONE true treasure.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and you will be released from the bondage of the costume Jewelry in your life by the Power, Beauty and Glory of the one true pearl.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and finding it you will find an inexhaustible storehouse of Wisdom, Grace, Power and Hope. Enough to transform your life and enough for you to pour out and transform the lives of others…enough to literally change the World!
Everything else that you are chasing…it’s just costume Jewelry!
The Kingdom of God is …better than anything else in this world and an intoxicating taste of the next!
Blessed are those who have eyes that will see and ears that will hear!