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Matthew

Parables

Matthew 13

Lesson audio

Have you ever taken a little child by the shirt front and yelled, “Listen to me!” ? It’s a temptation that all parents face. You can tell by their faces that they heard what you said – but weren’t listening. Our Lord used parables with that same effect; in His instance, however, he separated wheat from chaff by who heard – and who really listened.

Sower and the soils

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. "Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. "Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. "And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. "He who has ears, let him hear."

(Mat 13:1-9 NASB)

"Hear then the parable of the sower. "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

(Mat 13:18-23 NASB)

It helps to have the key to the puzzle, sometimes. This is the parable of evangelism, and it serves as warning to all who preach the Gospel.

The path

Note, please, those on the path are not hard-hearted; they are the ones who did not understand the Gospel. They never get the chance to reject the Gospel, as it seems nonsense to them. It is not surprising.

If you wish to see God, you must use the right telescope. That telescope is a pure heart. The Gospel is often opaque to those who are hard hearted. They have spent so much of their lives practicing the art of “not listening” that the Gospel makes no impression on them.

But we see the virtue of persistence here. Satan comes in and removes the Gospel as quickly as possible, lest here or there it might find a crack in the concrete. There is might grow, uprooting pavement with it.

That is not God’s most common method. He knows what to do with hardened ground: Plow it up. Sometimes it takes a sharp plow to break open a dull mind.

The rocks

It is the most heartbreaking of tales, and your teacher has seen it far too often to deny its existence. The word of the Lord comes to someone; at first, all is enthusiasm and delight. But the person receiving will not or cannot put down roots. A whiff of persecution and they are off to the next new thing that will save them. If you ever wondered how some people flit from religion to seminar to mystic and back again, just remember: tumbleweeds aren’t designed to have deep roots.

The thorns

Here we find the curse of modern America. Worry and wealth grab our minds; we then rationalize our departure from the faith. But may I point out something to those who know that worry is good and wealth even better?

  • The seed sown in your life is exactly the same Gospel that was planted in the lives of the great saints. The problem is not with the preacher; the problem is with you.
  • Did you expect this to be easy? Remember, thorns grow naturally in the ground. You cannot avoid the problem if you really want to be a Christian.
  • Either the thorns or the seed gets the nutrients in the soil. You are that soil; you decide which gets nourished and which is starved.
The good soil

By their fruits you will know them. What are the results in your life?

Short Parables

The treasure in the field

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

(Mat 13:44 NASB)

Permit me some questions:

  • A man finds the treasure and hides it again, rather than sharing the information with the owner of the field. Why? Perhaps it is Christ’s way of telling us that the treasure is out there, but we have to find it.
  • He sells all he has – true faith may cost you all that you have and are.
  • The treasure is a source of joy to the man – as our faith should be to us.
The pearl of great price

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

(Mat 13:45-46 NASB)

Like the kingdom of God, the pearl is precious and expensive, more so in this time than in our own. But see one difference between this and the treasure in the field: this man was looking for pearls; when he sees this one, he needs to make a choice. A financially prudent man would not do this. Spiritual prudence is different. You can’t jump the canyon in two hops.

The dragnet

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(Mat 13:47-50 NASB)

(Dum, ta dum dum – sorry, couldn’t resist that one.) This is one I love, for it says that the kingdom of heaven will haul in all sorts of characters – and at the end of this age they will sorted, good fish, bad fish, sheep and goats. The Gospel is open to all; only at the end of the age will the separation occur.

Leaven

He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."

(Mat 13:33 NASB)

This parable may be seen it two ways:

  • It may be seen as the church’s effect on the world around it. We are few, but our witness can change the world we live in – even if only by example.
  • It also is a picture of how the church really spreads – quietly, working its way into the world but not becoming “of this world.”
Mustard Seed

He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES."

(Mat 13:31-32 NASB)

This is the way the kingdom grows: bit by bit until is shows itself a haven in the world. From small beginnings the church becomes visible – and visible as a haven.

Wheat and Weeds

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' "And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves *said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' "But he *said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

(Mat 13:24-30 NASB)

And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

(Mat 13:37-43 NASB)

This often quoted parable has a few surprises in it yet. May I present for your consideration three thoughts:

“While his men were sleeping”

For evil to triumph it is only necessary that good men do nothing.” How well we Satan’s work in this! “Political Correctness” is everywhere; raise no objection to homosexual behavior, adultery, spin control – the list seems endless at times. In the church we may add to that lists of “Thou shalt not offend.”

Who, one might ask, is supposed to be out there objecting to the changes being imposed on the church? By Scripture, elders are to lead in this. But do they?

Before you judge them harshly, ask how far and how hard you would follow them. Perhaps the difficulty is that they can lead only the willing.

“Allowed to grow together”

If we might ask the divine farmer a question: just why did you let them grow together? One reason is fairly simple: they look alike until fully grown. So if He did uproot, we would be puzzled, and many of us would also be uprooted with them. A similar thought comes in our judicial system; we would rather acquit a hundred criminals that convict an innocent man.

At the end of the age

Did you notice something about the end? He will gather the weeds first. (I wonder what Hal Lindsey would say about that.) But let us pursue the thought about the end times further. He will tie them into bundles; in other words, he will gather them together. It is but speculation to think that many “mainstream” churches a bundling themselves together so that the world might see a smiling face, benevolent Protestant tea sipping society.

One last; as with Lazarus, those in the barn (heaven) will see those being burned. It’s part of the punishment.

Why?

And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.' "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. "For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

(Mat 13:10-17 NASB)

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES; I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD."

(Mat 13:34-35 NASB)

Why did Jesus teach in parables?

  • Some of us just won’t get it any other way. “Draw me a picture.”
  • Parables carry both an intellectual thought and an emotional appeal. (Weeds, ugh.) The result is greater commitment than intellect alone can command, and longer lasting than today’s emotions.
  • Christ is, as ever, the gentleman at the door who “stands and knocks.” Parables bludgeon no one.
  • They are also a sound example for teachers!

But there is one last: the Christian who hears the parable, grows from it. Those who are not, grow away. To him who has, more will be given. To him who has not, even that little will be taken away.

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