Today: [Matthew 13] Without a Parable Spake He Not Unto Them: In chapter 13 of Matthew we find that Jesus speaks exclusively in parables, choosing purposefully to express His truths in elusive ways, in order to exclude the casual and those with only passing interest in His works. Yet for those who have made deeper commitments, the parables hold great treasure and understanding that we will touch on in our study.
[Mat 13:1-58 KJV] 1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some [seeds] fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and [their] ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and should understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16 But blessed [are] your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous [men] have desired to see [those things] which ye see, and have not seen [them]; and to hear [those things] which ye hear, and have not heard [them]. 18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth [it] not, then cometh the wicked [one], and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth [it]; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
In chapter 13 Jesus, dealing with large crowds that have gathered around Him, enters into a ship and standing up teaches them from the shore. As is His custom, He uses parables to deliver His teachings, of which verse 3 tells us were many in number. It is interesting to note that there are likely many parables Jesus used that almost certainly not all have come down to us in the gospel account, in fact Matthew and Mark both make the statement that “without a parable spake He not unto them…” which tells us that it is always beneficial to us to seek the deeper meaning of Jesus’ teachings even when He seems to speak very plainly of specific matters.
Beginning in verse 3 we have the parable of the sower. The disciples do not understand this parable any more than the multitude Jesus was addressing, and they come to Him asking why He is dispensing His doctrine in such a seeming difficult format to understand. Jesus makes no apology, setting a division between the privileges of the general crowd and how He views those having made the commitment to follow Him, leaving all. To these committed few it is given to know, but to the casual listeners it is not given to know. This is very different than how teaching is done today, in which pastors and teachers seek to simplify the message so that even the most disinterested person could plainly understand what they are saying. Jesus felt no compunction toward this whatsoever and we could certainly learn from this, measuring His earth-shattering results with the anemic impact of the message of the church upon the world today.
Going on to explain the parable of the sower in v. 18, we find that the heart is the ground and the word Jesus teaches is the seed that is planted therein. There are four kinds of hearers:
- The wayside hearer: one who hears, does not immediately understand and dismisses the matter altogether.
- The stony ground hearer: one who hears with great enthusiasm, but doesn’t understand what Paul says in Acts 14:22, that it is through great tribulation one enters the kingdom.
- The thorny ground hearer: one who receives the word but doesn’t give place to it in his life because of the demands of material things and anxiety over temporal problems of life.
- The good ground hearer: even here we see that the word planted in a receptive heart produces varying results, some 30, some 60, some 100 fold. The word is singularly capable of producing, it is the heart, and the condition of the heart that determines to what extent the dividends of the power of God through His word is manifest in the life of the hearer.
Jesus then presents another parable, that of the wheat and the tares. What this tells us is that there is not just one seed planted in our hearts but many seeds, or words or narratives seeking to take root and produce their fruit in our lives. Jesus plants the word toward our benefit but verse 25 tells us that the enemy is also “a sower” who brings the narrative of the world, worry, fear, temptation, etc., and plants them in our hearts through all of his means of doing so (media, life’s experiences, upbringing, friends, family, etc.). It is a sobering thing to realize and an important lesson that Jesus’ solution to dealing with this mixed narrative in our hearts is to let them grow to harvest. Many times, we pray and cry out to God because we sense something in our lives growing to harvest that will produce what we do not want. These are the tares we allowed the enemy to plant. What does God do? He allows it to grow to harvest so that we can distinguish the difference and make the separation. Who are the reapers? The reapers represent you and I, called to identify and gather out the tares, the narrative of lies that the enemy has planted in our lives. We usually expect God to do all this for us but in reality it is OUR responsibility, we are not permitted to sit by in spiritual idleness hoping that God will just do all the work, when it was we ourselves who permitted the enemy to plant his narrative in our lives in the first place.
31 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32 Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. 33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. 36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked [one]; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: 48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. 49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, 50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. 52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe [which is] instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure [things] new and old. 53 And it came to pass, [that] when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. 54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this [man] this wisdom, and [these] mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this [man] all these things? 57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Now in verse 31 we have the parable of the grain of mustard seed. We know that the mustard seed represents our faith, that God has given to every man as the scripture says. What are the birds? That of the world that wants to come against our faith. What do birds do in a tree? They burden the branches do they not? You have to know that when faith grows in your heart you will have the birds of worry, responsibility, problems of life that will burden down every branch of faith you are lifting up toward God. This is a mirror of the parable of the sower that depicts the enemy planting a competing narrative against the narrative of God’s word in your life. Whose responsibility is it to deal with these interlopers? It is OUR responsibility!
Then we come to verse 33 and the parable of the 3 measures of meal. This is a parable that has even today not fully been understood. The kingdom is as a woman who puts leaven in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened. Many teachers say that the leaven can only represent sin. Others teach that the leaven is the influence of the kingdom of God in the earth, growing in its impact upon man until the fullness of time when the whole will be cast in the furnace of end time events and brought to its conclusion. Regardless, we know that leaven is a symbol of growth. Man in himself represents as spirit, soul and body the three measures of meal. The leaven of the kingdom impacts our spirit when we are born again, and our soul when we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and one day when the baptism of fire is visited upon us then our physical bodies will receive the impact (influence) of the kingdom and experience body-felt salvation and consequently immortality.
Going on in verse 41 Jesus gives a broader apocalyptic explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares, connecting it with the parable of the leaven, speaking of the time when all things that offend in the earth will be separated from those things that are of God. That is when the righteous shall shine (baptism of fire?) and be manifest in the earth as the kingdom of God begins to come in fullness, anticipating the physical return of Christ to the earth.
In verse 44 we find the pearl of great price expressed in a parable. What is the pearl of great price. Most say that this is Jesus, but note that would suggest that man in his lost condition is as the merchant seeking out the pearl. That cannot be so, because the scripture tells us that sinful man does not seek after God at all. Who is doing the seeking? Is it not Jesus, who comes to seek and to save that which is lost? The pearl of great price speaks of the regard with which God Himself looks upon us in our unredeemed state – and sold ALL OF HEAVEN’S BEST, the only begotten Son so that you and I might be saved. The next parable in verse 47 mirrors the love of God in that God has cast a net into all of humanity to draw all men unto Him, but separating the good from the bad, will preserve the righteous and cast away those not bringing forth the fruit of repentance.
In verse 53 after this flurry of teachings are given, the hearers are astonished at His wisdom and His work. Instead of honoring the power of God on display in Jesus, they are offended and suggest that Jesus is merely a pretender who has sought to rise above them in stature, when they knew very well (in their opinion) that He was merely a local artisan, whose family was likewise known to them, and they were angered at Him. Jesus, therefore did not many mighty works in their midst, not because He wasn’t able or willing but because the people did not know, nor were interested in knowing the day of their visitation.
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