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Matthew 13

March 27th, 2011 by Vic

March 27, 2011

“The Kingdom of God is like…”

Matthew 13


Jesus leaves the noisy house.  Maybe to chat with his family.  Maybe to enjoy the sound of the waves.  Sitting by the lake he assumes the position of a teacher.  Remember the house was so crowded that his family could not get in to see him.  When you have been with a noisy group for a long time you want to find a quiet place.  But the crowd followed and soon was so great Jesus had to borrow a boat and teach from the lake.  Have you noticed at the lake how clearly you hear the conversations of those in the boats?


Rejection and hostility against the kingdom was obvious in chapter 12.  It had become distracting to teach in the synagogue.  Jesus had become a celebrity to some and a nemesis to others.  This chapter has 7 parables about the Kingdom of God.  Parables were simple stories to illustrate a profound truth without causing immediate hostility.  Parables will usually have one main point.  An allegory attaches meaning to several elements.  An allegory must be studied.  A parable is just heard.


Look at the farmer.  Most good farmers are selective to where they sow their seed, but this farmer is God.  He is extravagant with His love and with His seed.  It goes everywhere.  The seed is the Word of God.  The Word of God is for all men.  Everyone has an opportunity to hear.


Look at the soil.  This parable says that all the soil is the same.  Yet all the soil is different.  It is all the same because God made us all the same.  He is our owner.  But the receptivity of the soil is different.  Our fruit is determined by our receptivity.



“He who has ears” is a phrase to alert the reader that the parable points beyond itself.  It is similar to the phrase, “though seeing they don’t see”.  It suggests that the parable is more than a story.


The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why are you now teaching with parables?”  They do not ask what the story meant.  Jesus answers their question with 3 reasons.

1. to reveal truth/secrets to the disciples (11).  The mystery of the ages is not hidden from those who believe.  God’s plan for redeeming men from the curse of sin is now being revealed.


2. to conceal truth/secrets from those who reject Jesus (12).  Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  He claimed to be the alpha and omega.  The most important question in all of the world is, “Who do you say that I am?”  Those who did not believe could not understand.


3. to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9-11 (14-15).


Jesus used parables so the kernel of Truth taught in the parables was not recognised until the soil was receptive.  The shell of Truth was made familiar and easily remembered.  So when the time is right, the truth will be received in the heart.  When they received Jesus they would remember and understand.  Those who believe receive further knowledge but unbelief leads to greater ignorance.


This first parable reveals the wise and extravagant love of God.  Rather than teaching us that God is unfair, it reveals God’s abundant love and mercy.  God is a God that desires to be understood.  In fact He wants us to know Him so much He sent His Son in human form so we could understand the kingdom of God better.  Jesus is not trying to cryptically hide truth but to simply reveal it.


If Jesus had taught plainly, many would have rejected the Truth and been worse for it.  If you understand and reject the Truth you are worse off than if you had never heard.  When you reject Truth you are farther from God than before.  The parable is a loving tool of God’s grace.


13:18-23  Jesus explains the parable.  Jesus knows all about us.  He knows what life has done to us and what we have done to ourselves to make our receptivity different.  He sees our weeds and scars.  He knows we can have a hearing problem.  All we like sheep have gone astray.


In one sense all soil is the same.  Jesus points out 2 kinds of soil: one that bears fruit and one that doesn’t.  He expands his parable enough to show us 3 kinds of receptive soils and 3 kinds of poor soil.  He spends the most time on the poor soil.  All the soil was the same, but what happened to it or what has been added to it determines its receptivity.


Solid Soil:  It is a hard path.  Good soil, but with a hard surface that is not receptive to God’s word.

There is little contact between the seed of Truth falling on the hard heart.  The winds and fads of the day quickly blow it away.  The ground has not been prepared to receive the seed.


How do hearts get hard?  People walk on them.  We begin to look like a path so we are treated like a path.  External pressure has caused the soil to become a path.  Too many uncaring feet can cause us to loose our sensitivity.  The path was hard because foot and hoof had made it a familiar way.  Our familiar ways, our patterns of lifestyle, our routines, ruts and good habits can become hardening agents to the keen edge of our spiritual sensitivity.


The word ‘understand’ (19) means receptivity.  If you hear and do not receive or act on the word, you harden your heart and the Devil will take away the seed.  Whenever we hear God’s word, but do not act upon it we are worse off than before.


The greatest reason we can’t hear God is our neglect to act on what we know already.  It’s like diet plans and healthy eating.  Do what you know you should do and God will help with the next step.

You either grow more sensitive to the voice of God or you get harder.


Shallow Soil:  This hearer has shale under the surface.  He has a lot of emotion on the surface that looks like good soil, but the heart is hard.  For the Hebrew, the heart is made up of the mind, emotions and the will.  All of these must be soft for the word to grow.


Jesus is pointing out clearly here that the soil has two parts: seen and unseen.  For some people their emotions are on the surface.  They have a warm, exciting relationship with Jesus, but when the heat comes and the pressure is on, they wither and blow away.


For some their intellectual commitment is what shows, but under the surface they have rocks of bitterness, damaged emotions, and bad attitudes from the past they have not allowed God to heal and soften them.  They have been living intellectually so long their feelings have become hard and impenetrable.


Seedy Soil:  This soil is good, but crowded.  No problem with quality, but it has allowed unwanted seeds to come into it.  Many activities clamour for attention…pleasures, people, work, things.  We get over-involved.  Crowded lives are deceptive.  They look good.  There is a lot growing on.  There is a lot of life, but it’s unfruitful and immature. (Lk 8:14)


God has given us enough time each day to do His perfect will.  If there is no time for listening to God in Bible study and meditation, we are too busy.  When duties and responsibilities hinder our spiritual growth, we are over-involved.  We may have all our spiritual phone lines on hold, because we are out to lunch.


What are my thorns?  What is hindering God’s Word from growing in me?


Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between weeds, herbs and vegetables.  We need to ask God what weeds must go.  I can’t clean up your garden.  God knows what you need to pull and what needs to stay for His glory.


Good Soils:  In contrast to the 3 kinds of unproductive soil we hear a brief note of 3 productive soils.  I’m glad Jesus mentioned more than one kind of good soil.  We are not all the same.  Some of us are less productive in some areas than others.


God made the soil good.  God made us good.  Receptive ground is deep, clean, and soft; the seed of the word gains entry, finds nourishment, grows as intended and produces fruit.


The receptivity of two flower beds with the same soil can still produce a different amount.  Jesus did not criticise the one who produced less.  He accepts us all.  The value of the Christian life is the seed of the word of God, an imperishable, supernatural seed.


Jesus identifies Himself with the seed.  The word of God is Jesus.  God planted Jesus in the world and He rose from the dead to be planted in our hearts.  God spoke in Jesus.  Are you listening?  The seed that is sown in us is both the message and the messenger (19).



The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sows good seed and goes to sleep.  The farmer who sows all day sleeps well at night.  But he has an enemy with bad seed.  Maybe he should have been more vigilant.


Bearded darnel is related to rye.  It was used by the Greeks medicinally.  When the seeds appear they are on alternate sides of the stem in small clusters on the top 6 inches.  The Jews called it bastard wheat.  It is susceptible to a fungus that makes it poisonous.


When both plants grow together it first looks like a bumper crop.  The grass is thick and lush.  But the trained eye soon can identify the weeds.  At harvest time the wheat heads bow down, but the darnel stand erect.  It is not easy to separate them.


Evil grows in the same soil as the good.  Judgement is coming.  We will be judged by our fruit.  The kingdom of God has already come, but it has not yet brought punishment for the wicked.  The kingdom is present, but the opposition is not destroyed.  The kingdom has come, but the good and evil are not separated.



The kingdom has come already as an insignificant seed.  It has not come in the spectacular fashion that was expected.  It is like a mustard seed in the vegetable garden.  A small seed becomes 12 foot shrub.  No Jew doubted that the kingdom would come and it would be vast and glorious.  But they did not understand the unpretentious beginning.  The kingdom is like the mustard seed.  The mustard seed is a surprise symbol for the expected kingdom of God.



The kingdom is compared to leaven.  That would be another shocking comparison.  Leaven was usually a symbol of evil.  But here it symbolizes insignificance, with great influence.  Yeast does not grow; it permeates.  It has a transforming power.  The kingdom has power to transform.  It transforms quietly with small beginnings.  Things that were hidden are no longer hidden.  People can see the manifestation of the kingdom of God but not the kingdom.  People can see Jesus but maybe not the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the royal Son of David, or the conquering Messiah.


Comparing the kingdom of God to a tiny seed and unclean yeast surprised those who were impatient for power and glory.  According to the prophet hidden things are quietly being revealed in Jesus, the Bread of Life.



The disciples were scratching their heads.  They come to Jesus and ask for an explanation.  They do not have a special knowledge, but they have a special relationship.  They suspected something profound was being said, but didn’t get it.  They asked Jesus about the weeds in the field.


Jesus answered.  He identifies the main elements in the parables.  The field is the world and not the church.  The importance of seeds began in the garden of Eden.



In the Jewish culture there were no banks to protect your savings.  Valuables were hidden underground.  If you found treasure in a field it belonged to the owner of the field.  It was his savings.  But if he sold the field, and did not take his savings then the treasure belonged to the new owner.


The kingdom may be small and hidden, but it is very valuable.  This man was not looking for it, but found it.  The one who finds the treasure will sell everything to have it.  There is joy in discovering something very valuable.  The kingdom is worth everything to the one who knows its value.



This merchant is looking for the kingdom and he recognizes it when he finds it.


Some have said that the hidden treasure is a picture of the Jews.  They had it in their scriptures and did not see it.  The pearl merchant is like the Gentiles.  When they hear of the kingdom of God they immediately recognize its value.  This sounds like the African villages who see the Jesus Film.



This is similar to the good and bad seed.  Judgement is coming.  Separation is unavoidable.  There will be both good and evil coexisting until the judgment.  Both wicked and good are living in the world.  Angels are active in the separation.



Now Jesus asks the disciples if they understand these things about the kingdom.  They say they do and Jesus does not correct them.  They do understand more than the crowds so they should teach what they know about the kingdom of heaven and how it relates to the Law.  Jesus came to fill their lives with new meaning and enable them to see the old in new ways.



The exciting expansion of the kingdom through the Jesus Film today reveals a problem we have in America.  Familiarity with the life about Jesus has become a liability.  Familiarity blinds us to what is real and right in front of us.  It has become hard for us to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.

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