Lesson 45: The Kingdom, Apostle Training and Parables
Matthew 13:1-9, Mark 4:1-9, Luke 8:1-8
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 45. Welcome again to our study. Jesus had taught for several months in Galilee. As the weather cleared in the spring of AD 31, tremendous crowds sought Jesus. He and his disciples camped-out on some mountain in Galilee. There He appointed 12 apostles. He restored a widow's son at Nain, and took a trip to Jerusalem. When back in Galilee, he received a message from John the Baptist who was still in prison. Now, let's go back into our last lesson for a moment. In Matt. 11:13 Jesus said, "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John..." Now, take the time to get the full import of that statement. You see, John initiated a new era in Bible history. We might call it the kingdom era. Luke did not record Jesus' statement that we just read from Matthew1 account in connection with John's message. But, Luke recorded a very similar statement of Jesus in Luke 16:16-17, at a later time when Jesus was preaching to the Pharisees. There Jesus said, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man PRESSETH into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail." Thus, preaching the kingdom began with John. But, back in Matthew 11:12, Jesus said "from the days of John the Baptist until NOW the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." John was not in the Kingdom; you'll remember, we talked about that (the kingdom was still future at that time). And, naturally no one could literally take a spiritual kingdom by force. But, the point Jesus made here was this; it goes back to that inner-man principle of the beatitudes or that: "I will put my law in their inward parts" statement, back in Jer. 31:33. You see, many of those baptized by John misunderstood the nature of Jesus' kingdom. Many were trying to PRESS into the kingdom. But, Jesus said, they were doing violence to the kingdom in the sense they didn't understand the nature of Jesus' kingdom and therefore their attitude, accordingly, was not right. This enables us to see the great need that existed for teaching about the kingdom and trying to correct such views. So, don't forget to take a few notes on your KINGDOM-WORKSHEET as we go along.
But, right now, we're going to read three verses from Luke ch. 8. Luke is the only one of the four writers that gives us this information. Are you ready? Luke 8:1-3, let's read. "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others which ministered*-unto him of their substance." Now this is saying that Jesus BEGAN another very thorough preaching tour over Galilee. Another in what sense? Well this time the emphasis is upon the twelve apostles. They were with him. Many disciples had undoubtedly followed Jesus over Galilee in the previous months in a sporadic way. Jesus had invited some disciples to lay aside their secular occupations and fallow Jesus on a full-time basis. You're undoubtedly thinking of Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew. To these (five), Jesus added seven others on the mountain on the day of the sermon on the mount .find designated the entire group as apostles, i.e. appointees of Jesus. In the three verses we just read, we learn that Jesus started another extensive preaching tour and the 12 apostles WERE WITH HIM. Now, this verse does NOT say THIS specifically; but, obviously this was the beginning of a training period for the 12 apostles, i.e. on-the-job training, we would call it. The methods that Jesus used are very interesting. They went throughout every city and village, i.e. teaching the whole Jewish community. But, at the same time that Jesus was teaching AT LARGE; he was teaching the apostles in a more intensive way, you see. In the middle of v.l is the THEME of Jesus' preaching on that tour, "preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God..." Now, I trust you recognize that's the SAME theme that Jesus had taught before. Compare it to Matt. 4:17. So, there was no change in content. The message'was: repent and get prepared to enter the kingdom, i.e. to become a citizen of the new dispensation that was about to arrive.
Then, v.2 and 3 gives us some interesting side-lights on how this missionary tour was financed. It is possible that some of Jesus' apostles were well-off enough to be self-sustaining in such an effort. But, notice in v.3 that MANY disciples ministered unto him of their SUBSTANCE. That is saying, in effect, that many disciples helped finance this effort. Three women., prominently mentioned here; Luke says had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities. Thus, it is obvious/that, these women were motivated, partly at least, our of appreciation. I didn't get the impression when I read this in the KJV that these women traveled with Jesus and the twelve. But, the NIV says that they did. Mary Magdalene and Joanna are both mentioned again in future chapters; but, this is the only mention of Susanna. Don't miss those words, "and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance," at the end of v.3.
O.K. v.4 here in Luke's account picks up on that preaching tour in progress. Let's read v.4. "And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:" Alright, on this occasion, on that tour, MUCH people were gathered from many cities. V.5-6-7-8 is the parable that Jesus gave. And I would like to just dive right into that parable; the parable of the sower, it's usually called. But, let me prime you a little first. It is significant to notice in v.4 that Luke emphasized that Jesus SPAKE BY A PARABLE. You see, vie discover by close examination here that Jesus' style of teaching changed somewhat at that point. Why? Well it would be natural I think. Because, at this point, Jesus' teaching took on a duel purpose, (#1) Jesus showed the glad tidings of the kingdom as v.1 put it, to much people. But, at the same time (#2), Jesus was training the 12 apostles HOW to carry on the work. Thus, we might say Jesus was entering a new phase of his ministry. It is evident; Jesus employed many, many parable in this apostle-training-work. Now, I'm not saying that Jesus had not used parables before. As a matter of fact the sermon on the mount contained about 4 or 5 parables: Ye are the salt of the earth, ye are the light of the world, the mote and the beam in the eye, and the wise and the foolish builders. In Luke's account, Jesus used the parable of the blind leading the blind. When John's disciples came to Jesus about fasting; he used the NEW PATCH on an OLD GARMENT and another illustration about putting new wine in old bottles. Do you remember the parable of the two debtors at Simon the Pharisee's house? What about the children playing in the market place, Luke 7:32? So, Jesus was very adept at teaching with illustrations. But, the point is, it would appear that at that time in his ministry Jesus INCREASED his use of illustrations and figurative language. Luke gives us a sample here in the parable of the sower And, let me emphasize this is only a SAMPLE that Luke gives, we discover shortly.
We'll get back to that in a minute; but, let me see if I can get you to appreciate the parable of the sower even more. We have a record of 50 or more parables that Jesus taught. But the parable of the sower, here, is a little unique. Every parable that Jesus taught illustrated some divine principle, very vividly. However, NOT ONLY does a parable connect the divine principle to some common parallel story; that helps illustrate the divine principle. The common every day story usually helps us as a memory aid; thus, stamping that principle even more indelibly upon us. Jesus'
stories were usually so simple and attention getting that we sometimes enjoy the story association even when we don't understand the divine principle. But, if you're going to understand Jesus' teaching; YOU MUST get the divine principle behind the story. Now, here's the unique thing that you need to understand about the parable of the sower. Not only does Jesus teach the usual divine principles; but this parable is a demonstration parable. By that, I mean: Jesus taught the parable; and then, Jesus explained the parable. So this parable serves ALSO as a lesson on parable interpretation. The parable of the sower and the parable of the tares are the only two parables that Jesus explained in this way. So, obviously, if you want to learn to get to the bottom of Bible parables; i.e. analyze and fish-out the divine precepts behind the parable; then, you'll want to examine these two parables very closely. In other words, THIS is the key to understanding All, Bible parables.
Matthew and Mark both give the parable of the sower. John doesn't! Luke said in v.4, there were "much people." But, Matthew gave a little more about the setting on this occasion. Let's read that first! It starts at the beginning of Matthew ch. 13. Can you find that? Matt. 13:1-3. Let's read. "The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 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. There were multitudes of people on the sea shore and Jesus spoke out of a little ship like he did the day that he insisted Peter take John fishing and they caught the great catch back at the beginning of Luke ch. 5. The arrangement, here, formed a sort of natural amphitheater. Jesus could see out over the people; and, I suppose the agricultural foot-hills that came down to the sea of Galilee could be seen in the back ground. It's even possible, I suppose, that Jesus could see some farmer planting or harvesting a crop in the distance. Mark's sequel to this is at the beginning of Mark ch. 4. and the first verse there says, "And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land."
O.K. let's read the parable, are you ready? Let's do Luke first. Luke 8:5-8. Here's what Jesus said out of that little boat. "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit a hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." A sower went out to sow! Do you get the story part of the parable? Bread was the staple of their economy. I suppose every person on that beach had, some time or another, sowed wheat seed. They grew cereal grains in small plots. First, there was the laborious process of soil preparation with the help of an ox or a donkey. Finally, when the soil was prepared then seed was applied. I trust you know that's called sowing. Have you ever done that? Today, farmers use tractors and grain drills that can cover hundreds of acres per day. But, in Palestine they did it by hand. The sower would take a bag or sack of wheat seed and scatter the seed hand-full by hand-full. When I was in about the first grade; I stayed with my grandfather a couple years. Now, I'm not that old; but my grandfather used to sow wheat by hand, just like we've talked about. I would get me a little bucket and fill it with sawdust and sow that stuff on the lawn. There's something about sowing, slinging your arms and walking at the r>ame time, planting a crop, the bread of life — once you've done it — there's something about it that you like. So, I am very confident that Jesus' illustration really got to those country folks standing there in the sand. Some fell by the wayside, he said. Do you know what the "wayside" was? That was another name for a foot path, the only roads they knew in Palestine. So, some seed fell on the bare path that probably went right on through the grain field. The seed that fell in the path was stepped on and the birds ate it. If some of the seed fell on a rocky place it may germinate when a shower came; but, when that Palestinian sun dried out the soil the little tender plants would scorch and die. And then the weeds would eventually take their toll by shading the wheat and competing for moisture and fertility. Nevertheless, some wheat would eventually reach maturity and there would still be a harvest. That hundredfold business in v.8 is another way of describing what we would call the yield. If the crop done well they would might expect to get back as much as 100 times as much wheat as they sowed, i.e. even after some was lost to the birds, some baby plants withered, and the weeds had taken it's toll.
Let's read Matthew's account and then we'll read Mark. Matt. 13:4--9. Read with me! Beginning in the last part of v.3, here's Jesus, "Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear"
I think we've got time to read Mark. Beginning in Mark 4:2, are you ready? "And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, harken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow and it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: but when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased, and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear"
Isn't that a beautiful illustration? But, let me ask you this question; what does it illustrate? What's the divine principle behind this parable? If you were left to your own wits and your own intuitions; what would you conclude? I think most of us might have a little trouble. Our time is up! I'll see you in our next lesson. Until then, have a good day!