Lesson 48: The Last Five Parables in Matthew Chapter Thirteen
Matthew 13:31-35, 44-50; Mark 4:30-34; Luke 13:18-21
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Lesson # 48, Welcome again! More parables. Back to Matthew ch. 13. We're going to read v.31-32. This is still one of the parables from the little ship on the shore of lake Galilee. We've already covered the parables that Jesus explained, the parable of the sower and the parable of the tares. He did not explain the parable that we're getting ready to read; so, you're on your own. Are you trained and ready? Let's read. Matt. 13:31-32. Let's read. "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: 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." O.K. have you got it? What are the keys of interpretation to this parable? Well, first of all, it's nice and short. A good one to practice on. Right? The kingdom of course is the new era that Jesus and John both preached was eminent. This is the same in all these parables about the kingdom, we've already talked about. In some way, the church that Jesus planted is like this parable. That kingdom would begin very small. Whose field was it planted in, at the end of v.31? Notice in v.32, Jesus said, "when it is grown." He did not say it was in existence at that time. But, the seed of the kingdom was being planted. You see, Jesus' kingdom started very, very small. John the Baptist came preaching the kingdom and telling them to repent and to expect the Messiah. Jesus came and was baptized of John in the Jordan to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:16). They both began to preach. John said! he must decrease and Jesus must increase (John 3:30). Jesus appointed 12 apostles to send out; although, he had not sent them out alone at the time we are talking about. A small beginning, but ultimately the kingdom would be established. The N.T. would be the law; for that kingdom and Jesus would be the King of that kingdom and many citizens would flow into it. His disciples would go into all the world preaching the gospel of the kingdom. It would grow up like a mustard plant and become a tree, so-to-speak. What about the birds lodging in the branches at the end of v.32? To the people standing there on the shore of the sea of Galilee, listening to Jesus' parable; birds or the fowls of the air, were looked upon as great pests, real devils. They ate the seed when the grain was planted and they ate the wheat when it was ripe and during harvest. Birds had little or no economic value. Birds were competitive, gathering where they and not sown. The point is that some false prophets would take advantage of Jesus' kingdom; rob and live pretentiously under the protection of Jesus' kingdom and prey upon it. In other words, false teachers or false prophets. Do you remember in the sermon on the mount, wolves in sheep's clothing? Jesus and his apostles never ceased to warn about false teachers. Peter, one of the apostles there trying to interpret that parable said at a later time, talking about the O.T., "there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you..." (II Pet. 2:1). This parable should have helped to give the apostles perspective and understand the stage of the kingdom at that time; just as it helps us to see the approximate state of the kingdom today. Jesus did not get into the harvest idea, as in the case of the parable of the tares.
This parable is also given in Mark's account, ch. 4:30. Let's read it there. Are you ready? "And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the Kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it." O.K. very little variation from Matthew. Notice that Mark put the "Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom..." statement in the form of a question. That helps us to see the point that Jesus was trying to illustrate. We talked before about being cautions and NOT to make a parable say more than the Master Teacher intended. I recall making the comment once that the mustard seed was not necessarily the smallest of all seeds. One lady said that if she didn't believe the mustard seed was the smallest seed in the world, she wouldn't believe another word in the Bible. Well, let's just say, we've missed the point. You see, one who uses a parable to teach as Jesus did; can make up the rules as they go to make the parable illustrate what they want. So, if Jesus defined the mustard seed as the least of all seeds in his parable; it's his parable! If he wanted to make it the size of a mountain, he could have done that. So, just remember, these parables do not have to follow nature and our experience in every detail. There must have been something about the plant which Jesus selected that helped them identify with his point. But, it doesn't have to FIT in every extreme; unless, that extreme is assigned in the parable, you see. The fact that the tree had branches is given in connection with the fowl of the air It" doesn't mean that the church would ultimately and legitimately branch out into many denominations Too much is said on the subject of division other places to accept that facet in this parable.
Luke ALSO record this parable of the mustard seed in Luke 13:18-19. It seems to be out of sequence chronologically; but, what this may mean is that Jesus used these parables on more than one occasion. But, let's consider it here under the mustard seed. O.K.? Did you find it? Luke 13:18-19. Let's read? "Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it." O.K. very much like Matthew and Mark.
Alright, while you are in Luke ch. 13, let's read v.20-21, which is Luke's account of the parable of Leaven. Are you ready? "And again he said, Whereunto shall I like the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." Now, before we discuss this; let's go back to Matthew. It's in Matt. 13:33. So, let's read again. Are you ready? "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, til the whole was leavened." Luke also gave the first statement in the form of a question. The point we want to get is that: the kingdom was going to be in some way like this illustration. The parable comes; from the common task of bread making. That task was usually assigned to a woman, I would assume, thus Jesus mentions a woman making bread. Are you familiar with leaven? We would probably call it yeast. Yeast cells are really microscopic plants, or fungi. In substances like meal, containing large amounts of sugar; yeast grows very rapidly when the moisture and temperature are right. Yeast cells give off carbon dioxide and alcohol. The gaseous carbon dioxide bubbles are entrapped in the dough and cause the mass to swell rapidly. The size may even double in only an hour or two under ideal conditions. Of course, when this dough is baked it makes light, fluffy bread. So, it's evident this bread making process was common in Jesus' day. I still enjoy yeast bread. Have you seen your mother or grandmother make this kind of bread? Now, our question is: how is God's society upon the earth, (called the church or the kingdom), like the leaven in the bread making process? Well, it's a little like the mustard seed. It takes very little yeast for a lot of dough. It's pretty potent stuff. Under ideal conditions it can quickly penetrate the entire mass of dough. Under less ideal conditions, cold temperatures, low sugar content, or lack of moisture; it may lay dormant for an indefinite period. But, it will work quickly when conditions become right. Isn't that the way with Christianity? That little seed, called the word of God, started in one little corner of the world's population and soon penetrated the earth. At the present time it may lay pretty much dormant in Russia, China and other places. But, when conditions of ignorance, bias and skepticism thaw; Christianity will penetrate those nations to the core. Leaven doesn't just go in and hold its own, it is capable of leavening the entire mass. Thus, the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven.
Now, let's read Matt. 13:34-35. Let's read. "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 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." This probably has reference to Psalms 78:2. But, before discussing this, let's read Mark 4:33-34. Are you ready on that? "And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples." As was said in connection with the introduction of Luke ch. 8; it would appear that Jesus changed his method of teaching somewhat at this point. He taught the multitude almost exclusively in parables. But, then when he was in private with his disciples; Jesus would explain these things and give them even more details. The two verses we just read in Matthew also seems to separate the parables in Matt. ch. 13, with four of them given out of the little ship and the other three may have been give to the disciples alone. V.36 here said that Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house.
Now, let's try to quickly finish the other three parables in Matt, ch. 13 in this lesson. Read with me v.44. Are you ready? "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hides, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." More characteristics of God's society upon the earth, called the kingdom. I suppose bank vaults, lock boxes and the common safe were almost unknown by the common people in those days. So, to hide a wedge of gold, or silver, or some other precious item in a field may have been the common practice. And, I would assume occasionally the owner of that field died with no will or instructions where the treasure was hidden. Thus, whoever purchased that field was the legal owner of that hidden treasure. So, if someone should learn information about that treasure; then, the only way they could honestly lay claim to it was to sell everything and purchase that field. Thus, it would require a great sacrifice; but, the treasure is definitely worth the sacrifice. The kingdom of heaven, or Christ's church is like this. Another point to the parable is: Once that you know and understand the value of eternal life, you must take ACTION to lay a legal claim to that treasure.
O.K. v.45-46. Let continue our reading. Have you got your eyes on it? "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Obviously, there are many aspects to God's kingdom that cannot all be illustrated with one parable. In this parable the idea of sacrifice and legal claim are again emphasized. But, the two parables are different in this respect. Some people simply stumble upon information about eternal life accidentally while for others it requires a great search and systematic study. Nevertheless, regardless of how we learn about the kingdom; we must seek it (Matt. 6:33) and go all-out to secure its blessings and lay claim to that one pearl of great price called salvation.
Let's go on to the parable of the Net. Matt. 13:47-50. Let's read. "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Again, God's' society called the church and the kingdom is in some respect analogous to using a fishing net. It would appear that they had just come out of a fishing boat and entered into the house (v.36). Thus, this was a natural, home-made visual aid, still deeply imprinted upon every disciple present and most of them being from around the sea of Galilee had undoubtedly helped drag a net through those prolific waters at some time or another. They knew the procedure. When that net was raised they culled through the catch and sorted the good from the bad. The good were protected in vessels. But the bad was cast away. So, in v.49 Jesus made the application for us: "so shall it be at the end of the world." At the end of the world the angels shall come forth and do an inventory of the kingdom. Many fish in the sea of course were not taken by the net. And this parable teaches plainly that not even all those in the net of the kingdom will be saved. As sad as it is, some in the kingdom will be cast away into the furnace of fire (v.50). If this verse does not teach eternal punishment; then, I'm completely off track. If Jesus had not intended to teach eternal punishment; he could have stopped just as easily at the end of v.49. But, notice how meticulous the explanation in v.50.
Now, in retrospect, think back over the seven parables in Matthew ch. 13, beginning with the parable of the sower and ending with the parable of the net. Some have noticed that these parables have a progressive nature to them when you put the seven together. The first of these parables have to do with the beginning of the kingdom, the constitution and requirements for citizenship. As we progress through the chapter, the parable of the tares shows the influence of Satan and the environment that citizens of Jesus' kingdom must live under AND there will be a harvest or judgment at the end of the world; but the citizens in Christ's kingdom will live on and shine forth as the sun, after that harvest. Then the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven show that although the kingdom would start small it would become as the sand of the sea for multitude. Then the parable of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price show that citizens of Christ's kingdom will have to sacrifice to attain and that attainment is on an individual basis. And then finally, of course, the emphasis in the parable of the net is upon judgment day. There's going to be a separation of good citizens and bad citizens. V.49 specifically says this will be at the end of the world. And v.50 describes and emphasizes how terrible it will be to' be lost. IS THIS NOT a very thorough study in God's society called the church upon the earth and the destiny that Christians can expect? Have a good day!