Matthew 13:44-46; Treasure and a Pearl

What about this kingdom of heaven Jesus is talking about? What is it like?

First, it is highly valuable. More valuable than everything the sharecropper owns, and even more valuable than everything the wealthier merchant owns. They both sell out to purchase the valuable find.

Second, it is hidden from many. You have to be on the lookout for a valuable pearl (which had the cachet of diamonds) to find it. You have to keep your eyes open for buried treasure to find it. Most people just pass by and don’t notice.

The kingdom of God causes us to reorder our priorities. The kingdom is more important than our own well-being, more important than our own families, more important than anything and everything else.

Sometimes we are guilty of cheapening the kingdom. When we tell people that they can pray a prayer and be saved from hell, we cheapen the kingdom. Jesus asks us to sell out, not to say some words of assent.

The church needs to come to terms with the value of the kingdom. We are far too casual about what we are doing. We are afraid to sell out. We don’t want to be seen as fanatical or weird. We crave acceptance by the culture.

Until we sell out for the buried treasure of the kingdom, the pearl of great value, we don’t really understand yet,

Jesus’ teaching was primarily about how people should understand his message of the kingdom and Israel’s restoration and how to avoid the coming judgment. The parables are not earthly stories with heavenly meanings; rather, they are subversive stories that turn the presuppositions of his audience on their head.

Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology

Matthew 13:31-35; Two Kingdom Parables

The mustard seed and the leaven seem to go together in terms of the point Jesus was making.

Thinking back, I think I have mostly heard these parables preached in terms of great growth from small beginnings, and that certainly is an aspect of the word pictures Jesus used. Small seed, large plant. Small amount of leaven, large amount of dough.

But it seems to me there is another aspect of these two parables we might miss. In both parables, the great action happens behind the scenes. The seed is planted. The leaven is hidden. Great big things happen.

The kingdom of heaven is not something that we are doing. It is God’s work. It is happening mostly outside of our viewport. When it is fully complete, it will surprise us with its size and scope.

The plant is big enough for nesting and the dough can feed a large crowd. Both started humbly. But the man had nothing to do with the growth of the plant and the woman had nothing to do with the action of the yeast. Both counted on the established ways of using them.

We must trust God for the kingdom. Sometimes it is discouraging to be involved in it and there is much, much waiting. But God is working.

Jesus spoke in parables. The parables are like seeds and yeast. We need to let God grow them in us.

Kingdom come!

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Wheat and Weeds

We are blessed to have another interpreted parable, so let’s treat the parable and its interpretation together. Again, since the Master provided his own interpretation, I’ll just make a few observations.

  • This sower is a different one that he in the previous parable. The former sower was a subsistence farmer, to whom believers can relate. This sower is a bigger landowner with servants. This sower is Jesus himself.
  • There are two sowers in this parable. Jesus has an enemy. Thus, throughout history there are weeds growing alongside the wheat. You can see it in your own church if you have eyes to see.
  • Our tendency is to want to root out the weeds asap. But that would wreck the church, because the roots are all tangled up. Jesus is willing to wait until the judgment time and take care of it then.
  • But the judgment is coming. Since the wheat and the weeds are people, it’s better to be wheat by a far cry.

Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:43, ESV)

Kingdom come!

Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Sower, Seed, and Soil

This parable is about the types of soil receiving (or not) the seed of the gospel. However, Jesus calls it the parable of the sower. In the end, the quality of the seed turns out to be important. Thus, my title for these sections refers to the three components.

Since we are privileged to have Jesus’ own interpretation of his story, there is no need for me to try to improve on it. I’ll just make a few comments.

  • Sowing widely is important. We cannot tell what kind of soil we are sowing in until we see the results. So. Keep throwing it out there.
  • As discouraging as it is, not all ground will yield well. It’s heartbreaking when we put effort into a person and then watch as the cares of the world choke their faith, or watch them wither for lack of root depth. But we keep throwing it out there.
  • The good soil makes up for the bad soil. This is why we sow widely. When it takes, the harvest is really good. So we keep throwing it out there.
  • In a way, the hard soil of the path is easier to deal with. The gospel of the kingdom goes in one ear an out the other. But the rocky soil and the thorny soil will break your heart over and over again. Think back through your life and you will remember countless examples of these types of soil. But we keep throwing it out there.
  • The seed is the gospel. The kingdom is the harvest. There is no better seed to sow. So we keep throwing it out there.

This parable could lead to discouragement if we focus on the three failure modes. But I think Jesus wants us to focus on the harvest. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 13:1-3a, 10-17; Parables

Jesus taught in parables. Parables aren’t just one thing, not just one type of story. Sometimes people make pronouncements about the nature of parables that are not born out by close examination.

Why did Jesus teach this way? To make information about the kingdom available to people who follow him while hiding it from those who are only casually interested, it seems.

We still have “great crowds” in the church today who are just casual about Jesus, not true followers or disciples. The whole truth is hidden from them. No amount of preaching or teaching will reach them until they make a move toward Jesus.

It is quite sobering to think about all the folks who have the gospel abundantly available, yet never really decide to be loyal to Jesus.

How much of the responsibility for the failure, which leads to judgment, is actually born by the church?

Matthew 12:46-50; Family

Out of the blue, Jesus’ family shows up. Like many characters in these stories, they play no real part except for being there and being family.

We don’t know what happened after the pronouncement. We don’t know if they had a nice reunion, or not. There is no suggestion of Jesus rejecting his family. He is simply using them to make a point.

Jesus wants his disciples to know that following him and living the kingdom life is even more important than family relationships.

Today, much of church marketing is aimed at families. Our families are our ultimate group, our ultimate commitment. We have noticed that church is so family-oriented that people without families are, to a degree, marginalized.

Not sure that meets the criterion Jesus sets here. Jesus sets clear and perhaps difficult priorities. It’s our choice.

We must also notice that Jesus emphasized what is done by people, not how they think or talk. Living the kingdom life makes us family with Jesus and God is our Father.