"In this chapter, Jesus presented His disciples seven prophetic illustrations
that deserve very careful study.
In verses 10 - 17, Jesus highlights the reason He spoke in parables. They
were not intended to reveal, but to conceal!
The first two parables offer little difficulty, since Jesus, explained
them. (Verses 18-23 and 36-43.) It is important to notice that the images
used in the parables are used consistently.
It is the other five parables, then, that give us the problems. In fact,
the more you study them, the more questions they raise!
The Woman and the Leaven
The Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and
hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
It has been popular to view this as a prediction that the Church will eventually
"convert" the entire world. Unfortunately, this would seem to contradict
other prophecies. (Luke 18:8; Isaiah 63:3,5; 2 Peter 2; Jude, etc.)
Furthermore, we must never lose sight of the fact that Jesus was a Jewish
rabbi, speaking to Jewish disciples. Leaven is always used as a symbol
of sin. The Feast of Passover emphasizes the use of unleavened bread. Jesus
refers to the "leaven of Pharaisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:6; Luke
13:21.) Paul also makes these same types of references. (1 Corinthians
5:6-8; Galatians 5:7-9.)
Why is leaven used as a symbol of sin? It corrupts by puffing up. The
origin of sin was in Lucifer's pride. (Isaiah 14:12-17.)
Furthermore, the "three measures of meal" have their origin in Genesis
18, where Abraham receives the famous three visitors. The first was the
Lord Himself, and the other two were angels who had an assignment the following
day at Sodom and Gomorrah.
From that day to this, in both the Jewish and Arabic cultures, the "three
measures of meal" are emblematic of a fellowship offering.
So to a Jewish ear, when Jesus described a woman putting leaven into
the three measures of meal, they probably gasped in horror!
The Pearl of Great Price
In verses 45-46, Jesus again uses a strange image: the pearl. It all sounds
good, until you realize that oysters are not kosher! (Deuteronomy 14:10.)
Here again, we see an image of the Church. The pearl is the only "jewel"
that is the result of a living organism. It grows as a response to irritation.
And it is removed from its place of growth to become an item of adornment!
The more we study these parables, the more questions they raise.
The Church is the Focus
In fact, in verses 34-35, Jesus announces that the revelations in these
parables are not to be found in the Old Testament! Paul, in Ephesians 3:4-7
indicates that this very mystery is the Church itself, not revealed in
the Old Testament. This uniqueness is also alluded to in verse 52.
The Mustard "Tree"
The puzzling character of these parables is most evident in the Mustard
"Tree." The common mustard plant grows as a small bush, and is hardly the
haven for birds.
Furthermore, the identity of the birds has already been revealed in
verse 19 (cf. v.3): the ministers of the "Wicked One!" This seems to portray
a view in which the church will grow a monstrosity in which the very ministers
of the wicked one will find refuge !
The Seven Epistles of Christ
In verses 9 and 43, we can't miss the familiar phrase, "He that hath ears
to hear, let him hear." It is interesting that Jesus demarked His "Seven
Letters to Seven Churches" (Revelation Chapters 2 and 3) with this
As we study carefully, these seven letters, dictated by Jesus Himself,
we notice that they have a very precise structure. We notice that the fourth
letter features a woman who introduces false doctrine. Could this correspond
to the fourth parable, the woman introducing the leaven?
We notice that the sixth letter speaks of the removal of a church. Could
this correspond to the sixth parable, the pearl which must be removed from
its place of growth to become the object of adornment?
In fact, it would seem that the seven Letters to Seven Churches parallel
the seven "Kingdom Parables" of Matthew 13 rather closely.
The Seven Churches of Paul
The Apostle Paul signed 13 epistles in the New Testament. But three of
these are "doubles": Corinthians, Timothy, and Thessalonians. That leaves
10 addressees. But three of these are "pastors," not churches. That leaves
seven churches that Paul addressed. God is very thorough when it comes
to His revelations of Himself. "