Wheat and Tares
Thesis and Conjectures
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man;the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! (Matthew 13:36-43)
I agree with my friend Bryce Self on the nature of dispensations:
”In my view, all the dispensations after Eden continue in parallel/tandem until the end of the age,
and each new one has built upon and continues to work conjointly with all those that began previously
— not only human governments that began in Noah’s day, but conscience (per Romans),
Promises: (many of God’s promises have only been fulfilled in a preliminary way,
and await the Lord’s return).
Jesus says not a Jot or tittle of the law will pass away until the present heavens and earth do so.”
Seven Parables recorded in Matthew 13, were given by Jesus to the locals in Galilee early in His work there. Thousands heard him, and he took time to carefully explain them privately to the Twelve. The crowds ignored what he taught. The disciples would act on this teaching later after his Resurrection and Ascension. Israel's rejection of their Messiah caused God to turn to the nations of the world. Israel has been set aside from the center of God's dealings with mankind for two millennia now--the Apostles and their successors have focused on us gentiles.
James, leader of the Church in Jerusalem clarified this: "Simeon (Peter) has related how God first looked favourably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, 'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.” (Acts 15:14-17)
Therefore, the Parables of Matthew 13 (we suggest) apply mainly to the two-thousand year history of the church. God has been calling out of a very pagan world, since Pentecost AD 30, a people for Himself--a gentile Bride for His Son, Jesus. Authentic churches have been planted everywhere since and converts have been drawn in to those churches by means of to the public announcement of the good news concerning Jesus--commonly called "the Gospel." (1 Corinthians 15).
Zones have existed in the world wherever the Holy Spirit has been adding people to the true churches, locally. Adjacent to the circle of influence, (the "wheat") surrounding each true church, man's enemy, Satan has been sowing "tares" --fake wheat. The beacons of light around each congregation of followers of Jesus has been the biggest threat to the "father of lies" control of planet earth. The church seldom provokes radical overthrow of a corrupt government or a needed reform, but just a few dedicated followers working together can invite major changes by the Lord Jesus. A key point in the parable is that the wheat and the tares in this parable can't be separated but grow up side by side until the harvest.
“Enemy-occupied territory---that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” (C. S. Lewis)
God's plan to liberate the earth from evil is multifaceted. After the Rapture of the true Church, He will put into effect a different program. All indications today are that the Age of the Church is ending and direct ruler by Jesus, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, is now being launched. An entirely new way of evangelizing by a band of Jewish roaming evangelists is about to begin. Evangelism for two thousand years has been local so that an observer from space would see hot spots centered on viable churches. Note: The has also been building counterfeit churches!
The conjecture in this article is that Rapture of the True Church will mean the wheat and the tares will be separated at that time by angelic agency. I suggest this will happen at the Rapture. Conventional wisdom has always been that this and other judgments, such as the Sheep and Goats Judgment will take place at the Second Advent of Jesus (or later). It seems likely that "tares" will not be allowed into New Jerusalem, but must be left behind. Barns for what in heaven seems reasonable. The management of wheat and tares is done behind the scenes by angels. Part of the problem is that we haven't yet learned that the flow of time in realm of heaven is not the same as earth time.
In March 2020 a radical world-wide lockdown happened precipitated by a worse-than-average strain of the annual flu virus. There was no way such a lockdown would be agreed upon for the 200+ nations on earth unless something had been ordained by heaven. Side effects from the lockdown quickly proved deleterious to human rights. A change in the heavens management of earth’s affairs was probably what had happened.
At the same time radical changes came down on churches everywhere. This to me was probably a sign that the “dispensation of the church” was ending. If these conjectures were true, subsequent events in the world would match. Is the economy rebounding and returning to the old normal? No.
Have churches been able to restart and carry on with old protocols? No.
Before the lockdown most Scholars felt that Laodicean churches represented the state of most evangelical churches.
In Ray Stedman's message, The Last Church before the Rapture,
we were forewarned by the Lord of the Churches.
Since the dispensation of the church has lasted 2000 years not everyone is aware than God has not always dealt with the Nations the same way.
The Rapture of the church is clearly taught in the New Testament but denied widely today.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is very intriguing now, all of a sudden. My mentor Ray Stedman explained this to us carefully fifty years ago. Back then Ray saw many signs we were then near the end of the age. All the signs are now much more ominous. See if you agree!
The separation of the wheat and the tares Jesus said, would be done by angels and not until He gave the signal. The wheat and the tares have been entangled for two thousand years. They have been bed partners as it were. Great leaders in the church have become influential in making Jesus known in their generation and each time the enemy has been a part of the big picture of the church age.
The general course of the visible church has been downhill for two thousand years so the enemy has been less obvious.
But if God changed His program by removing the true church at the Rapture then the enemy is forced to change gears. Reaping angels can quietly weed out the tares! The wheat will soon be gathered into the barns of New Jerusalem. I can not imagine tares in New Jerusalem with the Bride of Christ each person wearing his or her new body. I can image "barns" in New Jerusalem. The work of angels is behind the scene. The "tares" wil lsurely be left behind?
But we know what to expect next! The rise of the Man of Sin, the Antichrist. This man will unite the world claiming he is the true god incarnate and therefore he ought to be the sole object of our worship. In bringing the entire planet into total submission to himself he phase out all false religion, take control of all world commerce, banking and trade. These two entities and their end are described in Revelation 17 and 18, respectfully.
The work of 144,000 Jewish evangelists in the time of the end will bring millions to Christ but the Antichrist will quickly track them down and kill them.
As for those of us who know Jesus today before all this happens, we are now being treated not as church goers but as citizens of New Jerusalem under direct management by heaven. Don’t despair! Dig into the Bible, work on your personal relationship with King Jesus! Deepen you connections with others who also know Jesus. You are perfectly safe leaning on the promises of God. No need to take on the enemy or get preoccupied with the Dark Side.
See how God takes full responsibility for the wheat AND the tares as Ray Stedman notes below.
Reaping and Gleaning
After the wheat is harvested and taken to the barn then what?
“The borders and the corners left for us are the impoverished ones in the end of the age... He appointed the weakest and most insignificant ones to face the greatest challenges. So that it would be clear that it is not us but Him.” (Bryce)
Further insights with special thanks to Bryce Self.
Leviticus 19:9-10 (NKJV) “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God..”
Leviticus 23:22 (NKJV) “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.’”
What group of people are represented by the gleanings left behind? (This evidently applies to earth after the Rapture). What group of people glean for a living? The Book of Ruth comes to mind!
Who on earth will welcome the good news heralded by the 144 thousand? Not the rich and famous! --Added October 18, 2021
Earth Dwellers or Heaven Dwellers?
Most Bible prophecy scholars are stuck down on the planet as “earth dwellers” when as followers of Jesus they ought to be “heaven dwellers.”
This is sad because they are missing the action!Please catch up! Ray Stedman notes: "There will be one class of people who will follow this leader (the Antichrist) blindly. They are called "those who dwell on the earth." We have seen this term before. It is a moral class, those who live for this world, who think only of the earth and its advantages, who are materialists and humanists, and who have no use for the things of God or the life beyond. There is one group that resists this leader, and that is those "who tabernacle in heaven," whose names are written, we are told here, "in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world." That is an amazing statement. We will say more about the book of life later on where it is mentioned again. I would like now to focus on the phrase, "the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." That confirms again how time is not a factor in eternity. The death of the Lamb actually took place in time, on earth, at a specific date on the calendar, but here it is reckoned as an eternal event which has meaning for peoples from the very beginning of time, the creation of the world itself. The Lamb was slain, and the cross has impact upon all creation. Thus the Old Testament saints could be born again by faith because they were saved by the cross even though it had not yet occurred in history. John now picks up on the phrase that Jesus used frequently and gives a word of encouragement to the saints of that day.”
A related problem is the seminaries taught, until recently a very narrow view of time versus eternity. Bryce Self notes:
Sidebar: “eternal life” for us does not just mean unending existence (i.e., immortality). “Eternal” as an attribute of the Godhead means “there is not when He was not”, that is, He has no beginning or end, and is distinct from all created things.
But for us, and according to the linguistic us of the term ”eternal life” in Scripture, the Greek “aionios zoe” is a direct translation of the Hebrew/Aramaic phrase “the life of the age to come” — meaning resurrection to glory in the Kingdom of God that will be instituted by Messiah at His coming. This is what we have at present on the down-payment (or ernest of our full inheritance) in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit by whom we will be raised up into the perfect (“telos”) image of Christ.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all quote the term “eternal life” in the question posed by the Rich Young rule, whose meaning of the resurrection life as distinct from his current mode is clear. This was accepted without dispute and responded to by Jesus as an agreed and assumed foundation of understanding. That could be viewed as a negative confirmation — He did not deny it. But Jesus also spoke positively (the only other time the phrase is used in the synoptics) of “eternal life” as the life of the age to come, contrasting its rewards with any sacrifices that may be required in the present time (MK 10:30).
John’s Gospel characteristically uses the phrase “eternal life” as often as the other three combined, and always from the mouth of Jesus (except at 6:68 where Peter asserts that only the Lord has “the words of eternal life” (that is, words that impart and/or lead to the life of the age to come). it is also used once in Acts of the Gentiles being brought into the redemptive promises of God through the Gospel ((13:48).
Paul uses the term even more often than in John’s Gospel - seven time, in clear distinction from both the life humans now live in this present age, , as well as from the bare concept of “immortality” (Rom 2:7). then John, in his first letter uses the term six times further. And finally, Jude the Lord’s brother. uses “eternal life” once more.
In all cases, the meaning is not “life without end” but life in the coming Kingdom of God, literally “the life of the age to come”.
And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal lifeby Jesus Christ our Lord.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you,
O children of Israel, against the whole family
which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
“You only have I known of all the families of the earth;
Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey?
Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it?
Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?
Surely the Lord GOD does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
A lion has roared!
Who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken!
Who can but prophesy?
Wheat’s Evil Twin Has Been Intoxicating Humans For Centuries
Darnel is poisonous, but in small enough doses can give food a special kick.
BY SARAH LASKOW. MARCH 22, 2016
Wheat's Evil Twin Has Been Intoxicating Humans For Centuries
These people have presumably eaten too much darnel. ABRAHAM BLOEMAERT/PUBLIC DOMAIN
FOR MANY CENTURIES, PERHAPS FOR as long as humans have cultivated cereal grains, wheat’s evil twin has insinuated itself into our crops. In a big enough dose, this grass, darnel, can kill a person, and farmers would have to take care to separate it out from their true harvest—unless they were planning to add darnel to beer or bread on purpose, in order to get high.
Darnel occupies a grey area in human agricultural history. It’s definitely not good for us. When people eat its seeds, they get dizzy, off-balance and nauseous, and its official name, L. temulentum, comes from a Latin word for “drunk.”
Darnel is a “mimic weed,” neither entirely tame or quite wild, that looks and behaves so much like wheat that it can’t live without human assistance. Darnel seeds are stowaways: the plant’s survival strategy requires its seeds to be harvested along with those of domesticated grasses, stored and replanted next season.
Oats and rye began their relationship with humanity in a similar way, but for whatever reason, they were developed into full-on food crops while darnel stayed in the shadows. “The interesting thing about darnel is that we’ve caught it in the act,” says Howard Thomas, a professor of biology who for years worked with darnel in the lab. The mimic weed took advantage of humans without fully bending to our will.
Thomas and two humanities-focused colleagues have been investigating darnel’s double life, as a menace and a sought-after intoxicant. They’ve found that darnel shows up time and again in key literary texts, as a symbol of subversion. “Where there is darnel, there is treachery and toxicity,” they write in the Journal of Ethnobiology.
Lolium temulentum was named after its intoxicating properties.
Once you start looking for darnel, it’s everywhere. Ovid called it “eye-blightening.” (One of the plant’s effects is messing with a person’s vision and speech.) In the Bible, it appears in the “parable of the tares,” where an enemy sneaks into a farmer’s field and sows weeds–darnel–among the good wheat. Darnel shows up in Shakespeare, in Henry VI, Part 1, in Henry V, and in King Lear, where Thomas first noticed it.
Lear wears it in his crown of weeds, made up of “all the idle weeds that grow in our sustaining corn.” The symptoms of the king’s madness, Thomas noticed, are similar to the symptoms of darnel poisoning. He started wondering if Shakespeare had meant to insinuate that Lear had been eating the plants in his crown, and if his madness was, in part, a self-inflicted drunkenness.
If farmers never domesticated darnel and were wary of it, people still found ways to use it. In classical Greece, it was known as the “plant of frenzy,” Thomas and his colleagues found, and used in the rites of Demeter and Persephone’s followers. It was used in Europe as a medicinal plant, as an anesthetic, and to slow menstrual bleeding. But most often, it seemed to be baked into “dazed bread” or brewed into beer to give those basics an extra kick.
The enemy sowing darnel seeds.
It’s impossible to say how often people used darnel purposefully for its mind-altering properties and how often darnel snuck in, unannounced and unwanted. In his book Bread of Dreams, the Italian scholar Piero Camporesi argued that European peasantry lived in a state of semi-permanent hallucination from bread adulterated with more malign grains, which they may have sought as an escape from daily life. Certainly, people seemed to know what darnel did and how to use it.
“There are sporadic reports of it being out and out cultivated, with the express purpose of energizing beer in particular,” says Thomas. “We had a correspondent on the Isle of Man tell use that it was quite openly cultivated there, for this purpose.” When darnel was grown for its intoxicating properties, though, it likely would have been somewhat analogous to cannabis today—planted, gathered and processed under the cover of more acceptable crops, or kept secret.
“I would love to try it,” says Thomas. “I have a friend who has a mill, and we have discussed the possibility of trying it and seeing what would happen.” But the reality is, that would be very difficult (and potentially dangerous) to do.
Darnel still manages to hide among crops in North Africa and in parts of Asia; one study found it made up almost 10 percent of a wheat harvest in Ethiopia. But modern agricultural techniques have eliminated darnel from crops in Europe. When Thomas looked recently, he could only find six instances of darnel growing in the British Isles since 2000. Darnel’s days of insinuating its way into European bread and beer, at least, are over.
The Wheat and the Tares: From Ray Stedman
We are returning this morning to Matthew 13 where we are looking at of parables our Lord gave to describe the age in which we live, the age introduced by his first coming and which has been unfolding now for almost twenty centuries. He looked down those twenty centuries and gave us in parable form some clues to the understanding of our own age. It is very important that we see what these are. We come today to the second in this series of parables. We looked last week at the parable of the sower. Now we come to what is called the parable of the wheat and the tares, or as we have it in our Revised Standard Version, the wheat and the weeds. This is part of the series which our Lord gave all on one day as he sat in a boat on the Sea of Galilee and instructed the crowds gathered on the shore.
One of the issues concerning our world and the course of this age which has been debated for centuries is the question: Is the world getting better or is it getting worse? And from time to time, depending on when you asked that question, you could find a majority of voices raised on one side or the other. At the beginning of this century you would have been laughed almost to scorn if you had suggested that the world is getting worse instead of better. Today it is the other way around. Now it is almost ridiculous to suggest that the world is getting better. Yet there are still some who hold this view. The other day I ran across a rather humorous statement of it:
My granddad, viewing earth's worn cogs,
Said, "Things were going to the dogs."
His granddad, in his house of logs,
Said, "Things were going to the dogs."
And his grandad, in the Flemish bogs,
Said, "Things were going to the dogs."
And his grandad, in his old skin togs,
Said, "Things were going to the dogs."
There's one thing I have to state:
The dogs have had a good long wait.
That is the philosophy which suggests that the world, if not improving, at least is not getting any worse. But there are others who take a very different view today. We are going to seek the answer to that question in this parable of the wheat and the tares because our Lord gives us a key to the understanding of that great question, one of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. The parable begins at Verse 24:
Another parable he put before them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he said, 'No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:24-30 RSV)
There is his story and in it are hidden some wonderfully helpful clues to the understanding of the age in which we live. As Matthew goes on to tell us, Jesus spoke two more parables and then there came a break (probably a coffee break). He left the crowds and went into the house. There his disciples came and asked him about the meaning of the parable. Beginning with Verse 36, we have our Lord's explanation. So let's go back over the parable section by section and examine it in the light of the explanation.
You notice that this too is a parable of sowing. But the sowing is quite different than that in the first parable. There, you remember, the seed was the Word of God, and the sowing was to go on throughout the entire age. Wherever the Word of God was to be sown it would fall on four different kinds of soils, four kinds of hearts, and in one it would take root and grow up. That has been happening now for twenty centuries. But in this parable the seed is not the Word of God; it is what Jesus, in his explanation, calls "the sons of the kingdom."
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "He who sows the good seed is the Son of man [i.e., Jesus himself]; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil;" (Matthew 13:36-39a RSV)
So the seed sown here is not ideas, not the word of Scripture, not the word of the gospel, but people. However, this does link up with the first parable. The ones which were produced by the good seed of the word in the first parable are now in turn taken by the Lord and scattered throughout the world. That is the picture we have here. But this is a quite different sowing. The first one goes on continuously; this one only once, at the beginning of the age. Yet there is a sense in which it is going on all through this age. In the first we were looking at the soils; here we are looking at the whole field which Jesus says is the world.
It is important to notice how the Lord begins this parable. Do not, as many do in reading this series of parables, make the mistake of taking the very first thing he mentions as being the entire comparison he intends. No, it is the whole picture that he has in view. The kingdom of heaven is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, and another man came and sowed some other kind of seed, and it all grew up together, and the servants came and asked the man what to do, etc. The whole story is a picture of the kingdom of heaven. God's work and God's operations in the world of our day -- that is the kingdom of heaven. Literally, the Greek text here means the kingdom of heaven "has become like" this. He says that because in the first parable he began by sowing the word in the hearts of individuals. Some of the seed fell on good ground and brought forth fruit and transformed those individuals so that they became sons of the kingdom. Then in this parable Jesus says he now takes these sons of the kingdom and scatters them throughout the world. He is predicting what will happen in the course of history as God is at work in human events.
You find the historical fulfillment of this in the book of Acts. This is how he began this age. You remember that at the close of the Gospels Jesus gathered with his disciples and said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" Mark 16:15), "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the close of the age," (Matthew 28:19b-20 RSV). He is going to talk in this parable about the close of the age. Therefore that "great commission" was the beginning of this scattering of these sons of the kingdom throughout the world. As you read on in the book of Acts you find that on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and empowered the waiting disciples, filling them with himself. Then, a little later on, persecution arose and the disciples were scattered everywhere, preaching the word. That is the sowing our Lord is talking about here. He scattered them throughout the world. And Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, recognizes this. In the first chapter he says,
Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing -- (Colossians 1:5b-6a RSV)
Thus he recognized this sowing that our Lord had accomplished. It is essential to notice that the field represents not the church but the world. These sons of the kingdom are put where God wants them -- in the world. Wherever you are, as a child of God, as a son of the kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ, you have been put there by the Lord Jesus. It is so important to understand that he has sown you and put you where you are. The church, you see, is to gather together for worship, for instruction, and for mutual fellowship, but then it is to go out. There is a kind of a rhythm of life within the church -- it comes together, then goes out again, scattered out into the world. And where you are out there is where the word of witness is given, where the truth of the word is promulgated. That is what the Lord has in mind here. The field therefore is the world, the human race, society, as we normally term it. In that world of humanity the Lord Jesus has scattered his own.
Now into that same field, Jesus says, there came an enemy. He came right at the beginning of this age, and he came while men were sleeping, i.e., while they were not aware of what was happening. Out of sheer malice and hatred he sowed a crop of his own which the Revised Standard Version calls "weeds." Literally it is the plant which today is called darnel, a poisonous weed which looks very much like wheat. In fact, when it first begins to grow even an expert cannot distinguish it from wheat. But as it grows it begins to change. And, finally, when it comes to harvest, even a child can tell that it is not wheat. The Jews called it "degenerate wheat" or, literally, "bastard wheat" because it appears to be wheat but it is not. That is the figure that our Lord employs. Now these too are persons that are sown. They are what Jesus calls "the sons of the evil one." They too have been scattered throughout the human race by the enemy -- and especially among the wheat. We will see more about that in a moment.
I know that there is a sense in which the whole world, as the Scriptures tell us, is under the control of satanic philosophy and thought. Jesus referred to the devil as the ruler of this world because he governs the thinking of people. But, in the light of this parable, I think it is wrong to think of everybody in the world, men, women, and children alike, as "sons of the evil one." Jesus never called anybody a son of the devil except the Pharisees who were teachers of evil in the name of righteousness. That was what he called a son of the devil -- someone who pretended to be religiously correct but was actually disseminating wrong, evil, error.
It is true that we are all members of a fallen race. We are all born into this world tainted with Adam's sin so that we all tend toward evil naturally. No one has to teach you how to lie. Did you ever go to school to learn that? Do you have a diploma to show that you have successfully accomplished training in How To Be Selfish? No, you learn all this naturally. You never have to be trained in how to be dishonest, how to cheat, how to be a hypocrite. We are all natural hypocrites, and experts at it, because we are members of a fallen race. But babies could hardly be called "sons of the evil one" in the sense our Lord intends here.
I remember that Dr. H. A. Ironside once described a rather stern and austere pastor who went to see a woman. She was showing him her baby, holding the infant up so he could see how beautiful it was. This pastor drew a long face and said to her, "Madam, what a pity that this little one should be a child of the devil!" Well, that is hardly the way to make a hit with the mother -- nor is it theologically correct. Although it is true that the child is in a world dominated by satanic thought, and that, as he grows, he will probably become more and more possessed with wrong ideas and wrong concepts, which he will be totally unaware are wrong and that thus he may gradually become committed to these evil principles, it is only at that point that he can be called a "son of the evil one" in this sense.
What Jesus has in mind here are largely the teachers of evil under the guise of religion. Those are what he calls "the sons of the evil one." In other words, he thinks of the whole human race as a field, bleak, and lifeless. At the beginning, he scattered in it men committed to him, men and women in whom the truth of the Word had taken root and had come alive. He thrust them out into the field, scattered them here and there, in order that they might reproduce themselves and yield men committed to him. Then Satan came and did the same thing. He deliberately scattered in this field of rather lifeless humanity certain evil teachers who appear to be religious and righteous. Jesus began by scattering men committed to the word of truth in order to produce more like himself. Satan began by scattering men committed to the lie in order to produce more like himself. And so both grow together now until the harvest. See how they grow. Jesus said,
So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the seeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, "Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?" He said to them, "An enemy has done this." (Matthew 13:26-28a RSV)
He implies here that those who are his servants will become troubled by the sight of these weeds in the field because they will be growing among the wheat. It is important that you see that. Our Lord said that these weeds would be sown not just in the world in general but among the wheat, i.e., in the church, and that they would grow up within the church. So the wheat are true believers, and the tares are those who appear to be true believers but are actually false, who grow up right within the church. The two are so intermingled that at first you can't tell them apart -- until the fruit begins to appear.
Remember that in Acts 20 the Apostle Paul, speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, told them,
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30 RSV)
That is the sowing our Lord is talking about here. This fits the historical picture exactly. In the early centuries of this age, it was very difficult to tell true Christians from false. If you read the writings of the early church fathers from the first two or three centuries, you find them hard to classify. Many of them were obviously godly, genuinely born-again, regenerate men who loved God. And yet they sometimes taught errors and heresies right along with the truth, and they are just as strong for the error as they are for the truth. It is rather disconcerting to read these men. You would think that we ought to find a pure fountain of truth in the early centuries, but we do not.
Gradually the great central truths of the faith began to be debated and there was a great deal of doctrinal controversy. They had to hammer it all out and compare it with the Scriptures. But as the truth grew it gradually became apparent that the heresies were leading men astray while the truth was still establishing them. Gradually the tares began to take form and appear to be what they really are. It was then that the truths of the church were crystallized into the creeds as we recite today -- the Nicaean Creed, the Apostles' Creed -- these are statements of the truth devised in order to counteract the heresy that was rampant within the church.
Then, during the so-called Dark Ages, you find the next step described by our Lord:
The servants said to him, "Then do you want us to go and gather them?" But he said, "No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with it. Let both grow together until the harvest;" (Matthew 13:28b-30a RSV)
"Let both grow together until the harvest." That is our Lord's word. It is amazing how many Christians ignore those words of Jesus, and are constantly trying to purify the church in ways unwarranted by the Scriptures. Even in the great awakening we are seeing today, many young people are making this mistake again. They say that they are going to go off and start their own church, and it is going to be a true church, a pure church. There is going to be no heresy in it. And so you find groups splintering off and breaking away and calling themselves the "True Church," the "One Way," the "Only Way," etc. They say they have the truth and no one else does. They are going to be free from error and from any kind of garbled doctrine. But, you see, that is impossible. Jesus said that you cannot do it that way. You cannot separate evil from the church. You cannot even drive it out. It is going to be there in some form. This does not mean that we are not to expose it, and to meet it positively with the teaching of the truth. We are. Nor are we to allow those who exhibit clear forms of error to take leadership within the church. Other Scripture helps us here. But what our Lord wants us to understand is that no human effort is going to eliminate error from the church. "Let them both grow together," he said.
Now, you can deal with it in your own heart. This is how completely intermingled error is with truth -- you will find it in your own heart. No one person is completely true and pure and perfect. I even have a little error in myself. I don't see it -- but my wife does. And it breaks upon my own astonished gaze from time to time. It is there. So how are you going to get rid of it in the church? Well, Jesus says you cannot get rid of it. You will find that it is there, and it is going to stay there, and no human effort is going to eliminate it. Therefore all the efforts to try to form a pure church, or a pure council of churches, etc., are doomed to failure before they begin, as Jesus has pointed out.
As I said, this too has happened in history. In the 4th and 5th century there were godly men who honestly advocated the overthrow of heretics with the sword and with fire. And yet notice in the parable how our Lord restrains his true servants. He told them not to do anything like this. But throughout the Middle Ages, when both truth and error in this form were growing together, evil in the name of religion became more and more apparent. Finally, its true nature began to be very evident to people when thousands were perishing at the hands of evil in the name of religion. That is what finally caused the Protestant Reformation.
But even honest servants of God at that time wondered if they should do the same. Luther once said to one of the Catholic emissaries, Emser, "If heretics have deserved the stake, then you and the Pope should be killed a thousand times. Nevertheless, I do not want it to be done." You can see how the Spirit of Christ within him restrained him from going over into this error. Unfortunately such was not always the case. John Calvin ultimately consented to the burning of an heretic named Servetus, so Protestants have burnt their heretics too.
What is the Lord's plan for handling this problem? He says, "Let them both grow together until the harvest." That is, "Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it. I've got my own plan for handling this and nothing you can do is going to eliminate the problem [as has proven true in history]. But don't worry about it. Keep your message positive, preach the word, teach the truth, deal with it in your own hearts, exclude it from leadership, yes, but don't try to eliminate error. Don't launch a crusade that exists only for the purpose of trying to wipe out evil or error, particularly religious error, because you won't succeed."
This is the mistake of many of the separatists movements of our day. Billy Graham is often under attack from them because he recognizes that there is error in the churches and that he does not have the ability to distinguish whether a man is genuinely a Christian or not. So until he can see this clearly by his fruit, he accepts him at face value. There are some who attack him viciously because of this, pretending that they have the ability to make this distinction, while the Lord said that no one could.
There are sons of the evil one in every church. There are some right here among us this morning who claim to be Christian, who talk like Christians, who act like Christians outwardly, but who have never yielded their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are representatives of the doctrines of demons, seducing spirits, as the Apostle Paul calls them, wrong ideas that have infiltrated society. And notice that a major point of this parable is to give us a clue to the way that the enemy works most successfully. It is by imitation, by counterfeit. How simple it would be if evil people would only look evil. Wouldn't that help a lot? If hypocrites would only snarl and growl a little bit it would help so much. But they always look so pleasant. They always talk so sweetly. They are such nice people, and that is why we go along with their ideas. We cannot believe that such nice people could be so far wrong. And, unless we use the Word of God to evaluate their teachings, we can be deceived by the niceness of people who are imitation, counterfeit apostles, as the Word of God calls them.
I picked up a magazine not long ago called The Children's Friend. That sounds like an innocent title, doesn't it? I opened it and there were some beautifully colored pictures for children and a text that seemed to be written in such simple and wonderful terms. And yet as I read on I began to detect the implantation of the ideas of one of the notorious cults of our day. It was teaching children error in the name of God. An innocent child would simply be led along and would be deceived by its beauty, its simplicity, and by the warmth of the language. Instead of being the children's friend, the magazine was actually a deadly enemy, seeking to destroy that child, to blight his life, blast his character, seeking to shut off the light of Christ from him and remove him into darkness. That is how evil works in our day, and we have to understand that this is the way the sons of the evil one work in society.
Now look at the way the Lord plans to deal with them:
"'...at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:30b RSV)
He explains that, beginning in Verse 39:
"The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:39-43 RSV)
Our Lord is looking ahead to his return in power and glory at the close of this age. In Matthew 24 and 25 you have the great message our Lord gave about what it will be like at the end of the age. It is a time of great tribulation, of terrible judgment on the earth. Many Bible scholars deduce from the book of Daniel that it probably will be about seven years in length. It is the time covered by the greater part of the book of Revelation. Each visitation of judgment in Revelation is like a swing of an angel's scythe as he goes through the harvest field, reaping the harvest of earth. In fact the book of Revelation employs that very imagery, saying "the time is come for you to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe," Revelation 14:15).
When Jesus sends forth his angels, it will not be something visible. Angelic activity goes on behind the scenes. So this will not be some sudden appearance of angels in the presence of men. He is describing here the activities that will take place in human affairs for which men will not be able to account, for which they will not have any explanation.
The Lord said that the reapers would go forth and bind the weeds into bundles, literally "with a view toward burning." That is, the burning is not to take place immediately when the binding does. It is to come at the end, at the close of the age. What our Lord is saying will happen is that, as we near the close of the age, we will see men of evil gathering themselves together into great associations of evil. That is the work of angels. They are binding the tares together into bundles unto the time of burning, the time of judgment that is to follow. And there are many, looking at our age, who say that this is where we are today, that we are seeing a great clumping together of those of like mind, who hold to evil principles and tendencies (especially those who do so in the name of religion), that as we near the time of the end of the age there seems to be a growing tendency toward the association of evil persons ultimately to be swept away in judgment.
But the wheat is to be gathered into the Father's barn. Now, there is no time schedule in this parable. You cannot tell when this is to happen in relation to other events. It is simply mentioned, and left there. But that is the destiny of the wheat. And Jesus says, "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father." You remember that in the book of Revelation John sees a great multitude from every tribe and nation standing before God and appearing to shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father. They have come out of the great tribulation, the harvest of the earth, as men and women perhaps have laid down their lives during that time. And all through this age this is what has been happening. Men and women have been laying down their lives in death -- but not necessarily violent death. Jesus' word to all Christians is: "Be faithful unto death," (Revelation 2:10). That doesn't mean you must have your life taken violently, but you are to remain true to him until you die. This is the sign that you really belong to him.
Then at last, as John goes on to say, the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. Then shall come the time to which all the prophets have looked forward when all the earth shall blossom like the rose and men shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and there shall be no more war across the face of the earth. But that awaits the solution of God. Men cannot work that out.
Now let's return in closing to answer the question with which we began: Is the world getting better, or is it getting worse? Well the answer our Lord gives is clearly, "Both!" Good men are getting better, and more powerful, and more extensive; and evil men are getting worse, and more powerful, and more destructive. The two sowings are growing up to a harvest, side by side. If evil is getting worse, God is matching it with a demonstration of his power and with the increase of good. That is why I think it is logical to expect that, as we near the end of the age, and increasingly see evil amassing itself and breaking out in tremendous authority and power, we will also see the Spirit of God breaking out in authority and power among the same groups of people and an awakening will occur right along with the deepening decline into darkness and evil. That is what is happening in our own day. Jesus says it will go on until the harvest. And when the harvest of earth comes at the end of the age God will begin to reap -- the good to be his, the evil to be destroyed.
Now, where do you stand? That is the question we leave each one with today. Is the seed of the Word of God growing in your heart? Are you a son of the kingdom, and therefore an influence for good throughout the earth? Or are you a son of the evil one, beginning to spread lies, deceptive concepts, and to spread abroad the destructive philosophies that are so widespread in the world today. They are part of the lie of Satan that man can live by himself, that he is self-sufficient, that he is able to carry on his own affairs, that he can run his own life, and, therefore, does not need God. That is the great lie which always marks the philosophy of the devil. Or are you one of the sons of the kingdom whom God is using in this day to bring this great harvest to fruition and to produce that which will glorify and delight his heart throughout all time?
Our heavenly Father, we thank you for the truth that we have examined this morning. How it searches us out! How it sets our age into perspective and makes us see life as it really is. Teach us, Lord, to value the truth as it is in Jesus, the truth revealed to us by that One who loved us enough to give himself for us. We can trust the One who died for our sakes and who lives to live within us. We thank you for that. We pray that we may be sons of the kingdom today, teachers of truth, openers of eyes, helping men out of their darkness. For the glory of the gospel is that even those who are becoming sons of the evil one can be changed into sons of the kingdom. And you have come to make this dividing mark in history. Help us, Lord, to see ourselves as we are in relation to it. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Ray Stedman: The Case of the Mysterious Harvest
(May 23, 1971)
Full Series on Matthew by Ray Stedman
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow.4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ear listen!’
The Purpose of the Parables
10 Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ 11 He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.”14 With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:
“You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’
The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
24 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28 He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29 But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’
The Use of Parables
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. 35 This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet:
‘I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.’
Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37 He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Treasures New and Old
51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52 And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’ 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
54 He came to his home town and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?’ 57 And they took offence at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘Prophets are not without honour except in their own country and in their own house.’ 58 And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
IV. THE OPPOSITION TO THE KING 11:2-13:53
Chapters 11-13 record Israel’s rejection of her Messiah and its consequences. Opposition continued to build, but Jesus announced new revelation in view of hardened unbelief.
"The Evangelist has carefully presented the credentials of the king in relationship to His birth, His baptism, His temptation, His righteous doctrine, and His supernatural power. Israel has heard the message of the nearness of the kingdom from John the Baptist, the King Himself, and His disciples. Great miracles have authenticated the call to repentance. Now Israel must make a decision." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 147.]
"Thematically the three chapters (11-13) are held together by the rising tide of disappointment in and opposition to the kingdom of God that was resulting from Jesus’ ministry. He was not turning out to be the kind of Messiah the people had expected." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 260.]
1. The setting 13:1-3a (cf. Mark 4:1-2; Luke 8:4)
Matthew linked this parabolic teaching with the controversy in chapter 12 by using the phrase "on that day" (NASB) or "that same day" (NIV, Gr. en te hemera ekeine). These parables were a response to Israel’s rejection of her King.
Jesus sat down by the Sea of Galilee to teach the people in typical rabbinic fashion (cf. Matthew 5:1-2). In response to the large crowd that assembled to listen to Him, Jesus sat in a boat where more people could hear Him more easily. He proceeded to address these crowds, most of whom had rejected Him (cf. Matthew 11:16-24).
Jesus proceeded to tell four parables to the crowd assembled before Him (Matthew 13:3-9; Matthew 13:24-30, Matthew 13:31-33). He did not interpret the meaning of these parables to the crowd. They would have to figure them out on their own, and disbelief in Jesus as the Messiah clouded their understanding.
Matthew prefaced Jesus’ first parable by introducing what follows as parabolic teaching. The Greek word parabole is a noun, and paraballo is the verb meaning "to throw beside." The noun means, "a placing of one thing by the side of another, juxtaposition, as of ships in battle." [Note: Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, s.v. "parabole," p. 479.] Metaphorically it means "a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude." [Note: Ibid.] The Septuagint translates the Hebrew word masal with parabole 28 of its 33 occurrences in the Old Testament. The word masalrefers to proverbs, maxims, similes, allegories, fables, comparisons, riddles, taunts, and stories embodying some truth. Thus it has a wide range of meanings. The New Testament uses of parabole likewise reflect a wide range of meanings though essentially a parable involves a comparison. Most parables are extended similes or metaphors.
". . . in the Synoptic Gospels a parable denotes an extended comparison between nature or life and the things involving the spiritual life and God’s dealings with men." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 169.]
"So understood, a parabole is an utterance which does not carry its meaning on the surface, and which thus demands thought and perception if the hearer is to benefit from it." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 502.]
Jesus deliberately spoke in parables to conceal truth from the unbelieving crowds (Matthew 13:11-15; cf. Matthew 7:6). Why did He speak to them in parables if He did not want them to understand what He said? He did so because a parable might be the instrument God would use to enlighten some who had not yet firmly rejected Him but were still open-minded (cf. Matthew 11:25-26). By concealing the truth from His unbelieving critics, Jesus was showing them grace.
"They were saved from the guilt of rejecting the truth, for they were not allowed to recognize it." [Note: Plummer, p. 188.]
Jesus also taught in parables because the Old Testament predicted that Messiah would speak in veiled language (Matthew 13:35; cf. Psalms 78:2).
As will become clear, Jesus was instructing His disciples about what would happen since Israel had rejected Him. God would postpone the messianic kingdom until a later time. If Jesus had told the multitudes that the kingdom would not begin immediately, the people would have turned against Him in even greater numbers. Most of the Jews could not bring themselves to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. It would be even more difficult for them to accept a postponement of the kingdom. Significantly, Jesus’ teaching about the postponement of the kingdom followed Israel’s rejection of Him as her King. [Note: See Mark Saucy, "The Kingdom-of-God Sayings in Matthew," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:602 (April-June 1994):175-97.]
"The seven parables of ch. 13, called by our Lord ’mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 13:11), taken together describe the result of the presence of the Gospel in the world during the present age, that is, the time of seed-sowing which began with our Lord’s personal ministry and will end with the ’harvest’ (Matthew 13:40-43). The result is the mingled tares and wheat, good fish and bad, in the sphere of Christian profession. It is Christendom." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1013.]
C. Adaptations because of Israel’s rejection of Jesus 13:1-53
"The die is cast. The religious leaders have openly declared their opposition to their Messiah. The people of Israel are amazed at the power of Jesus and His speech, but they fail to recognize Him as their King. Not seeing the Messiahship of Jesus in His words and works, they have separated the fruit from the tree. Because of this opposition and spiritual apathy, the King adapts His teaching method and the doctrine concerning the coming of the kingdom to the situation." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 168.]
Jesus had occasionally used parables to illustrate His teaching (e.g., Matthew 7:24-27; Matthew 9:15-17; Matthew 11:16-19; Matthew 12:43-45). Rising opposition led Him to use them more. Now He began to use parables to reveal new truth about the kingdom. [Note: See Mark L. Bailey, "Guidelines for Interpreting Jesus’ Parables," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:617 (January-March 1998):29-38.] Chapter 13 contains Jesus’ third major discourse in Matthew, His Parables about the Kingdom. [Note: See J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, pp. 215-45; idem, The Parables of Jesus.] Matthew presented the first two discourses as uninterrupted monologues by Jesus, except for a question and answer at Matthew 18:21-22. He interrupted this third discourse frequently with narrative introductions.
John and Jesus had previously announced that the kingdom was at hand. Jesus stopped saying that when Israel’s rejection of Him was firm (i.e., after chapter 12). Instead He began to reveal new truth about the kingdom because of Israel’s rejection of Him and His rejection of the nation. This new truth, revelation not previously given, was a mystery. The term "mystery," as it occurs in the New Testament, refers to newly revealed truth. It has nothing to do with spookiness. God had previously not revealed it, but now He did.
Kingsbury perceived the theme of this speech as "instruction in the secrets of the Kingdom" and outlined it as follows: (I) On the Secrets of the Kingdom as Being Revealed to the Disciples But Not to Israel (Matthew 13:3-35); and (II) On the Secrets of the Kingdom as Urging Disciples to Obey Without Reserve the Will of God (Matthew 13:36-52). [Note: Kingsbury, Matthew as . . ., p. 112.]
As elsewhere in Matthew, references to the kingdom indicate the future messianic (millennial) kingdom. However, Jesus taught some things here about the unseen growth and development of the kingdom in the inter-advent age that precede the establishment of that kingdom.
Matthew presented this discourse in a chiastic (crossing) structure. [Note: David Wenham, "The Structure of Matthew XIII," New Testament Studies 25 (1979):516-22.] This structure is common in the Old Testament and in other Jewish writings. It enhances the unity of the discourse and focuses attention on the central element as what is most important. A diagram of this structure follows.
A The introduction Matthew 13:1-2
B The first parable to the crowds Matthew 13:3-9
C An explanatory interlude: purpose and explanation Matthew 13:10-23
D Three more parables to the crowd Matthew 13:24-33
E An explanatory interlude: fulfillment and explanation Matthew 13:34-43
D’ Three parables to the disciples Matthew 13:44-48
C’ An explanatory interlude: explanation and response Matthew 13:49-51
B’ The last parable to the disciples Matthew 13:52
A’ The conclusion Matthew 13:53
This structural analysis reveals that the discourse consists of two sections of four parables each, the first four to the multitudes and the last four to the disciples. In each section one parable stands out from the others. In the first group this is the first parable and in the second group it is the last one. The central section between the two groups of parables explains the function of the parables and explains one of them.
"Modern readers are so used to thinking of parables as helpful illustrative stories that they find it hard to grasp the message of this chapter that parables do not explain. To some they may convey enlightenment, but for others they may only deepen confusion. The difference lies in the hearer’s ability to rise to the challenge. Far from giving explanations, parables themselves need to be explained, and three are given detailed explanations in this chapter (Matthew 13:18-23; Matthew 13:37-43; Matthew 13:49-50). But that explanation is not given to everyone, but only to the disciples (Matthew 13:10; Matthew 13:36), and Matthew not only makes the point explicit in Matthew 13:34 (only parables for the crowds, not explanations), but also confirms it by a formula quotation in Matthew 13:35: parables are ’hidden things.’ In this way the medium (parables) is itself integral to the message it conveys (the secrets of the kingdom of heaven)." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 500.]
"Perhaps no other mode of teaching was so common among the Jews as that by Parables. Only in their case, they were almost entirely illustrations of what had been said or taught; while, in the case of Christ, they served as the foundation for His teaching." [Note: Edersheim, 1:581.]
The focus in the first parable is on the soils rather than on the sower. Some seeds fell beside the path that was hard from traffic (Matthew 13:4). They lay on the surface where birds saw them and devoured them before they could germinate. Other seeds fell where the topsoil was thin (Matthew 13:5-6). Their roots could not penetrate the limestone underneath to obtain necessary moisture from the subsoil. When the hot weather set in, the seeds germinated quickly but did not have the necessary resources to sustain continued growth. Consequently they died. A third group of seeds fell among the thorns that grew along the edges of the field (Matthew 13:7). These thorn bushes robbed the young plants of light and nourishment, so they died too.
"The figure marks a new beginning. To labor in God’s vineyard (Israel, Isaiah 5:1-7) is one thing; to go forth sowing the seed of the Word in a field which is the world, quite another (cp. Matthew 10:5)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1013.]
The parable of the soils 13:3b-9 (cf. Mark 4:3-9; Luke 8:5-8)
The first parable is an introduction to those that follow, and the last one is a conclusion and application of the whole series. [Note: Stanley D. Toussaint, "The Introductory and Concluding Parables of Matthew Thirteen," Bibliotheca Sacra 121:484 (October-December 1964):351-55.]
"Modern interpretation of the parable has increasingly recognized this implication of the literary form of this particular parable, over against the dogmatic assertion of earlier NT scholarship, following Adolf Jülicher, that a parable has only a single point and that all the rest is mere narrative scenery, which must not be ’allegorized’ to determine what each detail means. In this cast the way the story is constructed demands that the detail be noticed, and to interpret those details individually is not arbitrary ’allegorization’ but a responsible recognition of the way Jesus constructed the story." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 503.]
2. Parables addressed to the multitudes 13:3b-33
Jesus spoke four parables to the multitudes and provided some instruction about how to interpret them to His disciples.
Some seed also fell on good ground and produced a crop. Even a hundred-fold return was not outstanding. [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 305.] The same sower and seed produced no crop, some crop, or much crop depending on the soil.
"This fourth soil cautions us not to expect identical levels of fruitfulness in all people, since believers grow spiritually at different rates." [Note: Bailey, in The New . . ., p. 25.]
Jesus’ final statement means the parable needs careful consideration and interpretation (Matthew 13:9). Jesus interpreted it to His disciples later in Matthew 13:18-23. [Note: See idem, "The Parable of the Sower and the Soils," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:618 (April-June 1998):172-88.]
The disciples wanted to know why Jesus was teaching in parables. This was not the clearest form of communication. Evidently the disciples asked this question when Jesus had finished giving the parables to the crowd (cf. Mark 4:10). The plural "parables" suggests this. Matthew apparently rearranged the material Jesus presented to help his readers understand the reasons for Jesus’ use of parables at this point since their enigmatic character raises questions in our minds.
The first interlude about understanding the parables 13:10-23
This pericope falls into two parts: Jesus’ explanation of why He taught with parables (Matthew 13:10-17), and His explanation of the first parable (Matthew 13:18-23).
Jesus explained that He was teaching in parables because He wanted to give new revelation concerning the kingdom to His disciples but not to the multitudes (cf. Matthew 7:6). Therefore He presented this truth in a veiled way. The word "mysteries" (Gr. mysterion, secrets) comes from the Old Testament and the Hebrew word raz (Daniel 2:18-19; Daniel 2:27-30; Daniel 2:47 [twice]; Matthew 4:9). It refers to what God knows will happen in the future. "Mysteries" are "secrets," namely, divine plans for the future that He reveals to His elect. Paul defined a mystery in Colossians 1:26 where he wrote, "the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints."
"A ’mystery’ in Scripture is a previously hidden truth now divinely revealed. This chapter shows clearly for the first time, that there will be an interval between Christ’s first and second advents (Matthew 13:17; Matthew 13:35; cp. 1 Peter 1:10-12)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1014.]
Jesus was revealing some of God’s plans concerning the future of the messianic kingdom, but He was not allowing the unbelieving multitudes to understand these plans. Some have interpreted these parables as revealing "the coming of the Kingdom into history in advance of its apocalyptic manifestation." [Note: George E. Ladd, The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism, p. 222; cf. p. 225. See also Carson, "Matthew," p. 307.] This is the view of covenant premillenarians and progressive dispensationalists. Others believe Jesus revealed information about the kingdom in view of its postponement. [Note: Toussiant, pp. 171-72.] This is the interpretation of normative dispensationalists.
". . . the very outskirts of the subject already force the conclusion that those mysteries refer not to the nature of the kingdom, but to the manner of its establishment, the means employed, the preparation for it, the time for its manifestation, and such related subjects." [Note: Peters, 1:142.]
The Bible student must determine which of these two views is correct on the basis of the meaning of the parables and from all that Matthew has recorded about the kingdom.
Some dispensational writers believe the parables in Matthew 13 deal with the period between the first and second advents of Messiah exclusively. [Note: E.g., Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 97-107; Barbieri, p. 50-51; and J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, p. 214.] Some of these believe that there is no connection between these parables and Old Testament teaching. [Note: E.g., Gaebelein, 1:263-64; Barnhouse, pp. 169-70; Kelly, pp. 265-66; E. Schuyler English, Studies in the Gospel According to Matthew, pp. 91-92; and Ada R. Habershon, The Study of the Parables, pp. 112, 118-19.] Other dispensationalists believe these parables describe the inter-advent period culminating in the messianic kingdom. This is the interpretation I prefer, and it is quite similar to the preceding view. It seems to me that since Jesus consistently used the same terms for the kingdom in chapter 13 that He did elsewhere in Matthew, He was referring to the same entity. Nothing in the chapter makes this interpretation unnatural. Another option is that these parables describe only the messianic (millennial) kingdom. [Note: E.g., Toussaint, Behold the . . ., pp. 175-76; and Ronald N. Glass, "The Parables of the Kingdom: A Paradigm for Consistent Dispensational Hermeneutics," paper presented at the meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Lisle, Illinois, 18 November 1994.]
Matthew 13:12 repeats a proverbial truth (cf. Matthew 25:29). It encourages gratitude for spiritual blessings and warns against taking these for granted. The believing disciples had access into the kingdom by faith in Jesus Christ. God would give them greater understanding that would result in abundance of blessing. However the unbeliever would not only fail to receive further revelation, but God would remove the privilege of becoming a subject in the kingdom from him or her.
Jesus restated His reason for using parables in terms of human perception rather than divine intention (cf. Matthew 13:11-12). The unbelievers were not able to understand what He had to reveal since they had refused to accept more basic revelation, namely, about Jesus and the imminence of the kingdom. The parables do not just convey information. They challenge for a response. The unbelievers had not responded to the challenge Jesus had already given them. Until they did they were in no condition to receive more truth.
Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 where God told His prophet that widespread unbelief and consequent divine heart-hardening would be what he would experience in his ministry. The context of the Isaiah passage explained that Israel’s hardness would continue until the land lay in ruins. The Exile was not the complete fulfillment of this prophecy. The hardhearted condition was still present in Jesus’ day and, we might add, even today. Most Jews will remain generally unresponsive until their land is desolate in the Tribulation, but they will turn to the Lord when He returns to earth at His second coming (Zechariah 12:10-14; Romans 11:25-26). The word "lest" (NASB) or "otherwise" (NIV) in the middle of Matthew 13:15 probably indicates God’s judicial hardening of the Jews’ hearts (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:11).
The believing disciples were blessed for this reason. They saw not just what their unbelieving contemporaries could not see but what many prophets and righteous people of bygone years longed to see but could not. Jesus referred to Old Testament prophets and believers who wanted more revelation about the kingdom than they had. Jesus’ claim to be able to reveal more than the Old Testament prophets knew was a claim to being more than a prophet. Only God could do what He claimed to be doing.
". . . in Rabbinic opinion revelation of God’s mysteries would only be granted to those who were righteous or learned." [Note: Edersheim, 1:597.]
As the unbelievers in Jesus’ day were the spiritual descendants of the unbelievers in Isaiah’s day, so the disciples were the sons of the prophets. Likewise Jesus was the Son of God.
Since former prophets and righteous people wanted to know this revelation, and since the unbelieving could not understand it, the disciples needed to listen to it carefully.
The explanation of the parable of the soils 13:18-23 (cf. Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15)
Jesus interpreted His first parable to help His disciples understand it and the others that followed (cf. Mark 4:13).
Some people heard Jesus’ preaching about the kingdom, but, like hard soil, the truth did not penetrate them. Satan snatched the message away before they really understood it. The four soils represent four types of reception people gave the preaching about the kingdom.
The second type of soil stands for those whose initial response to the message Jesus preached was enthusiastic reception. This reception gave hope for much fruit to follow. However external pressures inhibit growth, and because they do not have an adequate rooting in the truth they soon fade and wither (cf. Matthew 5:29). These people are disciples who begin well but fail to continue to follow the Lord faithfully. Whether they are saved or lost is beside the point. However some expositors have restricted the meaning to either saved or lost disciples. [Note: E.g., Robert N. Wilkin, "The Parable of the Four Soils: Do the Middle Two Soils Represent Believers or Unbelievers? (Matthew 13:20-21)," The Grace Evangelical Society News 3:8 (August-September 1988):2.]
"It is important to understand the explanation of the parable of the soils in its context and with the purpose of the original parable particularly in mind. The key issue is responsiveness or non-responsiveness to the message of the kingdom." [Note: Hagner, p. 381.]
This disciple allows the other concerns of life to crowd out his commitment to Jesus. He permits the competing concerns of life to take precedence over his spiritual development (cf. Matthew 19:16-22). The present life rather than the life to come, and present treasure rather than future treasure, capture his affections. They are deceitful in that they can drain spiritual vitality before the person realizes what is happening to him or her.
The good soil stands for the person who understands the message about the kingdom when he or she hears it and responds appropriately to it. This would involve believing in Jesus. Such a person eventually becomes spiritually productive, though the degree of productivity varies (cf. Matthew 20:1-15). However, Jesus commended all who received the message of the kingdom and believed it regardless of their measure of productivity. The fruit in view probably represents increasing understanding of and proper response to divine revelation, in view of the context.
If the disciples understood this parable, they could understand the others that followed.
"The principle taught by the parable is this: reception of the word of the kingdom in one’s heart produces more understanding and revelation of the kingdom." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 179.]
Jesus told the crowds another parable. He literally said, "The kingdom of heaven has become like . . ." Matthew used the aorist passive tense, homoiothe. This is very significant because it indicates a change in the kingdom program. The change was a result of Israel’s rejection of Jesus. In all these parables Jesus did not mean that any single person or object in the parable symbolized the kingdom. The narrative itself communicated truth about the kingdom.
"The parable of the wheat and tares is not a description of the world, but of that which professes to be the kingdom [i.e., Christendom]." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1015.]
The parable of the weeds 13:24-30
"Between these two parables [the parable of the soils, Matthew 13:2-23, and the parable of the homeowner, Matthew 13:52] are six parables that reveal new truths about God’s kingdom. Jesus called them ’the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 13:11). These new truths revealed that a new age would intervene before the millennial kingdom would come; this new age is the present church-age dispensation. Because Israel refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah, a drastic change was made in God’s prophetic program occurred. Whereas the kingdom had been proclaimed as near, now a formerly unpredicted period of time would intervene before the kingdom would come. These parables contain truths not seen in the Old Testament." [Note: Idem and Quine, p. 139.]
"The parable of the sower shows that though the kingdom will now make its way amid hard hearts, competing pressures, and even failure, it will produce an abundant crop. But one might ask whether Messiah’s people should immediately separate the crop from the weeds; and this next parable answers the question negatively: there will be a delay in separation until the harvest." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," pp. 315-16.]
The farmer’s enemy maliciously sowed weeds that looked like the wheat. This weed was evidently bearded darnel (Lat. lolium temulentum), a plant that looks very much like wheat when the plants are young. The roots would intertwine with those of the wheat, but when the two plants reached maturity it would be clear which was which. The enemy thoroughly distributed the darnel seed among the young wheat. As the plants grew, it became apparent to the field owner’s servants what the enemy had done.
The function of the slaves in the parable is simply to get information from the owner.
The owner recognized that an enemy was responsible for the weeds, but he instructed his servants to allow the weeds to grow among the wheat until the harvest. Then he would separate them. Evidently there were many weeds. The reapers would gather the weeds first and burn them. Then they would harvest the wheat.
The new truth about the present age that this parable revealed is that good and evil people will co-exist in it (e.g., Judas Iscariot among Jesus’ disciples; cf. Matthew 13:47-49). In contrast, the Old Testament prophets said that in the coming messianic kingdom righteousness will prevail and God will judge sin swiftly (cf. Isaiah 11:1-5; Isaiah 16:5; Isaiah 32:1; Isaiah 54:14; Isaiah 60:17-18; Jeremiah 33:14-15).
Jesus interpreted this parable to His disciples later (Matthew 13:36-43). He previously used the Old Testament figure of harvest to refer to judgment (Matthew 9:37-38). In this case the wheat and the weeds must be people who face judgment in the future. [Note: See Mark L. Bailey, "The Parable of the Tares," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:619 (July-September 1998):266-79.]
The parable of the mustard seed 13:31-32 (cf. Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)
The mustard seed was so small that the Jews used it proverbially to represent a very small thing (cf. Matthew 17:20). [Note: Mishnah Niddah 5:2.] When mature, the mustard plant stood 10 to 12 feet tall as "the largest of garden plants" (NIV). [Note: Cf. Lenski, p. 528.] Consequently it became a perch for birds. Several Old Testament passages use a tree with birds flocking to its branches to illustrate a kingdom that people perceive as great (Judges 9:15; Psalms 104:12; Ezekiel 17:22-24; Ezekiel 31:3-14; Daniel 4:7-23). The birds evidently represent those who seek shelter in the kingdom.
The Jews correctly believed that the messianic kingdom would be very large. Why did Jesus choose the mustard plant since it did not become as large as some other plants? Evidently He did so because of the small beginning of the mustard plant. The contrast between an unusually small beginning and a large mature plant is the point of this parable. [Note: Cf. N. A. Dahl, Jesus in the Memory of the Early Church, pp. 155-56.] Jesus’ ministry began despicably small in the eyes of many Jews. Nevertheless from this small beginning would come the worldwide kingdom predicted in the Old Testament. [Note: See Mark L. Bailey, "The Parable of the Mustard Seed," Bibliotheca Sacra 155:620 (October-December 1998):449-59.]
The parable of the yeast hidden in meal 13:33 (cf. Luke 13:20-21)
This parable stresses the extensive ultimate condition and consequences of the kingdom that would be out of all proportion to its insignificant beginnings.
"Whereas the parable of the mustard seed answers the question of whether the phase of the kingdom planted by Jesus would survive, the parable of the leavening process answers how." [Note: Idem, "The Parable of the Leavening Process," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:621 (January-March 1999):62.]
Some interpreters have understood yeast as a metaphorical reference to evil. [Note: E.g., Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 182; Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 103; and The New Scofield . . ., p. 1015.] However not all uses of yeast in the Old Testament carry this symbolic meaning (e.g., Leviticus 7:13; Leviticus 23:15-18). [Note: Cf. Barbieri, p. 51.]
This parable stresses the hidden internal change taking place in the kingdom between its inception in Jesus’ ministry and its final form when the kingdom will cover the earth in the Millennium (cf. Matthew 5:13).
"The kingdom of heaven may be initially insignificant, but it is pervasive." [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 528.]
". . . the Kingdom of God, when received within, would seem like leaven hid, but would gradually pervade, assimilate, and transform the whole of our common life." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 1:594.]
"The manifestation of the presence of the kingdom in some form in the Church age is clearly taught in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven . . ." [Note: Gerry Breshears, "The Body of Christ: Prophet, Priest, or King?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:1 (March 1994):9.]
This fact led J. Dwight Pentecost to call the inter-advent age the mystery form of the kingdom. [Note: J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 142-44.]
The fact that a woman put the leaven in the meal is probably an insignificant detail of the parable as is the amount of flour. Three satas of flour (about three-fifths of a bushel) is the amount of flour that a housewife baked into bread for an average family. [Note: Idem, The Words . . ., p. 218.]
"Practical applications of this parable to present readers can include the following. First, believers should depend on what God is doing through His Spirit in the present age. Second, Christians should be suspicious of any man-made, externally influenced institutional structures that say they are the manifestation of God’s kingdom. Third, believers must be cautious about setting dates and presuming the arrival of the kingdom since the parable gives no hint as to when the permeation ends. Fourth, Jesus’ followers can be confident that regardless of any current perspectives, the kingdom of God has a glorious future." [Note: Bailey, "The Parable . . . Leavening . . .," p. 71.]
Matthew stressed the importance of parables in Jesus’ teaching. This verse is a chiasm in the Greek text with "parables" in the middle. Jesus constantly used parables in His spoken ministry to the multitudes following His rejection (cf. Matthew 13:3 a).
"Jesus deliberately adopted the parabolic method of teaching at a particular stage in His ministry for the purpose of withholding further truth about Himself and the kingdom of heaven from the crowds, who had proved themselves to be deaf to His claims and irresponsive to His demands. Hitherto, He had used parables as illustrations, whose meaning was self-evident from the context in which they were spoken (e.g., vi. 24-27). From now onwards, when addressing the unbelieving multitude he speaks only in parables (34), which He interprets to His disciples in private." [Note: Tasker, pp. 134-35.]
The writer claimed that this portion of Jesus’ ministry fulfilled Asaph’s statement in Psalms 78:2. Asaph wrote that he would explain to his readers aspects of Israel’s history that had been previously unknown. He then proceeded to use Israel’s history to teach the Israelites how consistently rebellious they had been toward God and how just and merciful God had been with them. He taught these lessons by using "parables," by comparing various things. By comparing various incidents in Israel’s history he revealed things previously unclear. Stephen used the same technique in Acts 7.
Jesus did the same thing when He taught the multitudes using parables. He revealed to the people some things that they had not previously understood. Jesus was not teaching entirely new things any more than Asaph was in Psalms 78. He put things together that taught the crowds new lessons. Jesus concealed some truth by using parables, but He also revealed some truth to the multitudes with them. This is the point of Matthew’s quotation of Asaph here. Jesus was bringing together pieces of previous revelation about the kingdom and by combining these was teaching the people new things about the kingdom. He was throwing new light on the kingdom with His comparisons (parables). Thus while these parables were mysteries, new revelations, they contained some elements that God has previously revealed.
Jesus now removed Himself from the crowds by reentering the house, evidently in Capernaum, from which He had departed to teach the multitudes (Matthew 13:1). There he explained three of the parables (Matthew 13:10-23; Matthew 13:37-43; Matthew 13:49-50) and taught His disciples four more (Matthew 13:44-48; Matthew 13:52). Jesus’ disciples were not different from the crowd because they immediately understood the parables. They were different because they persisted in asking Jesus to help them understand the parables, whereas the crowds showed less interest. Why did Jesus continue to teach His believing disciples by parables rather than with straightforward explanations? Evidently so many people were following Jesus that whenever He spoke, except in private to His disciples, a mixed audience heard Him.
The explanation of the parable of the weeds 13:36-43
Matthew separated the explanation of this parable from its telling in the text (Matthew 13:24-30). He evidently did this to separate more clearly for the reader the parables Jesus spoke to the multitudes from the parables He told His disciples.
Jesus identified Himself as both the sower and the director of the harvest. He took these Old Testament figures for God and applied them to Himself. [Note: See Philip B. Payne, "Jesus’ Implicit Claim to Deity in His Parables," Trinity Journal 2NS:1 (Spring 1981):3-23.] The field is the world where the sowing takes place, but the wheat and the tares represent true and only professing believers.
"This brief statement presupposes a mission beyond Israel (cf. Matthew 10:16-18; Matthew 28:18-20) and confirms that the narrower command of Matthew 10:5-6 is related exclusively to the mission of the Twelve during the period of Jesus’ earthly ministry." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 325.]
Notice particularly that the field is not the church. The identification of the field as the church was common in the writings of some early church fathers and in those of some Reformers, and it is quite popular with many modern critical, evangelical, and even dispensational scholars. I think it is incorrect since the kingdom predicted in the Old Testament is distinctly different from the church. This parable does not teach that there will be a mixture of good and evil in the church, true believers and only professing believers. The terms "world," "church," and "kingdom" are all distinct in the New Testament.
The good seed represents the sons of the kingdom, namely, those destined for the kingdom, not those presently in the kingdom. The messianic kingdom has not yet begun. Compare Matthew 8:12, where the sons of the kingdom are Jewish unbelievers, namely, Jews who should have been destined for the kingdom but were unbelievers in Jesus. The weeds are sons of the evil one, namely, Satan (cf. John 8:44; 1 John 5:19).
"Not all unbelievers are called children of the devil; only those who have willfully rejected the light are so designated (cp. Matthew 13:38; John 8:38-44)." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 1015.]
The devil is the enemy, the harvest is the end of the age (Matthew 9:37; cf. Jeremiah 51:33; Hosea 6:11; Joel 3:13), and the harvesters are angels (Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 25:31; cf. Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:7; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Peter 1:12). Obviously several elements in this parable have significance. However note that many others do not (e.g., the conversation between the man and his servants, the servants’ sleep, the order of the sowing, etc.).
"This condition of the kingdom was never revealed in the Old Testament, which spoke of a kingdom of righteousness in which evil would be overcome." [Note: Barbieri, p. 50.]
The end of the age refers to the present age that will culminate in Jesus’ second coming and a judgment of living unbelievers (cf. Matthew 13:40; Matthew 13:49; Matthew 24:3).
The unbelievers who are born in Jesus’ messianic (millennial) kingdom, which will begin when He returns to earth at His second coming, will continue to live in that earthly kingdom. I put the word "millennial" in parentheses because God did not reveal the 1,000-year length of the kingdom until Revelation 20. However at the end of the kingdom, at the end of the 1,000-year reign, Jesus will separate the unbelievers from the believers (cf. Zephaniah 1:3). The unbelievers will then perish eternally (Revelation 20:15; cf. Matthew 3:11; Matthew 5:22; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:50; Jeremiah 29:22). [Note: See Pagenkemper, pp. 181-83.]
In contrast to the unbelievers, the believers will continue to glorify God forever (Matthew 5:13-16; cf. Daniel 12:3). "The kingdom of their Father" is probably a synonym for the kingdom of the Son (Matthew 13:41) in the sense that the kingdom belongs to both the Father and the Son. However when the messianic (millennial) kingdom ends, the rule of the Son and the Father will continue forever in the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21-22). The Messiah’s reign on this earth will be the first phase of His reign that will continue on the new earth forever.
This parable describes an order of events that is the same as what Jesus presented elsewhere as occurring at His second coming (cf. Matthew 24:37-41; Luke 17:26-37). This order of events is the opposite of what He said would happen at the Rapture. At the Rapture, Christ will remove all believers from the earth and unbelievers will remain on the earth (John 14:2-3; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17). At the Second Coming, unbelievers will be removed from the earth in judgment while believers will remain on the earth to enter the millennial kingdom. Thus the Rapture does not take place at the same time as the Second Coming, which posttribulationists believe. [Note: See Showers, pp. 176-91, for an extended discussion of the passages that indicate the differences between the Rapture and the coming of Christ with His holy angels, i.e, the Second Coming.]
The parable of the hidden treasure 13:44
The kingdom lay concealed in history for hundreds of years, perhaps from the Exile to the time of Jesus. Toussaint believed Jesus meant from the time of Rehoboam to Jesus. [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 183.] When the Jews in Jesus’ day stumbled on it, the believers among them recognized its worth and were eager to make any sacrifice necessary for it. The point of the parable to Jesus’ disciples was that they should be willing to pay any price to have a significant part in the kingdom.
Some interpreters believe the person who hid and then paid a great price for the treasure was Jesus, the price being His own life. [Note: E.g., Ibid., p. 184; and Robert N. Wilkin, "A Great Buy!" The Grace Evangelical Society News 6:9 (September 1991):2.] This seems unlikely to me since in all these parables the focus seems to be on the disciples more than on Jesus. They should pay the price.
4. Parables addressed to the disciples 13:44-52
The first and second parables in this group are quite similar, as was true of the third and fourth parables in the preceding group. This is a further reflection of the chiastic structure of this section (Matthew 13:1-53).
The parable of the pearl 13:45-46
The same basic point recurs in this parable. The difference between this parable and the last is that here the person who finds the treasure is looking for it whereas in the previous parable the discovery was accidental. In Jesus’ day there were Jews who were looking for the kingdom and Messiah (Matthew 11:3) and those who were not (e.g., the religious leaders who did not accompany the wise men to Bethlehem). For both types of people the ultimate price of complete discipleship was not too much to pay for participation in the kingdom. Jesus was not teaching that entrance into the kingdom depended on self-sacrifice; entrance depended on faith in Him. The amount and kind of one’s inheritance in the kingdom, however, depended on commitment to Messiah (cf. Matthew 5:5; Matthew 8:18-22; Matthew 25:34).
Some view the pearl as well as the hidden treasure as references to Jesus. [Note: E.g., Richard C. Trench, Notes on the Parables of Our Lord, pp. 102-10.] Others believe they refer to the church. [Note: E.g., Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 105; Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 184; and The New Scofield . . ., p. 1016.] I think they refer primarily to the kingdom. Several dispensational interpreters believe the treasure in the field or land represents Israel and that the pearl, taken from the sea, represents the Gentiles. [Note: E.g., Pentecost, The Words . . ., p. 218.]
"Like the treasure, the kingdom is the source of highest joy, and, as seen in the pearl, the kingdom should be deemed as the most precious possession." [Note: Mark L. Bailey, "The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and of the Pearl Merchant," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:622 (April-June 1999):189.]
The parable of the dragnet 13:47-48
This parable has a meaning similar to the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) that is its opposite in the chiastic structure of the discourse. However the focus here is on the judgment at the end of the kingdom rather than the mixed citizens of the kingdom. In both parables there are good and bad elements, believers and unbelievers. Jesus will separate these individuals at the end of His messianic (millennial) reign. They will all fall into one of two categories: the good (believers) or the bad (unbelievers).
The Greek word for dragnet, sagene, occurs only here in the New Testament. It describes a large net fishermen drew to shore between two boats. Sometimes they tied one end to the shore and the other end to a boat. Then they would sweep an area of the lake with it, possible a half mile long, drawing as many fish as possible to the shore with it. [Note: Lenski, p. 547.] Then they would separate the fish that they could sell from those that they could not.
The explanation of the parable of the dragnet 13:49-50
Jesus interpreted the meaning of the previous parable without waiting for His disciples to ask Him to do so. The picture seems to be of judgment at the end of the messianic (millennial) kingdom (cf. Matthew 13:41-42). Many other premillennial interpreters believed the judgment in view is the one before the establishment of the kingdom. [Note: E.g., Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 184; Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 106; and Showers, p. 178.] Later Matthew recorded that Jesus told two more parables about this judgment at the beginning of the Millennium. The parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) stressed the need for readiness for this judgment. The parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) identified the basis for the judgment.
In the parable of the dragnet, the point was the sorting out of righteous and wicked individuals that will happen then. The angels will assist Jesus in this process. The wicked will go to eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 13:42), but the righteous will continue on in Messiah’s kingdom that will then move from the present earth to the new earth.
"The fear motive is often condemned by modern Christians, but the Book of Matthew shows Jesus was not opposed to using it properly." [Note: Mark L. Bailey, "The Parables of the Dragnet and of the Householder," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:623 (July-September 1999):290.]
The importance of understanding the parables 13:51
Jesus’ question here marks the conclusion to His explanation of the miracles that the disciples’ question in Matthew 13:36 requested. "All these things" probably refers to everything that Jesus had said to the disciples. The disciples claimed to understand what Jesus had said, and presumably they did understand at least superficially (cf. Matthew 15:16).
"Matthew contains a total of seven parables, the first and longest of which has to do with Jesus’ parabolic method. The rest of the parables have to do with the kingdom of heaven. Every one of the six stresses the hiddenness of the kingdom. It is like treasure hidden in a field, like yeast hidden in dough, like good seed hidden in soil. But we have become bottom-line conscious in the institutional Church and in parachurch organizations. We cannot raise money to support our ministries unless we can quote statistics concerning how successful we are. We have to be able to measure results. We want to evaluate the harvest day after day after day so that we can use the information in our fund-raising endeavors. And we forget that the real impact of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world is immeasurable. We will only know what it is at the harvest, which is the end of the age." [Note: Richard C. Halverson, "God and Caesar," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:1 (March 1994):127.]
The parable of the homeowner 13:52
Commentators often omit this verse from discussions of the parables in this discourse. Some do not consider it one of the parables of the kingdom. [Note: E.g., Ibid., p. 107; Walvoord, Matthew: . . ., p. 97; and Hagner, pp. 362-64.] However it contains a parable, as should be clear from the content of the verse itself and from the literary structure of the discourse.
Jesus drew a comparison between a scribe instructed about the kingdom and the owner of a house. In view of what follows the scribe in view seems to be one who received instruction about the kingdom and believed it. He is a believing disciple. As with the owner of a house, this type of scribe brings new and old things out of his storeroom or treasure (Gr. thesauros). The owner of the house in the parable brings things out of his storeroom to use them beneficially. The storeroom from which the disciple scribe brings these things is evidently his heart or understanding (i.e., his very being). He brings out new understanding concerning the kingdom that Jesus had taught him as well as old understanding about the kingdom that the Old Testament taught him. The new did not displace the old but supplemented it. Jesus was comparing His believing disciples to this believing scribe. They had just said they understood what Jesus had taught them (Matthew 13:51). Therefore they had a responsibility to teach others what they now understood. Every disciple must become a scribe, a teacher of the law, because he or she understands things that require communicating to others (cf. Matthew 10:27; Matthew 28:19; Hebrews 5:12).
"The first two parables relate to planting. The parable of the sower speaks of different responses to the message of the kingdom. The parable of the tares explains the origins of the conflict between the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the enemy and announces that a final separation of the two groups will take place when Jesus, the Son of Man, will return at the end of the age. The second pair of parables utilizes the analogy of growth. The mustard seed reveals the extent of the rapid international growth of the kingdom of heaven, and the leavening process addresses the internal and invisible dynamic of that growth. The next two parables (the treasure and the pearl merchant) address the value of the kingdom. Whether one is looking or not looking, no sacrifice is too great for the kingdom. The final set of parables reveals the disciples’ dual responsibilities. The dragnet teaches that evangelism without discrimination should be done in view of Jesus’ discriminating judgment at the end of the age. The householder encourages the teaching of both the older and newer truths of the kingdom of heaven by the disciples of the kingdom." [Note: Bailey, "The Parables of the Dragnet . . .," p. 296. For a summary of the major themes in these parables and a list of applicational principles, see idem, "The Doctrine of the Kingdom in Matthew 13," Bibliotheca Sacra 156:624 (October-December 1999):443-51.]
5. The departure 13:53
Matthew leaves the reader with the impression, from this concluding transition as well as from the structure of the discourse, that Jesus related all the preceding parables at one time. This was apparently the case, though He may have repeated some of them at various other times as well. Jesus now left Capernaum and traveled to Nazareth (Matthew 13:54).
The clause "and it came about that when Jesus had finished" signals the end of the discourse and the end of another major section of this Gospel. Matthew traced the course of opposition to the King carefully in this section. Israel’s rejection of Jesus was so clear that the King began to tailor His teaching more specifically to unbelievers and to believers.
"Thematically the three chapters (11-13) are held together by the rising tide of disappointment in and opposition to the kingdom of God that was resulting from Jesus’ ministry. He was not turning out to be the kind of Messiah the people had expected. Even John the Baptist had doubts (Matthew 13:2-19), and the Galilean cities that were sites of most of Jesus’ miracles hardened themselves in unbelief (Matthew 13:20-24). The nature of Jesus’ person and ministry were ’hidden’ (an important word) from the wise, despite the most open and compassionate of invitations (Matthew 13:28-30). Conflicts with Jewish leaders began to intensify (Matthew 12:1-45), while people still misunderstood the most basic elements of Jesus’ teaching and authority (Matthew 12:46-50)." [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 260.]
However, Jesus’ enemies had not checkmated Him. The kingdom would still come. Matthew 13 provides assurance of that fact. Jesus added new revelation to old about the kingdom in this chapter to appeal further to the crowds and to prepare His disciples for what lay ahead. He did not teach about the church in this chapter, though He did describe conditions that would exist in the church age, which is part of the inter-advent era. The new revelation that there would be a "church" did not come until chapter 16. He did give further revelation concerning the coming messianic kingdom here (ch. 13). [Note: See Bailey, in The New . . ., pp. 29-30, for a list of 25 major truths taught in Matthew 13.]
V. THE REACTIONS OF THE KING 13:54-19:2
Matthew recorded increasing polarization in this section. Jesus expanded His ministry, but as He did so opposition became even more intense. The Jewish leaders became increasingly hostile. Consequently Jesus spent more time preparing His disciples. Jesus revealed Himself more clearly to His disciples, but they only understood some of what He told them. They strongly rejected other things He said. The inevitability of a final confrontation between Jesus and His critics became increasingly clear. The general movement in this section is Jesus withdrawing from Israel’s leaders (Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 16:12) and preparing His disciples for His passion (Matthew 16:13 to Matthew 19:2).
1. The opposition of the Nazarenes and Romans Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 14:12
The theme of opposition continues from the Parables about the Kingdom. Jesus’ reaction to opposition by Israel’s leaders was to withdraw (cf. Matthew 10:23). Matthew recorded Him doing this twice in this section. The first instance of opposition came from the people among whom Jesus had grown up in Nazareth (Matthew 13:54-58). The second came from the Roman leadership of the area in which Jesus was ministering (Matthew 14:1-12). Both sections show that opposition to Jesus was intense, from the Jewish common people to the Roman nobility.
A. Opposition, instruction, and healing 13:54-16:12
This section records the course that Jesus’ ministry took because of Israel’s rejection of Him. Opposition from several quarters led him to withdraw to safer places where He continued to minister to Jews and Gentiles and to prepare His disciples for what lay ahead.
Jesus’ hometown was Nazareth (Luke 4:16). The local synagogue attendees wondered where Jesus obtained His authority. The wisdom in His teaching and the power in His miracles demonstrated remarkable authority, but where did He get it? Did it come from God or elsewhere (Matthew 12:24)?
This is the last of Matthew’s references to Jesus teaching in a synagogue. From now on, Jesus appears increasingly outside the structures of traditional Judaism. [Note: France, The Gospel . . ., p. 547.]
The opposition of the Nazarenes 13:54-58 (cf. Mark 6:1-6)
The words of Jesus’ critics reveal wounded pride. They did not like His having wisdom and power superior to theirs since they had the same background. Their questions reveal denial of His Messiahship. By referring to Joseph as "the carpenter" and to Jesus as his son, they were implying that Jesus should have followed in His father’s footsteps. The definite article before "carpenter" suggests that there may have been only one carpenter in Nazareth. Carpenters did all types of work with wood and stone. Jesus was more of a builder than just a carpenter. [Note: Ken M. Campbell, "What Was Jesus’ Occupation?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48:3 (September 2005):501-19; France, The Gospel . . ., p. 549.]
In one sense these questions were legitimate. However the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus’ claim to being a prophet (Matthew 13:57 b). They "took offense" at Him in the sense that His claim caused them to stumble. It was their reaction to His claim, however, not the claim itself, that stumbled them.
"(Incidentally, their questions render impossible the fanciful miracles ascribed to Jesus’ childhood by the apocryphal gospels.)" [Note: Carson, "Matthew," p. 336.]
We must be careful not to confuse Jesus’ half-brothers-James, Simon, and Judas-with the disciples who had the same names. There is no evidence that Jesus’ half-brothers believed on Him until after His resurrection. His brother James eventually became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 11).
Usually a person enjoys a better reception a home than anywhere else, except if he has attained an exalted position, in which case the opposite is often true. Jesus could not do many miracles there because to do so was contrary to His mission. He did miracles to create and to strengthen faith in Himself. When settled unbelief reigned, there was no point in doing miracles.
The point of this section is to show that even those who knew Jesus best refused to believe on Him.
"Jesus led a perfect life and still had family members and friends who struggled to believe. Sometimes those most difficult to reach are those who know us best." [Note: Bailey, in The New . . ., p. 30.]
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