Be Patient with Others

Explore the Bible Series

October 14, 2007

 

Background Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 13:1-53

Lesson Passage: The Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 

Introduction: Chapter Thirteen introduces Matthew’s third great discourse, and this sermonic material focuses on Jesus’ use of parables.  The synoptic Gospels place great emphasis on this preaching device of the Lord, and we do well to pause for a moment to understand his motive and strategy in using this familiar teaching method.

 

Parables, as we find them in the New Testament, are brief analogies, drawn from everyday life, to demonstrate a central theological principle.  They are not, generally speaking, extended allegories with elaborate symbolic devices; rather, these short fictional stories intend, as a rule, to reveal one central point.  Wise Bible students discern this point in each parable and interpret the various stories in light of the major thrust the Master intended.

 

The parables have, according to Jesus, two major purposes: to elucidate the truth to receptive, faithful disciples and to conceal the truth from disingenuous hearers (See vv. 14-15). Matthew records seemingly harsh words from Jesus in regard to the use of parables (the Lord used a quotation from Isaiah 6:9-10); however, one must interpret these strong words in light of the “Beelzebul” statements in Chapter Twelve.  Some Pharisees, no doubt still present in Jesus’ audience, had accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan.  This heinous charge elicited a sharp retort from Jesus regarding the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  As I understand the text, these men had committed a sin that God would not forgive.  They had hardened their hearts to such an extent that they lost all spiritual discernment; thus, they could not differentiate between the miraculous works of God and the diabolical works of Satan.  No doubt, some of these Pharisees remained in the crowd as Jesus taught, and his judgment on their hardheartedness came swiftly in the form of these parables that concealed additional revelation from these unworthy hearers. 

 

Above all, this chapter should remind us that spiritual understanding involves more than mere intellectual processes; instead, we must understand that godly insight comes from the gracious designs of the Lord and relates intimately to the receptiveness and humility of the hearer.  We live in a day that prizes the outward trappings of success, and Christians are not immune to the seduction of the “success syndrome.”  Perhaps even we who have preached the gospel may grieve deeply that we have so little evident fruit for our labors.  Brothers, your job centers on committing good seed to the soil in your field. You have, we shall see, little determinative influence over the fruit that their field produces.  Bad soil and sinister enemies abound in our day, just as they did when Jesus walked the earth.  Sow the seed and trust that the powerful word of God will, in the end, produce precisely the effect God intends.

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   The Parable of the Sower (vv. 1-23):

A.    The setting of the parable (vv. 1-2): Matthew’s time reference indicates that Jesus delivered these parables on the same day as the confrontation with the Pharisees and their charges that Jesus was in league with Satan.  A great crowd followed him to the Sea of Galilee, and, as the masses pressed in on him, Jesus got into a boat to speak. 

B.     The parable stated (vv. 3-9): Jesus drew on a familiar sight in the ancient Middle East, a farmer sowing his field.  Actually, the story does not focus on the sower as much as it points to four types of soil that the farmer encountered: the hardened path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the productive soil.  The first three soils rendered no fruit but for different reasons. 

C.     A brief interlude about the two-fold purpose of parables (vv. 10-17): It appears that these verses reflect a private moment Jesus enjoyed with the twelve, subsequent to delivering the Parable of the Sower. They were puzzled about Jesus’ use of parables.  Perhaps they anticipated that the Master would speak more directly to the needs of the people rather than cloaking his teachings in the veil of parable.  Jesus explained that he spoke as he did in fulfillment of Isaiah 6:9-10, and his parables served two purposes.

1.      to conceal Kingdom principles from the unrepentant and hard hearted (See also Mark 4:12- Mark seems to emphasize divine sovereignty more than Matthew).

2.      to reveal Kingdom principles to those who will see and hear : This paragraph emphasizes a balanced view of the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  The disciples had received, fully of grace, a great privilege in hearing the good news of the Kingdom, a privilege that others, in an earlier time frame, had coveted. The text clearly claims the responsibility of the unrepentant to hear the gospel.  They had dull hearts and had shut their eyes to the truth.

D.    Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower (vv. 18-23): The focus of the parable does not center on the sower but on the soils.

1.      the hardened pathway: Compacted by heavy foot-traffic, the pathway repels the seed, and the birds snatch away the exposed seeds.  In the previous chapter, the Pharisees, hard of heart, had rejected the message and ministry of Jesus, attributing his gracious work to the power of Satan. The work of Christ had no positive effect on them because their callous hearts rejected the seed of the word.

2.      the rocky soil: These hearers initially receive the word with exuberant joy, but, in time, their shallow heart provide no fruitful soil for the seed.  The seed cannot root deeply in the soil, and, when difficulty or persecutions arise, the seedling withers and dies without producing any fruit.

3.      the thorny soil: Some of the seeds fall on fertile soil, but no one had cleared the ground of thistles.  Weeds and grain, for a time, grow together, but the weeds eventually choke the seedlings.  The cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches strangle good seeds, and the soil proves unfruitful.

4.      the good soil: The seeds sown on good ground grow to great fruitfulness.  Not all of the plants bear the same fruit, but each brings great blessing and fruitfulness to the farmer.

 

II.                Six Brief Parables (vv. 24-50)

A.    The Parable of the Tares (vv. 24-30 and 36-43)

1.      the parable stated (vv. 24-30): A landowner sowed good seed in his field; then, as his servants rested from a hard day of work, an enemy sowed weeds in the man’s field.  In time, the seeds sprouted, and the servants could not tell the good plants from the bad.  The hired men wanted to root out the bad seedlings, but the landowner determined to let the plants grow until they could not mistake the good from the bad.  At the time of the harvest, the servants would gather the weeds and burn them in bundles, but they would harvest the good grain and place it in the barn. 

2.      the parable explained (vv. 36-43): Jesus explained that the field was the world.  He came to sow the good seeds of the Kingdom, but Satan sowed bad seeds among the good.  At the end of the age, the Lord will send his angels, and they will gather the lawless and throw them in the fiery furnace; however, the righteous will shine forth as the radiance of the sun.

B.     The Parable of the Mustard Seed (vv. 31-32): Tiny mustard seeds grew into very large garden plants, ten or twelve feet high.  The meaning of this parable seems evident.  The Kingdom of God, seemingly small and insignificant, will grow into a fruitful and useful plant large enough for the birds of the air to nest in the branches. 

C.     The Parable of the Leaven (v. 33-35): Some interpreters think the leaven here, as in other places in the New Testament, represents an ever-present, spreading evil in the world.  They argue that the effects of sin spread in the world much as leaven permeates a lump of dough.  This view, however, seems to contradict the text.  Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven is like leaven…”  It is true that yeast often serves as a symbol of evil in the Scriptures; nevertheless, in this context, the ever-spreading influence seems to relate to the power of the gospel in the world.

D.    The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Expensive Pearl (v. 44): These two brief stories have similar meaning.  In both cases, a man finds something that has been, to this point, hidden; then, once he discovers the wonderful treasure, he abandons all to make the treasure his.  No cost is counted too great for the surpassing joy brought by possessing the one treasure that brings him true wealth and delight.

E.     The Parable of the Net (vv. 47-52): Fishermen draw into their nets a great catch, and, when they have brought their nets to shore, they separate the good fish from the bad.  At the end of the age the angels will gather mankind like a fisherman draws his nest.  The evil will be separated from the righteous, and the angels will cast the evil into the fiery furnace. At the end of these parables Jesus compared his dispels to the scribes, Jewish authorities in the Scriptures.  The Lord had entrusted the treasures of his household to these men, and he would hold them accountable for acting as good stewards of the treasures entrusted to their care.