About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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This Section -  Chapter 13

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ch. 13:1-23    ch.13:24-30    ch. 13:31-35   ch. 13:36-43

ch. 13:44-46   ch.13:47-52    ch. 13:53-58

The Parable Of The Sower  (ch. 13:1 – 23)


Jesus proceeded to the lake, most likely the Sea of Galilee .  As was normally the case, crowds of people found him and pushed in on Him.  Because of this pushing of the crowd He got into a boat and spoke from the boat. The water is a natural amplification system.


Verse 3 tells us that Jesus spoke in many parables. Parables are stories to help explain a point more clearly. Parables are analogies.  A couple things to note about parables and analogies are that they aren’t the truth in themselves.  They are only meant to explain a truth or a point, and therefore they have their limitations. One problem Bible readers have is to read into parables more than what Jesus wanted us to read into them.


So this is the story that Jesus told in verses 4 through 9.  There was a farmer who sowed his seed.  As He was sowing some of his seed happened to fall along the path he was walking and the birds came and ate the seed up.  Some of the seed fell on rocky soil off to the side of the path.  This seed actually grew into a small plant, but because the soil was shallow the plants couldn’t develop a good root system and so when the sun beat down on the plants they withered and died.  Other seed fell among thorns.  Plants grew from these seeds as well but because the thorns took all the good nutrients from the soil there was none left and so the plants died.  Still other seeds fell on the good soil where it was intended to fall.  These plants grew well and the seeds produced 30, 60 and 100 fold. 


Verse 9 says, “he that has ears to hear, let him hear”.  This means that if you have physical ears to hear with then listen and understand the meaning of this story.          


In verse 11 we see the disciples coming to Jesus and asking Him why He spoke in parables. This was not what they were used to hearing from their religious leaders. 


Jesus replies in verse 11 by saying, “ the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them”.  The word “them” refers to the Pharisees and the religious leaders of the day. 


We understand from Jesus’ words that there are secrets associated with the Kingdom ofGod.  Jesus says that the knowing of these secrets have been given to the disciples but not to the Jewish leadership.   Some people believe that God doesn’t have secrets and if He did they wouldn’t be secrets long because He tells such secrets to anyone and everyone. He doesn’t hide things from certain people and not hide them from others.  But this is not true.


In verse 12 Jesus says that whoever has more will be given him, but whoever doesn’t have, that which he has will be taken from him.  At first glance this might not sound so fair.  In context Jesus is speaking of knowledge and understanding.  The Jewish leadership had the knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures but failed to understand them, so God would take away what little understanding they had and would give this understanding to the unlearned followers of Jesus instead. 


The New Testament principle at work here is that if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Whatever Jesus gives us, He wants us to use for His Kingdom purposes. 


Remember all that Jesus just said was in response to the disciples asking Jesus why He spoke in parables. What Jesus just said then means that the parables will hide the truth from the Jewish leadership and not from the unlearned. 


Concerning God hiding secrets from the Jewish leadership, Paul often speaks about the “mysteries of  God that have been hidden but now are revealed”.  These mysteries of the past are the fact that the Holy Spirit has come to live in both Jew and Gentile.  Those who receive God‘s Spirit make up His new covenant people.  No longer is God’s people Jews only, and no longer does God’s people live by an external law, but by the Spirit of God.     


In verse 13 Jesus says, “this is why I speak in parables”.  He then quotes from Isaiah 6:9 and 10 to support His thinking.  Isaiah prophesies that some will see, but not really see, and some will hear but not understand.   Jesus is saying that many people to whom He was speaking to wouldn’t understand and this was prophesied long ago.


Jesus continues this prophecy in verse 14 when He says that they will be “ever” seeing and hearing but never perceiving.  The Pharisees, along with the other Jewish leaders were always striving to learn more, much like we do today, yet in their much learning they had a complete lack of understanding.  There is a big difference between knowledge and understanding.  Many people have knowledge but fail to understand the meaning and the realities of the knowledge. 


Verse 15 says that people’s hearts have become so calloused that they no longer are able to hear and understand.  This was true with the Jewish leaders as it is with many people today.  Many have allowed their hearts to become calloused from the truth so they have no idea of truth even though it may appear before them.


Calloused hearts is a problem in many aspects of life.  A calloused heart is a hard heart, a heart that no longer cares for that which is important.  It’s a cold heart with great walls built up around it, not allowing anyone in.


Jesus continues this prophecy that basically says that if people’s hearts weren’t so calloused, they’d be able to see, hear and understand to the point that they’d turn to Him for healing, and Jesus would heal them.  I don’t believe Jesus is talking about physical healing here.  He healed many people, but He was not allowed to heal many people’s hard hearts.  In order for the heart to be healed, people would have to come to Jesus in repentance and humility, and that seldom happened. 


In contrast to the hard and calloused hearts of the Jewish leaders, in verse 16 Jesus tells His close followers that their ears and eyes are blessed, because they do perceive and understand, even though you can tell throughout the gospels that Jesus’ disciples still had a hard time perceiving and understanding.  We do note though that after receiving the Spirit in Acts 2 this changed.  


In verse 17 Jesus states why these followers were so blessed. He had just quoted from Isaiah, a highly respected Old Testament prophet, at least at that point in history.  He wasn’t so respected when he was alive.  Those prophets Jesus says “longed” to see and hear what the disciples of Jesus saw and heard.  They longed for those days because much of what they prophesied was about the times of Jesus.  This gives us a hint of what the prophets were all about, and that is, they were all about Jesus.


In verse 18 Jesus says, “listen to what the parable of the sower means”.  Verse 19 begins the explanation.  Jesus says that when one “hears” the message of the Kingdom and “doesn’t understand it”, the evil one comes and snatches the message from the person’s heart.  This is the seed that is sown along the path. 


One thing to note here is that the person actually hears the word in his heart.  The word “heart” In the New Testament means both the place where we think and the place where we feel in our lives.  That’s our brain and our emotions.  The message actually gets into our brains but for one reason or another its not understood, and immediately the devil gets in and steels that message away.  At that point it is no longer there to be understood by the recipient of the message.


I think the path has some significance here.  When thinking of a farmer in those days, he did not live in the country in his farm.  He lived in a village and had a plot of land outside of the village in the country-side.  Therefore he would have carried his seed out to his plot of land to plant. 


Once he got to his plot of land he’d “scatter” the seed all around as it says in verse 4.  As he waves his arms back and forth in the scattering motion some of the seeds would be thrown outside of the cultivated area of land onto the path, the rocky ground and into the thorn bushes.  He wasn’t intentionally planting the seed there because he would have known that the seed would not have had much chance of growing there.  But most of all he wanted to plant on his property, not along the side of the road.


In my thinking this relates to us sharing the gospel to those we don’t set out to share it with.  We might just happen to meet someone for a few moments and share the message of the Kingdom and never see that person again.  If the person doesn’t get a chance to understand, the devil comes and takes away the seed of the gospel we just planted.


This shows us where our battle ground is.  It’s in the spiritual world where the devil resides. 


Verses 20 and 21 explain the seed sown on the rocky soil.  This soil is off the path to the farmers field.  It might well belong to him, but it’s not the place where he has cultivated for planting.  So this seed wasn’t necessarily meant to be planted either.  Yet because the seed fell off the beaten trail it had a chance to grow even though the ground is rocky, meaning the root system could not grow and so the plant soon dies. 


When a person hears the message of the good news and receives it, Jesus says, it actually grows.   The difference between this person and the last person is that the last person didn’t understand the message.  This person does understand and he receives it, or acts upon it.  The problem with this person is that he does not allow the plant to take root and when trouble or persecution comes on account of Jesus, he turns away from Jesus. 


Verse 22 explains the seed planted among thorns.  Once again, the farmer would not have intentionally planted this seed among thorns. He would have known better, but some fell there anyway. 


This seed planted is like those who receive the message but “the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth” chokes the message and so the person becomes “unfruitful”.  Jesus doesn’t say that this person’s faith in the message dies as in the last two cases.  He just says that he becomes unfruitful.  This tells me that this person is still a believer, but a believer that is unproductive in the Kingdom of God . A lot of us might well fall into this category.  


You might note part of Jesus’ thinking concerning wealth here.  It’s not something that North American Christians care to understand, but Jesus says that wealth can be deceitful.  This means that wealth, although it appears to be great and beneficial, that appearance is deceiving you because wealth is not what it appears to be. 


Verse 23 explains the seed that has fallen on the good soil. This is where the farmer has intentionally planted his seed.  This would be his cultivated field.  He would have cultivated it and worked with it over a period of time to get the field ready for planting.  The seed in this field produces 30, 60, or 100 fold of fruitfulness.


These plants are those that we intend and plan to work with in sharing the gospel.  These are people that we don’t casually meet and may never see again. These people are our own personal mission field.  We spend time and energy with these people in the cultivation process in order to plant the seed at the right time.  When we do plant the seed in the person, it takes root and grows and that person becomes a fruitful and effective Christian in the Kingdom of God.


We should note that Jesus says that some people will be 30% effective, while others will be 60 or 100% effective in God’s Kingdom.  Not all of us will be the 100% effective Christian.   That is just a fact of life that Jesus appears to be acknowledging here.  I think we all can do better but sometimes pastors try to make a 30% Christian into a 100% Christian and fail because it just won’t happen for various reasons, many of which are good and appropriate reasons.


The Parable Of The Weeds (ch. 13:24 - 30)


Jesus is in the process of teaching on different aspects of the Kingdom of God using parables.   These parables would help His disciples understand what the Kingdom of God is all about.  In one sense of the word Jesus is painting a mental picture of what He is saying so people can better understand.  As we say, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.    


In verses 24 through 26  Jesus paints the picture by saying that a man planted a field of wheat, yet while he slept his enemy snuck in and planted weeds in the same field, so as the wheat grew, so did the weeds.


The story continues in verses 27 through 30.  One of the man’s servants notices that there were weeds growing with the wheat so he asks his master if he had just planted wheat or did he plant the weeds as well.


The owner answers by saying that he only planted wheat.  So to be expected, the servant asked if he should pull out the weeds.  The owner of the field told the servant to leave the weeds in the field if by chance by pulling out some weeds, he pulls out some wheat by mistake.


This only makes sense.  Anyone who has ever had a garden knows that by pulling out the weeds, at times you pull out some garden plants as well. 


The owner of the field told the servant that the harvesters would pull the weeds out at harvest time.  They’d pull the weeds out first and burn them.  Then once the weeds were gone, then the wheat would be harvested.  At that point the difference between the weeds and the wheat should be noticeable and there should be no mistake, mistaking a weed for wheat.


It is clear that Jesus is speaking about Christians and non-Christians here. At the end of this age the angels will come to harvest.  The weeds, or the non-Christians will be taken from this world and cast into the Lake of Fire .  The Christians will remain on the New earth as seen in the Book of Revelation.


The Parable Of The Mustard Seed And Yeast (ch. 13:31 - 35)


In verses 31 and 32 Jesus tells yet another parable that describes the Kingdom of Heaven.  He says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a very small mustard seed, yet when it is planted it becomes a tree so that the birds of the air can come and rest in it.


In verse 33 Jesus gives another parable that is meant to show the same principle.  He says that women put yeast into a large amount of flour and mixes it all together so the yeast will cause the dough to rise. 


Both of these parables suggest that the Kingdom of God may start from small beginnings but will grow into something very large.  The small beginnings can bee seen in Jesus’ appearance on earth in the form of a baby and a simple man traveling the countryside.  He was not a king, as the Jews expected. 


This also can be seen in those Jesus chose to follow Him and to spread the news of His Kingdom.  He chose ordinary men. He did not go to the Sanhedrin to find the Twelve.  He found them in fishing boats, and in tax collecting booths.  He chose the working men of the world to be His closest friends and those He entrusted the gospel to.


Another way in which the Kingdom of Heaven began in small beginnings was the formation of the church.  Mind you, Acts 2, the giving of the Spirit to the believers, and the birth of the church was something to behold in spiritual terms, but as far as the world was concerned, it was all nonsense and gibberish. 


Even to this day the Kingdom of Heaven is looked down upon.  But the day will come when the Kingdom of Heaven will be the largest of all the kingdoms of the world.  It will be the Kingdom of all Kingdoms.  It will fill the whole universe and all things will submit to God’s Kingdom and His rule.


In verses 34 and 35 Matthew tells us that Jesus always spoke to the crowds in parables.  If those hearing the parables really wanted to know what  they meant, they could seek Jesus out for the answers, yet for the majority, they just heard and didn’t understand because they did not seek Jesus out for the answers.  Most of the crowd was only following Jesus for what they could get from Him. 


The fact that Jesus spoke in parables actually fulfilled Psa. 78:2.  So here we see yet another prophetic Psalm.  The Psalm goes on to say that Jesus will utter things that have been hidden.  We’ve noted this before.  Paul, in his writings speaks of the mysteries of God that have been hidden in times past.  Jesus is alluding to these mysteries or secrets in these parables.  The mysteries are all about the Kingdom of God that reaches far beyond the borders of Israel and the Jews.  It reaches to the Gentiles and what brings both Jew and Gentile together into God’s Kingdom is the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit that comes into the lives of the believer.


The Parables Of The Weeds Explained (ch. 13:36 - 43


In verse 36 we see Jesus leaving the crowd to go into a house. While in the house some of His disciples ask Him what the parable of the weeds in the field meant.  So although Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, it is understandable that they didn’t really have a clue to what Jesus was talking about.  If Jesus’ closest and most dedicated followers didn’t understand, then it’s not likely that most of the crowd understood.


In verse 37 Jesus says that the Son of Man is the one who sowed the seed, and that’s Jesus.


In verse  38 Jesus says that they field represents the world while the seed sown are “the sons of the Kingdom”, that would be His disciples, which would include us today. 


Also in verse 38 we see that the weeds are the “sons of the evil one”. The evil one is the devil and the sons of  the evil one are those who follow satan . 


In verse 39 Jesus says that the harvest is the harvest of people at the end of the age and the harvesters are angels.


Jesus is very explicit in explaining this parable.  He leaves nothing out.  In verse 40 He says “as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age”.  Jesus continues in verse 41 by saying that at the end of the age He will send out His angels into His Kingdom.  They will root out everything that causes sin and everyone who does evil.  In verse 42 the angels will throw them into a furnace of fire where there will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth in inexpressible horror.  This furnace of fire is what is called the Lake of Fire in the book of Revelation. 


In verse 43 Jesus says that “then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom”.   We notice that at the end of the age that they evil ones will be removed from the earth and burned.  For Futurists who believe in a literal 1000 years of the earthly rule of Jesus, the end that Jesus is talking about here is after those 1000 years.  At the end of the 1000 years the devil is released for one last brief time, after which he and all who do evil will be thrown into the Lake of Fire for all of eternity.  The remaining righteous will remain on the earth, but the earth will be re-made into the New Earth where we will rule with Jesus forever. We stay on the New Earth.  We don’t live in Heaven.


Some have suggested that the good plants and the weeds grow together in “the church”.  But Jesus is saying nothing here about the church.  The field where the good seed is planted is the world, not the church. 


The Kingdom spoken of here is the Kingdom of God that is not of this world.  It comes from above so to speak, where God is.  The Kingdom is spiritual at this point in time.  The sons of the Kingdom, that’s us Christians at present live in the world that is alienated from us since we’ve been born into a new world, a new Kingdom.  During this age in which we presently live, we represent God’s Kingdom to the world.  The Kingdom itself is not here in the world.  It’s only here through us and the Holy Spirit, yet when the end of the age comes and all evil is thrown off this earth, at that point the Kingdom of God will come to earth in its fullest sense of the word, which is both spiritual and material.


The Parable Of The Hidden Treasure And The Pearl   (ch. 13:44 - 46)


In verses 44 and 45 Jesus gives two short parables or analogies concerning what the Kingdom of God is like.  In verse 45 He speaks of  a man going through a field and finds a very expensive treasure.  The field does not belong to him so in all honesty he could not claim the treasure for himself.  So what he does is he buries the treasure in the field so no one else can find it.  At that point he sells all that he has and buys the field.  Once buying the field, the treasure that he found is now his.


This is the way it is with the Kingdom of God.  There is a treasure in God’s Kingdom and it’s Jesus.  It is worth it for us to give up all that we have for Him.  This is what repentance and turning to Jesus in faith is all about.  You give up control of your whole life and hand it over to Jesus.  In one sense of the word, you sell your life and all that’s meaningful to you in order to buy the Pearl of Great Price, as the old hymn says it. 


You might remember Jesus telling us earlier to “be wise or shrewd as a snake but harmless as a dove”.  This parable shows us how shrewd the man was to first burry the treasure and then go and buy the field.  


Jesus actually mentions pearls in verses 45 and 46. He speaks of a merchant who finds a pearl of great price.  He wants this pearl because he knows how valuable it is, so he, like the man in verse 44 sells all that he has to buy this pearl. 


The point to both of these analogies is that Jesus is worth giving everything we have up for.  He must be first in our lives, and when we try to hang on to our own ways, our own things, we deny Him the ability to be Lord over those things we hold back.  The simple truth is that God’s Kingdom is worth giving all things up for.


The Parable Of The Net  (ch. 13:47 - 52)


In verse 47 to 50 Jesus tells a parable of a net being cast into the water.  This parable is very similar to the parable of the weeds growing up with the good plants. The moral of the story is the same.  In this parable fishermen catch a great number of fish.  The net gets so full that they have to pull it in.  The fishermen then separate the good fish that can be eaten from the fish that is not good to be eaten.  The bad fish are burned in a fire.


So it is at the end of this age when God will send His angels to separate the wicked from those who have given their lives to Jesus.  As in the parable of the weeds and the wheat, the evil ones are cast into the Lake of Fire where there will be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth.


In verse 51 Jesus pauses to ask His disciples if they have understood the things that He has been telling them.  The disciples replied by saying that they did understand what Jesus was saying.  Whether they really understood every last detail of what Jesus is saying is somewhat questionable.  We see them many times acting as if they don’t understand what Jesus tells them and at these times Jesus gets a bit frustrated with them.  But it might well be that they did understand what Jesus was saying on this particular occasion, but not necessarily on every occasion.


This section closes in verse 52 with Jesus saying, “therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the Kingdom of Heaven is like a owner of a house who brings out of the storeroom of his house both new treasures as well as old”.  Jesus is specifically talking about the “teachers of the Law” with these words.  He’s not talking about anyone else.


The teachers of the Law believed and taught all the old truths of God found in the Old Testament.  Yet if they believed in and followed the instruction of Jesus as He says here, then they’ve got some new truth to believe in and teach.  Thus the teacher of the Law will bring out both the new and the old teachings from his storeroom to teach the people. 


We need to know here that Jesus isn’t discounting the old, or throwing the old completely out.  What He is doing here is giving a hint that the new teachings He is presenting must shed light on the old teaching.  Or another way to put it is that the old should be interpreted by the new because the old is fulfilled in the new, or the old spoke about the new. 


The truth of the Old Testament must be understood in light of the New Testament.  If you don’t understand this basic principle of Biblical interpretation you will not live your life properly as a New Testament Christian.  You’ll be living as an Old Testament Jew, someone you are not. 


In my thinking, this is one of the most misunderstood issues for Christians today.  They do not know how to understand the Old Testament as New Testament Christians.  They read and understand the Old Testament as if it is a stand alone book, something it’s not.  All the prophecies, all the Laws, and many of the historical events of the Old Testament spoke of better days to come.  Those better days have arrived and they are all about Jesus.  It is mandatory that we interpret the Old Testament from a New Testament perspective


A Prophet Without Honor (ch. 13:53 - 58)


In verses 53 and 54 we see that Jesus is finished teaching the crowds in parables on this occasion and he returns to His home of Nazareth.  While in Nazareth he taught in their synagogue.


It is clear that the ruling people of the synagogue allowed Jesus to teach, at least for a while.  Yet just because He was allowed to teach does not make him an official teacher of the Law as seen by the Jewish leadership. 


The people who heard Jesus teach were amazed at His wisdom and the miracles He performed.  They’d never seen anyone like Jesus before.  The stark contrast between Him and the teachers of the Law was readily apparent. He spoke with authority, as if He was God’s messenger, which He was.  The people were used of vague lectures based on Old Testament commentaries.  On top of the way in which Jesus taught was the miracles that accompanied His teaching, something people didn’t see in their leaders.


In verse 55 the people of Capernaum ask, “isn’t this the carpenter’s son?  Isn’t His mother Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” 


From verse 55 we see that Jesus had at least 4 brothers.  The James mentioned here later become one of the prominent leaders in the Jerusalem church.  He also wrote the letter of James found in the New Testament. 


We see that these people knew Mary.  She was obviously still alive.  Matthew did not mention the name of Jesus’ earthly father.  He only mentions that Jesus’ father is, or was a carpenter.  Most scholars feel that Joseph was no longer alive at this point in time.


In verse 56 the people of Capernaum note that Jesus’ sisters were with them.  How many sisters Jesus had is uncertain.


Also in verse 56 they wondered how Jesus got “all these things”, as in, His wisdom and His miracles. 


As a result of this questioning the Jews of Capernaum “took offense” at Jesus.  Even though they saw the miracles and acknowledged His wisdom they took offense at Jesus.  They rejected Him.  They were irritated at what He had to say.


Jesus responded to their rejection by saying, “only in his own town and in his own house is a prophet without honor”.  The simple point that Jesus is making is that a prophet, which He was, is not honored in his home town and among his family.  In Jesus’ case His home town was Capernaum , although He was not honored in Nazareth as well, where He grew up as a youth.  His family is his immediate family as well as the family of Jews. We know at one point that Jesus’ brothers thought He was mad and out of His mind.  We also know that Israel as a whole rejected Him. 


The chapter closes in verse 58 with Matthew telling us that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in His home town because of the people’s lack of faith.  This verse should not be taken with the understanding that lack of faith prevents miracles and healings so somehow we must muster up more faith to get healed.  It wasn’t a matter of enough faith.  It was a matter that faith is trust and acceptance of a person, and these people had no trust and no acceptance for Jesus.  They did not come to Him for healing because they were offended by Him. Because they did not come to Him, Jesus did not go out of His way to perform miracles for them.


There’s more to healing and miracles than faith.  It’s my opinion as stated elsewhere that Jesus healed many people who had little faith, or little to no trust in Him.  He did not turn anyone away who wanted to be healed even if they had little faith.  Faith wasn’t always the key.  The key on Jesus’ part was to back up what He said with these miraculous signs.  Once again, the people in Jesus’ home town were not healed because their lack of trust in Him prevented them to come to Him to be healed.  It’s that simple.

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