Berean Bible Study Notes



The Parables of Matthew 13



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I believe that what these parables teach is different than what many people say they teach. Their very reason for being is explained in Matthew, but many people don't catch that. Let's start at the beginning of the chapter:

Matthew 13

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.

Right away we have to stop and ask - the same day as what? The Bible never adds anything without a reason. This is going to require backing up a chapter:

Matthew 12

12:1 At that time Oops! Have to go back even further. At what time?

Matthew 11:1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.

So, we're talking about a time when Jesus is teaching the people, going through the towns of Galilee.

Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath." He's in Galilee, but the Parisees are following and watching him carefully.

3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread - which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

11 He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."

13 Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. This is the first mention of this in Matthew. Obviously, they have rejected Him as Messiah. Jesus has not officially revealed Himself as Messiah. That doesn't happen until He enters Jerusalem on the donkey.

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, 16 warning them not to tell who he was. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 "Here is my servant whom I have chosen,

the one I love, in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

19 He will not quarrel or cry out;

no one will hear his voice in the streets.

20 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,

till he leads justice to victory.

21 In his name the nations will put their hope."

24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." The Pharisees are still following, still watching. Notice what they have done - ascribed a true work of God to the prince of demons.

25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28 But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

29 "Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.

30 "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

39 He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. There may be even more going on here than the three days. Who did Jonah go and preach to? His own people? No - he went to the Gentiles, and they repented.

43 ""When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."

48 He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

The Parable of the Four Soils

Matthew 13:1 That same day So, this is the same day that the Pharisees said He was doing work by the power of Satan. Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, This is His first use of parables! You can look in the chapters before this and you will not see parables. saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."

10 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

11 He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets musterion (moos-tay'-ree-on); This word, used 27 times in the NT and usually translated "mystery," means something that hasn't been revealed before. These mysteries or secrets were not known in the Old Testament, and even in the New Testament, they weren't revealed to everyone, but only to believers. This word is actually defined several times, just so we understand, in Eph 3:9, Rom 16:25, Col. 1:26 and right here in Matthew 13:

Matthew 13:34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."

of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

"Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'

This is a quote from Isaiah, when Isaiah was shown a vision of God on His throne.

Isaiah 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

9 He said, "Go and tell this people:

"'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."

11 Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?"

And he answered: "Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land."

That sounds awfully cruel. Why would God say such a thing? Isaiah explains in the previous chapter:

Isaiah 5:1I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,but it yielded only bad fruit.

Isaiah 5:7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel,and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

There is also this:

Isaiah 49:6 he (God) says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

I know it's very hard to understand (it is for me, at least!), but the Bible teaches that salvation was offered to the Gentiles (us!) because of the rejection of the Jews:

Romans 11:11 Again I ask: Did they (physical Israel - the Jews) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Romans 11:17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

 

This supernatural hardening/blinding of the Jews came after they had rejected Jesus when He had officially shown Himself to be their long-awaited Messiah on what we call Palm Sunday:

Luke 19:37 When he (Jesus) came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

This blinding and its effects were prophesied in Isaiah:

Isaiah 29:9 Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer. 10 The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers).

11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I can't; it is sealed." 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I don't know how to read."

When Jesus says, "He who has ears, let him hear," He is talking about those that DO understand, those that are meant to see. It is kind of a code for, "Pay attention. There is more here than just the surface words." You'll find the same words in the seven letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. Basically He's saying that not everyone is going to understand. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us eyes to see and ears to hear - the Holy Spirit who "reveals all truth."

So, at this time - BEFORE that day we call Palm Sunday - Jesus is already hiding His message from those who rejected Him. He no longer speaks plainly in public, but only in parables. Therefore, the parables are not to reveal, but to conceal. They are not teaching aides. They are codes.

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.

18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom

With the people, Jesus began His parable by saying, "A farmer went out to sow his seed." Who is the farmer? The very first place to look is in these parables. Does Jesus ever explain who the sower is?

Matthew 13:37 He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

The sower is the one who is giving the message of the kingdom. Who was that? The first use of the word kingdom in the NT is here:

Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

And the next use is here:

Matthew 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."

Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom , and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

Luke 4:43 But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent."

Luke 8:1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.

In the parable here, the sower is Jesus (and John the Baptist before Him) and then anyone who tells the good news of the kingdom, anyone who spreads the gospel:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. With the people, Jesus had said, "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up." So, Jesus is saying that the seed falling along the path (where the soil is very hard and trampled) is the gospel being told to people who don't understand it. The birds represent the evil one, Satan, who comes and snatches away the good news.

20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The rocky places would be baked by the sun. Without roots penetrating through the rock, the plants cannot survive. People argue about whether these were people who were really saved or not. Since those with the Holy Spirit WILL produce fruit, it would seem as though perhaps these were not. I'm just not sure.

22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. Again, people argue, as above. These people produce no fruit. Does that mean they weren't saved? Again, I'm not sure. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Notice the DECREASING order. Why this order? Wouldn't the normal way of saying it be the other way around?)

This parable is pretty easy, because Jesus explains it to us in plain language. There will be more to see even here after we look at the others, though. For example, notice the ABSENSE of the words "kingdom of heaven." Also, of all the seed spread, how much actually produced a harvest?

 

The Parable of the Sower and the Seeds

Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven Jesus is now saying something is like the kingdom of heaven. What does the kingdom of heaven mean? As we go on, it'll become obvious that the kingdom of heaven is Christendom, the visible church - those that CALL themselves Christian, whether they really are or not. How can that be, when the kingdom of heaven is to be pure and holy? It will be, when it comes for real. The kingdom of heaven is both "here and now" AND "not yet." Only Matthew uses the phrase "kingdom of heaven," but in some of these same parables, the "kingdom of God" is used instead in the other gospel accounts. They seem to be interchangeable (at least in my current understanding). You can see the "not yet" aspect here:

Luke 19:11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: "A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. 'Put this money to work,' he said, 'until I come back.'

Luke 21:25 There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 29 He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near."

 1 Corinthians 15:50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God , nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds (KJV, NASB - tares) among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (actually what this means is that when both, the wheat and the tares, started to show their grain, it became obvious to the servants that bad seed had grown, too)

27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

28 "'An enemy did this,' he replied. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

29 "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'"

A few verses later, Jesus explains this parable privately:

Matthew 13:36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."

37 He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. (Remember the previous parable, where the seed was the word of the kingdom. Not all of the seed grew and produced fruit. Note, here, though, the GOOD seed. So, this seed is the seed which landed on the good soil. It will produce fruit. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, The NIV does us no favors here with helping to understand this. These are not just WEEDS, but TARES - fake wheat. While it is growing, you can't tell the difference between the false wheat and the real wheat. Worse, the fruit of the tare is poisonous when you eat enough of it. 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. Remember in the previous parable, the gospel which landed on good soil produced a crop. The seed is both the gospel and the plant that grows from it. Here, the devil, Satan, sows tares or fake wheat. Therefore, the seed that he uses has to be a false gospel. When does he sow this false gospel? While everyone was sleeping. How often does Jesus warn us not to sleep? Over and over again. Three times he warned Peter to wake up and pray in the garden, and three times he slept. Interesting that immediately after that, Peter went on to deny Jesus three times. Continually, Jesus warns us to watch - to watch for evil, to watch for false teachers, to watch for His coming. Remember the sleeping virgins, waiting for the bridegroom? Some were caught completely unprepared. What does Jesus say in Revelation to those found sleeping?

Revelation 3:2 Wake up ! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.

So, here, Satan uses a false gospel to grow fake Christians. You cannot tell them apart from real Christians. They look the same, act the same, talk the same. Yet their fruit is poison. No one notices it happening because everyone is asleep. The harvest is the end of the age, What is Jesus saying here? He is saying that these tares will be with us the whole time. The harvest appears to be huge, but MUCH of it will not be real. and the harvesters are angels. In the first telling of the parable, the harvesters were called the servants. So, apparently, as the fruit begins to show forth, the angels notice all the fake Christians. Notice that the wheat has nothing to do with it. The wheat and the tares grow side by side, both producing fruit from the original seed - good and poison.

40 "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. Notice that even to this private group, AFTER His explanation, Jesus says, "He who has ears, let him hear." So, there is still more for the Holy Spirit to show us, even beyond Jesus' explanation.

Weeds: (KJ, NASB - tares) zizanion {dziz-an'-ee-on}
1) a kind of darnel, resembling wheat except the grains are black

From Easton's Revised Bible Dictionary:

Tares: The bearded darnel, mentioned only in Mt 13:25-30 It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.

The parable of the darnel

Darnel's fruit, its seeds, contain poison. The seeds of the darnel plant contain a soporific drug which can induce deep sleep, or cause one to become drowsy and lethargic. It can even be lethal; it can cause breathing to stop. Simply, darnel seeds have in them a narcotic drug that causes slumber.

 

The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Matthew 13:31 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches."

Jesus is still among the crowd. He doesn't explain it, even in private, but just lets it stand as is.

Garden plants: (KJ - herbs) lachanon {lakh'-an-on}
1) any pot herb, vegetables

Perch: (KJ - lodge, NASB - nest) kataskenoo {kat-as-kay-no'-o}
1) to pitch one's tent, to fix one's abode, to dwell

This is now another use of the "kingdom of heaven." This is the only use of the word "mustard" in the whole Bible (other than having faith as small as a mustard seed), so this plant must have been familiar enough that no other explanation was necessary. In our isolated Wisconsin world, we read this and think that mustard in Israel must be something different than it is here. It isn't. They do have a much longer growing season and warmer weather than we do, so things do get bigger. However, there is something going on here that we miss if we read this casually.

First, "garden plants" mean vegetables or herbs like you grow at home in a regular garden. It means an herbaceous plant, which by definition is NOT woody. This is saying that this non-woody, regular plant BECOMES a tree. The word means "transformed" or "made into." Notice it doesn't say it grows into a tree but BECOMES a tree.

Mustard plants in Israel are the same as they are here. They grow a bit bigger - sometimes three or four feet high. Here are some pictures of them:

Mustard Field Along Highway 87 in Israel

Mustard Field in Bloom on the North Shore of the Galilee

This is not to say that mustard cannot grow quite large, as here: Mustard as tall as a man in Israel

However, this is not the normal. This would be mustard that is hugely overgrown, so big that birds can nest in its branches. The NIV says "perch", but the word means to make their home there, make their living there. The King James says lodge, and the NASB says nest. Both are better translations.

Something else to think about: what did the birds represent in the first parable? They were the agents of Satan. That phrase, "birds of the air" is used often in the Bible. It is most often used to refer to feasting on the carcasses of dead people. Sometimes, we get a hint that it means more than regular birds:

Job 28:20 "Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? 21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds of the air.

That's interesting. Does it just mean that birds fly and have a better view? Hmmm. Maybe not. Read on.

Eccl 10:20 Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.

A bird of the air may report what you say - even your thoughts? There's something weird going on with this "birds of the air" thing.

Rev. 18:2 With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird .

Notice how a "home for demons" and a "haunt for every evil spirit" seem to be kind of synonymous. Then, why stick the phrase in about unclean and detestable birds? Could it be that it is actually a third way of saying the same thing? Who is in control of the kingdom of the air?

Ephesians 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air , the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.

Are you getting the idea that these "birds of the air" might represent evil spirits? If you go back the verse in Job and in Ecclesiastes and put in "evil spirits," suddenly both verses make a lot more sense. Put this all together with the fact that the birds were agents of Satan in the first parable, and suddenly a much different picture from the usual Sunday School interpretation is starting to show up here. The kingdom of heaven is like a plant that starts very small and grows abnormally large (larger than it's supposed to be) - so large that the agents of Satan can actually dwell and make their living comfortably within it, protected and safe.

The previous parable was about fake Christians, living alongside real ones, but perhaps they don't even realize they're not real? Is it possible for people to think they're Christians but not be? Remember this passage?

Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord ,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord , did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

This parable seems to go even beyond people who think they are Christians, to possibly suggest that the church will harbor - even protect - those who are actively evil.

 

OK, that's the first three of the seven parables in Matthew 13. Let's review just a bit. There are many parables throughout the New Testament, but there is something complete about these seven. They were all given on the same day - the day that the Jewish leadership attributed Jesus' miracle to Beelzebub, another name for Satan. At that point, Jesus began to speak in parables. This confused the disciples, who weren't used to him speaking that way:

Matthew 13:10 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

And Jesus responded:

Matthew 13:11 He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

So, as we mentioned, the parables are not to reveal, but to conceal. They are not teaching aides. They are codes. And, yet, with the help of the Holy Spirit, there is much to learn in them. However, I want you to take all of this with a grain of salt. I want you to be Bereans and continue to check it out for yourself. I personally believe that most of the parables were strong warnings - not promises of incredible growth. However, as Jesus did not specifically tell us what most of them meant, we can't make declarative statements about them. Please don't take any of this that way!

What we go over here may not be anything that you've heard before, and before you simply take it to heart, please pray and study on it. If I am right, and these are warnings, not warm fuzzies, it is not a reason to be depressed. It is a reason to rejoice that Jesus knows the end from the beginning, and that absolutely nothing that goes wrong in our churches is any surprise to Him. He has already taken it into account - and it already fits into our plan for us. That doesn't mean that evil was ever His will. Far from it!!! But, it does mean that being God, He is able to work all things for our good.

The Parable of the Yeast in the Dough

Matthew 13:33 He told them still another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

This parable is just a single sentence! No explanation at all. The NIV says "a large amount of flour." The King James says "three measures." The NASB says "three pecks." The Greek actually says "three satas", which was probably about 1/2 bushel or 22 liters. You'll see that note at the bottom of the NIV. The first time that same measure is used was back in Genesis:

Genesis 18:6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread."

If you look at the bottom of the page, you'll see the footnote says "That is, probably about 20 quarts (about 22 liters)" It's the same amount. From this account in Genesis, making bread with that much flour became known as the "fellowship meal" to both Jews and Arabs. It was always unleavened.

The word that the NIV translates "mixed" is ekgrupto (eng-kroop'-to), which means to "hide in anything." All the other main translations - KJV, NASB, NKJV, ASV translate it "hid." It comes from the word krupto, which means "to cover, conceal, keep secret." It's where we get our word "cryptic." It's used in the next verses of our parable:

Matthew 13:35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."

So, here we have the same amount of flour as the Jews would have recognized as the fellowship offering (which was always unleavened) - and a woman is HIDING yeast in it. What's that all about? In the NIV, the word "yeast" is used 58 times. In the Old Testament, yeast meant yeast. It wasn't used symbolically - and yet, it pictured something profound. Remember this passage?

Exodus 12:15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast . On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat - that is all you may do. 17 "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 18 In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast , from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day. 19 For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. 20 Eat nothing made with yeast . Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread."

"Yeast" is used 14 times in the New Testament. The first time was in Matthew 13, in the verse we just gave. It is the word zume (dzoo'-may), which means to ferment (as if boiling up). As you know, that is what yeast does - it puffs up. In dough, it multiplies and ferments. As it does, gas is released. It is the gas that "puffs up" the dough. The next use is here:

Matthew 16:5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

Which Jesus then explains further, here:

Matthew 16:11 How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So, here, yeast means "false teaching." So far, it's only been used in warning. The next use is here:

Mark 8:15 "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod."

Again, false teaching. Warning again.

Luke 12:1 "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Here, it says yeast means hypocrisy. They spouted the right words, but didn't fulfill them in their actions. Still warning. The next is the same parable, repeated in Luke's gospel:

Luke 13:21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough."

That's all of the uses in the gospels. So far, yeast has either been used in warning or in the parable we're exploring. Maybe it's something different in Paul's writings?

1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast , the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast , the bread of sincerity and truth.

Here, Paul is specifically using yeast as a symbol of sin, of malice and wickedness. To be without yeast is to be filled with sincerity and truth. There is one more use in the New Testament:

Galatians 5:7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough."

This one is slightly more ambiguous, but you can still see that Paul is not using yeast in a good way. So, in every single use in the Bible outside these parables (with one possible exception - except that I don't think it's an exception and we'll go through it in a bit), yeast is used in a negative way. What does that mean for this parable?

The kingdom of heaven is like a very large amount of flour (22 liters is a huge amount of flour - way more than needed for a family), an amount normally associated in Jewish (and Arab) minds with the unleavened offering that Abraham gave to the three visitors at the great trees of Mamre. A woman hides yeast, symbolic of sin or false teaching, within the dough and it works all the way through. The woman does this intentionally.

So, who is this woman? There are so many in the Bible, but this one reminds me of these:

Zechariah 5:5 Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, "Look up and see what this is that is appearing." 6 I asked, "What is it?" He replied, "It is a measuring basket." And he added, "This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land." 7 Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! 8 He said, "This is wickedness," and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed the lead cover down over its mouth.

Revelation 17:3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 This title was written on her forehead:

MYSTERY

BABYLON THE GREAT

THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES

AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

 

Something else to consider is the strong feminism movement going on through Christendom. You've got Bibles that are taking out any reference to gender. You've got books like The DiVinci Code suggesting that men suppressed knowledge of the "sacred feminine." You've got churches with liturgies celebrating women's menstrual cycles. I wish I didn't have to say it - because it doesn't speak well of us - but any church body that puts women in positions of leadership - as pastors, bishops, whatever, winds up on a very rapid downward slide. The Bible specifically speaks against it, and there's a reason for that. We often make decisions with our emotions, and our emotions can be deceptive. Remember that it was originally Eve who was deceived.

Is that what this parable is hinting at? I'm not sure, but regardless, we're left with something far from the typical Sunday School meaning. Jesus seems to be giving a strong warning that an enemy of some kind is intentionally concealing false teaching in the church, and that it works all the way through. Now, when we go back to the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (which was fulfilled with the birth of the church), we see that God was giving a hint:

Lev 23:17 From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour, baked with yeast , as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD.

 

This section of Matthew goes on:

Matthew 13:34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

"I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." (we already went through that above)

 

The Parable of the Treasure in the Field

After Jesus explains the parable of the tares, he continues with more parables. These are now private, shared only with the disciples.

Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

The word translated "treasure" is thesauros (thay-sow-ros'). It means a deposit or wealth, both literal and figurative. It can also mean a storehouse for treasure. Here are two places it is used:

Matthew 6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The usual explanation for this parable is that the treasure is Christ and the gospel, leading to eternal life. This and the parable of the pearl are identical, two ways of saying the same thing. There is some merit to that view:

Hebrews 11:26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

Isaiah 33:6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

Ephesians 3:8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Colossians 2:2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

There is even precedent for the giving up of everything:

Mark 10:28 Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"

Acts 20:24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

So, take everything I say now with grains of salt. (Acts 17:11 says don't believe anything I say, but search the scriptures yourself to see if this holds together!) I have a few problems with that interpretation.

First, there are seven parables, all told on the same day. That implies some measure of completeness. Why, out of seven, would there be two with identical meanings? Second, if the man represents us, finding the gospel, why would we hide it again before going out and "selling all we own?" I suppose this could mean that we hide it in our hearts before giving up all to follow Jesus. However, it was found in the field and hidden again in the field. Third, do we give up all we own to gain possession of salvation? No - Jesus does everything for our salvation. There is nothing for us to DO in order to gain it.

Let's tackle this with the things we can say fairly certainly. Jesus has already told us what the field represents in a previous parable. It represents the world. Who is the man? In every parable so far, the "man" has been Jesus:

Matthew 13:24 The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

Matthew 13:31 The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.

Matthew 13:37 The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

So, let's look at the parable again:

Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

If the man is Jesus, and the field is the world, than what does it mean that in His joy, He sold all he had and bought the field? Could enduring the cross have actually been a joy?

Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

OK, if selling all he had could mean giving up His life on the cross, what does the rest of it mean? If the man is Jesus and the field is the world, what is the treasure? It has to be something that is a treasure to JESUS. In the NIV, there are 18 uses of the word "treasure" and none of them seem to apply to God's treasure. In the King James, there are 37 uses. The first two are just treasure, with no particular meaning beyond monetary treasure. The next one is interesting:

Exodus 19:5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

OK - now we're speaking of a treasure of God. Who is the "you" here? Israel, the nation. The word translated "treasured possession" in the NIV or "peculiar treasure" in the KJV is cegullah (seg-ool-law').

The Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words says:

Cegullah signifies "property" in the special sense of a private possession one personally acquired and carefully preserves. Six times this word is used of Israel as God's personally acquired (elected, delivered from Egyptian bondage, and formed into what He wanted them to be), carefully preserved, and privately possessed people: "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure [NASB, "possession"] unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine" Ex 19:5 - first occurrence.

This word is used eight times in the Bible, and six of them are about the nation of Israel (the other two are about the special treasure of men):

Deut 7:6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

Deut 14:2 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

Deut 26:18 And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.

Psalm 135:4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.

 

OK, let's just go with that for the moment.

Matthew 13:44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

So, so far we have the kingdom of heaven being Israel, hidden in the world. The word "hidden" here means "concealed." It is treasure that is concealed. It is known to the man - Jesus - but not to anyone else. The man found it. That would mean that he had come into the field and searched for the treasure. There are many uses of the word "hidden." Enough to show me that is something I need to study more. For now, I'm going to suggest that if the treasure is Israel, it wasn't supposed to be hidden. The nation as a whole was supposed to be a light for the world:

Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl . Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Mark 4:21 He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.

Jesus came, found Israel hidden in the world (when perhaps it wasn't supposed to be), went and sold all He had - that is, gave up His very life and bought. . . Israel? No. He bought the FIELD, which is the world. The field contained the treasure, but He didn't take possession of the treasure. Instead, He simply bought the world. Does that make sense?

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

Why was this a true temptation? Did Satan just forget that Jesus already owned the world? Is that how Jesus answers? No, Jesus doesn't dispute Satan's claim. Instead, He says,

Matthew 4:10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Three times the Bible calls Satan the prince of this world. He is temporarily in possession of it. It was given to Adam, but Adam lost it to Satan. The temptation in Matthew 4:8 is only a true temptation if Satan could actually offer what he was suggesting.

Now, I'm not going to take the time to make a whole case for this, but I'm going to suggest that the scroll in Revelation Chapter 5 was actually the Title Deed to the earth:

Revelation 5:1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" 3 But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4 I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5 Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

There are four places in the Bible that talks specifically about something being written on both sides. The first is with the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 32:15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.

Ezekiel 2:9 Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, 10 which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

Zechariah 5:1 I looked again - and there before me was a flying scroll! 2 He asked me, "What do you see?" I answered, "I see a flying scroll, thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide." 3 And he said to me, "This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished.

There is one other place where something is written on both sides, although the Bible doesn't specifically say that:

Jeremiah 32:6 Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, 'Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.'

8 "Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.'

"I knew that this was the word of the LORD; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase - the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy - 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard.

This deed that Jeremiah sealed would have been written on both sides, as that is how Title Deeds worked in ancient times. One side would have detailed how the individual came to be selling the land (often bankruptcy). The other would have the terms and conditions for redeeming it. Archeologists have found such scrolls, complete with the cost of opening and reading the scroll noted on the outside.

I'm suggesting the possibility that the scroll in Revelation 5 is just such a deed, but to the whole earth. Don't just take my word for it, but check it out if you're interested. You'll want to study the book of Ruth for more details on what was expected of a kinsman redeemer, and exactly what the four verses above add up to mean. (Four is the number of the world, by the way!)

Anyway, all that aside - if I'm right, than the man is Jesus, the field is the world, and the treasure is the nation of Israel, which was hidden (in disobedience) and is still hidden. Jesus bought the world with His life, but never took possession of the treasure at that time. Let's at least keep that idea in mind while we look at the next parable:

 

The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Most people explain this parable as being the same as the previous one. But, again, why out of seven would two be identical? The only mention of pearls in the Old Testament is indirect:

Leviticus 11:9 "'Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams, you may eat any that have fins and scales. 10 But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales - whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water - you are to detest. 11 And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses. 12 Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you.

Yes, you guessed it. Pearls are not considered valuable to a Jew. There are seven mentions of pearls in the New Testament. One is here. One I've never fully understood:

Matthew 7:6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

One is an admonition by Paul (who you remember was the Apostle to the Gentiles) for godly women not to find their beauty in such things, but in their service to God. Three are in Revelation in regards to Mystery Babylon and the final one is here, in a description of the heavenly Jerusalem:

Revelation 21:19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl . The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

Pearls come from the sea, which is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible. Most of the time, "sea" just means "sea" in actual water. There are a few places where it is used symbolically:

Isaiah 17:12 Oh, the raging of many nations - they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples - they roar like the roaring of great waters!

Isaiah 23:11 The LORD has stretched out his hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble.

Psalm 65:5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, 6 who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, 7 who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Isaiah 5:26 He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily! 30 In that day they will roar over it like the roaring of the sea.

Here nations are compared to the roaring sea.

Jeremiah 51:42 The sea will rise over Babylon; its roaring waves will cover her. 43 Her towns will be desolate, a dry and desert land, a land where no one lives, through which no man travels. Note that the sea will cover Babylon, yet her towns will be a dry and desert land. Is something besides water meant here?

Jeremiah 51:55 The LORD will destroy Babylon; he will silence her noisy din. Waves [of enemies] will rage like great waters; the roar of their voices will resound.

Jeremiah 50:9 For I will stir up and bring against Babylon an alliance of great nations from the land of the north.

When you put these verses together, it becomes apparent that what is meant is that the nations will roar over Babylon.

Ezekiel 26:3 therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.

Daniel 7:2 Daniel said: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea . 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea .

Daniel 7:16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. "So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth.

These kingdoms were Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome - all Gentile nations. When you compare all these verses and others, it would appear that the "sea" represents Gentiles.

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

Why would there not be any sea in the new heaven and new earth? This takes place when we are in our eternal state, and there are no more people who are not God's people. I also take this to mean literally no sea.

So, what does the parable mean?

Matthew 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

I'm suggesting that the pearl represents the Gentiles. The man is Jesus, who sold everything He had (died for us) to purchase the Gentiles - us! We are the pearl of great value. Note how He takes immediate possession of it. If, indeed, the pearl represents the Gentiles, of which the church is mainly made up of, then there are some interesting aspects to this picture. A pearl grows because of irritation or pain. A grain of sand gets inside the oyster, and to protect itself, the oyster seals off the sand with secretions, which become the pearl. What was the result when the church underwent persecution? The people fled, taking the gospel with them, and the church grew rapidly.

So, I believe the parable of the treasure in the field represents Israel - the Jews, while the parable of the pearl represents Gentiles. Even the order of the parables would fit:

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

 

The Parable of the Dragnet

Matthew 13:47 "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus explains this one pretty clearly. The kingdom of heaven - visible Christendom - catches all kinds of fish. (Most translations say "sea," which would again represent Gentiles). Some are good fish and are kept. Others are burned. This is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares, but this parable concentrates on the separation, while the other one concentrated on the growing together.

Obviously, it is the goal of fishermen to catch good fish, but the net hauls in everything, including dead fish and weeds. This kind of net requires more than one person, as explained here:



THE USE OF A CASTING NET

When the Lord came upon Peter and Andrew in Matthew 4, verse 18 says that they were "casting a net into the sea." A casting net (Gk. amphiblestron) was a very special net. It was circular and had weights on its perimeter. A fisherman would drape the net over his shoulder, walk up to the shore, and throw the net. The net would hit the water as a large, open circle, and the weights on the outside edges would bring the net down over any fish that were in the area. Then the fisherman would pull a cord attached to his wrist that closed the net into a sack, and bring his catch up onto the shore.

The Lord had that net in mind when he called the disciples to be fishers of men (Mt. 4:19). He wanted the disciples to throw out their nets, and catch men for Christ.

THE USE OF A DRAGNET

This is a completely different net, as indicated by the use of the Greek word sagene. The dragnet is also known as a seine net or trawl net. It is a very large net. Bible commentator R. C. H. Lenski said that some of those nets covered one-half of a mile. Because of their large size, they could not be used by a man alone.

When used, one end of the net was attached to the shoreline, and the other end was attached to a boat. The boat would then go out on the water and stretch open the net. After the net was opened, the boat would begin to move in a circle. Because the top edge of the net had floats and the bottom edge had weights, it moved through the sea like a vertical wall. As the circle was being completed and the boat made its way back to where the net was attached to the shoreline, all the sea life that was inside the circle the boat made was caught inside the walls of that net.

When the Lord spoke of a casting net, He referred to it in a positive way: He used it as a picture of the disciples catching men for Christ (Mt. 4:19). When He spoke of the dragnet, He was talking about the gathering of men for judgment.

The Lord emphasized two important things in verse 47: the size of the net was immense, and the catch was all-inclusive. The dragnet swept up living and dead creatures, as well as seaweed and other things from the bottom. It caught every form of life in the area that the net encircled.

 

Matthew 13:51 "Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked. "Yes," they replied.

52 He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.

Don't you wish they had asked for more explanation? I do! Yet, there was quite a bit we could get out of these parables. There are new treasures we've added to the old ones we had already. I believe these warnings of Jesus are important. I think the things we've seen happening in the church already are only going to get worse. The only way to handle it is to be in the Word (Be Bereans!!) and on our knees.

 

 A couple of sources for more reading, if you're interested:

KINGDOM GROWTH

The Prophetic Parables of Matthew 13 (This is an entire book by Arthur Pink)


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These studies were written by Jacqui Komschlies. If you'd like to know more about our Berean Bible Study,

or if you have a question, comment, correction or concern, please write me.



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