Friday 24 July 2020

Matthew 13 v 31/47
In the Lectionary journey through Matthew’s gospel we have come to Chapter 13 with its 7 parables, and in today’s passage we have five. Jesus in His teaching took scenes from everyday life to which people could relate to make them think in a way which they had not considered.

Jesus began to speak to the people by the Sea of Galilee but the crowd became so big He went on a boat on the water. He took the image of a mustard seed which a farmer had sowed in his field.  This was the smallest of the seeds, but it grew into a substantial sixed tree in which birds could nest.  Jesus was foretelling that the gospel and His Kingdom may have small beginning, but could spread and many nations would be reached from that little land of Israel.

Today the scientific brilliance of Israel has been a gift which continues to spread its discoveries right across the world so that even its enemies benefit from the genius, in agriculture, medicine, wireless technology, many ot the everyday things we find so useful and dependent upon, from mobile phones to computers to aspirin. They have created a dialysis machine you can carry around in a case, which the NHS won’t look at that, probably because it is made and discovered in Israel..

Jesus then turned to leaven, which is used to transform the making of bread which would otherwise be dry and unappetising. Jesus was teaching that Christianity could transform people’s lives making them more attractive and acceptable.  This would be taken across the world, and whilst Christianity now is weakening in the Western nations, it is growing massively in the East, Africa and South America, where it is not being polluted by liberal cultural ideas, but fed with the pure water of the Word of God.

We are to be encouraged to understand that God works and appeals to men and women, just as the leaven works in the dough, not seen yet it is taking place.  Sometimes a preacher will touch someone’s mind, yet never know the seed he sowed bore fruit.

The lesson from these two parables is that Christians should live with expectancy, knowing God will bring great things from small beginnings, and so our duty as Christians is to live worthily of Him and do all we can to spread the gospel.

In verses 44/46 we have two parables telling of the value of the Kingdom of Heaven. There were no banks or safety deposit boxes in bible days, so people would bury their precious items in the ground. But Palestine was a land where there was always fighting, often people would flee their homes leaving the treasure buried and did not always return to collect.

A man in the course of his work came across such treasure and believed what he had found was worth more than his own possessions, so he sold his own goods in order to buy the field where the treasure lay.

The second man was a dealer in pearls looking for the very best ones.  He eventually found one and sold the others he owned, in order to buy the best.

Both men realising the value of their findings had no hesitation in risking everything.  They are like the Apostles who sacrificed all to follow Jesus.  We as Christians have to decide if we are willing to make a commitment.

In this passage it explains how we recognise a true Christian; it is one who is truly persuaded to give up aspects of life which society accepts and observes God’s teaching before what the State or false teachers want you to believe, in order to achieve eternal salvation. This is why so many people cannot be brought to follow Jesus; they are not prepared to give up society and take up the Cross.

The last parable in verse 47 is about letting down a net into the sea. The net would be a big one with cords at each corner, and weighed so that it could be stood upright in the water.  When the boat moved the net would be drawn along in a form of a cone into which fish would be swept.  On landing, the catch was put into containers and the unworthy ones cast aside.

The lesson here is applied to the Church.  The preaching of the gospel was like letting down a large net into the world which results in a mixed catch,   In all Churches there are good and bad, converted and unconverted, children of God and children of the world. To imagine all Church members are filled with the Holy Spirit and are true followers of Christ is a false dream.

In order to be filled with the Holy Spirit one has to believe and accept that Jesus gave his life to pay for our sins when he died on the Cross, and we accept him into our lives by living as he intended us to do when he told his Apostles to teach all he commanded.

We see more now than ever that some people live lives which do not accord with the Lord’s teaching, and the Church establishment accepts and even embraces it.  People may be inside the net, but outside of Christ.  The bread and wine may be taken at the Lord’s Table by people who do not feed on Christ.  One day when the net is drawn to the heavenly shore, the true character of all will be revealed.

The passage closes with Jesus asking the disciples, ‘do you understand what I have old you’?  A sermon without application is like posting a letter without an address written on.  Many sermons are heard by congregations of people whose principal Christian action is to just attend Church, without paying attention to what they are being told. 

I was once told by a lady, who thought it very amusing and boastful, to say she thought of what she would be doing in the week ahead during the sermon.  We need to take our minds as well as our bodies to Church. It is the business of Christians to understand how to live realistically in accordance with our faith.

When non Christians look at us they ought to see we live differently, and better.  If they see in us nothing but some bickering quarrelling and in-fighting, see marriages breaking up, see sexual immorality prevailing in our lives; if they see heartaches as in all their lives, they are entitled to ask, what is so special about our religion and message?  Why is it not working for you? What have you got to offer us?

This is why the Churches need to get back to the Bible.  We have to show we live according to the teaching which God laid down therein. The world is watching and getting a distorted picture of life. Christians are expected to be the salt and light of society, the moral disinfectant of the nation, but salt can go bad and the light can fail, which it seems to have done in places.

When the Lord spoke to His Apostles after telling them about the Kingdom of God, He asked them if they understood what He had been saying.  Jesus went on to point out each day we have new experiences, and life is made up of things new, but there are things old which are abiding, eternal unalterable principles which remain the same for ever, and the Church today is trying to overlook this. God is the same yesterday, today for ever. 

The Word of God is where you learn what is real and trustworthy. That is what Christianity is all about and what the world needs to hear.

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