Friday 18 June 2021

 MATTHEW 13 . V 1/23

This Chapter is divided into three parts in which Jesus is referring in Matthew’s terms to the Kingdom of heaven, or to the Kingdom of God which Mark and Luke call it. John does not tell this story

The parables are meant to be a spur towards decision and challenge people to think.  In verses 1-9 Jesus gives the parable of the Sower, and then interprets it in verses 18/23. Two sequel parables end the chapter.

 Jesus we are told sat by the sea, which would be the Sea of Galilee, and sitting was the normal position for teachers. The ministry of Jesus up to this point had been in Synagogues, but now he has gone into the open air.  There was a natural amphitheatre in a horseshoe   shape, and when the crowd got too great He went into a boat.

Jesus used parables as a means of communicating truth in a way which could easily be understood, in order to teach a moral or spiritual lesson.

There is a good lesson for preachers here.  Jesus always used words and examples which enabled people to grasp and understand.  There is no purpose in using words normal people would not use, or examples which complicate matters.  The interest of a story is vital to a listener and cause him/her to reflect.

   In Palestine the fields were in long narrow strips, and the ground between strips was a footpath used by people. In verses 4/7 Jesus tells that the seed was scattered in all directions, and whilst the farmer walked up and down, some would accidentally fall on the hard (foot)paths and the birds would eat them up. Some fell on ground which was uneven and rocky, covered only by a thin layer of soil, and would not root properly, especially when the sun would burn them up. Others would fall among thorns, which choked out other plants, which could not get the nutrients to bear fruit. This meant there was an uneven yield. But seed also fell on fertile ground and would provide a good yield.

When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables, He told them outsiders cannot understand what He said, ‘but you my disciples, can for you know me’. Jesus was in effect saying the truth about Christianity is that you have to be a Christian; you cannot understand the faith from the outside, you have to be inside, and for people to criticise our faith who are not Christians, is pure arrogant ignorance.`

    The Kingdom of Heaven was a mystery to be given to the disciples, but not to the unconverted crowd The manifestation of the kingdom was only just beginning at that time, in advance of its coming at the end of the age. The Kingdom of Heaven, also referred to as Kingdom of God, is the spiritual realm where God reigns, such as in the lives of all who have accepted Jesus as saviour.

 God uses a parable to either harden a person’s heart so they could not understand, or to gains a person’s response to follow Jesus and accepting his message.  Jesus quoted Isaiah, who was bewildered after he gave a message which he thought would be so clear to people, yet they did not understand it.

 Every preacher finds himself in a similar position. Something is explained in a compelling way, yet people will not accept it. Isaiah despaired and felt as if he was talking to a wall. It was part of Jewish belief that absolutely nothing happened in this world beyond the will of God. Isaiah took it therefore that failure was the ultimate purpose of God who would use things for His glory.

 Jesus wanted to encourage His disciples that someday they would fully understand what God was doing, and those who rejected Jesus and His message, would one day find it had been taken to a vastly bigger number in the Gentiles. This often happens in our experience when we think something was largely a waste of time when in fact what we have said takes effect in a way which we may never know.

I had a Vicar friend who was once quite demoralised after preparing a sermon diligently, and found the reception disheartening. Some years later he was passing through a village some distance from his parish, and went into a shop where the owner recognised the Vicar and said how much he had benefited from that sermon.

 The greatest impact you may have in this world may be when you have left it.  Your faith, or lack of it, will fall on those who follow you. The greatest music writers like Mozart and Bach, never knew the way their music was played worldwide for years, and still after their death.

 I once took a funeral of a young lawyer who died as a result of depression believing he had been a failure.  People in the legal profession respected him so highly that barristers sent handwritten letters to his family saying how much the profession had lost such  talent.

 Jesus then went on to say the one who has much more will be given. In every walk of life, the one who has a lot will get more. Some students will work hard at their studies and will become more knowledgeable than those who neglect their study, and their grasp of their subject will weaken.

A pianist who practises regularly will become more talented, but one who only plays occasionally will be less able. If neglect of things is bad, wilful neglect is worse, such as when people deliberately turn away from listening to our Lord’s teaching.

 Jesus then gave an explanation of the parable. The seed which fell on solid ground represents the people with hearts which are hardened against it, such in Jesus case were the Pharisees, the evil one Satan enters their heart and they reject what they hear. We liken this to the many who see religion as believing in fairy tales and brashly mock it away.

The seed falling on rocky ground is like the one who hears and responds immediately and then quickly falls away. This is like those who went to a Billy Graham Crusade and responded to the altar call, touched by the wonderful preaching, the singing of the massed choirs, but then went back to their parish and found the contrast too hard to accept and so fell away. The seed had not gained root,

The seed falling among thorns is like the one who is attracted by the Word of God, but is tempted by the lure of the world’s values and finds them hard to resist.

 The good seed is likened to those who are ready to hear and respond to the gospel which enriches life.

This is a parable of encouragement with the lesson being that the harvest is sure. Every farmer expects some failure, and we must in seeking souls expect the same, but like the farmer we must not stop sowing for we can be sure also that we will bear some fruit, however much less than we would like.

May God bless you in all your endeavours for His glory


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