January 22 I Saturday
“Then He told them many things in parables…”
Jesus gives eight parables in Matthew 13 that speak of the kingdom of God. They are presented not as a collection of parables neatly edited into one section, but as a consecutive presentation given on one occasion. The first four parables were given to the crowds as Jesus spoke to them from the boat, and the last four were told in private to His disciples after leaving the crowd and going into a house with them.
At the conclusion of the parables, Matthew writes, “When Jesus had finished these parables, He moved on from there” (Matthew 13:53), indicating that they had been told together and should be understood as such. Each of these parables is a part of a whole picture and in order for the whole picture to make sense, it is necessary to interpret each individual parable as a contributor to the whole. They are not a series of unrelated stories; one here about seed sown into a field, another there about a pearl that cost everything to purchase, but each is a part of a whole picture, which, taken together, gives crucial understanding about the workings of the kingdom of God.
The first four parables were addressed to the crowds, presenting a picture of how the world will see the kingdom of heaven. Conflict, failure and strife run through each of them as they present a picture of an age characterized by setbacks, attacks, disappointments and ultimately, apparent failure. These are the parables of “the Sower,” “the Weeds,” “the Mustard Seed” and “the Yeast.” They present not a pessimistic picture as much as a realistic picture, and are the reason few people will be attracted to seek for God on the basis of organized Christendom. That which purports to represent God and His interests in the world has and continues to suffer from distortion, corruption and gives much outward evidence of failure.
The second four parables addressed to the disciples present an entirely different picture and represent how God sees the kingdom. Conflict, setbacks and difficulties still characterize each, but ultimate success is the outcome of them all. These are the parables of “the Hidden Treasure,” “the Pearl,” “the Net” and “the Householder.” To the searching heart, Jesus gives the good news of the kingdom of heaven, but to understand how the kingdom operates, we need a correct understanding of each parable, which is then placed into the wider framework of the entire picture from both God’s point of view and the world at large.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I ask that Your Holy Spirit give me a clear understanding of the truth You convey in Your parables. Thank You, Lord.