For the second block of study on the Kingdom, Matthew 12 and 13 are the two main chapters. Transitions of time and location are sketchy but to me, it seems that starting in Chapter 11 these make up a day or at least a very small period of time. Matthew 12: 46 has Jesus’ mother and brothers wanting to talk to Him. I think they stayed and were present for the teaching in Chapter 13 because 13: 53 has Jesus going to Nazareth, which is where I started the Third Block of Teaching. Starting this section of the study in Chapters 9 and 10 would have Jesus answering John’s disciples’ questions without the Twelve by His side. Other notable things in this section are – the Pharisees saying Jesus has a demon and crediting the healings (things of the Spirit) to the works of the Devil, Jesus telling people not to talk about their healings, and Jesus’ habit of using parables explained.
In the NIV the main section of teaching on the Kingdom begins and ends with lessons using the word “every”. This frame starts with “every kingdom, city, or household that is divided” (12:25) and ends with “every teacher who knows about the Kingdom” (13:52). The main feature in this section is parables, especially since Jesus explains three of them. After forty years of studying the Bible and listen to sermons, it is clear to me that parables grow with you. New insights should not erase the old but add to them. It also gives you a framework to use when someone teaches a different concept from the parable.
Having said that I will start with Matthew 13:52 and the portion where the homeowner brings out old and new treasures. This verse takes me to Jeremiah 6:16 and Matthew 11:10, which is about John the Baptist. My rendering of Jeremiah from the NIV is – stand and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask for the good way, and walk there and find rest. (This will be another blog.) The message of the Kingdom started in the Garden, it is not new! We may use new methods to present it, but that old message is the only place where we will find REST! John’s (old way) baptism allowed people to believe Jesus and His two “new” commandments – Love God and Love your neighbor!
There are eight parables in this set of teaching. Seven of them are linked directly to the kingdom of heaven. Three are explained by the Master Teacher and two of these deal with the future and are restatements of each other. I suggest a deeper study and a good concordance and Bible dictionary to get the most out of them! As was His habit, Jesus explained them to His close disciples, which is why we get to hear what Jesus saw as important in them. So, your ideas need to fit in His framework for the parable of the Sower, the Tares, and the Net!
The Parable of the Sower is not introduced with “the kingdom of Heaven is like”. Jesus brings in the Kingdom in His explanation to the disciples – Matthew 13: 11 and verse 18. Mark 4: 10 clearly states that Jesus was alone with the disciples when He explained it to them. To add a layer into this great parable, I can see references to the people in this block of teaching! The Pharisees are the path, the non-compliant blind men (Matthew 9: 28) are the rocky places, Judas Iscariot is among the thorns, and the Eleven are the good soil.
The parable of the “good seed and the tares (weeds)” (13: 24) is again explained to the disciples at a “quiet time” and is restated in the Parable of the Net (verse 47). Western thinking gives you an idea of weeds, but not how serious “tares” really were to the crop and harvest. Tares or zizanion (#2215 in Strong’s) are a darnel or false grain. They resemble wheat or barley as they grow and then they produce a deadly crop of black seeds that can make you sick or cause death. That will put a whole new layer on the teaching of that story! The timing of the “harvest” and getting rid of the “bad fish” from “the net” may mess with your idea of the rapture, ask for wisdom and peace.
The mustard plant (Sinapis nigra) is another “seed” parable. My Strong’s/Vines Concordance gave me a “new” look into this parable. So, instead of focusing on the seed look at the plant! The birds “of the air” roosting in its branches may not be a good thing. That idea does pair with the tares and the first three groups of seeds in the Sower. If the birds are the “world” they are just using the Church, which sounds a lot like Psalm 74: 4.
The first three parables in this set all deal with seeds! Focusing on these as a cohesive block of teaching, it starts large and goes small. The Sower is the general spreading of the Gospel, the Good Seed/Bad Seed deals with the Church (good seed), and the Mustard Plant is a single seed. “Bring out old and new treasures” with those ideas.
Yeast is an “old treasure” for me, as I have written four previous posts on the topic – Passover, Model of Church Growth, Yeast, All Bad, and What I learned. But musing on this again has given me a “new treasure”. I have focused on the yeast and not on the dough. Dough (flour) is a combination of many seeds ground together. Add water and oil (Holy Spirit) the mixture is changed – sugar/starch content, smell, and size. You could even put in some mustard for flavoring:).
The remaining three parables in this set have a very different tone. First, Jesus takes time to explain the Tares to the disciples, this should show a transition of places and time. These seem to be given first to the disciples – they left the crowd. I still think His mother Mary could have been there but Scripture does not say. It is probably that these parables were recycled and told to future gatherings of people. The Treasure and the Pearl seem to go to the individual believer and the Net deals with “good fish” and “bad fish”.
In the Treasure and the Pearl, the response of the Man and the Merchant are the same – find something of value, sell everything, and buy what was of more value. In contrast, these parables give two different ways people find the Kingdom. The Man with the treasure found it by accident; while the Merchant was carefully looking for something and realized the Pearl was what he wanted!
In the Net, Jesus repeats, in different imagery, the parable of the Tares. I want to think this was for His fisherman disciples. If you have ever used any form of a net to catch fish, you know that there is a lot of movement inside of those cords.
the featured pic is from http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/parable-weeds/