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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Jesus Teaches with Parables

Jesus Teaches with Parables

Matthew 13


A parable is a story and Jesus often taught the crowds by telling them stories or parables.  When Jesus told stories He would tell about things that the people could understand. Everyone lived close to the land in those days and many were farmers so Jesus would often tell stories or parables about farmers and fields and planting and harvesting.


One of Jesus’ parables was the Parable of the Sower (or the person who plants seeds)  The story starts out with the farmer throwing out some seeds by the wayside and the birds  immediately eating the seeds up. Next the farmer scatters some of his seeds on stony ground.  The seeds quickly spring up into plants but they do not have much earth to grow in, and the hot sun scorches them and so they die.  The farmer throws out more seed on the thorny ground and the thorns spring up and choke the young plants out and they die.  But the farmer finally scatters some of the seed on good ground and the good ground yields a good crop, - sometimes a huge crop and sometimes a medium sized crop – but the good soil produces enough wheat to feed the village for the year.  When Jesus has finished telling this parable He tells the crowds listening: “Let t./hose who have ears to hear, let them hear.”  (Matthew 13:9) 


After the crowds had gone home, the puzzled disciples come to Jesus and asked Him why He talks to the people in parables.  Why doesn’t He just speak plainly to them so that more of them will understand the truth and be saved?  Just be direct – no nonsense – streamline His lessons to get more people into the kingdom.  Why hide kingdom truths behind stories or parables when people might miss something?


Jesus keeps saying “The people who have ears to hear, let them hear.” (Matt. 13:9)  And  the disciples do not know what Jesus means by that!  Most people could hear with their physical ears and understand with their logical minds!  If Jesus would just lay the truths out in a straight forward fashion, wouldn’t most of the people with common sense understand and receive salvation?  Isn’t that what Jesus wants?  Were the disciples missing something here?


Yes, the disciples were missing something!  Jesus isn’t talking about hearing “natural” truths!  He is talking about hearing “spiritual” truths.  Do the people need more than their “natural” ears to be able to “hear” and understanding “spiritual” truths?  If a person needs “spiritual” ears to hear spiritual truths then how would that person go about getting “spiritual ears”?  The disciples found themselves stumbling over one of the many mysteries of the kingdom of God!


It would seem that the condition of a persons’ heart influences whether she can “hear” and understand Jesus’ lessons or not!  A person who deep in his heart strongly does not want to believe Jesus or follow Him probably will not be able to hear His call or be touched by His love.  But a person who prays and asks God to show her the right way and wants to follow the truth, will be given “spiritual” ears that will “hear” and a heart that will be drawn to Jesus and an opportunity to follow.


Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit does not keep pushing forever with a person who continually and obstinately refuses to have faith.  Jesus Christ will not force Himself into the life of a person who does not want Him there. Love does not work that way.  But a person can have a tiny (mustard seed) sized faith and God will work with that.  (Matt. 17:20) 


Like air is necessary and basic for physical life, faith is also necessary and basic for spiritual life!  Scripture says that God gives each person a “measure” of faith.  But what do each of us do with the faith we are given?  Faith is a decision and an obedience rather than an ability.  If you want spiritual ears that “hear” spiritual truths, then God will give them to you!  It’s your decision.  Obedient faith releases the Holy Spirit’s power into your life to hear Christ’s call and to follow.


The Holy Spirit is often pictured in Scripture as the “wind”.  We read in John 3:8 “The wind blows where it pleases and you hear the sound but you don’t know where it comes and where it goes.  So it is with everyone that is born of the Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit will “lead you into all truth” (John 16:13).  He will give you those “spiritual ears” if you want them.  It’s up to you.  Our lives are spiritual as well as physical.  Who can understand the mysteries of God?


  Scripture encourages us to ask and it will be given; to seek and we shall find; and to knock and it will be opened to us. (Matthew 7:7)  And we are told that if we lack wisdom (spiritual?) we are to ask God and it will be given to us! (James 1:5-8)  It would appear that we can have good things if we ask for them (if it is His will).  We can have doors opened for us if we ask and seek.  We have a gracious heavenly Father that wants to give us good gifts!  (Matt.7:11) or (Luke 11:13)  And if that isn’t enough, we can do good things if we want to through Christ Jesus our Lord!  (Phil. 4:13)  Isn’t that amazing?  We have not because we ask not!


After the disciples had asked Jesus why He taught with parables, they also asked Him to explain the meaning of the Parable of the Sower. So Jesus told them that when the farmer plants the seed (the Word of God) by the wayside and the birds come and eat the seed, this wayside soil represents the heart of a person who does not understand the Word of God (the seed) when he hears it.  At that point the wicked one (the birds) comes and snatches away the truth that has been given to him so that the seed doesn’t even start to take root and grow in his heart.


The seed (God’s Word) that is spread on stony places represents the person who hears the Word (the seed) and immediately receives it with joy.  But he has no root in himself, no good soil, so when problems or troubles arise because of the Word (the seed) the person doesn’t care enough to nourish the truth given to him, - takes the easy way out and the plant dies.   


The seed that is spread on thorny ground represents the person who has cares and responsibilities and is also trying to impress others with his money and status.  These worldly things choke out the seed (the Word of God) that has been planted in his life.  The farmer had hoped that the time spent with this person in worship and teaching and the prayers for this soul would have made a change in his life – that eventually his life would be productive and fruitful for God.  But alas, the thorny ground (the person who loves worldly pursuits) never produces a harvest.  (the person’s faith never develops)


And Jesus finished by explaining that the good ground where the farmer plants seeds that grow up to produce a fruitful harvest is the person who puts God first in her life and makes plenty of room in her heart for the precious seeds of the gospel to grow there.  The ground is the person’s heart.  When a person does not clutter her life with worldly stuff (the stony, thorny ground) but leaves her life open for God to use, He can produce a wonderful harvest through her life.  


Jesus told many other parables to the people.  The parable of the Wheat and the Tares is one He told about the Kingdom of God.  The story goes that a farmer planted good seeds in his field and then at mid night while he was sleeping an enemy crept into his field and secretly planted tares (or weeds) to ruin his crop.  The farmer’s workers wanted to pull up the tares but the farmer told them not to.  He was afraid that some of the good wheat would be uprooted along with the tares.  He told his workers to let the wheat and the weeds grow together and wait till harvest time to separate them.  Then they should pull up the weeds and burn them and bundle up the wheat and bring it into his barns. 


Jesus explains this parable by saying that the field is the world and the good wheat seeds are the children of the kingdom.  But the tares (weeds) are the children of the wicked one.  The enemy who secretly planted the weeds at night is the devil.  And the time of the harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are the angels.  The parable teaches that until the end of the age, good and bad people will grow up together.  But at the end of the age the angels will be sent to separate the wicked from the just.  The weeds will be cast into the furnace and burned.  But the wheat (the righteous) will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father!


The parable of the Mustard Seed is another of Jesus’ parables about the kingdom of God.  The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds and yet when it was planted it grew into a large tree that could shelter the birds from far and near, roosting and nesting in its’ branches.  The kingdom of heaven is like that.  History confirms that from the smallest beginning, the church made astounding growth through the proclamation of Christ’s message.


Then Jesus tells the Parable of the Leaven.  “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”  (Matthew 13:33)  At present the kingdom of heaven is not fully manifested.  But at the end of the age it will be known to all.  Meanwhile, it does its work of permeating human society, penetrating evil and transforming lives. 


And Jesus tells another kingdom parable - the parable of the Pearl of Great Price.  “Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for beautiful pearls.  When he found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  (Matthew 13:45-46)  A common interpretation of this parable is that a person should be willing to part with everything in order to possess the kingdom.  However, the meaning could be that Jesus is the purchaser who gave His all (His life) to secure the kingdom.  (Acts 20:28) 


Through all of his parables, Jesus is showing us glimpses this marvelous kingdom of heaven that cannot be seen with our natural eyes.  And Jesus is telling us stories about this kingdom of heaven that we cannot hear with our natural ears.  And Jesus is giving us truths in his parables that our hearts cannot take in or understand unless we save some “good ground” so the seeds of truth have room to grow and produce a harvest.


In the parables Jesus is trying to share these kingdom truths with us-since we are children of that kingdom.  And we can sometimes catch imperfect glimpses of that kingdom by faith.  But the Day will come when our faith will become sight!  Jesus will come again. And we will see face to face.  And know even as we are known.  And there will be no more sin or sickness or death or sorrows or enemies. The lion will lay down with the lamb and we will leap around for joy!












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