Matthew 13 – The Kingdom Parables
A. The parable of the soils.
1. (1-3a) Jesus teaches with parables.
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables,
a. He got into a boat and sat: Jesus sometimes used a boat as His “pulpit” (Mark 2:9). It gave Him a place to speak, away from the press of the crowds, provided good acoustics, and probably a nice backdrop.
i. When Jesus taught from a boat, surely that was a new thing. We can imagine some critic saying, “You can’t do that! Teaching belongs in the synagogue or in some other appropriate place.” It would be easy to come up with objections: “The damp air might make people sick” or “There are a lot of mosquitoes down at the shore” or “Someone might drown.” But Jesus knew that teaching from a boat suited His purposes well enough.
ii. “When the doors of the synagogue were closed against him, he took to the temple of the open air, and taught men in the village streets, and on the roads, and by the lake-side, and in their own homes.” (Barclay)
iii. “The teacher sat, and the people stood: we should have less sleeping in congregations if this arrangement still prevailed.” (Spurgeon)
b. Then He spoke many things to them in parables: The idea behind the word parable is “to throw alongside of.” It is a story thrown along side the truth intended to teach. Parables have been called “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.”
i. “The Greek parabole is wider than our ‘parable’; in the lxx it translates masal, which includes proverbs, riddles and wise sayings as well as parables. Matthew uses it for instance for Jesus’ cryptic saying about defilement (Matthew 15:10-11, 15), and in Matthew 24:32 (‘lesson’) it indicates a comparison.” (France)
ii. “It had a double advantage upon their hearers: first, upon their memory, we being very apt to remember stories. Second, upon their minds, to put them upon studying the meaning of what they heard so delivered.” (Poole)
iii. Parables generally teach one main point or principle. We can get into trouble by expecting that they be intricate systems of theology, with the smallest detail revealing hidden truths. “A parable is not an allegory; an allegory is a story in which every possible detail has an inner meaning; but an allegory has to be read and studied; a parable is heard. We must be very careful not to make allegories of the parables.” (Barclay)
2. (3b-9) A simple story about a farmer and sowing seeds.
“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
a. A sower went out to sow: Jesus spoke according to the agricultural customs of His day. In those days, seed was scattered first and then it was plowed into the ground.
i. Before one can be a sower, he must be an eater and a receiver. This one came out of the granary – the place where seed is stored – and from his Bible the sower brought forth seed.
b. As he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside…on stony places…among thorns…on good ground: In this parable the seed fell on four different types of soil.
i. The wayside was the path where people walked and nothing could grow because the ground was too hard.
ii. Stony places were where the soil was thin, lying upon a rocky shelf. On this ground the seed springs up quickly because of the warmth of the soil, but the seed is unable to take root because of the rocky shelf.
iii. Among thorns describes soil that is fertile – perhaps too fertile, because thorns grow there as well as grain.
iv. Good ground describes soil that is both fertile and weed-free. A good, productive crop grows in the good ground.
c. He who has ears to hear, let him hear: This was not a call for all to listen. Rather, it was a call for those who were spiritually sensitive to take special note. This was especially true in light of the next few verses, in which Jesus explained the purpose of parables.
3. (10-17) Why did Jesus use parables? In this context, to hide the truth from those who would not listen to the Holy Spirit.
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.“
a. Why do You speak to them in parables? The way Jesus used parables prompted the disciples to ask this. Apparently Jesus’ use of parables wasn’t as easy as simple illustrations of spiritual truth.
b. Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given: Jesus explained that He used parables so that the hearts of those rejecting would not be hardened further.
i. The same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay; and so the very same gospel message that humbles the honest heart and leads to repentance may also harden the heart of the dishonest listener and confirm that one in their path of disobedience.
ii. “The parable conceals truth from those who are either too lazy to think or too blinded by prejudice to see. It puts the responsibility fairly and squarely on the individual. It reveals truth to him who desires truth; it conceals truth from him who does not wish to see the truth.” (Barclay)
iii. “Thus the parables spoke to the crowds do not simply convey information, nor mask it, but challenge the hearers.” (Carson)
c. For whoever has, to him more will be given…but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him: The idea is that those who are open and sensitive to spiritual truth more will be given through the parables. Yet to those who are not open – who do not have, these ones will end up in an even worse condition.
i. “Life is always a process of gaining more or losing more…For weakness, like strength, is an increasing thing.” (Barclay)
d. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand: In this sense, the parables of Jesus were not illustrations making difficult things clear to all. They presented God’s message so the spiritually sensitive could understand, but the hardened would merely hear a story without heaping up additional condemnation for rejecting God’s Word.
i. Parables are an example of God’s mercy towards the hardened. The parables were given in the context of the Jewish leaders’ building rejection of Jesus and His work. In this sense they were examples of mercy given to the undeserving.
e. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled: By speaking in parables Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, speaking in a way that the hardened would hear but not hear and see but not see.
i. The heart of this people has grown dull is more literally “fat” instead of dull. “A fat heart is a fearful plague…None can delight in God’s law that are fat-hearted.” (Trapp)
ii. “They did not really see what they saw, nor hear what they heard. The plainer the teaching, the more they were puzzled by it.” (Spurgeon)
f. But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear: In light of this, those who do understand the parables of Jesus are genuinely blessed. Not only do they gain the benefit of the spiritual truth illustrated, but they also display some measure of responsiveness to the Holy Spirit.
i. “You under the Gospel are made to know what the greatest and best of men under the law could not discover. The shortest day of summer is longer than the longest day in winter.” (Spurgeon)
4. (18-23) The parable of the sower explained: each soil represents one of four responses to the word of the kingdom.
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
a. This is he who received seed by the wayside: As the birds devoured the seed on the wayside (Matthew 13:4), so some receive the word with hardened hearts and the wicked one quickly snatches away the sown word. The word has no effect because it never penetrates and is quickly taken away.
i. The wayside soil represents those who never really hear the word with understanding. The Word of God must be understood before it can truly bear fruit. One of Satan’s chief works is to keep men in darkness regarding their understanding of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
ii. “Satan is always on the watch to hinder the Word…He is always afraid to leave the truth even in hard and dry contact with a mind.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “People are now so sermon-trodden many of them, that their hearts, like footpaths, grow hard by the word, which takes no more impression than rain doth upon a rock: they have brawny breasts, horny heart-strings, dead and dedolent dispositions.” (Trapp)
b. On stony places: As seed falling on the thin soil on top of the stony places quickly springs up and then quickly withers and dies (Matthew 13:5-6), so some respond to the word with immediate enthusiasm yet soon wither away.
i. This soil represents those who receive the word enthusiastically, but their life is short-lived, because they are not willing to endure tribulation or persecution…because of the word.
ii. Spurgeon made a good point: “I want you clearly to understand that the fault did not lie in the suddenness of their supposed conversion. Many sudden conversions have been among the best that have ever happened.” The problem was not their sudden growth, but their lack of depth.
iii. “Tribulation is a general term for suffering which comes from outside; persecution is deliberately inflicted, and usually implies a religious motive. Falls away is literally ‘is tripped up’; it is not a gradual loss of interest, but a collapse under pressure.” (France)
c. Among the thorns: As seed falling among thorns grew, the stalks of grain were soon choked out (Matthew 13:7), so some respond to the word and grow for a while, but are choked and stopped in their spiritual growth by competition from unspiritual things.
i. This soil represents fertile ground for the word; but their soil is too fertile, because it also grows all sorts of other things that choke out the Word of God; namely, it is the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke the word.
d. Good ground: As seed falling on good ground brings a good crop of grain (Matthew 13:8), so some respond rightly to the word and bear fruit.
i. This soil represents those who receive the word, and it bears fruit in their soil – in differing proportions (some hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty), though each has a generous harvest.
e. Therefore, hear the parable of the sower: We benefit from seeing bits of ourselves in all four soils.
· Like the wayside, sometimes we allow the Word no room at all in our lives.
· Like the stony places, we sometimes have flashes of enthusiasm in receiving the Word that quickly burn out.
· Like the soil among thorns, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches are constantly threatening to choke out God’s Word and our fruitfulness.
· Like the good ground, the Word bears fruit in our lives.
i. We notice that the difference in each category was with the soil itself. The same seed was cast by the same sower. You could not blame the differences in results on the sower or on the seed, but only on the soil. “O my dear hearers, you undergo a test today! Peradventure you will be judging the preacher, but a greater than the preacher will be judging you, for the Word itself shall judge you.” (Spurgeon)
ii. The parable was also an encouragement to the disciples. Even though it might seem that few respond, God is in control and the harvest will certainly come. This was especially meaningful in light of the rising opposition to Jesus. “Not all will respond, but there will be some who do, and the harvest will be rich.” (France)
iii. “Who knoweth, O teacher, when thou labourest even among the infants, what the result of thy teaching may be? Good corn may grow in very small fields.” (Spurgeon)
iv. Even more than describing the mixed progress of the gospel message, the parable of the sower compels the listener to ask, “What kind of soil am I? How can I prepare my heart and mind to be the right kind of soil?” This parable invites action so that we would receive the Word of God to full benefit.
B. Parables of corruption among the kingdom community.
1. (24-30) The parable of the wheat and the tares.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ “
a. His enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat: This parable describes the work of an enemy who tried to destroy the work of the man who sowed good seed in his field. The enemy’s purpose in sowing tares among the wheat was to destroy the wheat. But the wise farmer would not allow the enemy to succeed. Instead, the farmer decided to sort it out at harvest time.
i. We note that this parable clearly describes corruption among the people of God. Just as in the previous parable, the wheat represents the people of God. Some corrupting influence is brought, and an influence that may look genuine even as tares may resemble real wheat.
ii. “The weeds are probably darnel, a poisonous plant related to wheat and virtually indistinguishable from it until the ears form.” (France)
b. Lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them: In the interest of preserving and protecting the wheat, the wise farmer did not separate the tares from the wheat until the time of harvest.
i. The wise farmer recognized that the ultimate answer to tares among the wheat would only come at the final harvest.
ii. Knowing the explanation of this parable as explained in Matthew 13:36-43, we understand why Jesus said it right after explaining the parable of the sower, especially with the seed that grew up among the thorns. “But one might ask whether the Messiah’s people should immediately separate the crop from the weeds; and this next parable answers the question negatively: there will be a delay in separation until the harvest.” (Carson)
2. (31-32) The parable of the mustard seed.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
a. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree: Some, or even most, regard this as a description of the growth and eventual dominance of the church, the kingdom community. Yet in light of both the parable itself and the context of the parables both before and after, this should be regarded as another description of corruption in the kingdom community, just as the previous parable of the wheat and the tares described (Matthew 13:24-30).
i. Adam Clarke is a good example of the majority opinion on the meaning of this parable and the one following: “Both these parables are prophetic, and were intended to show, principally, how, from very small beginnings, the Gospel of Christ should pervade all the nations of the world, and fill them with righteousness and true holiness.”
b. When it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches: Again many, or even most, regard this as a beautiful picture of the church growing so large that it provides refuge for all of the world. But this mustard seed plant grew unnaturally large, and it harbored birds, which, in the previous parables were emissaries of Satan (Matthew 13:4, 13:19).
i. Becomes a tree: The mustard plant customarily never grows beyond what one would call a bush, and at its normal size would be an unlikely place for bird’s nests. The tree-like growth from this mustard seed describes something unnatural.
ii. “The language suggests that Jesus was thinking of the Old Testament use of the tree as an image for a great empire (see especially Ezekiel 17:23; 31:3-9; Daniel 4:10-12).” (France)
iii. This was a tree, “Not in nature but in size; an excusable exaggeration in a popular discourse…it serves admirably to express the thought of a growth beyond expectation. Who would expect so tiny a seed to produce such a large herb, a monster in the garden?” (Bruce)
iv. This parable accurately describes what the kingdom community became in the decades and centuries after the Christianization of the Roman Empire. In those centuries the church grew abnormally large in influence and dominion, and was a nest for much corruption. “Birds lodging in the branches most probably refers to elements of corruption which take refuge in the very shadow of Christianity.” (Morgan)
v. “Close study of birds as symbols in the Old Testament and especially in the literature of later Judaism shows that birds regularly symbolize evil and even demons or Satan (cf. b. Sanhedrin, 107a; cf. Revelation 18:2).” (Carson)
3. (33) Another illustration of corruption in the kingdom community: the parable of the leaven in the meal.
Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
a. The kingdom of heaven is like leaven: Jesus used a surprising picture here. Many, if not most, regard this as a beautiful picture of the kingdom of God working its way through the whole world. Yet leaven is consistently used as a picture of sin and corruption (especially in the Passover narrative of Exodus 12:8, 12:15-20). Again, both the content and the context point towards this being a description of corruption in the kingdom community.
i. “There would be a certain shock in hearing the Kingdom of God compared to leaven.” (Barclay)
b. Leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened: This was an unusually large amount of meal. It was much more than any normal woman would prepare, and again suggests the idea of massive or unnatural size.
i. “Three measures of meal would be about 40 litres, which would make enough bread for a meal for 100 people, a remarkable baking for an ordinary woman.” (France)
c. Hid in it: The idea of hiding leaven in three measures of meal would have offended any observant Jew. This certainly isn’t a picture of the church gradually influencing the whole world for good. Rather, in the context of increasing opposition to His work, Jesus announced that His kingdom community would also be threatened by corruption and impurity.
i. G. Campbell Morgan wrote that the leaven represents “paganizing influences” brought into the church.
4. (34-35) Jesus’ teaching in parables as a fulfillment of prophecy.
All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
a. Without a parable He did not speak to them: This does not mean that Jesus never, in His entire teaching and preaching ministry, spoke in anything other than a parable. It describes this particular season of Jesus’ ministry, again in the context of increasing opposition from the Jewish leaders.
i. “Implying that this was Jesus’ constant custom…In short parables were an essential part of his spoken ministry.” (Carson)
b. I will open My mouth in parables: Another reason Jesus taught about the kingdom community in parables is because the church itself was part of the things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world, and would not be revealed in fullness until later.
c. Kept secret from the foundation of the world: Later, Paul expresses this same idea about the church in Ephesians 3:4-11.
5. (36-43) Jesus explains the parable of the wheat and the tares.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
a. Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field: In His explanation, Jesus made it clear what the different figures in the parable represent.
· The field represents the world.
· The good seeds represent God’s true people, the sons of the kingdom.
· The tares represent false believers in the world, the sons of the wicked one, who (like tares among wheat) may superficially look like God’s true people.
i. In this we see that the parable of the tares changes the figures slightly from the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-9; 13:18-23). In the parable of the soils, the seed represented the Word of God; here it represents true believers. The point of the parables is completely different; the parable of the soils shows how men receive and respond to the Word of God, and the parable of the tares of the field shows how God will divide His true people from false believers at the end of this age.
ii. “Satan has a shoot of iniquity for every shoot of grace; and, when God revives his work, Satan revives his also.” (Clarke)
iii. This parable powerfully teaches that it is God’s job to divide in judgment. “Magistrates and churches may remove the openly wicked from their society; the outwardly good who are inwardly worthless they must leave; for the judging of hearts is beyond their sphere.” (Spurgeon)
iv. “Jesus announced God’s kingdom, and this would lead many of his hearers to expect a cataclysmic disruption of society, an immediate and absolute division between the ‘sons of light’ and the ‘sons of darkness’…It was to this impatience that the parable was primarily directed.” (France)
b. The field is the world: Significantly, this parable illustrates not necessarily that there will be false believers among true believers in the church (though that is also true to some extent); otherwise Jesus would have explained that the field is thechurch. Yet He carefully said that the field is the world.
i. “Of greater importance in the history of the church has been the view that this actually means that the field is the church. The view was largely assumed by the early church fathers, and the tendency to interpret the parable that way was reinforced by the Constantinian settlement. Augustine made the interpretation official struggling against the Donatists…Most Reformers followed the same line.” (Carson)
ii. Yet the point is clear, both in the world and in the kingdom community. Ultimately it is not the job of the church to weed out those who appear to be Christians but actually are not; that is God’s job at the end of this age.
iii. As long as God’s people are still in this world (the field), there will be unbelievers among them; but it should not be because God’s people receive unbelievers as if they were believers, ignoring either the belief or conduct of professed believers.
iv. There is additional significance in saying, “The field is the world” instead of “The field is Israel.” “This brief statement presupposes a mission beyond Israel.” (Carson)
c. The enemy who sowed them is the devil: Clearly, the enemy plants counterfeits in the world and in the kingdom community, and this is why merely being a member of the Christian community isn’t enough.
d. The reapers are angels…The Son of Man will send out His angels: We often don’t consider that the angels of God have a special role in the judgment of the world. Yet they do, and are worthy of respect because of that role.
i. “This casts special scorn upon the great evil angel. He sows the tares, and tries to destroy the harvest; and, therefore, the good angels are brought in to celebrate his defeat, and to rejoice together with their Lord in the success of the divine husbandry.” (Spurgeon)
e. Will cast them into the furnace of fire…the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father: Jesus used this parable to clearly illustrate the truth that there are two different paths and eternal destinies. A furnace of fire represents one destiny and radiant glory (shine forth as the sun) the other destiny.
i. “The fate of these ungodly ones will be fire, the most terrible of punishments; but this will not annihilate them; for they shall exhibit the surest tokens of a living woe – ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth.'” (Spurgeon)
ii. The wheat comes into God’s barn from all over the world, from all ranks of society, from all ages of God’s church. The one thing they have in common is that they were sown of the Lord, and from the good seed of His Word.
C. More parables about the kingdom.
1. (44) The parable of the hidden treasure.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
a. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field: The field is the world, but the man does not represent the believer, because we have nothing to buy this treasure with. Instead, Jesus is the man who gave all that He had to buy the field.
i. “Under rabbinic law if a workman came on a treasure in a field and lifted it out, it would belong to his master, the field’s owner; but here the man is careful not to lift the treasure out till he has bought the field.” (Carson)
ii. This parable and the one following are different in character than the previous three. The previous three parables (the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed, and the leaven) each spoke of corruption in the kingdom community. These two parables speak of how highly the King values the people of His kingdom.
b. And for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field: The treasure so wonderful that Jesus would give all to purchase is the individual believer. This powerfully shows how Jesus gave everything to redeem the whole world to preserve a treasure in it, and the treasure is His people.
i. “Finding the treasure appears to be by chance. In a land as frequently ravaged as Palestine, many people doubtless buried their treasures; but…to actually find a treasure would happen once in a thousand lifetimes. Thus the extravagance of the parable dramatizes the supreme importance of the kingdom.” (Carson)
ii. “So did Jesus himself, at the utmost cost, buy the world to gain his church, which was the treasure which he desired.” (Spurgeon)
2. (45-46) The parable of the costly pearl.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
a. The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls: Again, Jesus is the buyer and the individual believer is the pearl that He sees as so valuable that He would happily give all to have it forever.
i. “To the ancient peoples, as we have just seen, a pearl was the loveliest of all possessions; that means that the Kingdom of Heaven is the loveliest thing in the world.” (Barclay)
b. One pearl of great price: It seems crazy for a merchant to sell all that he had for one pearl, but for this merchant it was well worth it. That shows how much he valued this pearl of great price, and how much Jesus values His people.
3. (47-50) The parable of the dragnet.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
a. The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet: Jesus shows that the world will remain divided right up until the end, and the Church will not reform the world, ushering in the kingdom.
b. So it will be at the end of the age: There will be both the wicked and the just until the end of the age (as also demonstrated in the previous parable of the wheat and the tares). At that time the angels will come forth and assist the King in the work of judgment, sending some into the furnace of fire for final judgment.
i. “The reference, as in the weeds, is not primarily to a mixed church, but to the division among mankind in general which the last judgment will bring to light.” (France)
4. (51-52) The disciples claim to understand Jesus’ parables.
Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”
a. They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” We wonder if the disciples really did understand Jesus here. However, Jesus did not deny their claim to understand.
i. Assuming that the disciples did understand, they had an advantage over many among the multitudes. “The multitude went away (as most people do from sermons) never the wiser, understanding nothing of what they heard, nor caring to understand it.” (Poole)
b. Every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom: Jesus said that every one who really knows God’s Word both will know the old and learn the new of the kingdom. “He is not weary of the old; he is not afraid of the new.” (Spurgeon)
i. Every scribe: Jesus used the term here simply to describe a teacher. “The scribes amongst the Jews were not only clerks, that were employed in writing, but teachers of the law; such a one was Ezra (Ezra 7:6).” (Poole)
ii. The main idea is that the disciples – who had just claimed to understand what Jesus taught – are now responsible to bring forth their understanding to others, as if they were distributing from the storehouse of their wisdom and understanding. This storehouse contains things new and old.
iii. “After you have been instructed by me, you have the knowledge, not only of the things you used to know, but of things you never knew before, and even the knowledge which you had before is illuminated by what I have told to you.” (Barclay)
iv. “A small degree of knowledge is not sufficient for a preacher of the Gospel. The sacred writings should be his treasure, and he should properly understand them…his knowledge consists in being well instructed in the things concerning the kingdom of heaven, and the art of conducting men thither.” (Clarke)
v. “Ministers of the gospel should not be novices, 1 Timothy 3:6, raw and ignorant men; but men mighty in the Scriptures, well acquainted with the writings of the Old and New Testament, and the sense of them; men that have a stock of spiritual knowledge, able readily to speak a word to the weary, and to speak to men and women’s particular cases and questions.” (Poole)
D. Further rejection: Jesus is rejected at Nazareth.
1. (53-56) The people of Nazareth are surprised that one of their own could grow up to do such spectacular things.
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. And when He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?”
a. Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son: Because these villagers were familiar with Jesus as a boy and accustomed to unspectacular things from Him, we may conclude that Jesus must have grown up a very normal boy unlike the fantastic stories told in apocryphal books like The Infancy of Jesus.
i. Is this not the carpenter’s son: This question was asked out of ignorant prejudice. Yet it can also be asked out of deep appreciation of the fact that the Son of God took such a noble, lowly place.
ii. “Justin Martyr, an ancient writer, testifieth, that our Saviour, ere he entered upon the ministry, made ploughs, yokes, and so forth. But was not that an honest occupation?” (Trapp)
iii. “Julian the apostate, as he is called, once asked a certain Christian, ‘What do you think the carpenter’s son is doing now?’ ‘Making coffins for you and for all his enemies,’ was the prompt reply.” (Spurgeon)
b. His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas: Jesus plainly had many brothers and sisters; the Roman Catholic idea of the perpetual virginity of Mary is in contradiction to the plain meaning of the Bible.
i. “It is the very ordinariness of Jesus’ home background that causes the astonishment (cf. John 6:42).” (France)
ii. “This insulting question seems to intimate that our Lord’s family was a very obscure one; and that they were of small repute among their neighbours, except for their piety.” Clarke)
iii. People bring the same charge against Jesus today; “I see those associated with Him, and they seem lowly or very normal; Jesus must also not be special.”
c. Where then did this Man get all these things: Their reception of Jesus was not welcoming or friendly. They speak skeptically and will refer to Him only as “this Man.”
2. (57-58) A prophet without honor.
So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
a. So they were offended at Him: When we think of how strongly Jesus is identified with Nazareth (see at Matthew 2:23), it is even more surprising to note that the people of Nazareth did not appreciate it. The success and glory of Jesus seemed only to make them more resentful towards Him.
b. A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, and in his own house: We often have wrong ideas about what it means to be spiritual. We often think that spiritual people will be much more strange than normal. Therefore, those closest to truly spiritual people see just how normal they are and sometimes think that they aren’t spiritual because they are normal.
c. He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief: It is truly remarkable that Jesus was, in some manner, limited by their unbelief. As long as God chooses to work in concert with human agency, developing our ability to partner with Him, our unbelief can and may hinder the work of God.
i. The old Puritan commentator John Trapp here remarked that unbelief was “A sin of that venomous nature, that it transfuseth, as it were, a dead palsy into the hands of omnipotency.”
©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission