Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral virtue, and in your moral virtue,
knowledge ;

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Book of Matthew Chapter 13

This chapter starts by saying "on that day". The sentence is referring to the day discussed in the previous chapter where Jesus's family had come to get Him from a house that was so crowded with people trying to see Him that His family couldn't get in (12:47) He obviously left that crowded house and went to the sea side where an even greater crowd gathered. This is probably only important in that it sets the scene for some of Jesus's most well known teachings. According to Eerdman's pulpit commentaries, the original language is specific about Jesus sitting in the boat and the crowd being so great, that they had no choice but to stand, willingly, on the sandy place (or beach). I can imagine that kind of crowd. I have been in that kind situation myself. We have been to Disney world a few times and the crowds that wait to see the fireworks literally force you to stand.

Jesus starts in verse 13:3,  with the parable of the sower. He clearly gives the meaning of this parable in verses , 13:18-23. But, what happens in between is very interesting. 
It is apparent after the crowded beach scene, that the disciples were able to speak to Him in  a more private situation because they ask Him why He was speaking to the crowd in parables. In verse  13:11, He begins to answer their question. The one verse that I want to focus on here is Verse  13:12. I have heard many explanations for this verse  but I believe that the meaning  and intent of this verse is right there in the passage. In verse 13: 9 He says, "He who has ears, let him hear"  Jesus is referring back to this "ears to hear" passage in verse  13:12 when He says. "For whoever has (the willing ears to hear), to Him shall more be given. But whoever does not have (the willing ears to hear) even what he has shall be taken away from him." I base the "willing" part on verse  13:15 where Jesus is quoting Isaiah when He says."The heart of this people has become dull (the Greek is bloated or fat) and with their ears they scarcely hear and they have closed their eyes. Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and return and I should heal them". Look this up and see what you think. The cross references that I think also support this view are Luke 18:18 and Mark 4:23 and 25. I heard a pastor say this once but wasn't sure until I looked it up myself. Two different commentaries that I tried to use as references, do nor even address this verse. Let me know what you think. 

To briefly discuss the rest of the parables; the Wheat and the Tares and the Dragnet 
are similar in that they all discuss the fact that God will decide who is a true believer in Jesus Christ, at the end of the age. We are not to be deciding who is really a believer or who is really saved by their actions or words.  I know I have been very upset over what some people have done in the name of Christ. I mourn over their representation of Him to the rest of the world. We do not have to worry about denouncing them to the world. The Lord is going to take care of all of that.
The parable of the mustard seed speaks of the unnatural growth of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. The mustard seed normally grows into a large bush, not a tree big enough for birds to nest in although, I have read that flocks of Gold finch love to rest in these bushes. Reading about this passage in Eerdman's commentaries, He says that the Greek  does not necessarily assign any thing negative to it's meaning but most pastors will say  that Jesus was giving us a negative picture of what would happen to the church in the years to come. They base this on the places in scripture where other large overgrown trees are mentioned and where birds are used as an insult and a curse on the future of a people or an individual. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel are full of passages which refer to people's dead bodies being thrown out or left out to be picked apart by birds. There is the passage in Genesis 40:17 where the  baker for Pharaoh has asked Joseph to interpret his dream.  In the dream, the birds come and eat the bread from his basket which foreshadows his death by losing his head. In Daniel (4:12) we see Nebuchadnezzar described  as a very large tree that the birds of the air find sanctuary in  but Nebuchadnezzar was a Chaldean king who held the people of Israel captive and in  Dan.4:33 we see that when God's judgement came upon Nebuchadnezzar, he became bird like with  hair  like long feathers ,and long bird like claws. And lastly we see in Matthew 13:4 that the birds came and ate up the seed sown on the side of the road. So, the church will become a large overgrown
entity with many branches that evil ravenous influences can nest in? I don't know. You tell me.

The simplest understanding of the parable of the leaven for me is that the woman represents the bride of Christ, or the church, by which the kingdom of God is worked into the world until the whole world is permeated with the knowledge of His kingdom.
We know that Jesus used the example of leaven to represent the evil influences and ideas of the Pharisees and Sadducees or any other evil that can easily permeate the church. He tells us that in Chapter 16:6-12. But I think to assume that in all cases leaven is used to denote evil would be a mistake especially because He specifically says in verse 13:33 that the Kingdom of God is like the leaven not the peck meal.
I have heard people teach from a negative point of view, that it is significant that it is a woman who kneads the leaven into the bread and that part of Jesus's  warning was about  the propensity for women to sow discourse and sin in the church. Again, I will refer back to Eerdman. He says that the Greek shows no special emphasis on the fact that it is a woman kneading in the leaven. In their culture, as well as ours, It is women who do the bread making. 

 I think the two parables about the costly pearl and the treasure, speak of the importance of each person knowing  and embracing the value of the gift of salvation on an individual basis. The people in the parables are willing to forsake everything else for this rare, precious treasure. In both parables, Jesus says that the people "sell all that they have" to obtain the treasure they have found. 

We finish this chapter with Jesus going back to His own home town of Nazareth where everyone knows Him and His family. His brother's names are listed here and His sisters are mentioned although not by name. We see the people of Nazareth reject His teaching because they have known Him since He was a child. The bible says that He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. How sad.

Ok, so I would say that this chapter is mostly comprised of parables. So we will use verse 13:13 "therefore I speak to them in parables" to remember this chapter. Isn't that incredible how that worked out! God is good! FOR CHAPTER 13 REMEMBER VERSE 13:13 "THEREFORE I SPEAK TO THEM IN PARABLES"

Keep reading! Start reading chapter 14 if you haven't already. Read the chapter you are on, over and over again so that it will be set in your memory and as you read the chapters in order, the book you are studying will become successive and clearer to you and easier to understand and remember.

I am praying for all of you! Let me know what you think,

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