Overall Observations of Chapter 13, Various Parables

Sep 16th, 2009 | By | Category: Matthew, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Overall Observations of Chapter 13

Matt. 13:1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.

Matt. 13:2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

Matt. 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

The Sower

The Sower

This was a busy day for Jesus. He went to the seaside and out into a ship, from which he spoke “many things unto them [the multitudes] in parables.” All of the parables of Chapter 13 occurred right after he had healed the blind and dumb possessed individual and refuted the illogical reasoning of the Pharisees (Chapter 12). Jesus sat in the boat while the multitudes stood for a considerable length of time. Only a synopsis of his long sermons is recorded here.

At this time, Jesus and the multitudes were probably near Capernaum, but the people were not on a grassy slope or plain such as Gennesaret; otherwise, they would have reclined instead of standing up. Jesus probably had a megaphonic voice because he spoke to thousands at a time in the open air. Also, as he spoke, the Holy Spirit and the angels would have assisted in the transmission of his voice. In order for the multitudes to stand for so long, they would have been a rapt audience—at least for the moment. Like the lesson in the parable, many received the Word gladly, but then the fowls came along and picked up the seed.

The seven parables of this chapter will be treated in detail subsequently, but first, we will consider them from a backed-off standpoint. The seven are the parables of (1) the sower and the seed, (2) the wheat and the tares, (3) the mustard seed, (4) the woman who mixed leaven in dough, (5) the treasure hid in a field, (6) the pearl of great price, and (7) the dragnet.

In a collective sense, these parables have an application down through the Gospel Age. For example, the sower began to sow seed in the beginning of the Gospel Age.

The different types of ground the seed fell on represent different heart conditions. In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the instruction was not to uproot the tares until the end of the age. Thus a progression was shown. The Parable of the Mustard Seed indicates that the primitive Church started with relatively few people but grew into a large nominal system (Papacy).

In other words, we are considering these parables from a different standpoint now—a dispensational standpoint. The woman who hid leaven in the three measures of meal pictures the adulteration of truth by Papacy in three primary areas: love, faith, and hope. Treasure being hid in a field pictures the Dark Ages, when it was very difficult to find the Word of God. Diligence and effort were required.

Pearl of Great Price

Pearl of Great Price

As for the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, the revealment of truth has been gradual ever since the French Revolution. From that time on, the Bible was no longer chained but was translated into many languages and dispersed throughout the world. After the long period of drought in the Dark Ages came the revealment of precious truths, so that, except for the apostles, the Bible was known as never before. The Parable of the Dragnet treats the Harvest period. The net was cast out in the beginning of the Gospel Age, and “fishing” has gone on all down through the age. However, the main point of the parable is its being drawn to shore in the Harvest period and the sorting of the fish, which is a “harvest” work with  continuing siftings.

From the dispensational standpoint, the mustard seed would have to be a bad seed, for it grew into the nominal system. However, in an earlier consideration of this parable, which was not presented from the dispensational standpoint, it was stated that not enough detail was given to determine if the seed was good or bad. The mustard seed is mentioned favorably elsewhere, and in the Kingdom, a good tree will grow. A tree was cut down in Daniel 4, leaving only a stump that was watered with the dew of heaven. In the Kingdom, this tree will grow again, just as the stone that smites the image will grow. When these seven parables are considered one by one, the mustard seed can be considered either good or bad, but when treated as a whole, dispensationally, the parables suggest that the mustard seed is evil.

The Smyrna period of the Church extended from the Apostle John’s day until AD 313, covering approximately three centuries of time. During this time, the enemy sowed tare seed. After a while, the tares began to outnumber the wheat, and the wheat field became a tare field.

These parables are valuable whether studied under close scrutiny verse by verse or viewed afar off, as a whole. By combining the lessons from both standpoints, we get a complete, rounded-out picture.

Matt. 13:12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
“Whosoever hath [faithfully used]” was the thought of the Pastor, but in order to faithfully use something, we must have it originally. Those who make use of certain things will be proportionately rewarded, especially in the Kingdom. A wealthy, powerful, and/or intellectual man who is faithful to the truth will, according to the parables, get a greater reward, for his is a more difficult path to walk.

Matt. 13:51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.

Matt. 13:52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an  householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

Jesus was talking to his disciples: “If you are really a true scribe [disciple], you will receive the new things I am telling you.” When they asked Jesus to explain the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, the disciples wanted to know why he had not explained them clearly to the multitudes. Then Jesus said, “Do you really understand?” They replied, “Yea, Lord”—but they could not have fully understood, for the parables were extremely deep (Matt. 13:51). However, the disciples felt they had gotten a blessing from his explanation and understood. Incidentally, a true scribe is familiar with Scripture and is recognized of the Lord. A scribe can give a witness both verbally and in writing.

In Matthew 13:11, Jesus said, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Thus the disciples learned new things as they listened to the Master. And some of them had a history of learning the Old Testament. For example, Peter said, “I have never eaten anything unclean in my whole life” (Acts 10:14). Zacchaeus, who climbed up in a tree to see Jesus, said, “If I have defrauded anyone, let him speak now, and I will pay him back fourfold,” showing he knew the requirements of the Law, whereas the average Jew would not have studied the Law so carefully (Luke 19:8). Even most Bible Students do not study the Law. For example, how many of us know the Old Testament penalty for a thief—and the distinctions?

When is a thing replaced by kind; when is it doubled; when is it quadrupled? Thus the fact that Zacchaeus knew the penalty showed he was familiar with the teachings of the Old Testament.

Jesus’ apostles and early disciples were not taken “out of the gutter,” but had a background of faith. Natural faith is a prerequisite of the called; spiritual faith is added later.

Matt. 13:53 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.

Matt. 13:54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?

Jesus went “into his own country,” which was not Capernaum here but the Nazareth region, where he had been a carpenter. A large field separates the Galilee area from the Nazareth
region, but Nazareth is not far from Galilee.

Matt. 13:55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

Matt. 13:56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

Matt. 13:57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

Jesus was known in the Nazareth region as “the carpenter’s son.“ Those who were familiar with his background and family were puzzled. They knew that he had worked as a carpenter and that he had not gone to rabbinical school, yet he could debate with the scribes and Pharisees and had the wisdom and could outwit them. Added to this type of thinking was a wrong heart condition that did not want to recognize Jesus’ claim. Also, the people thought he was too aggressive and lacking in humility before the scribes and Pharisees.

“And they were offended in him.” Those living in the Nazareth region had heard reports of his miracles on the other side of the mountain on the shores of Galilee, and they asked each other, “How can this be? We know his mother and brothers and sisters. He is just an ordinary son of a carpenter.” Being skeptical, they refused to believe the reports. Thus those with the wrong heart condition failed to recognize Jesus’ greatness and judged it wrongly.

Notice the way Jesus responded: “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” This reply was expressed strangely, instead of just saying, “A prophet is without honor in his own country and house.” That was true, but it was only part of the truth.

Jesus was combining two thoughts: one favorable and one unfavorable. (1) “A prophet is with honor in other places,” but (2) “he does not have favor in his own country and house.” In other words, a true prophet of God will be successful in his ministry, even if the success is small. God sends him, and he is successful. For example, consider Jeremiah. He was sent by God but was not received, even though he was a true prophet. Very few accepted his message, but the fact that some did—even though a vast minority—showed he was successful. A prophet’s role is to enlighten the ones who will respond and to expose those who are false—a twofold ministry.

Hence a prophet has honor in certain places. He does his work, but his family, neighbors, and countrymen may not recognize him. In other words, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
It is interesting that Jesus included his own “house” as not giving him honor, and yet his mother and two “brothers” were followers of him. However, the other two (Joses and Simon) may have opposed him and were a problem later with regard to his going to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, and they even ridiculed him (John 7:2-5). They felt that if he was the Messiah, he should back up his claims and go to Jerusalem openly. Their reasoning was far different from that of Peter, who tried to protect Jesus and said, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee” (Matt. 16:22 ). In contrast, the mocking element said in effect, “Why hide here in this tiny and insignificant town when you would have a much more effectual ministry by going to a more influential place?”

The very fact that Jesus said he would have problems in his own house suggests that there were negative influences there—perhaps two of his brothers or his sisters or other relatives.

And he had some difficulty earlier with his parents, who did not fully see his calling: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Of course their reaction was normal under the circumstances, but they were nowhere near his level. Jesus sort of remonstrated with them, for he would not be fettered by their reaction. The account does say that on this occasion, Jesus submitted to his parents, but he had already been absent three days and had accomplished his purpose. Until age 30, he more or less took on natural responsibilities.

Incidentally, Joseph was older than Mary. His first wife had died, leaving two sons. Hence of the four listed in verse 55, two were actually brothers of Jesus (James and Judas), and two were stepbrothers (Joses and Simon).

Matt. 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

After finishing the parables, Jesus went into the synagogue in the Nazareth region and taught the people. They were astonished not only because of his ability to read and the way he enunciated, but also because his explanations contained great wisdom and made a lot of sense. Nevertheless, they resented his teaching.

Sometimes we may recognize merit or worth in an individual that others may not see. Later those who were unaware of the person’s greatness at first, but are apprised of it eventually, resent the earlier recognition by others. This attitude is wrong. All things should be viewed from the Lord’s standpoint. Would he approve? We should give others the liberty to appreciate what they want and not look down on them. We must search our motives. Are we jealous? Are we fearful of the loss of honor or power or funds for the collection box? In the final analysis, it will be revealed who was the Lord’s and who was not. Or perhaps both were the Lord’s, for there are different types of service, talents, and recognition.
The point is that the reaction of those in the Nazareth region should have been repressed. They should not have been “offended” in Jesus (verse 57). Seeing that he was unusual, they should not have allowed jealousy and pride to enter in. It was wrong to resent the fact that others over the hill, in the Galilee area, had recognized Jesus first. They were embarrassed by the situation, yet here he was, right in front of them, giving wonderful instruction.

Jesus “did not [do] many mighty works there because of their unbelief”; that is, Jesus did some mighty works there but not many. He minimized his work in the Nazareth region. In fact, he even took one outside the city to heal him.

It is hard to serve where we are not wanted—unless, of course, the work is denunciatory and critical. Then the service would be done in the heat of passion for what we feel the Lord’s work is. In that case, we would intrude self where we normally would not. Otherwise, we would feel uncomfortable, for a suspicious atmosphere kills the spirit.

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