Springboarding off of the Apostle Paul’s life focus, clearly expressed in 1 Corinthians 2:2, Pastor Greg launched an “open-ended” message series on January 12th, 2020 – focusing on “Just Jesus.” He is walking us through the entire New Testament, pulling passages from the Old Testament for context, and keep us focused throughout the year on “Just Jesus.”
This is week 55, Matthew, part 53 in the series. Today Pastor G covers Matthew 13:24-58. Jesus shares several more parabls about the kingdom of heaven and revisits His hometown where He finds that familiarity does indeed breed contempt. A prophet is not welcome in his home town.
Welcome to week 55 of our Just Jesus series. This is Matthew Part 53. Matthew has collected several parables that Jesus told and has put them here together for us. A parable is usually a short symbolic story with a moral message readily apparent or obvious to the reader or listener. Jesus told us last week that He teaches in parables so that only those who are truly seeking God will be able to understand their meaning. We said last week we need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand the word of God. We read about the Parable of the Sower last week. Today we’re going to start with Jesus’ parable of the tares or weeds among the healthy wheat. If you are ready to hear what God has put on my heart to share with you today let me hear you say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY! Awesome. Here we go.
24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. ~ Matthew 13:24
This is a tie-in to the other parable Jesus just told about the sower planting seeds. We know from that one that the man doing the planting is Jesus and the seeds He is planting represent the truths about the Kingdom of God He is teaching. Jesus points out that the seeds He is planting are good. They are righteous. There is nothing wrong with them at all. Then what happens?
25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. ~ Matthew 13:25
The enemy of the man planting is the devil. The tares or weeds that he planted are the opposite of the truths of the kingdom. The enemy has planted lies. But he has mixed his lies in with the truth so that it is tough to tell them apart.
26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. ~ Matthew 13:26
Both types of seeds begin to grow and produce their own types of plants. In this symbology of Jesus’ parables, the tares or weeds are evil PEOPLE and the wheat stalks are good people, people who are following Jesus.
27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ ~ Matthew 13:27-28
The servants of the one who planted the good seed are a symbol of the angels of God who serve Him and it might also refer to the disciples of Jesus. They learn that the devil has planted deceitful people in the midst of the righteous. They ask if they should go gather up the “weeds” – in other words, destroy the evil ones to remove them from the righteous ones.
29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. ~ Matthew 13:29
It is safer for the righteous ones, the wheat, the let the weeds co-exist with them until the final end-times harvest comes. That’s what Jesus refers to next.
30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” ~ Matthew 13:30
This is a reference to the judgment at the end of days. Every living person will be “harvested” they will die and then they will be separated the good from the evil. The evil weeds or tares are bundled up and burned – a reference to hell – while the wheat is gathered into the planter’s “barn” a reference to the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s my interpretation. Let’s skip over a couple of parables to Matthew 13:36-43 where Jesus explains this parable and see how I did.
36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. ~ Matthew 13:36-42
How did I do? Was I spot on with my interpretation and explanation? I do confess I have read Jesus’ explanation many times before. Let’s drop back to verses 31-35 and read two other parables Jesus told. The first is called the Parable of the Mustard Seed and is another planting metaphor.
31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” ~ Matthew 13:31-32
Jesus tells us later in Matthew 17:20 that we only need faith the size of a mustard seed. It’s not the size of our faith but the power of Who are faith is in that counts. Jesus is again the man doing the planting in this parable. The mustard seed He plants is again the truth’s He is teaching about God. They are small truths at first, shared by one man to a handful of other men, but over time it grows and grows into a massive movement. Just as Christianity did. It is significant that Jesus’ mustard tree has birds coming and nesting in its branches. That is not a normal thing as far as mustard seed trees go. Jesus is actually hearkening us back to Daniel 4:20-21 King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a massive tree and then all kinds of things happened to that tree. None of his wise men could interpret this dream for him. Finally, Daniel is brought in and he is able to interpret it Daniel says:
20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. ~ Daniel 4:20-25
Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was likened to a great tree in which the birds of the air come to roost. Of course, the Babylonian king’s empire was destined to come to an end whereas God’s kingdom will go on forever. This is a parable of hope. Mighty growth of God’s permanent Kingdom will come from small beginnings. As small as the disciples were against a world filled with evil, the power of God was in their tiny seeds of faith and He would do great things through them as He built His kingdom.
33 He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” ~ Matthew 13:33
We’ve talked many times how sin is often referred to symbolically as leaven but here Jesus makes the opposite reference. Leaven, as a symbol in Scripture, is almost always a stand-in for sin. This parable would have been especially startling to Jesus’ Jewish audience to hear leaven used in a positive way. This is another parable of hope. He is saying His true teachings of righteousness and truth about God and God’s kingdom can spread just as quickly as sin. Just like just a little bit of yeast in some dough can quickly spread to larger and larger amounts, exponential growth. Just as what happened with the explosion of Christian evangelism shortly after Jesus’ resurrection.Like the mustard seed, it starts small but rapidly grows to enormous proportions. The woman took and hid the kingdom of heaven. We’ve talked many times about how the spiritual truth is hidden from worldly eyes. Only those truly seeking God, with eyes to see and ears to hear can find this kind of hidden leaven. Matthew, always concerned with making sure we know all the ways Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah tells us:
34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.” ~ Matthew 13:34-35
This is similar to what we read last week in verse 14 when Jesus explained to the disciples why He spoke in this hidden meaning parable fashion. Jesus quoted Isaiah there. Matthew is referring to Psalm 78:2 here.
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old… ~ Psalm 78:2
Next Jesus tells two treasure parables. Let’s read them both together.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. ~ Matthew 13:44-46
Both parables are similar. In the first it might be a poor man who discovers the treasure. In the second parable it is likely a wealthy man who finds the pear. The kingdom of heaven is for everyone rich and poor and it has value beyond what both walks of life have experienced. A man finds a hidden treasure and realizes the value of it. He sells everything else he owns to make sure he is able to purchase the great treasure he has found. Again, like the leaven in the dough, this treasure is hidden in a field. The merchant is actively searching for fine pears and discovers this hidden treasure, a pearl of greater value than everything else he owns, mixed in with others of lesser value. Only those actively searching for the spiritual treasure Jesus has to offer and able to recognize its value when they see it will ever find it. We must have eyes to see and ears to hear. Even then, finding it is of no value unless we take action and claim it for our own. The Gospel is the treasure and Jesus himself is the supreme joy that is discovered. Both men are motivated the same way the Apostle Paul was when he wrote:
21 For me to live is Christ and to die is gain…. 7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, ~ Philippians 1:21, 3:7-8
Paul and these two treasure discoveries recognized true value and were willing to part with everything else as long as they had Jesus. [PASTOR G SINGS] In the morning, when I rise, Just give me Jesus. Only through Jesus can we truly find full joy and satisfaction with life. No worldly wealth can match Him. Jesus tells one more parable in this chapter. It is the parable of the DRAGNET – Just the fact ma’am. Just the facts. – No, not that Dragnet – a regular fishing net like this. It was weighted around the edges and a skilled fisherman could toss it out over the water like a giant frisbee disc. It would land on the water and begin to sink. As it did, he would pull the line and drag the net (hence it’s name) through the water back toward his boat and he would catch whatever was in the path of the net. That’s the word picture image Jesus is presenting with this parable.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. ~ Matthew 13:47-48
That is a pretty obvious metaphor for us isn’t it? The dragnet in the parable gathers up fish of every kind. It doesn’t discriminate. Again, a reference to the End Times judgment when all souls are gathered before God and separated the good from the evil. Jesus tells a similar parable later about a division of all people into two groups. One He calls sheep and the other He calls goats. Whether He is talking about wheat and weeds, good fish and bad fish, sheep and goats the message is the same. Judgment day WILL one day come. Jesus makes this clear in verse 49-50.
49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. ~ Matthew 13:49-50
Just like the weeds, the bad fish, and as we will learn, the goats too, these are are symbols of the wicked PEOPLE who will be separated out from the righteous and they will get tossed into the furnace to burn where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. This is a clear symbolic reference to hell that is repeated in many other Scriptures as well. The good fish along with the good wheat and the good sheep are all gathered into the home of God instead. Jesus is done with this teaching lesson and He asks the Twelve.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.” ~ Matthew 13:51
Jesus is a great teacher. He stops and asks them the Get it? Got it! Good! Question, If they didn’t get it yet, He was willing to give more examples or answer their questions. But they say they’ve got it so Jesus moves on. This verse always makes me laugh because the disciples almost never seem to understand what Jesus is teaching them. Did they REALLY understand all these things? Maybe, maybe not. If they don’t they aren’t going to admit it. Jesus often ends up teaching them the same lessons over and over before they finally do seem to get them. He tells them a dozen different ways He is going to be crucified and then rise again and they are still completely shocked when He dies and completely shocked when He rises again. I imagine them like a teenager in trouble for not doing his errands. “Oh, you were SERIOUS about that? My bad. Oh yeah, I get it now. NOW, I get it.” Jesus accepts their answer at face value and says,
52 And Jesus said to them, “Therefore … ~ Matthew 13:52
Stop right there. Whenever we see a therefore we have to stop and ask what? What’s that therefore there for? Take in ALL of that context from Jesus’ big argument with the Pharisees and scribes that we covered for two weeks. Add in all the parables Jesus has just tought. It’s all included in this. That’s what the disciples say they understand and get. Since that’s the case, they get the lessons, and understand the lessons, they have a great responsibility now.
52 And Jesus said to them, “Therefore, every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” ~ Matthew 13:52
Let’s talk about Jewish Scribes for a minute. There were scribes in ancient Egypt and other cultures as well. They are the ancient equivalent of lawyers, philosophers, teachers, government officials. They were responsible to maintaining the integrity of documents, copying them meticulously by hand. They were involved in interpreting, applying and instructing others with the law. Jesus is using the title here somewhat metaphorically. His disciples are not scribes by profession in Israel. Before meeting Jesus they are mostly fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. But Jesus is now assigning the role of Jesus scribe to His disciples as well. After He has ascended the disciples will be responsible for recording His words, interpreting His teachings and passing them on to others. These disciples of the kingdom of heaven are now scribes for Jesus. In a very meaningful sense, these disciples are being taught deeper truths by Jesus and so they are like scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says they will be like the head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old. As such, the disciples’ work would be to teach both old truths and new to others. They need to be experts on what we call the Old Testament – I like to call it our Hebrew Roots as Christians – and they are the initiators of what we now call the New Testament. Old and New. This, in fact, is exactly what Matthew does in his gospel. He often references the “old treasures” of Israel’s Prophetic Scriptures to show how they are fulfilled in Jesus’ work and words.
His lengthy genealogy of Jesus at the start of the book is another example of treasuring the old. The other original disciples pass on all that they know to disciples of their own and from all of those connections the books of our New Testament are recorded. This is still a calling for all of us as well. For all of us who are disciples of Jesus, we are called to live the roll of a scribe. Preserving the knowledge for future generations and teaching and interpreting it properly to them, both the Old Testament Knowledge and the New Testament Knowledge and the new revelations the Spirit reveals to us daily is our responsibility as New Covenant Scribes. AMEN?
53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54 He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” ~ Matthew 13:53-56
Jesus’ reception in his hometown is so disappointing. In a hometown of probably 500 or fewer inhabitants everyone thought they knew Jesus. In a series of seven questions bookended with “where does He get this stuff?” Didn’t he grow up here? He played with our children. We know his mom and brothers and sisters. They still live here. How can He be a prophet? How can He be the Messiah?
57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” ~ Matthew 13:57
His friends and neighbors conclude He is no one special, perhaps even a fraud. He’s acting all uppity. Does He think He is better than they are? Who does He think He is? He’s from here! He’s one of us! Who does He think He is fooling? And they were offended at Him. Crazy! Notice it says they recognize His wisdom. They even recognize His miraculous powers and still they reject Him. They just don’t think He deserves to have them. Those who knew him best reject his ministry. He’s too familiar to them. Familiarity breeds contempt yeah? They probably buy into the old negative adage “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Maybe they have such a poor self-image that can’t imagine one of their own making it to the big time. That’s so common in our modern world too. Small-minded people always try to drag the innovators and the wise back down to their level. I think most of us can relate to this on one level. How many people did you grow up with who would underestimate your abilities or wisdom now?
Jesus, to them, would always just be a little boy, a teenager, a carpenter’s son. He was no scholar. He hadn’t been formally trained. He wasn’t educated like a priest or a scribe. Where does He get off acting like He is the Messiah? So they are offended by Him. Of course, this isn’t the first time they have been offended by Jesus. About a year earlier, Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, opened up the Scriptures and read from Isaiah 61. He read the beautiful promises about the power, the healing, the grace of the coming Messiah. And then He said to the people, “This day, this Scripture is fulfilled right before you.” And then we read in Luke chapter four “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath and they rose up and drove Him out of the town and brought Him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw Him down the cliff.” They tried to murder Him last time He was at home. Now He comes back, deserving of a hero’s welcome, the key to the city, Nazareth’s favorite son, but instead they reject Him and are still offended by Him. Earlier in the Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus responds to John the Baptist’s doubts, Jesus pronounced a blessing upon those who are NOT offended by Him.
58 And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. ~ Matthew 13:58
It wasn’t that He couldn’t do miracles. His miracles and miraculous power are not dependent on the faith of human beings. He didn’t do many miracles only because they did not ask Him to do so. No expectation of His help was even asked for. They would rather suffer than humble themselves before one of their own. They had heard of His miracles elsewhere but because they have no faith in Him, they don’t ask Him for miracles and thus Jesus didn’t do many miracles there. As Jesus’ brother James would one day write: You do not have because you do not ask. James 4:2b
The Nazarenes didn’t ask Jesus for healings so He didn’t force Himself on them or try ad nauseum to win them over. He just, sadly, moved on to a new town and left His hometown’s doubts about Him behind. Why were they so offended? Why did they refuse to believe? Probably some of the same reasons people don’t believe even today.
Some people’s doubts are experiential—They have unanswered prayer, or they have experienced loss or other difficulties of life and unmet expectations have left them wounded or disillusioned. They complain “I can’t believe in a God who would let THAT happen to me or to that person.” The problem of evil causes them to doubt the existence of a loving God.
Some people’s doubts are moral: They like living by their rules. They are offended when God (or anyone) tells them to live by a higher standard. They resist the call and the claim of the kingdom. They say “I don’t like anybody telling me what to do. How dare you tell me what I think or do or say is wrong.”
Some people’s doubts are intellectual: Their knowledge of how the universe works clouds their ability to wonder WHY the universe exists. For some, belief in a God seems archaic and silly to them. Science has become their god. Others believe God exists but they have a very specific set of expectations for how God will appear and how God will act. Jesus doesn’t fit their intellectual expectations.
Maybe you are watching or listening to this message and you have doubts about Jesus for one or more of these reasons or for some other reason. So you come up with all kinds of questions, excuses. Nothing wrong with you asking questions. It’s not the questions that are the problem. It’s the reason behind WHY you asked the question that’s the problem. There are some people who ask genuine questions because they want to believe. They just need more information, more understanding to believe. That’s great! But if you’re just asking questions to deflect away your necessary responsibility to believe, that’s a problem! That’s what the people of Nazareth were trying to do – excuse themselves, rationalize it all away.
Some of you, if you are still a doubter, maybe you would say “If I saw some miracles then I would believe. But until I see a miracle I won’t believe.” First of all, there ARE miracles around you every single minute of every single day. The sun rose and set yesterday and you are still alive today. The earth is still spinning. The sun still rose. Your heart is still beating. You still have people who love you. There is beauty all around you. Second of all, these people who grew up with Jesus SAW Him doing miraculous things and STILL they would not believe. Miracles? Signs and wonders? Are not a guarantee that people will believe. One reason people don’t believe, even when the truth is stating them in the face, is found in John 3:19.
“And this is the judgment that light has come into the world and people love the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” ~ John 3:19
They know instinctively that there is a God who created all things, but they will not acknowledge it because of their unrighteousness, because of their evil heart. They love the darkness and the longer they can lie to themselves that there is no god the longer they can live in the darkness of sin without feeling guilt or remorse. Some of the Nazarenes were offended by Jesus because His light shone into the spiritual darkness of their lives and they felt exposed. They felt guilt. They were ashamed. But, instead of choosing humility and repentance they chose pride, anger and denial and they were offended by Jesus. How dare you!
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, trained preachers and sent them out to preach. And when they came back, he would ask them two questions. One – are they converted? Two, are they offended? If the preachers said “No and No.” John said “Preaching is not for you.” Think about that! If you are a believer, then share the hard truths of the Gospel so clearly that everyone you meet is either converted or offended by it. If you are watching today and still feeling doubt, don’t be just like a person living in Nazareth in those days hearing about the miracles of Jesus, hearing about His teaching, but staying stubborn in unbelief, rejecting Him and the blessings He wants to share with you. You are only hurting yourself. You are missing out on the greatest relationship you will ever know. Put your faith in Jesus today and ask Him to work miracles in your life. You will be amazed.