Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
In this long chapter with its many parables we see Lord Jesus as the King-Prophet. In what He says, we see His Divine glory. No created being can see the coming ages and give a detailed description of future events. In the parables of this chapter, the Lord connects His second coming with His first and gives insight into the characteristic features of the time between the two comings. He Who has the heart of every human being under control, is the only One able to describe the future. In His prophetic discourse we see the great Immanuel.
He opens His heart to His own and tells of the hidden working of God’s wisdom through Divine ways from the beginning of the world. He Who created the world has also planned the course of the ages. The incomprehensible greatness of the galaxies with its innumerable suns and systems shows His creation power. The ages, in which moral life is unfolded, show His wisdom and where He is working towards.
Here, at the turning point of the ages, a point of passing into another age, in His Manhood, is the One Who has planned all of this. He Himself is the great Center of the universe and the course of ages. Everything is made by Him (Jn 1:1-3; Heb 1:1-2). In Divine favor, He shares with His disciples old and new things from His treasure.
Out of the House, by the Sea
This verse is the introduction to a chapter full of teaching about the change resulting from the Lord’s rejection. The first words, “that day”, characterize that rejection, for on ‘that day’ the hatred of the religious leaders has risen to its climax by the accusations we heard in the previous chapter.
On “that day”, the Lord takes another place. He goes “out of the house” and sits “by the sea”. The house is a symbol of Israel, often referred to as “the house of Israel” (Jer 31:27; 31; 33). The sea represents the nations who are often likened to the sea (Isa 17:12; Rev 17:15). This change of environment shows that the Lord, after His rejection by Israel, addresses Himself to the nations.
There is another change in this chapter that is the result of His rejection. He is going to use a new form of teaching. This new form is the use of parables. He is rejected and therefore now absent from the earth. That’s why the kingdom could not be established in the manner that the prophets proclaimed. He is in heaven. As a result, the kingdom of heaven has adopted a character that is completely new and about which the prophets in the Old Testament were not able to write. That new character is that the kingdom of heaven, instead of being openly established on earth, is now being established in secret.
This new character, hidden in the Old Testament, will be presented by the Lord in seven parables. Seven is the number of perfection. In these seven parables He gives a complete picture of the kingdom in its hidden form. The first four parables belong together, as do the last three. The first four show the outward form of the kingdom. It has become a great system in which good and evil go hand in hand. The last three show the inward form. They show that there are valuable persons present in the kingdom.
The Lord gives His teaching from the sea to the crowds standing on the beach. This emphasizes that there is a distance between Him and the people. This is symbolic for the place He occupies in heaven after His rejection and the relationship to His earthly people. From heaven He proclaims the gospel among the nations, but without forgetting His people. In the first days of Christendom we see that first the Jew, and only then the Greek, gets to hear the gospel. We see this in Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts. The bond between Christ and the nation of Israel has been broken, but His teaching to them continues.
The Parable of the Sower
Now He is rejected, not only does the nature of His teaching change, but also the nature of His service. He came to seek fruit in His vineyard Israel (Isa 5:1-7), but that fruit is not there because of the unfaithfulness of the people. Now that He has been rejected, His service no longer consists in seeking fruit, but in producing it. This is expressed in the first parable. This first parable is the starting point for all other parables. He shows that the kingdom is established as a result of sowing the Word of the kingdom and not as the fruit of obedience to the law of Moses.
The seed that the sower sows ends up on different types of soil:
1. The first type of soil is actually not even soil, but the public road that runs along the soil. Seed that ends up there, “beside the road”, cannot take root and becomes a prey for the birds. This seed disappears completely.
2. Other seed ends up on “rocky places”. There the seed can take root, but because of the many stones there is hardly any soil. The seed has too little soil to grow well. It shoots up too fast in the little bit of earth it has at its disposal. Because of the speed at which the seed shoots up, it doesn’t get a chance to really take root. When the sun rises, it turns out that the seed has no root and withers. Nothing remains of this seed either.
3. A third type of soil is good in itself, but there are also a lot of weeds, which leaves no room for the seed to grow. It falls “among the thorns”, which overgrow and suffocate the seed. Neither does this seed produce any fruit.
4. There is also seed that falls “on the good soil”. There it can grow freely and produce fruit. There is seed that produces one hundred percent fruit, but there is also seed that still experiences some or even considerable impediment to growth. This seed does not give one hundred percent, but only sixty percent, or even less, thirty percent fruit.
The Lord concludes the parable with the familiar words “he who has ears, let him hear”. With this He points out the responsibility of those listening to act upon what has been heard.
The disciples ask the Lord why He uses parables. With their question they make it clear that they are true subjects of the King. They want to know why He uses this form of teaching. In His answer, the Lord makes a definite distinction between the unbelieving mass of the people and the small number of believers, also referred to as ‘the faithful remnant’. It is the distinction between those who are outside and those who are inside.
The people, who have seen the clearest evidence that He is the Messiah, are under the judgment of blindness announced by the prophet Isaiah. Those who stand outside cannot know the meaning, nor do they have the right to understand the meaning. They fall under the judgment of the hardening because they have hardened their hearts.
The Lord speaks in the plural, the mysteries, because there are several things that are hidden. First, the King is hidden, and second, His reign is hidden, for His enemies are not yet openly subject to Him. His reign only takes place in the hearts of His disciples. Because His reign is not yet public, those who are not disciples can still take their course, without a King Who exercises judgment immediately. The evil one still gets free reign.
A third mystery is the fact that the hidden form that the kingdom of heaven will take as a result of the Lord’s rejection was not previously revealed to the prophets. The prophets constantly prophesied of a kingdom that will be established in power and majesty. But now it will only take that form after the return of the Lord, that is, after His return to the earth where the glory of the Messiah on earth will be visible to all. Now His glory is still hidden from the world.
The disciples have accepted Him. That’s why He provides them with the truth to guide them further. By knowing the truth they will even receive an abundance of spiritual blessings. Israel, on the other hand, does not accept Christ. That’s why they will lose what they have, namely a living Christ in their midst and the blessings that are connected with Him. The decisive distinction lies in having or not having the Son. “He who has the Son has the life” (1Jn 5:12a). He who has the Son, will grow in the knowledge of His Person and enjoy blessing in abundance (Jn 10:10). “He who does not have the Son of God” (1Jn 5:12b), will lose all that he presumptuously thinks to possess.
The Lord speaks to the latter in parables. They see the Messiah and hear Him speak, but they are blind to Who He really is and they do not listen to what He says. To them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says that they will hear, but not understand, and look, but not see (Isa 6:9-10; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:25-27). They hear the words, but do not understand their content or meaning. They look, but see nothing special.
The reason for that is the condition of their heart. Their hearts have become dull. A dull heart is a heart that is well pleased with itself. When the self is paramount and self-interest is served, there is no ear and eye for the Lord Jesus. They have closed their hearts to Him. Their ears have become hard of hearing and they have closed their eyes, for they do not want to see and hear and understand and repent and be made healthy by Him. There is nothing through which He can make their dull hearts healthy.
How different is it with the true disciple. The Lord calls him “blessed” because he sees by grace what the unbelievers around him do not see, and because he sees what the believers of the former dispensation did not see either. For the unbelievers He has no glory, and for the believers of old it was unimaginable that He would be rejected.
How much did many prophets and righteous people in earlier times desire to see what the disciples see: the Christ. They have desired to hear His voice, but this they were not permitted. This great privilege has fallen to the disciples who now see and hear Him. The true disciple who is with the Lord Jesus sees and hears a rejected King, and also sees His inner glory (Jn 1:14).
Explanation of the Parable of the Sower
After his teaching on the use of parables, the Lord explains the parable of the sower to His disciples, “hear then”, even though the crowds are present (Mt 13:36). With the call “hear then the parable of the sower” He calls His disciples to listen attentively.
The sower is the Lord Jesus. In a literal sense, this is not correct. For the seed is sown in the field of the world (Mt 13:38), while the Lord Jesus during His life on earth has never been outside Israel and gone to the nations. Only after His death, resurrection, and ascension did His apostles begin to fulfil the commission to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Yet in a spiritual sense he is the Sower, for He sows through His apostles (cf. Eph 2:17). So will everyone who is now a disciple comply in sowing.
The Lord makes it clear in the explanation that not everyone who hears the Word accepts it immediately. Only in one of the four places where the seed ends up is the fruit produced.
1. The explanation is constantly about hearing the Word. Matthew speaks of the seed as the “Word of the kingdom” and of the “hearing” and “understanding” of the Word (Mt 13:19; 23). This fits with his Gospel, because it is about the kingdom and the making of disciples who submit to the authority of the King.
The greatest impediments to spiritual understanding are religious prejudices. Religious prejudices are hardened ground. In “the one on whom seed was sown beside the road” we can see the Pharisee. The Pharisee completely rejects the Word of the kingdom. He does not enter the kingdom because he does not want to bow before the Lord of the kingdom.
The first to prevent the seed from springing up is the devil. The Word is sown in the heart, but the enemy can easily take it away because there is no connection between the heart and God. This does not make the recipient any less guilty, because what was sown in the heart was adapted to the needs of that heart.
2. In the second case we see that not the seed, but “the one on whom” is sown on the rocky places (Mt 13:20-21). The seed is identified with the recipient. He is someone who hears the Word and immediately accepts it with joy. That means he has no sense of sin. The first thing the Word does is a work in the conscience that leads to sorrow because it reveals man to himself. There can never be a real work of God without a sense of sin. The soil has not been ploughed over and therefore there can be no root. A conscience affected by the Word sees itself in the presence of God. If the conscience is not touched, there is no root.
The Word is received for the joy it gives, but when trial comes, it is let go. The obstacle to bear fruit is the superficiality and selfishness with which the Word is received. Whoever only wants to experience ‘pleasure’ from the Word is revealed as an unbeliever as soon as there is trial in his life of pleasure.
3. The third obstacle to the fruit-bearing of the seed consists of the things of the world (Mt 13:22). This is not about sins, but about ordinary earthly things. Worries are part of the earthly existence. Wealth does not have to be wrong either. But both the unpleasant and the pleasant things can ensure that there is no fruit from the preaching. People who are absorbed in their worries or in their wealth are infertile ground for the gospel. The outer circumstances are so choking that the received seed does not bear fruit.
4. Only in the fourth case is there fruit. Fruit is the result of seed sown on the good soil (Mt 13:23). The good soil is he who not only hears the Word, but also understands it. Whoever understands the Word, comprehends it, knows that through the Word he is placed in the presence of God, for God reveals Himself in the Word. The Word creates new life for everyone who hears and understands. This new life is the Lord Jesus. From Him – He is the new life of the believer – comes forth fruit for God.
Yet we see that even if the seed bears fruit there are different results. The factors that, in previous cases, completely prevented the seed from bearing fruit, still play a role in some respects. Religious habits (1), the laziness of the flesh (2) and being consumed by earthly things (3) can be the cause that not a hundred percent fruit is produced.
Parable of the Tares and the Wheat
In the parable of the tares – which is a weed that looks a lot like wheat – and the five subsequent parables we find symbolic representations of the kingdom. They are about the time while the King is rejected and is therefore a time characterized by the absence of the King. It is the kingdom in its new form, it receives a new character by which it was not previously known. Therefore the Lord Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven has become like” (Darby translation). The phrase “has become like” indicates the change after the original intention of the kingdom could not be realized because of the rejection of the King.
The parable of the tares among the wheat and the next two parables represent the kingdom in its outer form in the world. They are addressed to the disciples and the crowds. The last three parables show the kingdom according to the appreciation of the Holy Spirit, as God sees it. They contain the thoughts and counsels of God. These last three, together with the explanation of the second parable, are addressed only to the disciples.
Just as in the first parable, the sower is “a man”, that is the Lord Jesus. He sows good seed and sows in “His” field, for the field belongs to Him. This sowing did not actually begin until after He was rejected. His followers sowed first in Jerusalem, then in Samaria, and then to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The Lord does this sowing work through people. These people are characterized by weakness and even carelessness. This gives the enemy opportunity to sow weeds. Falling asleep also has to do with not looking forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus. We see that all ten virgins fall asleep when the bridegroom is delaying (Mt 25:5; cf. Eph 5:14). This gives the enemy the opportunity to sow weeds. This is sown in words that sound evangelical and authentic, but in which another meaning is hidden. Outwardly it seems Christian, but God knows the inside. Satan is the great imitator of God (cf. 2Tim 3:8; Rev 13:11). He sowed his false teachings among Christians through false teachers and their supporters.
A tare is, as said, a weed that looks a lot like wheat. Satan works with what seems to be truth, but is a lie. His refined way of working is to mix truth and lies, so that they are hard or impossible to distinguish from each other. If we are not vigilant, the tare can be sown and grow.
When the fruit appears, the slaves notice that weeds are shooting up between the good seed. They ask the Lord of the House – also a picture of the Lord Jesus – about it, to which he answers that this is the work of an enemy. Then the slaves propose to gather the weeds. That is not a good proposal. The owner of the house rejects their proposal and gives the reason why. He knows that his slaves will be mistaken in their judgment of what is wheat and what is weeds. They have not been able to prevent the work of that enemy, nor are they able to undo the results of the work of that enemy.
In the picture the proposal of the slaves comes down to purging Christianity of weeds. But that is not the work of the slaves. It is a work of judgment about what is not of God. This judgment belongs to Him alone because only He can only carry it out according to the perfect knowledge He has of everything and according to His power from which no one can escape. Therefore the Lord Jesus says that the kingdom on earth, as it is in the hands of man, must remain a mixed system until “the harvest”.
The “time of the harvest” indicates a certain period of time in which the events associated with the harvest, namely its final phase, will take place. In that phase the weeds manifest themselves more and more clearly. The Lord will execute judgment through the angels of His power. After the binding of the weeds He gathers the wheat into His barn. The wheat is not tied in bundles. This is the end of the outward appearance of the kingdom on earth.
The binding in bundles is the preparation for judgment, in which we can perhaps see the merging of all kinds of churches and currents, ecumenism. In the explanation of the parable, the Lord explains this in more detail (Mt 13:36-43). The gathering of the wheat, of which there is no mention of preparation, is the gathering of His people, where perhaps we can see the rapture of the church to heaven. The Lord also explains this in more detail in the explanation.
The growing up together until the harvest applies to the kingdom of heaven or Christianity, not to the church. In the (local) church evil must be cleaned out or removed (1Cor 5:7; 13). If a church does not want that, we must cleanse ourselves from that church (2Tim 2:19-22).
Parable of the Mustard Seed
The mustard seed is a tiny seed and represents the seed of the Christian church sown by the Lord. The seed is now not the person as in the previous parable, but the whole. In the next parable, that of the leaven, we see the same thing, because there too it is about the big picture and not about the individual. The Lord never intended this mustard seed to grow out of its strength. Yet it becomes a tree. A tree speaks of power. Assyria and Nebuchadnezzar are compared with them (Isa 10:18-19; Eze 31:1-18; Dan 4:10-11; 26).
This parable shows that evil will not just be a mixture with a false confession, like the previous one about the tares, but something completely different will follow. The kingdom of heaven begins small and humble in the world. But it will take on great dimensions on earth. It will have its roots deep in man’s institutions and elevate itself to a colossal system with powerful influence on the earth. In church history this happened when Constantine adopted Christianity and the world became Christian.
This third parable represents the development of the kingdom into an impressive phenomenon in people’s eyes. However, this realm will also provide shelter for evil instruments, for in this chapter the birds represent instruments of evil (Mt 13:4; 19; cf. Rev 18:2). It is the work of satan through human instruments.
Parable of the Leaven
This is not about mixing good and bad seed, not even a small seed that becomes a big tree. This fourth parable teaches that the kingdom will be corrupted through and through by false doctrine. In Scripture, leaven is a picture of sin. Leaven is not a picture of the gospel that will win the world over to Christ, as is sometimes completely wrongly claimed. The Lord speaks as a prophet. He knows how the kingdom, seen from the side of man, will go.
The kingdom will not only be a great power, one from a mustard seed grown from its strength, but it will also have the character of a doctrinal system that will spread far and include all those who come into its sphere of influence. Leaven does not speak of faith or life, but of error or pernicious doctrine that has permeated Christianity.
We see that in the six cases where leaven is spoken of:
1. The leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy (Lk 12:1; Mt 16:6).
2. The leaven of the Sadducees, which is connected by the Lord to the leaven of the Pharisees (Mt 16:6). The Sadducees are the rationalists, people who only believe what they can reason, with which they can agree with. They are full of unbelief and biblical criticism.
3. The leaven of the Herodians, which is also connected by the Lord to the leaven of the Pharisees (Mk 8:15). The Herodians are a political party that believe that politics and religion should be linked. It is the leaven of the conformance to the world.
4. The leaven of harlotry (1Cor 5:1; 6-7). This is loose morality, immorality.
5. The leaven of legalism (Gal 5:9). This is religious performance, subjecting oneself and/or others to certain commandments, in order to gain respect before God and people.
6. The leaven of idolatry (Mt 13:33). We see that in the woman and the three measures of flour.
In the book of Revelation the roman catholic church is presented as a woman, a harlot (Rev 17:1-6). She herself is corrupt and does corrupt things. She moderates herself to the position of the true church, but her intentions are corrupt. We see that in her actions. In the good teaching about Christ that is presented in the three measures of flour, which we can connect with the meal offering (Lev 2:1-16) as a picture of Christ, she does false teaching. She mixes the evil and the good with each other, making the good corrupt. This is something that we see becoming clearer and clearer in Christianity today.
Use of Parables
The Lord’s teaching to many ends with the parable of the leaven. He speaks in parables because they do not accept Him. By using parables, He fulfils what the prophet Asaph said (Psa 78:2). Asaph predicted that He would speak in parables.
Asaph also said that He would proclaim things that have been “hidden since the foundation of the world”. From the foundation of the world it has been hidden that the kingdom of heaven would take a hidden form before this same kingdom would be established in public power and majesty. That hidden form has everything to do with the King of that kingdom’s rejection and the place that this King now occupies. He is hidden in God (Col 3:3).
The expression “since the foundation of the world” refers to Israel. In connection with the church it is rather “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4).
Explanation of the Parable of the Tares
The Lord lets the crowds go and comes into the house. He has spoken and directed the first four parables to the crowds. These parables are about the form that the kingdom of heaven will take in the world, in which good and evil will be mixed. Now He continues with just His disciples. The following three parables are about the true core of the kingdom and it is intended for the true sons of the kingdom.
In the house His disciples come to Him to ask Him for the explanation of the parable of the tares. They have asked Him before why He uses parables (Mt 13:10). Now they want to know the explanation of the likeness used. Their question shows the confidence they have in Him that He will give the explanation. Even the disciples cannot grasp the parable without explanation. In the seclusion of the house the Lord declares the true character and purpose of the kingdom of heaven and what has worth for Him in it.
This explanation can only be understood by the spiritually-minded person. The multitudes cannot grasp the true thoughts of God in connection with the kingdom. Also in the following three parables the Lord speaks only to His disciples. They see more on the inward, more hidden side of the kingdom of heaven, that is as God sees it.
That’s why these three parables are of special importance to the faithful follower of the Lord Jesus. These are the family secrets and that’s why the Lord goes with them into the house. In the great impressive whole there is found something of value to God. How valuable that is, is demonstrated by the parables of the treasure and the pearl.
The Lord answers His disciples’ question willingly and explains who sows the good seed, what the field is, who the good seed is, what the tares represent, who the enemy is, what the harvest represents, and who the reapers are. He then paints what will happen in the end of the age.
As with the parable of the sower at the beginning of this chapter, sowing indicates the Lord’s activity of Himself producing fruit after Israel’s failure to produce fruit for God. He Himself, as the Son of Man, sows the Word in the field of the world to, in this way, establish the kingdom of heaven.
In the explanation He identifies the seed with the sons of the kingdom: the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom. What the seed produces is to his senses no different than the seed that has been sown. By rejecting their King, the Jews lost their right to the kingdom. Natural birth no longer gives right to the kingdom. From the moment the King is in heaven, one becomes a son of the kingdom only if he has received new life through the Word (Jn 3:5).
But the Son of Man is not the only sower. The devil, “the enemy”, also acts as a sower. His sons, the sons of the evil one, “the tares”, are found among the sons of the kingdom. The devil is mixing. The terrain where he does that is the world. The enemy brings all kinds of persons – they are the fruit of the false teachings that the enemy has sown – among those born of the truth. The harvest is not a time when the age ends, but refers to the actions that God allows to be performed to fulfil His purpose fully.
In these actions there is an important role for His angels. In the parable the emphasis is on the slaves, those who work the land and take care of it, the servants of the Lord (Mt 13:28-29). They cannot distinguish between good and evil. In the explanation the emphasis is on the reapers and they can make that distinction.
The End of the Age
In the parable the Lord goes no further than collecting and binding the tares in bundles to burn it and bringing the wheat together into the barn (Mt 13:30). In the explanation He goes further. In it He speaks of the closing events “at the end of the age”, that is the age in which evil can do its work, but which comes to an end in judgment. Then He speaks of the coming of a new era, in which the wheat – which is gathered into in His barn – will reappear in the form of the righteous who will shine like the sun.
The tares are burned with fire by the angels when the Son of Man comes. The tares, the sons of the evil one, are gathered “out of His kingdom”, so that is not the world, but the terrain where the Lord Jesus exercises His authority. From it are collected “all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness”. These are not all the unbelievers from the whole world, but confessors. They are the deceivers who have led others to fall. They have also committed lawlessness, which means that they have not taken into account the authority of the King. They have refused to submit to it. They are removed from the kingdom of the Son of Man, that is His kingdom on earth. Their portion is the furnace of fire, eternal pain. Every form of joy is missing. Only weeping because of physical torment and gnashing of teeth because of the remorse of conscience is there. What a terrible fate that is!
The portion of the wheat, the sons of the kingdom, contrasts sharply with the portion of the tares, the sons of evil. The sons of the kingdom are called “righteous”. They have done what is right and have bowed themselves in truth before the authority of the Son of Man. Their part is to “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father”. Both “shine forth as the sun” and “the kingdom of their Father” indicate their heavenly position. They will shine on that day of glory in that coming age like the Lord Jesus Himself, the true “Sun of righteousness” (Mal 4:2).
‘The kingdom of their Father’ is the heavenly side of the kingdom. The Son of Man is on earth, but also in heaven (Jn 3:13). On earth the earthly believers are connected with Him, and in heaven the believers who find themselves there are connected with Him. The heavenly believers shine in the sky next to the Sun and the earthly believers bask in its light and warmth.
The righteous or the sons of the kingdom are further examined in the following three parables, and then as a “treasure” (Mt 13:44), a “pearl” (Mt 13:45-46) and “good” fish collected in containers (Mt 13:48). They are introduced as what they mean to the heart of the Lord Jesus.
The Treasure in the Field
This parable teaches us that there is something hidden in the world that is of value to the Lord Jesus. In view of this value, the Lord bought the field, which is the world (cf. 2Pet 2:1). By buying the field, He has gained the right to the whole world. Because of the treasure, He sold everything. He gave up His rights to rule Israel and the world and became poor (2Cor 8:9). The treasure is clearly not Christ. As in the other parables, Christ is here the ‘man’ as well.
It is also impossible that a man could win Christ by giving up everything. God does not ask a man for a performance in order to win Christ. If it depends on man, he will never come to Christ, for he does not naturally seek Christ (Rom 3:11). Only when someone is a follower of the Lord Jesus does the Lord ask him to give up everything. This is how Paul does it (Phil 3:8). Paul wants to get to know Christ better and gives away everything that prevents this.
Nowhere is a person told that he has to do something to win the kingdom, as if it could be won by achievement. The rich young man proves the opposite (Mk 10:21-22). By the way, how can a man buy the world as a means of winning Christ? Paul has in fact given up the world to win Christ.
There is a lot to be said for the treasure representing ‘the church’. The treasure is found without there being any question that it has been searched for. The Lord Jesus came for His people Israel, but that people rejected Him. Then, as it were, without asking for it, He receives the church as something that here is presented as a new matter. Israel is not a new matter, nor is the world. To possess the church, the Lord Jesus gives up all that is due to Him as Man, as Messiah on earth.
It has also been assumed that the treasure could be Israel. The explanation is that Israel is hidden in the field, that Christ finds the treasure, but then hides it again because of His rejection. That is not very convincing. In none of the parables about the kingdom of heaven does Israel play a role. It is rather about something that is hidden, and that is not Israel, because the whole of the Old Testament is about Israel. The Lord Jesus did not have to buy the world to own Israel either, for Israel is already His, they are “His own” (Jn 1:11). Nor does he need to buy the world to reacquire Israel.
What is of value to the Lord Jesus in the kingdom of heaven are the sons of the kingdom. They are a treasure for Him. He finds that treasure as it were suddenly, without expecting it. He has not come for them, but He finds them as something precious for His heart.
If the Lord Jesus is rejected, it is disappointing for Him. The people for whom He came reject Him. His coming and His work seem in vain (Isa 49:4). But God gives Him something else in its place: a group of believers among the nations (Isa 49:6). Those who believe are so precious to Him that He sells everything in order to possess the treasure. For the price of His life He buys the whole field on account of that treasure. Through His work on the cross He has gained authority over all flesh, that He may give eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him (Jn 17:2).
The Pearl of Great Value
Finding the treasure in the previous parable was not preceded by a search. That is the case with the pearl. The merchant is again the Lord Jesus. In the pearl, unity is the primary thought. A treasure is a wide variety of precious things. Believers are all different and precious to the Lord Jesus in their diversity. A pearl is a unity of perfect beauty.
The merchant, the Lord Jesus, has searched for that beautiful pearl. He knew what He was looking for, for He knew the church from before the foundation of the world. Its value to Him is so great that He gives up everything, even giving Himself up to possess it. As with the treasure, the merchant is not a picture of the sinner who sells everything he has to possess the Lord Jesus, who would then be the pearl.
The Lord Jesus buys that pearl and nothing else with it. The church is formed in the depths of the sea of nations and is the jewel of the Lord Jesus, with whom He will adorn Himself in the kingdom of peace and for all eternity.
In the parable of the dragnet, the Lord Jesus explains how the church, which He presented in the previous parables, is acquired. He makes it clear that this is done through the involvement of His servants who, over time, have pulled the dragnet of the gospel through the sea of nations. The Word of the kingdom is a dragnet through which all kinds of people come into the kingdom. It is the fishermen’s responsibility to separate the good from the bad. The good ones they put in containers. The bad they throw away.
In the explanation, the evil are dealt with by angels. The servants are only concerned with the good. Unlike the parable of the tares, the servants are active here, while with the tares they only assess and are forbidden from separating the evil from the good. We cannot purge the evil from Christianity, but we can separate those who belong to that treasure and pearl from the others and gather them together.
The practical teaching of this parable is that the good are separated from the evil and that the good are gathered in the same space. That has happened more than once. Many good are united everywhere into a whole in local churches.
Here the sorting already takes place, while in the parable of the tares among the wheat sorting takes place at the end, because they have to grow up together until the harvest. The final distinction will be made by angels at the end of the age. They are concerned with the wicked, who they will separate from among the righteous and throw into the furnace of fire (see also Mt 13:42). In this way, the explanation goes further than the parable and adds facts.
Parable of the Head of a Household
After the Lord has spoken the seven parables and explained some of them, He asks His disciples if they have understood “all these things”. They, like us, have difficulty understanding this teaching. Yet their answer is a sincere “yes”.
Then the Lord utters an eighth parable. This is not a parable of the kingdom of heaven, but of a scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven. He compares such a scribe to a head of a household, that is someone who knows what he has in his house. He can do whatever he wants with it, because it is his own, it is “his” treasure. A treasure is something to enjoy yourself. This head of a household, however, does not keep this treasure for himself, but brings something out of it for others, he wants others to enjoy it.
That treasure consists of new and old things. The “new things” come first, that’s where the emphasis is. These new things have come to the fore in the parables of the kingdom. They are about the new, hidden manifestation of the kingdom as a result of the rejection and ascension of the Lord Jesus, things unknown in the Old Testament. By “old things” is meant what is known about the kingdom in the Old Testament.
The scribe has knowledge of the kingdom, but is completely unfamiliar with the character it will assume when planted in the world through the Word, on which everything here depends.
Whoever completes an education and has become a scribe, can now teach others. The scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom knows the old things, but through the teaching he has received from the Lord Jesus as His disciple also knows the new things of the kingdom. He is able to proclaim both from that treasure.
Rejection at Nazareth
When the Lord has finished His teaching by parables, He departs from there to go to Nazareth. There He continues His teaching. The teaching surprises the audience. They don’t understand where He has gotten it all from. Amazed they wonder where He has obtained His wisdom and powers. He spent so much time with them, but they never knew Him. They see nothing more in Him than “the carpenter’s son”. They grew up with Him, but they never recognized the remarkable in Him.
They know exactly who His earthly relatives are. They know His father (they think), His mother and His brothers and sisters, but they know nothing of His heavenly origin. Through their ignorance of His heavenly origin, they also do not understand anything of where His special performance and teaching come from. Instead of looking for His origin, they take offense at Him. This also causes them to fall spiritually. They accuse him of fantasy. The question of where He got everything from is changed to: ‘Who does He think He is to say these things?’
Then the Lord will speak the words to those who have already experienced many a servant that a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his household. The result is that the Lord’s blessing is held back by their unbelief. If there are no hearts that open themselves to Him, He cannot do anything.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13