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The Lord Jesus is here instructing his disciples in Parables. Towards the close of the Chapter, the Lord assigns his reasons for this mode of teaching.
"The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. (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."
I detain the Reader on the very entrance of this Chapter, to remark several interesting things which ought to be noticed. First, observe the unwearied ministry of the Lord. It was the same day in which he had before preached, as in the foregoing Chapter. Oh! what a call on all his sent servants in the ministry, to be alive to the work of the Sanctuary! John 9:4 ; 2 Timothy 4:1-2 . The place of Christ's preaching. Not the synagogue, but the sea-side. Teaching ns that all places are sanctified when the Holy Ghost makes them so. And the multitudes which attended Christ's ministry, serve to shew how eager the people were to hear this divine preacher, who spake as never man spake. John 7:46 .
"And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; (4) And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: (5) Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: (6) And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. (7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: (8) But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. (9) Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. (10) And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? (11) He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (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. (13) Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (14) And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (15) For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. (17) For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. (18) Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. (19) When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (20) But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; (21) Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. (22) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. (23) But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
Very happily for the Lord's people, Jesus hath not left this parable of the sower to our interpretation, but hath given it himself, and which therefore supersedes all the labors of his servants. And so plain and clear is our Lord's explanation of it, that a little child, under grace, may understand it. I detain not the Reader to add to what Jesus hath here said, but only to observe upon it what a beautiful vein of instruction runs through the whole of it. When the Lord Jesus compares himself to a Sower, and the seed he soweth to the Gospel of his kingdom, we enter at once into the blessedness of apprehension concerning the whole purport of salvation. But when Jesus speaks of the devil, under the figure of the fowls of the air, catching away that which was sown in the heart, it should be remembered, that it is the ministry of the word, and not the grace of the Lord Jesus that is thus rendered unprofitable. The heart is sometimes put for the memory; as in the instance of Mary. And she kept all these sayings in her heart; that is, in her memory. Luke 2:51 . So that by the devil's catching away the word from them that understand it not, (See also what is meant in scripture of the want of understanding. Job 28:28 .) means not that he taketh away what was sown of grace in the heart, for grace implanted by the Lord can never be taken away, but that he causeth the graceless hearers to forget what they heard. In them, as well as all others of the unprofitable hearers, as children not of the kingdom, is fulfilled that striking prophecy of Isaiah, which, from its vast importance, is quoted no less than six times in the New Testament; namely, in this Chapter, (Matthew 13:14-15 ; Mark 4:1 ; Luke 8:10 ; John 12:40 ; Acts 28:26 ; Romans 11:8 . In like manner, concerning the sun arising on the stony-ground hearers, we are not to suppose that our Lord meant the Sun of righteousness, for he ariseth not to scorch, but to warm, and with healing in his wings. But by the sun being up, is meant the sun of persecution, the drying, scorching heat of what the Church complained of, Song of Solomon 1:6 . the anger of men. The persons here spoken of were never rooted in Christ, and therefore no dews of heaven to water them; and moreover the seed is said not to have fallen into the ground, but upon stony ground. And those men who, from hence, have argued of the possibility of falling from grace, should first have observed, that they never were in grace. It is impossible to lose that we never had. An union with Christ, brings after it a communion in Christ. These stony-ground hearers never had root, and, as such, could not do otherwise than wither away. To the same purport is what is said concerning the seed sown among thorns, It is not supposed that the characters here alluded to, are the openly profane, and such as are inattentive to divine things, but rather such as make much profession. They have received conviction in the head, of the importance of salvation, but from never having felt it in their heart, and no saving grace having passed upon them, this world's riches are preferred to the riches of eternity, and their hearts, like ground over-run with thorns, and wholly unfruitful. By the good ground, into which the seed is cast, is meant an heart renewed, and made good by sovereign grace, for every man's heart by nature is evil. And the different product from hence, is also wholly from the same grace, and not man's improvement. But it is blessed for the soul of that man, whose increase is but of the lowest kind, that all is of the same quality, though not of the same quantity. The drop of dew on the blade of grass, is as truly water as the ocean. And an union with Christ, makes the blessed, the humblest soul, as much as the highest. For it is all of Jesus, and from Jesus, and to Jesus, all the glory.
"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: (25) But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. (26) But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. (27) So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? (28) He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? (29) But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. (30) Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
The Lord himself hath explained very fully, and very blessedly, this parable in Matthew 13:36 , and the following verses, which supersedes the necessity of any observations from me. I therefore only detain the Reader to remark, that in this parable, the Lord comes closer home than in the former. In that parable, the world at large was spoken of as receiving the seed of the gospel, and the reception of it hath been shewn, by the greater part receiving it in the way-side, on stony ground, and amidst thorns. But in this parable of the Tares springing up among the Wheat, is meant the professing Church of Christ, where the children of the wicked One are mingling with the children of the kingdom. Here, therefore, they spring up together, and grow together; but from the first moment, however undiseerned by the eyes of men, as perfectly known to God from everlasting, as when ripened into their full state. The tares can no more become good seed, than good seed can become tares. They are from a different stamina, a totally different race. So Jesus explained it to his disciples, and, blessed be God, so the Lord's children find. And though they are to grow together until the harvest, and the Church of God, while on earth, will never be free from tares, yet the Lord knoweth them that are his, and by the sweet soul-refreshing dews of his Spirit, and the healing of the Sun of Righteousness upon their hearts, often the Lord giveth his people to know whose they are, and to whom they belong. Oh! the unspeakable mercy of being of the seed of Christ, and heirs of the kingdom. Reader! I beseech you to turn to those scriptures. Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 59:21 ; Galatians 3:16-29 .
"Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: (32) Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."
Different from all the Commentators I have seen, 1 cannot but think, that neither the great men of the earth, neither kings nor princes, are at all alluded to in this similitude; as if the Gospel, from small beginnings, attracted the notice of such men. But the simple beauty of this parable is, according to my view, that as a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; so the grace of God, when put by the Holy Ghost into the heart of a, sinner, small and unnoticed as it is, produceth such vast things, that angels look with wonder and astonishment at the change which is wrought. Luke 15:7 .
"Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened."
This parable, like the former, is meant to shew what wonderful works are wrought, when the grace of God, like leaven, sanctifieth the whole nature.
"All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: (35) That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world."
I should apprehend, that what is here said, is figuratively said, with an eye to the vast difference in divine teaching, from the mere hearing the word of God. everything is a parable, even in the word of God, until the Lord is the teacher. Ezekiel 20:49 .
"Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. (37) He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; (38) The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; (39) The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. (40) As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. (41) The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (42) And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Our Lord's explanation of the parable of the Tares, is so plain and simple, that it can need nothing further by way of illustration, I only pray the Lord to give both Writer and Reader such a sense of it, that it may be found we have the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, to know these things which are freely given to us of God.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. (45) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: (46) Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (47) Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: (48) Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. (49) So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, (50) And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
The treasure may most probably be Christ, hid, in the field of the Scripture, from the wise and prudent, but revealed unto babes. The merchant-man seeking goodly pearls, may perhaps be designed to set forth the Lord Jesus Christ, who is seeking and must gather the goodly pearls, even his redeemed, which are the jewels of his mediatorial crown. Or if the merchant be designed to represent the spiritual merchant seeking Christ, as the pearl of great price, then it will shew, that the finding, and possessing him, includes all treasure; and gladly will a child of God then turn his back upon all the objects which might otherwise be desirable, in this waste and howling wilderness.
"Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. (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."
What a beautiful representation is here made of the Son of God! He calls his servants scribes, and points out how needful it must be, that those who were well instructed themselves, should be forward to instruct others.
"And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence. (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? (55) Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? (56) And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? (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. (58) And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
Reader! even now the offence of the cross is not ceased! And, the Lord be praised, it never shall. Oh! what a blessedness is it, that amidst all the unworthiness that is in us, there is none in Christ. Lord! grant that I may never be offended, but in the midst of the present perverse and crooked generation, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Reader! let you and I pause over this sweet Chapter, and mark the condescending love of Jesus, in thus adopting his discourse, under the imagery of parables, surely it serves to teach us the tenderness of his heart towards his redeemed, as if to come down to the humblest capacities of his people; and that none might err in the apprehension, he varies his subject by illustrating under various similitudes the important truths relating to his kingdom. But that all might be impressed of the everlasting line of distinction between his children, and the children of the wicked One, under whatever figure, or parable, he states the subject Jesus never loseth sight of this. The good seed, or the leaven, the treasure hid in the field, or the good gathered into vessels, all are made to represent the very reverse of the way-side hearers, the stony ground, the thorns, and the tares; which uniformly set forth the state of the reprobate and the seed of the devil. In every part of this blessed Chapter, the Lord Jesus hath drawn, as with a sun-beam, the striking difference, and shewn that characters, springing from such different stocks, never can coalesce; so that the good seed may become tares, or the tares good seed. Lord Jesus! give thy people grace to discover, that amidst all their complaints of unprofitableness, and the like, still thy redeemed are thine, and the Lord. will own them. Oh! for grace, to have all our fruit in Jesus, and the end everlasting life.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany