Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses twenty-four through forty-six of the thirteenth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will fine a continuation of that which was previously written in this particular chapter. When you come to the thirteen chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you continue to find Jesus teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven, however, His teaching transitions into an entirely different realm. If you have read the gospel according to Matthew from the opening chapter up to this point you will find that Jesus’ greatest teaching took place as He sat down on a mountain and taught the multitudes that followed Him. After having the multitudes seated before Him, and after calling His disciples unto Himself Jesus began opening His mouth and delivering the Sermon on the Mount. I am absolutely and completely convinced that the Sermon on the Mount was a powerful and wonderful description of the kingdom of heaven—and not only the kingdom of heaven, but also that which the kingdom of heaven demanded and required of those who would seek to follow Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that this particular sermon not only describes and outlines the attitudes of the kingdom as was displayed within the first thirteen verses of the fifth chapter, but also the righteousness of the kingdom. This righteousness of the kingdom is not only a righteousness of the kingdom was completely different from the righteousness of men which came according to the law of Moses. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which the kingdom demands and requires of men, for the kingdom demands that our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees. Clearly Jesus was drawing a owerful distinction between the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which was according to the law or Moses and the righteousness of the kingdom which surpasses that which comes by the law.
When you read the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find that it contains a wonderful and powerful amount of the teaching of Jesus the Christ. What’s more, is that I have written concerning the supremacy of the words of Christ as directly set against the works of Christ. As you study and examine the four gospel accounts written by the various New Testament authors you will find both the works of Christ which took place among men, as well as the words of Christ—that which He taught and that which He preached in the hearing of those who gathered before and around Him. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that while the works of Christ were intended to bring men into a place of belief in Him and His Father who sent Him, they were not meant to be the main focal point of His life and ministry. The works of Christ were meant and intended on bringing men and women into a place quiet trust and confidence in the living God, while the words of Christ were intended on actually browning transformation to the inner part of man. The works of Christ could transform the outward part of a man and even bring about wonderful healing, but the words of Christ were intended to do what the works could never do—transform the heart of a man. In fact, I would dare say that more often than not we place a greater emphasis on the works of Christ and elevate them to being the supreme part of the life and ministry of Jesus whole completely neglecting and ignoring the words of Christ which were intended to radically transform the hearts and lives of men and women. I am completely convinced that it is completely and absolutely possible for men and women to experience the works of Christ and to have their bodies and outer man touched and transformed, but yet they are completely untouched and not transformed by the words which Jesus the Christ both taught and preached. What’s more, is that the words of Christ are exactly what the apostle peter spoke and declared when he declared that Jesus alone had the words of eternal life.
As we transition to the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew you will find Jesus continuing to teach the crowds and masses, however, this method of teaching took on an entirely different level than what it had previously had. The teaching and words of Jesus Christ would experience a radical transition once you come to the thirteenth chapter of this gospel of Matthew, for it would not take the form of parable. In fact, the apostle Matthew records how when speaking to the crowds and masses Jesus spoke in parables, however, when speaking unto His disciples, He provided the meaning of the parables. In fact, there were two specific examples within this chapter alone where we find the disciples coming unto Jesus and asking Him the meaning of two of the parables which He taught and spoke. It’s quite interesting when you read the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel according to Matthew, for within it you will essentially find two different methods of teaching. If you read this particular chapter you will encounter and notice the surface teaching which Jesus taught using parables, while you will also find a deeper teaching which was given unto the disciples. Within this particular chapter you will find the disciples being given the interpretation of two distinct parables which were spoken forth by Jesus. What’s more, is that within this particular chapter you will find the disciples coming unto Jesus privately and asking Him why He spoke unto the crowds and masses in parables. For the disciples, they could not understand why Jesus would speak to them in parables, and why Jesus would not speak to them plainly. In fact, beginning with the tenth verse of this particular chapter you will find the disciples coming unto Jesus after speaking to them concerning the parable of the seed which was sown on four different types of ground concerning His intention in speaking in parables. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto the disciples concerning their question as to why He spoke unto the crowds and masses in parables:
“And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the my stories of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 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. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they heart not, neither do they understand. 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: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are full 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. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 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” (Matthew 13:10-17).
With these particular words which were spoken by Jesus, we encounter firsthand why Jesus chose to speak unto the crowds and the multitudes in parables, but why when He was with His disciples in private He spoke openly and plainly. Upon hearing the first of many parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and the masses, the disciples came unto Jesus privately inquiring of Him why He would deliberately choose to speak to them in parables rather than speaking to them openly, plainly and clearly. It’s actually quite interesting when you consider this, for at the very conclusion of the parable of the seed and the four soils, Jesus placed an exclamation mark immediately after it by emphatically stating “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Please do not miss or lose sight of this when reading the parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and multitudes, for although Jesus spoke in parables unto the crowds and masses, He never intended on everyone not understanding that which He was speaking unto them. Jesus added this addendum to the parable of the seed and the four soils, for there were those who would hear this particular parable and would understand that which Jesus was trying to say unto them. It was through the parables that Jesus continued to teach the multitudes, and yet I can’t help but see within the parables an invitation to search the words of Jesus, and to go deeper into what He actually said. I can’t help but view the parables as an invasion to not only hear and listen to that which Jesus said, but actually search for the meaning behind that which Jesus was actually speaking. Essentially, those who heard the parables and truly had a desire to understand that which Jesus was speaking unto them would be left wondering within their hearts what it was Jesus was truly trying to say unto them through the parables. The more I read and the more I consider the parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and the masses, the more I can’t help but see within them a wonderful and powerful invitation to dig deeper in search of a greater understanding concerning the words which Jesus spoke. In other words, it wasn’t enough simply to hear the words which Jesus spoke unto them, for they also needed to dig deeper and truly search for the meaning of that which Jesus spoke unto them. Can I be honest and say that there are times when the Lord can and will speak to us, and yet even that which He speaks to us will demand and require us to dig deeper and to search for the true meaning behind what was being spoken. There are a great many men and women who would take the words which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and the multitudes and would leave it at that without also taking the time to truly seek out and search for the true meaning of that which He had spoken. It’s interesting and worth noting that while there are certain parables which Jesus spoke which the disciples were given understanding of, there were a great number of parables which Jesus provided no meaning and no interpretation of concerning what was contained within them. There were parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and the masses which not even His own disciples were given the meaning and interpretation of.
AN INVITATION TO SEARCH! AN INVITATION TO SEEK! AN INVITATION TO DIG DEEPER! AN INVITATION TO NOT BE SATISFIED! The more I read the parables which Jesus spoke unto the multitudes and the crowds, the more I am completely and utterly convinced that the parables were in all reality an invitation unto the crowds and the multitudes to dig deeper and to search for the deeper and greater meaning behind that which was spoken. If this were not the case then I am convinced Jesus would not have added at the conclusion of the parable of the seed and the four soils “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” I find this final addendum to that which Jesus taught concerning the seed and the four soils a wonderful and powerful invitation to take that which was spoken unto them and to truly search the Scriptures in order that they might understand what it was Jesus was really say. JESUS, WHAT WERE YOU REALLY SAYING? JESUS, I HEAR…BUT HELP ME UNDERSTAND! Within the four gospels you will find a specific individual who was before Jesus on behalf of his son who was sore vexed and tormented by an evil spirit, and when Jesus spoke to him concerning belief, he responded by declaring unto Jesus—“Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief.” What a wonderful and powerful statement that was spoken in the hearing of the Lord Jesus Christ, and one that I am convinced each and every one of us has great need of hearing, listening to, and applying to our own lives. With that being said, I am convinced that when we talk about the parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and the multitudes, we are confronted with the ability to hear, and the invitation to gain understanding concerning that which Jesus spoke. We would be incredibly naïve to think and to believe for one moment that everything we hear Jesus speak we have a true and proper understanding of. The parables provide a wonderful and powerful example of Jesus speaking and men and women hearing, and yet there being contained within the words of Jesus an invitation to seek and pursue a greater level and greater measure of understanding. There is within the parables of Jesus Christ a wonderful invitation to hear, yes, but in addition to hearing, understanding exactly what Jesus sought to speak unto the crowds and masses. The fact that Jesus emphatically declared: “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” suggests that it was possible to hear the words which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and masses, and yet not have a true and proper understanding concerning that which Jesus was actually speaking. The more I read the parables of Jesus the more I am complexly and utterly convinced that there were those who heard the parables, and yet they weren’t satisfied with hearing the parables, but sought to understand what it was Jesus speaking unto them. I find within the thirteenth chapter—though it is not present, but merely implied—a wonderful sense within the hearts of men and women who heard the words which Jesus spoke unto them, and yet who desired a deeper understanding concerning that which Jesus spoke. In fact, I am convinced that this was the case of each and every parable that was given, for there were only two parables within the thirteenth chapter where Jesus provided the interpretation.
THE DISCIPLES’ INVITATION TO SEARCH! THE DISCIPLES INVITATION TO UNCOVER AND DISCOVER! What I find to be so incredibly unique and powerful concerning the parables which Jesus spoke unto the crowds and multitudes is that within the thirteenth chapter we have found five or six parables which were spoken thus far. With that being said, there were only two parables which were spoken by Jesus Christ unto the crowds and the multitudes, and an interpretation of the parable was given unto the disciples privately. The first parable which the disciples were provided an interpretation of was the parable of the sower, the seed and the four soils, while the second parable was the sower, the wheat, the tares and the enemy. Consider if you will the parable of the seed and the sower with its interpretation, as well as the parable of the wheat and the tares as well as its interpretation:
“And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some feel among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirty-fold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear…Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any 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. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 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. 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. 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” (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23).
“Another parable pout he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 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? HE said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather then up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, the root up also the wheat with them, 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….Then Jesus send 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. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world. 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; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43).
What’s interesting about the parables which were spoken in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew is that while there were five or six parables which were spoken—only two parables were given understanding, and that understanding being given. Unto the disciples alone privately in the company of Jesus. On the one hand Jesus provided the interpretation of the parable of the seed and the four soils after the disciples had asked Him why He spoke unto the crowds in parables. On the other hand Jesus provided the interpretation of the parable of the tares of the field after the disciples had come unto Jesus in the house and asked for the interpretation. What I so love about the disciples’ inquiry into the parable of the tares of the field is that their inquiry is a wonderful and powerful example of how we should respond when we read the parables which Jesus spoke in the four gospels—and not only the parables contained within the four gospels, but the entire words itself. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you read the word of God and in your private time come before Jesus and asked Him to declare unto you the meaning of what you read? I can’t help but be reminded of the account of the Ethiopian eunuch who was traveling from Jerusalem and was met by Philip along the way after Philip was led by the Spirit to travel along this particular road. Beginning with the twenty-sixth verse of the eighth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Acts we find the following account of Philip being sent by the angel of the Lord to rise up from where he was and travel toward the south unto the way that goes down from Jerusalem unto Gaza. Consider if you will the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch which was traveling from Jerusalem back unto his own home as it is recorded in the New Testament book of Acts:
“And the angel fo the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all he treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and joking thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caeserea” (Acts 8:26-40).
Within this particular passage of Scripture we find the Ethiopian eunuch reading the prophetic book of Isaiah while riding along in the chariot, and according to the instruction of the Spirit of the Lord, Philip drew near and approached the chariot in which this eunuch was riding. After hearing the eunuch reading from the prophetic book of Isaiah, Philip asked him if he understand that which he was reading, to which the eunuch responded by declaring that he could not understand without and apart from someone teaching him and providing him understanding. What’s more, is that the eunuch actually asked Philip whom the prophet was speaking about—himself, or another man. Upon hearing the question which the eunuch asked, Philip began to preach unto him Jesus who was the Christ and the eternal Son of God. Please don’t miss the tremendous significance of this, for it brings us face to face with how we should approach the Scriptures, for we are to read the Scriptures and upon reading them should seek understanding concerning that which we have read. After hearing Jesus declare unto the crowds the parable of the tares of the field, the disciples asked Jesus privately for the interpretation of the parable, for they sought to understand the meaning behind that which Jesus was speaking unto the crowds. We dare not miss the awesome and incredible significance and importance of that which the disciples did in the presence of Jesus in private, for although they heard the parable of the tares of the field, they were not content with merely hearing the words which Jesus spoke. Oh, how many of us are merely content with hearing the words which Jesus has spoken, and even reading the words which are written in the Scripture, and seek no additional understanding concerning that which was written and contained within the Scriptures? How many of us read the words which are contained within the Scripture and have absolutely no desire to truly understand that which was written and that which was divinely inspired by the very Spirit of God? I am absolutely and completely convinced that we have great need to not only hear the words which Jesus the Christ spoke, but we are also to seek a true and proper understanding concerning that which Jesus spoke in order that our hearing might be transformed. There is within the parables a wonderful and powerful invitation to seek and to search, and to take that which we have heard and to truly desire a greater measure of understanding and discernment. What’s more, is that even after providing the disciples with the interpretation of the parable of the tares of the field, Jesus declared unto them, saying, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” This is truly significant, for even though the interpretation was provided and understanding was given, there was still an invitation to go deeper, and an invitation for an even greater understanding.
Within the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we will also find the apostle writing how “all these things spake Jesus unto the multitudes in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 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” Matthew 13:34-35). Although Jesus spoke in parables, that which He was doing was opening His mouth in parables in order that He might utter things which were kept secret from the foundation fo the world. Despite the fact that Jesus spoke in parables unto the crowds and masses, that which He was doing was speaking and uttering unto them things which had previously been held and kept secret from the foundation of the world. That which Jesus was doing was speaking forth the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and although He spoke the mysteries of the kingdom of God, there was an invitation to seek and search after understanding concerning the parables. Even when providing the interpretation of the parable of the tares of the field Jesus concluded with His own disciples by emphatically saying, “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” IN other words—even in the interpretation there was still an invitation to go deeper, and an invitation to seek a greater understanding than what was previously provided. The parables which were spoken by Jesus the Christ contained within them a powerful invitation to dig deeper and to seek after a greater understanding—one that would completely transform your understanding concerning the kingdom of heaven. What’s more, is that there are so many parables which are found within the New Testament gospels which no interpretation was provided or given, and in which we are brought into a place of seeking and searching. In all reality, I am convinced that through the parables we encounter the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven which were provided by Jesus the Christ—that which was previously hidden from the foundation of the world. In fact, I am convinced that this is what is so unique and powerful about the final two parables which are found in this particular section of Scripture, for within these two parables we find Jesus speaking of the kingdom of heaven being like a treasure hidden in a field; the which when a man found it, he hid the treasure, and for joy went and sold all he had in order that he might buy the field. What’s more, Jesus tells another parable about the kingdom of heaven and how the kingdom of heaven is like a man seeking goodly pearls, and upon finding just one of great price, and goes and sells all he has in order that he might buy the field. I absolutely love the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, for this man didn’t find the treasure hidden in the field and simply remove the treasure from the field, but rather, he sold all he had in order that he might buy the entire field in which the treasure was hidden. I have often wondered how the treasure was hidden in this field in the first place, and how long this man had been searching for treasure before he happened to come unto the treasure which was hidden in this field. We must understand that when this man found the treasure which was hidden in the field, he didn’t remove the treasure and bring it with him, for such would not have required any form of sacrifice. I absolutely love that this treasure was of such great value and worth to this man that he had to sell all he had in order that he might not only obtain the treasure, but also the field. What’s more, is that this man didn’t merely buy the field, but this man also went on to hide the treasure once more within that field. Oh, there are so many of us who merely want the treasure hidden within the field, and yet we care absolutely nothing for the field in which the treasure was found. Oh that we would read this parable to the treasure hidden in the field and that we would understand that we are not only called to take the treasure from within the field, for such requires absolutely no sacrifice from us within our daily lives. What we are to do upon finding the treasure is to sell everything we have in order that we might lay hold of the entire field, for what is more valuable—the treasure which was hidden in the field, or the field in which the treasure was found? Oh that we would be buyers of the field rather than merely consumers of treasure.