CHAPTER V (CONTINUE)
The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)
B. The Parable of the Sower: Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23;Mk. 4:1-20; Lk. 8:4-15.
Jesus Himself explained the interpretation of this parable, and we would not presume to improve upon His words. The Sower is Christ, the seed is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the ground upon which the seed fell represents four different kinds of hearers. The wayside hearer is the one who hears the Kingdom message but does not understand it, and the wicked one comes as a bird would and snatches the Word from his heart. The stony place hearer is the one who hears the Word and immediately with joy receives it but because he has no root in himself, becomes offended as soon as persecution or tribulation arises, as represented by the heat of the sun. The seed which fell among thorns and was choked or stunted represents those who permit the care of the world and the deceitfulness of riches to choke the Word and thus become unfruitful. Finally, the seed which fell on good ground represents those who hear the Word, understand it, and bear varying degrees of fruit.
Nothing is said specifically about salvation. The parable is concerned with fruit- bearing. It is evident that those in the first category could not have been saved. The second group seem not to have been saved since they had no root. The third group might represent saved people who had become unfruitful. However, the only way we can be sure people are saved is by their fruit. God alone knows the heart. Fruit-bearing is always the result of salvation; never the cause of it.
The parable teaches that the preaching of the Kingdom Gospel will not result in the conversion of an entire nation or of the world. There will be only partial success. Only a fourth of the preaching might produce fruit. We know that the same principle holds true for the preaching of the Gospel of the grace of God in our day and hence we may make a secondary application of the parable to our own preaching. However, we must be careful in making such an application that we do not confuse personal salvation with fruit bearing. Truly saved people have been caused to doubt their salvation by a faulty application of this parable to our day.
C. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares: Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.
We are fortunate again in having Christ’s own explanation of the meaning of this parable. It is a parable of two sowers. One man sowed good seed in his field and his enemy sowed tares in the same field while the man slept. Jesus again is the man who sowed the good seed. The enemy is the Devil; the field is the world, the good seed are the children of the Kingdom and the tares are the children of the wicked one. The workers ask whether they should pull up the tares, and the answer is, “No, you may also pull up the wheat along with the tares; let them both grow together until the harvest.” The harvest is the end of the age; the reapers are the angels who are sent forth by the Son of man to gather out the tares. Those that are evil will be cast into a furnace of fire, and then the righteous shall shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
In trying to apply this parable to God’s present spiritual program with the Church several facts should be observed. The first is that the wheat represents the children of the Millennial Kingdom (including the tribulation saints); not members of the Body of Christ. Next, this parable culminates with the end of the age. This present evil age ends with the second coming of Christ after the Great Tribulation. The Body of Christ will be raptured or gathered out of this world before the Great Tribulation. In the parable the ones who are gathered out by the angels are those who offend and do iniquity; the righteous are left on earth to enjoy the Kingdom. Just the opposite happens at the Rapture: the saints are gathered out to be with Christ in glory, and the ungodly are left to go through the Tribulation on earth. The only thing in this parable which is similar to God’s present spiritual program is the fact that both good and evil exist together in the world; all else is in contrast.
The first two parables are given in much detail and are fully explained for us. The remaining five must be interpreted in harmony with the first two. The lesson of the first two is that there will be a period of preaching of the Kingdom during which good and evil will grow up together, which will be terminated by the second coming of Christ at the end of the age to punish the wicked and to reward the righteous in the new age of the Millennium.
D. The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Matt. 13:31,32; Mk. 4:30-32; Lk. 13:18,19.
The mustard plant in this parable is thought to be the black mustard (Sinapsis nigra), which grows quite large. There are smaller seeds than the mustard, but it is probably smallest of the garden seeds. The statement that the birds lodged in the branches does not mean that they built their nests in it, but lighted on its branches to rest or to eat the seeds. The birds were probably small sparrow-like birds.
The parable speaks of rapid growth, but growth that is temporary, for mustard is a herb which lasts for only a season, and not a tree which endures for many years. Some commentators believe that the birds represent forces of evil, corresponding to the tares in the previous parable and to Satan’s emissaries, the birds, in the parable of the Sower. It should be remembered that these parables are not depicting the character of the Kingdom after it is established at the second coming of Christ, but its character prior to that time when it contains a mixture of good and evil.
E. The Parable of the Leaven: Matt. 13:33-35; Lk. 13:20,21. What does leaven represent in the Bible? There can be no doubt about the meaning Paul placed upon it: “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:6-8). What meaning did Christ place upon it? Jesus told His disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees,” by which He meant the unscriptural “doctrine” of these Jews (Matt. 16:6-12). In no place in Scripture is leaven used to represent truth or that which is good.
Jesus did not say that the kingdom was like leaven or evil; He said it was like leaven which a woman hid in three measures of meal until the whole was leavened. The Kingdom is likened to the whole process. Traditionally the leaven is interpreted as the Gospel, the woman as the Church, and the three measures of meal as the world. The interpretation is that the whole world will be permeated by the Gospel through the instrumentality of the Church, thus resulting in a converted world. This interpretation is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the first two parables as explained by Christ Himself. It is also opposed to experience, for the non-Christian population of the world is increasing at a much more rapid rate than that of new converts to the faith. It is also opposed to the plain, pre-millennial teaching of the Bible. It is also opposed to the a-millennial view which many Christians hold.
It should also be remembered that even the Millennial Kingdom, which apparently begins with a converted world, will end in a great rebellion when Satan is loosed from his prison in the abyss (Rev. 20:7-9). There will be no Kingdom of absolute righteousness until the creation of the new heavens and the new earth.
F. The Parable of the Hid Treasure: Matt. 13:44.
This is the first of the parables spoken privately to His disciples after He had dismissed the multitudes and gone into the house. This parable is about a treasure buried in a field which a man found, and after finding it he buried it again and went and sold all that he had and with the proceeds purchased the field. It seems evident that this parable illustrates a different aspect of the Kingdom from that which has gone before.
We believe this speaks of God’s hidden purpose to redeem Israel and in so doing to redeem the world. In the other parables the field is the world and there is no reason for changing it here. This treasure in the world must speak of people. Ps. 135:4 states: “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure.” In Ex. 19:5 God says to Israel: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine.” Since Israel is God’s chosen nation, His peculiar treasure which He found in this world, there seems no reason not to inject that meaning into the parable. We would not be dogmatic on what the hiding of the treasure depicts, but we would suggest that it could refer to the fact that Israel has been dispersed and in a sense hidden among all the nations of the world.
But God’s sovereign purpose with Israel is not going to fail, although the Kingdom in its mystery form may seem to fail. Paul explains the apparent failure of God’s promises to Israel in Rom. 10, and in Rom. 11 he shows that the present fall and casting away of Israel resulted in the reconciliation of the world. “But if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness” (vs. 12-15). And so Paul concludes: “All Israel shall be saved,” even though they are enemies of the gospel at the present. “But as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sake.” There can be no doubt that the giving up of all in order to purchase the field refers to Christ’s leaving behind heaven’s riches in order that He might pay the redemption price for the world on Calvary’s cross.
G. The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price: Matt. 13:45,46.
The interpretation of this parable is much the same as that of the hidden treasure. Some interpreters claim that the pearl represents the Church as distinct from Israel. It is our belief that the truth about the Church of this dispensation was as yet a secret and not revealed until it was given to the Apostle Paul. It has been suggested that the Pearl, instead of representing Israel as a nation, represents the remnant of Israel which shall be saved before the final establishment of Israel as a nation in the Kingdom. (Rev. 7:4-8; 12:17 cf. Rom. 9:27; 11:5 and the many references to the remnant in Isa., Jer., Ezek., and Micah.) Again, Christ is the Merchant who gave up all to purchase this Pearl, this remnant which remained faithful in spite of trial and testing and great tribulation.
H. The Parable of the Dragnet: Matt. 13:47-50.
This parable reinforces the teaching of the other parables that during the interval between the two comings of Christ the good and the bad will co-exist. The net cast into the sea enclosed every kind of sea life edible and non-edible. The fishers drew the net to the shore, sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. The fulfillment of this will come at the end of the age, that is, at the end of the Tribulation when Christ returns. There is a remarkable passage in Jer. 16:13-21, where God says concerning the remnant of Israel: “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them.” There are many Old Testament passages which speak of the regathering of Israel and the separation of the faithful from the rebels, (cf. Isa. 27:12,13; Ezek. 20:13-38). According to Matt. 24:31, God will use the angels as the fishers to gather the elect. In the symbolism of Revelation the sea represents peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Rev. 17:15; cf. Rev. 13:1; Dan. 7:2).
I. Parable of the Scribe and the Householder: Matt. 13:52.
This statement is not actually called a parable and is not recognized by many commentators as such. However, we have included a number of similes and will treat this one as such.
In this comparison the scribe who is instructed concerning the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings forth out of his treasure things old and new. A scribe in Bible times was a scholar whose business it was to study and teach the Law. But sad to say the scribes, as a body, were ignorant of the Kingdom and they rejected the teachings of Jesus. But every scribe who is instructed (literally, has been made a disciple to) the Kingdom brings forth out of his treasure things new and old, the New Testament secrets of the Kingdom as taught by Christ and the Old Testament truths concerning the Kingdom.
These scribes would be dispensationalists of that day who rightly divided the Word of Truth. They would be able to put the old and the new together in a unified whole. There is an old saying, “Whatever is new is not true, and whatever is true is not new.” The only new things in the spiritual world are revelations of truth from God. The axiom we have just quoted would not have been true in Jesus’ day, for He was revealing new truth about the Kingdom, but it is true in our day because God completed His revelation with the apostles and the canon is closed. We may find much that is new to us, but if it is true, it has been in the Scripture all along. God revealed a whole new body of truth to the Apostle Paul for members of the Church which is His Body, and it has been in the Book for two thousand years.
12. The Stilling of the Storm
References: Matt. 8:18, 23-27; Mk. 4:35-41; Lk. 8:22-25
A scene like this is a cause for wonder. Here the Lord Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth, is asleep in the stern of a little boat on the Sea of Galilee and a sudden squall swamps the boat and threatens the lives of those abroad. And Jesus slept through it all. Was God asleep? What would happen if God went to sleep? But, “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:3). Here we are confronted again with the mystery of the Incarnation. The Man Jesus was asleep, but as God He was not asleep.
When awakened by the frantic disciples, Jesus calmly asked, “Where is your faith?” Could the ship sink with the God-man aboard? And He rebuked the wind and the raging of the water, and them was a great calm. No doubt we ourselves, who have had the advantage of studying the completed Word of God, would marvel as much as did the disciples if we were put through a similar experience. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” The story could have many spiritual applications to the presence of Christ with us in the many storms of life we all experience.
13. The Healing of the Maniac at Gadara
References: Matt. 8:28-34; Mk. 5:1-20; Lk. 8:26-39
Usually the Gospel of Mark gives an abbreviated account of events but on this occasion it is the longest and gives more details. Some believe that the account in Matthew happened upon a different occasion, because in Matthew there were two demoniacs, and only one is mentioned in Mark and Luke. It seems rather unlikely that two events so similar would happen at the same place with the demons entering the swine and the swine being destroyed by rushing over the cliff into the sea. Here is a possible explanation:
Mark and Luke only speak of one; just as they only speak of one blind man at Jericho and one colt at the entry to Jerusalem. This shows design, not discrepancy. The prophecies immediately preceding Matthew predicted the advent of Christ as King of Israel and Prince of Judah. The Holy Spirit in this first Gospel therefore, records the historic facts that there were two demoniacs, and two blind men, and two animals, for these represent Israel and Judah. No such duality was needed in the other Gospels.
Mark adds such details as when the demoniac saw Jesus “from afar” he ran and worshipped Him; that there were about 2,000 swine; and that after he was healed he began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him; whereas Luke says, “throughout the whole city.” Decapolis is not a city, but a league of ten cities, as the name means.
This story not only shows the power of Christ over the Satanic world and the fact that these spirit beings recognized and confessed who Jesus really was, but it reveals a great deal about demons.
There can be degrees of demon possession. In some cases there was only one demon, in another the one went and found seven others worse than himself and entered into the man, and in this case there must have been a thousand, for their name was Legion. This may explain the super-human strength of the man that enabled him to break the fetters and chains with which the authorities tried to bind him.
Further, these demons requested Jesus to send them into the swine, and Jesus granted the request. They knew that swine were unclean animals and therefore Jesus would be more inclined to grant their request than if they had asked to go into a herd of sheep. But why did they want to go into any creature? We know very little about the nature of demons, but they appear to be disembodied spirits who constantly seek embodiment of some kind. Some think they are the fallen sons of God in Gen. 6:4. They are characterized as being unclean. They are not like Satan who appears as an angel of light and a minister of righteousness, (2 Cor. 11:14). They are degraded and cause those they possess to engage in all kinds of filth and insane behavior.
But what a contrast between this poor soul before and after meeting Jesus. He was sitting, not raging and cutting himself; he was clothed, not naked; and in his right mind, no longer a maniac. One would have thought that the people of the area would have welcomed a healer who could perform such cures, but He had apparently damaged their illegal business, and that coupled with their superstitious fear caused them to ask Jesus to depart and He granted their request, but not before telling the healed man to tell others of his deliverance.
14. The Raising of Jairus’ Daughter
References: Matt. 9:1,18-26; Mk. 5:21-43; Lk. 8:40-56
Again in this incident Mark gives us details omitted by Matthew and Luke. Mark and Luke give the name of the ruler, Jairus. Mark and Luke mention the daughter was near death when Jairus first spoke to Jesus and that as they were on the way to the house the message came that the daughter was dead. Matthew begins with the Ruler saying, My daughter is dead. Mark and Luke both mention the age of the child, twelve years; Matthew doesn’t.
All three mention that the woman with an issue of blood who intercepted Him on the way, had been afflicted twelve years. Twelve is the number of Israel. The physical diseases of the people healed are representative of the moral and spiritual condition of Israel. In just this one chapter 9 of Matthew we see illustrated man’s condition by nature as paralyzed (vs. 2), dead (vs. 18), diseased (vs. 20), blind (vs. 27), and dumb (vs. 32).
Mark also gives details of the woman’s illness and experience with the physicians, having spent all she had without any improvement, but rather had worsened. Mark also tells us that when Jesus said, “Who touched me?” the disciples said, “Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?” Only one in that pushing, shoving crowd really touched Jesus. The woman was fearful and timid but she had strong faith.
Mark and Luke also tell us that Jesus took Peter, James, and John into the house with the parents, after He had expelled the mourners, to raise the child. And Mark alone tells us that Jesus said, “Talitha cumi,” which is Aramaic for “Damsel, arise.” After raising the child He prescribed a good meal. Having been restored by Jesus the child was now in the best of health. When Jesus healed, He restored to perfect and complete health.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
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