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Week 8




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The Kingdom of God is Like... The Metaphors of the Kingdom: Week 8

Interpreting the Stuff

Observing the Stuff!
Why Parables?
Using parables as a way of teaching was like the fine art of storytelling. To teach in parables was to teach in pictures. Many people think in pictures while few people are able to grasp abstract truth, which is a notable form of teaching in the Western world. To become intelligible, we need truth to become concrete. As an example, we can try to define beauty with words or we can point to a person and say, "she or he is beautiful." The abstract has become concrete from the person's point of view who is speaking.

A parable does not tell a truth to a person as much as it helps a person discover the truth. A parable allows a person to put on another set of glasses and think. Parables help a person look at information from a different perspective. The person hearing the parable is left to draw his or her own conclusions and make his or her own deductions. Truth, which is told and memorized, is quickly forgotten. Truth, which is discovered, will last a lifetime. The great value of parables is that they do not impose truth on a person; they place a person in a position to realize the truth.

Jesus used this form of instruction to teach about the Kingdom of God. Those who were hearing him tell these parables were living within a thought world whose prophets had told them about a glorious day when the Kingdom of God would come. When it arrived, God would set up his rule that would replace all other authorities and kingdoms. For the Jewish person in the first century, this would be the single greatest event in history. The people of God had been established as a people in the promise to Abraham, taken from captivity by Moses, and established as a nation state under the rule of David. Now the only major event on the horizon was the coming of their promised Messiah, whose coming would overshadow all former events.

When John preached in the wilderness, he spoke about the coming Kingdom of God (Matt. 3.2). His listeners heard that one was coming who would bring a twofold baptism. First, some would experience the Rule of God through being Spirit-baptized. Second, Others would be baptized with judgment (Matt.3.11, fire = judgment). Later while John was in prison, he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the one whom he had spoken about that was to come. Why did John have to ask this question? Simple. Jesus was not acting like the one John had announced was coming. Where was the Spirit baptism? Where was the judgment? Jesus responded that his Kingdom was here and suggested that John look at his ministry to understand what the Kingdom was about. Instead of judgment on human institutions (namely the Roman Empire), the Kingdom had come to attack the rule of Satan. The Jews expected one thing, but Jesus delivered something else. It is within this historical context that we must look at the parables.

Interpreting the Stuff

Interpreting the Stuff!
The Kingdom Parables
The Kingdom parables of Matthew teach a present reality of the Kingdom and a future reality. There are seven parables in Matthew 13. Two of them were concerned with judgment (a concern of the Jews in looking for the Kingdom). These two parables are the wheat and weeds and the net. The remaining five are concerned with the present reality of the Kingdom which Jesus had come to bring to them. They are the sower, the mustard seed, the leaven, the treasure, and the fine pearls

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The Seed: Matt. 13.1-9
To understand this parable we must understand the act of sowing and the idea of receptivity. Jesus told the parable and then explained it (Matt. 13.18-23). We need to comprehend the meaning of the parable against the background of first century Palestine's agricultural life. A sower was not careless when he scattered the seed along the path, thorns, or soil, which had no depth. He did so intentionally. Why? Because after the sowing of the seed, the path, which the villagers walked on, and the ground with thorns and shallowness was plowed up to receive the seed. Plowing came after sowing. This small historical detail is important for a correct interpretation of this parable. It serves to caution us that less attention should be given to the soils and more to the sowing itself. The seed that is sown is the Kingdom. It lands everywhere. Then the soil is turned to receive it. The central point is not the kinds of soil, but to present reception of the seed of the Kingdom of God.

George Ladd says, "The Kingdom has come into the world to be received by some and rejected by others" (A Theology of the New Testament, Revised. 93). There is in the parable a diversity of response to the proclamation of the word concerning the Kingdom. First, the path demonstrates that Satan robs the seed before the plowman can turn it into the soil to take root, demonstrating Satan's antagonism. Next, the rocky soil represents those who reject the word of the Kingdom because of the world with its tribulation and persecution. The thorns are the symbol of those who reject it because of the world with its cares and riches. Lastly, the good soil denotes those who accept and produce. Jesus is the sower. The seed is the good news that God's Rule has come now. Satan will rob some. Some will reject and others will accept the present Rulership of God into their lives.

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The Wheat and the Weeds (Tares): Matt. 13:14-30
Judgment and separation from the world is the main message of this parable. Wheat and weeds are explained in verses 36-43. We must keep in mind that the Jews were looking for present judgment when the Kingdom arrived.

This parable has a cast of characters: the sower (Jesus); the field (the world, not the Church as is often interpreted); the good seeds (the sons of the Kingdom); the weeds (the sons of the evil one); the enemy (the devil); the harvest (the close of this Present Evil Age); and the reapers (the angels).

This parable suggests that there is a mixed society of good seed and bad seed. At the close of this Age, the truth will divide humanity into two classes. First, the righteous ones who are the sons of the Kingdom. Second, the unrighteous ones who are the sons of the evil one. The angels will handle the final division at the command of Jesus. Those who are unrighteous will experience the anguish of rejection while those who are righteous will experience the radiance of acceptance. In short, the Father will accept those who received the good news of the Kingdom.

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The Mustard Seed: Matt. 13.31-32
In this parable Jesus is comparing the presence of the Kingdom of God at that present time (as he was delivering it) with the future reality of the Kingdom. It started small, like a mustard seed, but will grow into a large shrub. The present experience of the Kingdom is only a partial experience of what it will be like when the Future has completely arrived at the Second Coming of Jesus.

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The Leaven: Matt. 13.33
Here Jesus speaks about the transforming power of the Kingdom. The Kingdom can transform society in general and individuals in particular. The parable also suggests that there will be a day in which the Kingdom will prevail completely. The whole will be leavened. The rival king (Satan) will not continue to rule.

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The Treasure: Matt. 13.44 and The Fine Pearls: Matt. 13.45-46
The value of having God's Rule is inestimable. The Kingdom should be sought over all other possessions (see Matt. 6.33). Both parables teach this central truth. The difference between them is that the treasure suggests that a person stumbles into the Kingdom without really searching for it. When he found it, it was more than all his other possessions. The fine pearls suggest that someone was actively searching for the Kingdom and finally found it.

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The Net: Matt. 13.47-50
The last of the parables of Matthew 13 is like the wheat and the weeds. It suggests that judgment will occur where the righteous and unrighteous will be judged and separated.

The Kingdom parables teach us through the medium of stories what Jesus acted out in reality and fact. The Kingdom has come. Satan's time is limited. Some will accept the Rule of God now, while others will reject it.


Doin' the Stuff!

Doin' the Stuff!
It is always important to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.

* How does the explanation of Parables help or hinder your understanding of why Jesus used parables as a method of teaching?
* What do each of these seven parables teach about the Kingdom? Why is that important to know? How will you apply the message of each parable to your life? to the life of your church?
* In what way, if any, does the idea that sowing came before plowing change your understanding of the parable of the seed?
* Is the Kingdom still today small like a mustard seed because its completeness has not yet entered the world? Or does the Kingdom grow on a daily basis?

Resource Stuff!BibleHandbook: Resource Stuff
Read the following Dictionary Articles from Easton's Bible Dictionary. Easton's is about a century old, therefore, some of the information is not current with newer Bible Dictionaries. You might read the articles off-line in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. One of these should suit your personal needs.

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Parable

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Abraham

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Abraham

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David


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