This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
So many Sunday school teachers tell people, as mine did, "You don't need to understand everything. But Jesus certainly opened peoples' minds through the parables, because He spoke in agricultural terms and symbols so they could understand." But that is exactly the opposite of the truth! Jesus spoke in parables so they could not understand. He says this very clearly, Himself, right here. Notice Matthew 13:13.
Greetings, friends around the world!
Turn to Matthew 13, where we have been discussing Jesus' parables. So many Sunday school teachers tell people, as mine did, "You don't need to understand everything. But Jesus certainly opened peoples' minds through the parables, because He spoke in agricultural terms and symbols so they could understand." But that is exactly the opposite of the truth! Jesus spoke in parables so they could not understand. He says this very clearly, Himself, right here. Notice Matthew 13:13.
"Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive…'"
That is why He spoke to them in parables.
"But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
He was not trying to call everyone back then—believe it or not. The Bible makes that very clear.
"Therefore hear the parable of the sower:"
Here, Jesus begins to go into a series of parables. I am not going to read every word of these parables, but I do hope you will read this chapter carefully on your own. Skim along here and see what it says. I will fill in the blanks for you.
"When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown [Jesus recognized Satan the Devil as a person—"the wicked one;" a real Devil. The wicked one comes along and no doubt through many different types of stratagems, causing us to be interrupted in our thinking. A new TV program comes on, the phone rings—all kinds of things—causing us to get distracted and, of course, that person then has his understanding taken away.] what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. [He is not deep, he is a very shallow person.] Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world [listen, folks] the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches…"
When people get a lot of money, or many material things, their mind gets on those things and they do not put first the Kingdom of God. They are surrounded by all of this materialism—their clubs, their societies, their lodges, their cars, their nightclubs, their lodge in the mountains or their villa on the beach—whatever it is, all these things take their time.
"…the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful."
Many do not need the money they are making, but it is just a big "Monopoly game." They are not trying to "make more money," but they enjoy the idea of getting bigger and bigger, so their minds are focused on making more and more money. Of course, that just simply chokes their interest in the eternal life that God promises. They are not interested in eternal life. They think the world today is good enough, and that they don't need to worry at all about the world tomorrow.
"But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
We don't have time to expound all the aspects of what this means. But you see throughout the entire Bible that when you bring forth fruit in your own life—overcoming, growing in grace and knowledge, loving and serving God and loving and serving your fellow man—that attitude is, in fact, fruit. How many people around you do you help—encourage, build or strengthen in a general way? How many do you help specifically build toward eternal life? How much are your heart, your time, your talent, your resources given to the Work of Almighty God-to being a co-worker with Christ in the Work of God so you can bear fruit and help get out the message of God at the end of this age? Jesus is watching those things. God is watching those things. What is the fruit that you bear?
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; [Here is a man who sows good seed.] but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. [So the good grain and the bad grain grew up together.] So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' [Of course, the enemy—as Jesus later explained—is Satan the Devil. He brings bad people into God's Church. He causes disruption to come through people that are not converted, are not real Christians and do not understand at all.] The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.'"
You can't just go around trying to decide who is Christian and who's not, because you would simply uproot a lot of people who are marginal. You don't know the hearts and minds of men-only God does. But certainly, there are tares among God's people—there always have been and always will be.
"'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
Lots of people today are nicey-nice, they are "nicer than God" or are trying to be. They believe in universal salvation—that nobody can be lost. Jesus speaks very specifically in this chapter about some being burned in the Lake of Fire. Some people are not going to make it! It is not popular to preach about the Lake of Fire today. But that is what Jesus did and that is part of His message. You have to get down firmly on one side or the other. You can't "play footsie" with God. You have to COMMIT—you have to make a total surrender to God. You can't sit on the fence. Some who are not going to give their lives to God will not be in God's Kingdom—they just won't be there; they will be in the Lake of Fire.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; [The mustard seed is a tiny little seed.] but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." [It is a huge tree.]
The Kingdom of God is like that. The people of God are very small in number today. God is not trying to save the world now! Otherwise, He would be saving the world, my friends. If He is trying to save the world, why are two out of three human beings—about four billion out of about six billion human beings on this earth today—not professing any kind of Christianity— any kind? They are not Catholic, they are not Protestant, they are not Orthodox, they are not New Age Christians, they are not ANY kind of Christians—they don't profess to be. They are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or perhaps atheists or agnostics. If God is trying to save the world, who is winning the battle—God or Satan? God is not trying to save the world now. That is an important consideration.
We have a booklet that you need, titled Is This the Only Day of Salvation? It is absolutely free upon your request. So contact us and you will get this booklet absolutely free. Study it; you will be amazed. Here is an understanding from your Bible, and scripture after scripture—plainly. It is not some weird, offbeat thing that you can't understand. It is very clear and very plain, showing that God is not trying to save the whole world now! Otherwise, He would be doing it. Request this booklet; you will enjoy it. It will open your mind to something you have never understood.
Those who are being called today in this age are very small in number compared to the world as a whole.
Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened." All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them.
He never spoke to the multitude in anything but parables! Why? Because He did not want them to understand; it was not yet their time to be called.
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: [He is quoting here from the book of Psalms.] "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world." Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field."
Jesus said, "Don't you understand?" He began to explain to them:
"The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be [Are people going to be burned in the fire? Yes! Jesus says so right here!] at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness."
The New King James Version has it absolutely right. The Greek word is anomos, which means "against law, lawlessness." He is not talking about the traffic laws or man's laws—He is talking about the spiritual Law of God! So He says "those who practice lawlessness."
"…and will cast them into the furnace of fire."
Those who will not obey God's Law—those who argue, who try to get their way around it, who go against God's Law in their way of life—they will end up in the furnace of fire! That is what Jesus said very clearly here in verses 41 and 42.
"…and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
We need to hear once in a while about the hell of the Bible, not just to frighten us, but to stir us to righteous action and to try not to water down or get around God's laws and God's ways by going the way of the crowd. We've got to stand up and do what this book actually says—and not be afraid to do so.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. [God's Kingdom is precious above everything else.] Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
The pearl of great price—the most precious, wonderful, magnificent opportunity that is given to us in this life—is the opportunity to yield to the calling of God, to yield to our Creator, to fulfill the purpose for which He has made us and for which He is giving us life and breath. We are to surrender to Him through the true Jesus Christ of the Bible and let Christ live His life in us. Then we have help in overcoming our problems, our sins, and our weaknesses. We have help, we have courage, we have a purpose in life—to grow in Christ's stature and finally, in the resurrection, be born of God. In the very Kingdom of God and family of God, we will bear the name of God and be a genuine, spirit born, son of God helping Christ rule this earth in the coming rule of God. What a magnificent calling! A tremendous opportunity is ahead for those who will yield. We have that opportunity here, in this life, if we will yield to God to fulfill that calling. And that calling is called here: "the pearl of great price." We should, as this man did, be willing to give up everything else we have, to set a goal and "go for it." We should say: "I am going to understand this book. I am going to pray to God. I am going to ask God for understanding. I am going to seek God with all my heart and I want to fulfill, sincerely, the purpose for which God has called me. I am not going to let anyone confuse me or disturb me into doing things contrary to God's Law and God's Way. I am going to PROVE it."
Prove all things; don't be afraid! Take the energy and the time to do it! Prove all things and follow God. Follow Christ. Let Christ live in you the same kind of life that He lived 1,900 years ago. He will do that through the Holy Spirit—and then in the resurrection, you will truly be born, you will truly be a son of God. In the resurrection, you will be a member of the family of God, the Kingdom of God and a ruling agent under Jesus Christ in tomorrow's world.
We will continue next time in Matthew 13.
This is Roderick C. Meredith, for the Living Church of God.