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The Reason for Riddles Mt. 13:1-23 Pt. 1

September 13, 2015 Speaker: Jim Galli Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 13:1–13:23

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1That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

3And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6“But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9“He who has ears, let him hear.”

10And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

14“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;

15FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’

16“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17“For truly 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.

The Sower Explained

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Looking back now on 45 years of reading, studying, listening to the scriptures, one of the high points in putting a big piece of the puzzle together so that you see the big picture has been God graciously allowing me to understand this over-all concept of the Kingdom.

In Matthew 13 we embark on the 3rd of 5 rather complete discourses recorded for us.

Here we have 7 parables that Jesus gave, plus we have a discussion of the reason for parables. Two times.

Books have been written about these parables. I'm lucky enough to have inherited one that my father bought at the Prairie Book Shack by G. Campbell Morgan called; The Parables and Metaphors of our Lord.

On the surface the parables are pointless little stories about things even a Facebook blogger wouldn't bother with.

A guy sowed some seed. Birds ate some. Weeds choked some. The sun burnt some, but some grew and had fruit.

A guy sowed good seed in a good field but an enemy came and sowed bad seed there too.

A mustard seed is tiny but it can grow into a rather substantial tree.

A woman put leaven into her bread dough.

A guy found some buried treasure and sold his stuff to buy that land.

Another guy found a pearl better than any other pearl and sold his stuff to get it.

A fisherman drags a large net in and sorts out the fish he wants to keep.

Rather banal stuff. It'd be like me showing up and preaching;

A man went to the Post Office and checked his mail and there were 4 different kinds of mail. He had some personal mail with hand written addresses on the envelopes. He had some bills. He had some advertisements. And he had a slip to call at the window for a large package. [slam fist down] I order you to hear and understand what I've just said! silence. criquets chirping. no further explanation given, just the post office thing.

Over lunch I huddle with my inner circle but you don't get to hear the conversation with them, then I get up and say;

The food at the mexican restaurant is pretty good, but the Station House food is OK too, and the Mizpah has good soup.

Sometimes you get a good parking spot at the Post Office, but not always. Sometimes you have to walk a half block. U-turns aren't allowed on that part of Main st. Dr. Pepper comes in a maroon can with white letters.

Pikes hardware isn't having any specials this week. The fire department seems to be stable, as long as nothing's on fire, but the hospital is closed. the end.

You all would look at me, sort of like you're looking at me now. What's your point? Do you have a point? And if not, why am I sitting in the sun listening to this. You're not telling me anything I didn't already know.

Either Jesus is recounting trite bits of very well known information, or He's revealing parallel truths hidden in His rather plain stories that are deep.

The clue is that beginning with the second story, He begins a formula that will continue through the seventh. He'll say something along the lines of "The kingdom of heaven is like . . . " or in Mark and Luke's account He says, "To what shall we compare the kingdom of God"

Thus, His hearers knew He wasn't giving them a lesson in broadcasting seed. Something deeper is here.

The Jews are familiar with the parabolic method. Nathan comes to David and tells him a story in 2Samuel 12;

The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

The parable has pulled David in. He has empathy for the poor man, disgust for the rich man, anger and a need for justice to be served! All from a simple story. Then the devestating punch line. You are the man! David and Bathsheba.

In Isaiah 5 Israel is God's vineyard. In Hosea, Israel is God's unfaithful wife.

So, the parabolic method is nothing new to the Jews. But something is new here.

Some of Jesus hearers will go home befuddled. This is new revelation. Never before revealed truths about God's plan for the ages, but God Himself will select which hearers will hear and understand, and which hearers will go home and put these things out of their minds.

We'll see that also in this passage. Two times.

Ask yourselves. Am I getting this stuff? Or is Jim just up there talking in circles. If the latter, I urge you to go home and beg God to make you a kingdom child of His own. When we pray for God to open eyes and ears and hearts and minds, this chapter is our source. We aren't just saying that because that's what evangelicals like to say.

The parables are about the Kingdom of God. Or heaven. Matthew respects his hearers, jews, who are delicate about saying the name of God, and so he says Kingdom of heaven. The term is interchangeable with Kingdom of God. Mark and Luke are talking to more gentile audiences and say Kingdom of God. Only Matthew who is writing to jews says Kingdom of Heaven.

That is an enormous subject.

Kingdom in the Bible is not real estate. It is authority to reign. Thus these parables in every case are telling us something about the authority to reign of God. As opposed to and over against the authority of Satan to rule which is the norm in this earth.

In very simplistic terms, we could say that this entire book is the story of God's authority to reign on earth being given to man. Man sinned and died and the authority to reign on earth was defaulted to Satan.

Thus God reigns in all the heavens, all creation. But this planet, and it's people are in rebellion against God.

Now God would have been just to eliminate all men and throw all of these enemies into hell. He could have done that and restored His authority to rightfully reign on earth just that way.

But it pleased God to redeem men out of their rebellion, forgive them, and ultimately reign with them. To do that, to purchase rebellious men and forgive them, the penalty had to fall on someone. Sin cannot go unpunished. And so He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus to die as our substitute, on the cross.

He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and some day He will return in Glory to depose Satan and his demons, and fully retake this planet as His own.

That subject spans from Genesis to Revelation. And each of these parables is about some facet of this diamond called the Kingdom of God. The authority to reign on earth, of God. The authority in believers hearts of God.

That is the good news. The gospel of the Kingdom! Forgiveness is offered! Jesus can bust you out of the prison of Satan's rule. You can come out of this world and be a citizen of God's kingdom. Sin can be cleansed and you can belong to God. Freed from Satan's authority!

In Matthew 4 Jesus came preaching; what? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The offer was for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

In vs. 11 you'll see the word mystery

The parables are a mystery, revealed. In the Bible, a mystery is new information, never before revealed. And concurrent with Israels rejection of their messiah in the previous chapter, in fact on the same day, these parables reveal the mystery of the kingdom of God, the authority to reign of God, not over Israel, but over His church.

The scribes and pharisees slam the door, and the same day, Jesus begins to unfold different things about the plan of the ages, not for Israel, but for the Nations. The church. We are in here. You and me.

What Jesus begins to describe in veiled language here is not Israel who has rejected Him and backed away from Him. These never before seen or heard truths have to do with the church. Veiled until this day. A mystery until this hour.

Each of these parables tells us something about the church, the church age, or the church individual relationships inside the church. And while some parables are instantly recognizable for their intended parallel truth, like Nathan to David, these parables of Jesus are gibberish to the pharisees and scribes. A farmer threw seeds. The birds ate it. There's just no possible correllation to Israel. The religious jews are helpless to understand any of this. A woman leavened 3 peck measures of bread. So what?

Hidden from some. Glorious new revelation to others.

Now the first thing that's going to pop into your American evangelical minds is, if that's true, God's mean. He's a meany. Hiding truth from someone and revealing it to someone else. That's not fair. We have to have a God who plays by Union rules. A democratic God.

But the fact is, God is a sovereign King. A mighty King! He does what pleases Him. And everything He does is just and righteous and perfect. He doesn't need your counsel. He doesn't have to ask you what you think. Yet He is gracious to millions. And to those who tremble at His word, He wonderfully reveals magnificent things. The plan of the ages from beginning to end. Here for the taking. I've been mining the depths of this book for 45 years and I haven't even scratched the surface.

So, I think since this is a background study that will hopefully open up all of these paraables to you, what I'd like to do, is simply read through the parable of the sower, not comment much on it, and rather, proceed to the discussion that begins with the disciples questions.

Then next week we'll go back and look with depth at the Sower and continue on through the Lords explanation.

1That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

3And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,

This is a continuation of exactly where we left off in chapter 12. That day. The same day the leaders of Israel said He just gets His miracles from Satan. The day they want Him to do a real miracle. Something big. The day his family comes from Nazareth to do an intervention. That day.

He's finished with Israel. There's no further evidence or clearly spoken teaching for the leadership of Israel. He's done, and He goes out of the room where He just waved His hand over those sitting at His feet, kingdom mothers, kingdom brothers, kingdom sisters. Scene over.

He walks down to the sea. Sits down by the sea. And the crowd follows Him.

This is a great drama. What's next. Everybody wants a front row seat at the Jesus show. Here's the new scene. To get some control of the pressing crowd, maybe as many as 20,000 of them, He gets into a boat and sits down. A little space. Jesus in the boat, the crowd on the shore, standing like a little amphi-theatre.

3And He spoke many things to them in parables,

This is a re-set. That isn't a good word. These politicians keep having a campaign re-set. What they were doing wasn't working so they re-group and go at it a different way.

In a sense, that's what just happened here. The offer to Israel is closed. The next things out of His mouth will be never before revealed truth, brand new truth, regarding something God is going to do among the nations. The church.

No one saw it coming. It isn't in the old testament. Oh there are subtle hints. We see the suffering Messiah. The messiah cut off. But you can't find the church age in the old testament. This is brand new. Never before seen or thought of.

3And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6“But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8“And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9“He who has ears, let him hear.

We'll come back to this next week. In depth. I promise.

The one thing I want you to see in that parable right now though is the last 7 words. “He who has ears, let him hear.”

That is an imperative. The Lord isn't saying it would be good to listen now. I really think it would be nice if you paid attention.

When I was very young, on rare occasions, my dad would make a fist and hit the table so hard, the dishes would all go about an inch into the air and then come down and land again. That was his way of letting you know, you need to stop what you're doing and pay careful attention to what I'm going to say next. That's an imperative command.

He who has ears, let him hear.”

Or you have those guys at camp that let go an ear piercing whistle and then they shout "listen up!"

Jesus has just said something incredibly important. His sovereign Father in heaven supplies ears for some, and deafness for others. That tension is always there in this passage. We're about to see that unfold.

10And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?

The disciples are just like you and me. They're pulling for this enterprise. They've got a large investment. Huge. They've walked away from successful business ventures, I'm sure under duress from their wives and families. They want to see this thing go somewhere.

It's been a tough day. They seem to be losing ground. The big wigs from Jerusalem have walked away. And they've poisoned anyone else who will listen to them. To put it another way, things are going to hell in a handbasket. Not good.

And the disciples are probably thinking, maybe we can salvage something today if we do some damage control. Ease up a little. Get some of these folks who are still wavering back on board.

And Jesus starts telling stories about nothing. What is this story about sowing seeds? This isn't helping, Jesus.

And so, maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I think I sense a note of consternation here. Perplexity. What's with the parables, Jesus??
Really?? People are walking away, and you switch to parables?

11Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

In his commentary on Matthew, Don Carson says, there's no legitimate way to soften what Jesus said. God is in control of who hears and He is in control of who is hardened.

There is a tension in the ranks. In the church between folks who we will call compatibilists and folks who find this teaching incompatible.

God decides who's in, who's out, of His kingdom. Who's deaf and who has spiritual ears. Who's blind and who has spiritual eyes.

I'm a compatibilist because, frankly, in order to make Jesus not say what He just said, you have to do all kinds of interpretive gymnastics and inconsistencies. And the whole idea of literal interpretation, iow, it means what it says, is strained to the breaking point.

We've got 2 groups here. You. and Them. “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted

You're in, They're out. And you'll quickly say, but but but, surely, they're out because they rejected their messiah. You see, it wasn't God who did it, it's human resposibility. Human free will. The disciples believed, of their own volition and free will. The jews rejected of their own volition and free will.

And Jesus says; “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26“Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

So, which comes first. The chicken or the egg. Is it God's will that says yeah or nay? Or is it man's will?

Be a compatibilist. It's so much easier to say, this is a God problem and my brain is obviously too small to figure it out. You're all like, yeah, we're good with the your brain being to small thing, but we're not so sure that our brains are too small.

The disciples do not question Jesus here. They don't break in and say "That's just not fair! In fact it's SO unfair, that for what you just said to be true, God is immoral." Show me where they said that.

Other folks did say that. You can find Paul answering that argument in Romans 9. Clear as a bell.

See that word granted in Vs. 11. Who's doing the grant-ing? God. God. For His purposes and good pleasure, God, who has His reasons He may or may not share, that's the prerogative of a mighty King, has granted that YOU are in and THEY are out.

12“For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

Not only is it God's prerogative to choose who He will bless, it gets better. Or worse. Depending on the whole compatibilist thing.

Not only does God choose who He will bless, once they're chosen, He pours out blessing on them they never dreamed of. And . . . He takes away the blessing from the 'out' group.

Think about this in the case of the church, and Israel. Israel was God's chosen nation. He chose them to bless. They were the keepers of the revelation of God. When they were obedient and loved God, He poured out blessings on them.

What happened after Jesus said these things. This is a prophecy! The jews crucified their Messiah. The church was born. All of God's energy in blessing is poured out on the nations. Within 70 years, Israel doesn't exist. Their temple is destroyed. All of their records are obliterated. Gone. And the people who survive are dispossessed to wander all over the world. No homeland. No nothing.

I said that the church is never seen in the old testament, yet arguably, we could look at what Hosea the prophet says with 20-20 hindsight and say, that's the church.

I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, ‘MY PEOPLE,’
AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, ‘BELOVED.’”

26“AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’
THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.” Ho. 2:23

Do you struggle with this tension. God as sovereign King. I hope not. I want us to be people who have a BIG God. An awesome God. A God who doesn't have to hold court and answer to His people on what He's doing. Like we're the board of directors or something.

13“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

Here we are full circle. And I'm starting to sound like a broken record. The people of Israel had seen more evidence to the deity of Jesus than we can even comprehend. He speaks and the mega-storm stops. He creates food from nothing. He sends the demons flying over cliffs in pigs. He heals every disease, including defects since birth.

And the religious leaders in Israel can only come up with, He gets his power from Satan. seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand

Jesus had a red line, and they crossed over it. Now they're going to get parables. Stories that to them, have no meaning at all.

14“In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled,

The word here for fulfilled is not the usual one that Matthew uses. Matthew says over and over "this was to fulfil". That word is pleroo The word Jesus uses is anapl─ôroutai. Same root word, but the difference is like putting some gas in and topping it off. Here it means this prophecy is brought to completion.

It was true about Israel when Isaiah prophecied it 730 years before, but now it's filled up. Topped off. That day.

which says,
YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;

15FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’

In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus read words from the scroll of Isaiah and pronounced Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing

Performative utterance. The thing said becomes true in the saying. These parables become both a blessing to those who have ears and eyes, and a judgement on the ones who are blind and deaf.

16“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17“For truly 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.

Incredible privilege. Here we are 2,000 years on the other side of these things that the prophets would have loved to see and hear. Jesus told the pharisees, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad."

We are in an unbroken line of privilege that goes back to the beginnings in Genesis. Thousands of years. We can pick up our Bibles, and the revelation is complete. We can see and hear, all of it. The great sweep of God's love and redemption.

Next week we'll look at the 4 soils and consider our Lords words about the soils. Only one of the 4 soils will see the Kingdom. The purpose of the parable is so that you will ask; What soil am I.