The Parable of the Dragnet and the Householder’s Treasure

This week we’ll study the last two parables from Matthew 13, Jesus’ exposé on the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s first look at Matthew 13:47-50, a parable which depicts the casting of a giant net which draws in “every kind of fish.” These fish are then separated, the good from the bad. We can understand the net to represent the church or the spreading of the Gospel message. Notice then that the net does not discriminate – it draws everything in! That’s just how we’re supposed to act as a church and as a messengers of the Gospel! However, Jesus emphasizes that there will one day be a separation process – the bad fish will be divided from the good. Now, the bad fish, we learned, were not just old, rotten fish. They were actually the unclean fish – fish that were from their very nature polluted and impure. The bad news is that no matter how hard the fish tried there was nothing they could do to change their nature – and neither can we. BUT, the good news is Jesus Christ promises to make us brand new beings with a brand new identity in Him if we will just accept his magnificent sacrifice for us! (See Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:3.)

Next, let’s explore Matthew 13:52 – “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” This parable is in response to the disciples’ acknowledgement of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus lays out their responsibility in relation to the truth that they have received from Him. The treasure that they had received included both the ancient truths from the sacred Hebrew writings as well as the new truths that Jesus unfolded before them. Likewise, we have both the Old and the New Testament. But we can also think about these new and old treasures in a broader sense. As a life-application question, for example, I want to ask you, have you ever experienced the intersection between “both old and new” in your life? Whether that’s relationships, experiences, lessons, truth, etc? Was that intersection always comfortable? Or did it require struggle at times?

Perhaps the last point that we can draw from this illustration is how the householder “brings out” the treasure from his storehouse. You see, we can’t just keep our treasure to ourselves – we have to share it with others! We have a mission to share the wonderful truths of God’s character of love! And we also have our past experiences and lessons to share! Even when we may consider our past worthless, those experiences may be the very vehicle that God can use to reach and encourage someone else. Let’s think this week about casting our nets far and deep and about sharing our treasures “both old and new” with those around us! May God bless!

Advertisements

The Parable of the Treasure and the Pearl

Let’s take a look today at the parable of the treasure in the field: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). Can you imagine what this guy’s friends and family must have thought about him as he literally gave up everything to buy an apparently insignificant plot of land? You know, even today, I think we sometimes tend to focus on the magnitude of this man’s sacrifice rather than the reward that he gained. Yet, from the man’s point of view, he wasn’t really sacrificing anything – in his mind, he had just hit the lottery! Notice then, that the Scripture says that he joyfully sold all he had – not that he sorrowfully, agonizingly gave it up. All of his worldly possessions were worthless compared to the immense value of the treasure he was gaining! For myself, I am reminded to check my own attitude. There are times when I feel like I have to begrudgingly give things up in my spiritual walk. Instead, I need to think about the priceless joy and fulfillment that comes in the relationship I have with Jesus Christ. With that relationship as my sole focus, the distractions of this world grow strangely dim.

Jesus deliberately followed this parable up with a second similar one: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45-46). It’s interesting to note that, while the man with the field was not intentionally searching for treasure, he immediately recognized the value that it holds. (executableoutlines.com) The merchant, on the other hand, has dedicated his entire life to searching for valuable pearls. We, of course, relate this parable to the value of the kingdom in our lives, but let’s also take time to consider this profound dual application from Christ’s Object Lessons: “The parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls has a double significance: it applies not only to men as seeking the kingdom of heaven, but to Christ as seeking His lost inheritance. Christ, the heavenly merchantman seeking goodly pearls, saw in lost humanity the pearl of price. …Hearts that have been the battleground of the conflict with Satan, and that have been rescued by the power of love, are more precious to the Redeemer than are those who have never fallen.” I love how we can see such a beautiful picture of Jesus and His love for us!

In fact, let’s keep following this trajectory out a little further and consider how pearls are formed in the first place:Unlike other gems, pearls are produced by a living organism, an oyster, as the result of an injury. It usually begins forming around a grain of sand or an egg of some parasite that invaded the oyster. The oyster protects itself by layering the irritant with nacre (mother-of-pearl) until, out of pain and suffering, it forms an object of great beauty.”  (cgg.org) Wow! That is so interesting! In fact, this point really got me thinking: I was reminded how Colossians tells us that in Christ is “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” and furthermore that our very own lives are “hidden in Christ in God” (Colossians 2:3, 3:3). Could we maybe stretch the application of this parable even further and think of Jesus not only as the merchant seeking the treasure (us) but also as the carrier of the pearl itself? The very oyster which, through pain and suffering, transforms a worthless speck of dirt into a flawless, priceless pearl? And then, just think what has to happen to the oyster in order to reveal the pearl? It gets ripped open! It must die to produce the pearl! Can this not also illustrate Christ’s infinite sacrifice for us? I don’t know about you, friends, but I came away from this parable with just that much more of a greater insight into Jesus’ infinite sacrifice and matchless love for us. I hope you did too!

Of Mustard Seeds and Yeast

In Matthew and Luke 13, Jesus continues his discussion on the kingdom of heaven. Jesus has used a myriad of illustrations up to this point, but his listeners just don’t seem to quite get it. After all, how do you explain something with which there is no earthly comparison? The Message puts Luke 13:18 this way: “How can I picture God’s kingdom for you? What kind of story can I use?” When Jesus’ audience pictured a kingdom, they thought of power, force, and might! But God’s kingdom stands in complete contrast to these principles. While Satan and the nations of this world run their kingdoms through force, control, and deception, God runs His kingdom by love, freedom, and truth. Notice then, that Jesus doesn’t point their attention to a powerful symbol of nature (or even to a full-grown tree). Instead, He directs their gaze to a tiny, seemingly-insignificant seed.

This is an encouraging realization for us. We shouldn’t be discouraged when we don’t always see the big, dramatic, spectacular faith moments in our lives. God promises to take and work with the small mustard seeds in our life journey. We just need to be willing to offer what little we  have, so that He can, over time, nurture and grow the small things into big things for His kingdom.

Now, I always thought I understood the mustard seed story pretty well. But then, as I started studying mustard trees in preparation for this lesson, I learned the surprising fact that the mustard seed that Jesus is most likely talking about isn’t even technically a tree – it’s a shrub. In fact, you can see a picture of this below:

Mustard ShrubNow, yes, I’ll admit that the mustard plant does grow to be a large shrub. But, honestly… I was somewhat under-awed by the fact that this amazing parable is really about a scraggly-looking overgrown bush. That is, until I ran across this incredibly insightful blog from Student Christian Website! I just love what this kid has to say:

I always thought the point Jesus wanted to make through this parable, was that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard tree because it can grow from something really tiny into something really big. That was until I actually googled ‘mustard tree’ and realised that it’s really called a ‘mustard plant’ because mustard seeds don’t grow into anything bigger than bushes that would struggle to uphold even one bird… I suppose it hadn’t really occurred to me to challenge the Son of God’s horticultural knowledge! …This book that I have been reading, ‘Theological Reflection: Methods’, has been encouraging me to reflect on the strangeness and the impossibility of this parable. Yes, it is amazing how such a small seed, buried underneath soil, can grow into something infinitely bigger than its original size, but how much more amazing for it to grow into a tree when it was only supposed to be a bush! The parable conveys something about the way in which in the Kingdom of God, mysteriously, the impossible becomes possible. (www.movement.org.uk)

Wow. I learned something here. Jesus wanted to point His listeners to something that they were familiar and comfortable with, only to turn their paradigm upside down and say, “But guess what? My kingdom is even more amazing and impossible than that!

I think the parable of the wheat and the yeast in Luke 13:20-21 also goes hand-in-hand with this story. In this parable, we reflect on the miracle of embedding just a minute amount of material into a gigantic mass of dough, setting it aside, and letting the invisible power perform its work. Like the seed, the yeast works invisibly, patiently, yet steadily. Maybe that’s why Jesus put these two parables together? Also, like the parable of the seed, we realize that the transforming power does not come from the soil or the dough. It is a power that must come from the Holy Spirit alone – and it comes from the inside out!

Wheat and Tares

This week’s parable comes from Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 – the parable of the wheat and the tares. In the Middle-Eastern culture of Jesus’ time, an enemy would sometimes take revenge on his neighbor by sowing weed seeds among a newly planted wheat crop. These insidious little tare seeds would closely imitate the wheat all the way up until the “fruit” began to appear. (Hmmm… we’ve talked about fruit before, haven’t we?) Christ, of course, explains that the wheat is the “children of the kingdom” and the tares are the “children of the Devil.” As we apply this to our lives, perhaps even our churches today, God is clear that we are not allowed to begin separating the wheat and the tares! Even in our zeal to get rid of the weeds, Jesus–the Master Farmer–will not risk one single wheat sprout being uprooted! He reserves judgment for Himself alone.

Notice that the germination of both seeds occurs under the soil’s surface–invisible to the outward eye. In fact, both even share the same nourishment (rain, water, oxygen) from the same life-giving Source. Throughout this process, the wheat and the weed seeds are indistinguishable… until verse 26 that is: “When the plants sprouted and produced grain [or “fruit”], then the weeds also appeared” (HCSB). Jesus warned us to beware of false teachers in the church: “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). We are told that the tares will produce fruit that is in complete contrast to the fruit that Christ seeks to nurture in us as we continue to abide with Him: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-34). I am going to take some time this week to reflect on where there may be weeds in my life trying to crowd out God’s voice and the fruit that He wants to produce in me.

One last thing: the tares in this story are weeds from seed to plant. But for us, let’s remember that Jesus Christ has the life-changing power to take hold of our lives and transform us from tares into beautiful sheaves of wheat, if we will only ask Him.”