The parables of Matthew thirteen reveal to us some of the grandest endtime truths Jesus ever uttered. Truths for our day. Our Lord chronicles for us certain events of the church age by using veiled language; i.e., a sower sowing seed, a mustard seed, leaven in a loaf, treasure hid in a field, pearl of great price, the dragnet, and a scribe. Read part one on the Parables of Matthew Thirteen here.
Divided by Two Phrases
Matthew thirteen is divided by two simple but very meaningful phrases:
“Jesus [went] out of the house” (vs.1) and “Then Jesus went into the house” (vs.36).
Our Lord leaves the House of Israel, then returns to her later.
The first four parables deal with the Spirit’s chronology of the Church age. The last four have to do with the Church’s transition into the kingdom age. The fullness of the Gentiles is coming to a close. Jesus returns to His people in the endtime and will gather them one more time, a second time.
We examine the theme of each of the four church parables and the four kingdom parables.
Four Church Parables
“…Jesus [went] out of the house” (s.1)
- The Sower (verses 3-23):
- Theme: The Savior’s earthly ministry, and the varied responses to his ministry.
- Wheat and Tares (verses 24-30):
- Theme: Second, third and fourth centuries, especially Constantine’s era.
- The Mustard Seed (verses 31-32)
- Theme: The Reformation Period
- The Leavened Bread (vs. 33)
- Theme: The Post-reformation period
Four Kingdom Parables
“Then Jesus went into the house” (vs.36)
- The Hidden Treasure (vs. 44)
- Theme: Latter-day Israel
- The Pearl of Great Price (verses 45-46)
- Theme: Latter-day Church
- The Dragnet (verses 47-48)
- Theme: Latter-day Ministry (restoration)
- The Scribe (vs. 52)
- Theme: Latter-day Revelation (creation of the new)
What prophetic teachings our Savior taught in veiled language—in parables, His favorite form of expression. What exciting prophecies the Spirit has given us.
Let’s turn our attention to each of these parables. The first four parables depict a progression of decline. The last four, a progression of restoration.
The Sower (verses 3-23)
Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
The first three parables have to do with the progression of a seed. The seed represents first the heart of a man, then the heart of men, and then the heart of a movement—the Reformation movement. Take the first parable, the sower. Jesus is talking about the heart of a man. What’s in a man’s heart.
We need to identify. Of course, Jesus is the sower. The field is the world. The seed is the Word of God, and the ground represents the human heart, specifically the four kinds of people who respond to his kingdom message during his earthly ministry.
When preached, his message evoked four responses (and still does). The Word was sown into . . .
- The Whole-hearted (Peter, James, John, and some women who were close to Him). Jesus refers to these as “good ground” hearers (vs.8).
- Shallow-hearted (70 sent out). Jesus refers to these as “wayside” hearers (vs. 4)
- Half-hearted (masses that followed Him for healing and miracles). Jesus refers to these as “thorny ground” hearers (vs. 7).
- Hard-hearted (Jews and Pharisees who rejected his message). Jesus refers to these as “stony ground” hearers (vs. 5).
How do we know the first parable is describing the earthly ministry of Jesus? Because it’s the only one of the eight parables that does not begin with the phrase, “the kingdom of heaven is like…” It doesn’t need to. The King was present! He had come in person.
Two thousand years later responses to his message are still the same. The human heart hasn’t changed. Some of us are whole-hearted like Peter, James, and John when we meet the Savior; some of us are half-hearted like the fish-‘n’-loaf crowd. We follow Him for his benefits, then we leave at our convenience.
The Wheat and Tares (verses 24-30)
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, an enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”
This is one of my favorite parables. So much revelation hidden in veiled language. As soon as the King leaves, was no longer among them, tares were sown. The deception had already occurred by the end of the first century. The Church as an institution replaces the kingdom. Our Lord’s concept of the kingdom of God on earth had faded while the exaltation of the Church as an organization had risen to prominence. And it only took a few short years.
Our parable tells us, “…while men slept, his [Christ’s] enemy came…” (vs.25). Men were sleeping when the enemy came in. What men? Our church fathers. Sad to say, the second, third, and fourth centuries were, for the most part, a tragedy to the Faith. During this time the Church fell apart. To put it bluntly, our Apostolic Fathers were a mess! They weren’t hearing from heaven. Their hearts had turned to Greece, toward philosophy, not heaven.