THE KINGDOM STORIES BEGIN
Lord, I pray that I will be informed about your Word, but more than that, I will be transformed by it.
Read Matthew 13:1–17
The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
- Matthew 13:15 Isaiah 6:9,10 (see Septuagint)
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race, / ye ransomed from the fall, / hail him who saves you by his grace, / and crown him Lord of all!’1
At this pivotal moment in the ministry of Jesus we find him sitting in a boat at the end of a full day of teaching, telling a story to the crowds on the shore. Each of the synoptic Gospel accounts records this as the first parable spoken by Jesus – Matthew includes it as the first in a rapid series of seven.
Matthew 13 marks a phase when parables, a ‘casting of one thing alongside another,’ become Jesus’ principal means of teaching.2 Unsurprisingly, the disciples expressed puzzlement over this new method of teaching and their question to Jesus doesn’t seem unreasonable (v 10). Have you ever wanted to question the methods used by God or ask, ‘Why can’t you just make it clearer’?
Indeed, some of the parables we’ll consider over the coming days are more cryptic than others. Jesus explains some of them, though with others he leaves the reader to ponder further. Tom Wright reflects, ‘Jesus wanted them to struggle with what he was saying, to talk about it themselves, to think it through.’3 While many commentators refer to the parables as simple illustrations, there is consistently a greater depth than an initial glance reveals. Indeed, in quoting Isaiah after his first parable, Jesus is implying a deeper significance regarding the seed in the story. On Monday, we’ll consider Jesus’ explanation of the story – but the reference of Jesus to Isaiah shouldn’t go unmentioned. Reading on in Isaiah 6, the prophet alludes to the holy seed being the sole remaining stump in the land when others have been cut down.4 Could the first parable Jesus told be more than just an illustration of how hearers respond to the gospel? Could it be a pronouncement that the seed spoken of by the ancient prophet is – astonishingly – in their midst?
What are the stories that we should be telling within our context that will incline ears to hear and encounter the King?
Father God, help me to be open to change and to recognize the work of the Spirit when it takes place outside the traditions and patterns I’m comfortable with.
1 Edward Perronet, 1726–92, ‘All hail the power of Jesus’ name’ 2 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament Vol 1, Kingsway, 2001, p121 3 Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, SPCK, 2002, p158 4 Isa 6:13
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