Gospel of Matthew Chapter Thirteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Kingdom Of Heaven
Verses 1-9: "That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,'Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and 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.'" The location of these verses happened to be the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, but note that Jesus is near you right now, looking into your eyes and heart. He has much to say to you, such as these remarks about the kingdom of heaven. Later in the chapter, Jesus will define the nature of these "seeds," but for right now, it's important to note that Jesus is the "sower" (Verse 37) who is planting something of Himself, something of God, into the hearts of men and women everywhere. Adam, as you can see in Genesis 2, was fashioned out of the basic 14-or so elements in the dirt we walk on. We are the "soil" (Verse 38) and Jesus is planting good seed into people everywhere. Whether His act results in our salvation or not, depends on the kind of "soil" we have decided to be. We can be shallow, like a hardened roadway, lack depth, be preoccupied by the problems of this world, or amazingly, we can RECEIVE the wonder He offers, planted deep in the center of our being.
Verses 10-13: "And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' 11 Jesus 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.'" The Bible is full of parables. Israel is a parable and so are the sacrifices of the Old Testament, along with the Law. It's important to see that the basis of our relationship with the Lord is based on faith, not on knowledge, or how clever we are, or information received in a classroom. We saw, in relation to John the Baptist, that even an unborn child is able to receive the good things of God (Luke 1:13-15). Faith is available to anyone, anywhere, for even the least intellectual have the potential for faith, because God is fair in His dealings with us all. Faith does bring understanding, whereas trying to attain the "kingdom of heaven" through some kind of mental effort will result in failure and the loss of everything.
Verses 14-17: "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; 15 For 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." Jesus, in these verses, reaches back to the words of the prophet in Isaiah 6:9-10. The reason people don't believe is because, at a deep level, they don't want to. The offer of the Lord that our lives will belong to Him in exchange for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life, takes us away from our human decisions about what our lives might be, and we find instead, that we are now led by another, the Holy Spirit of God. And note this is the offer of a deeper healing than just our physical bodies—this is the Lord healing us at the center of our being, and these verses reveal something of why God, out of all history, chose these obscure, uneducated men—they were willing to hear, see and follow the Lord, like we all should.
Verses 18-23: "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; 21 yet 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.'" When I first came back to the Lord, after fifteen years of running away, I studied the Bible—it took me a year, and after reading the last page, I did something I never did previously—I prayed a simple prayer, asking for help. Suddenly the verses I had been reading for the past year came into my mind, along with understanding. I spent the next ten years looking for, and with His help, finding those verses. My life was changed, and note that a lack of understanding is not the end. Pray, and He will help you. Prayer is applied faith—I believe or I would not pray, and this is not some quick in-and-out event; it's a process of a lifetime that continues into eternity, a place where the "worry of the world" will be gone forever. And all this will change you into a person bearing "fruit" for God in unexpected and beautiful ways, as He, the "Sower," does His work in and through you.
Verses 24-30: "Jesus presented another parable to them, saying,'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.'" Several truths may be gleaned from these verses: 1) What God plants inside those who are willing to trust in the Lord, is GOOD seed. There is no flaw in what God has done or is doing. 2) There really is an "enemy" of God and mankind among us, who is causing problems and confusion all over the world, as in Verse 39. 3) The church has always been confusing because some who claim to be the Lord's are His outwardly, but not in their hearts. 4) This process continues because to harm the "tares" (grassy weeds resembling wheat), would hurt the wheat (God's faithful people) also. 5) All this will continue until the Lord returns to claim His own.
Verses 31-35: "He presented another parable to them, saying,'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.' 33 He spoke another parable to them,'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.' 34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
'I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.'" God well knows there are other tiny seeds, but the mustard seed was the smallest one known to the Jews. Jesus did not intend to start a theological or scientific debate; instead He was making a point and it was recorded in a manner that brings it to our attention today. And note that the "kingdom of heaven" contains the real church, found in the hearts of men and women around the world, but the term as used here, also encompasses the outward religions founded in the name of the Lord. "Leaven" is a word in Scripture that is descriptive of evil in the contexts where it is found. The Scripture cited by Matthew is from Asaph's Psalm 78:2.
Verses 36-43: "Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, 'Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.' 37 And He said,'The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.'" Do you have the Holy Spirit and can understand the things of God? Here, the Lord is making it very clear so there will be no misunderstanding. The Sower in this chapter is Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. The "field" is more than just the church, it's also the "world" we live in. The "good seed" portrays those who have faith in the Lord, and the "tares" are sons of the devil. The "harvest" is the end of the age, which began with the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord, along with the giving of the Holy Spirit. The age will end with reapers who are angels, gathering us up for eternity and dividing us according to who we really are. We are seeing the significant events of the last two thousand years, culminating with the end of "the age" we live in.
Verses 44-48: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away." What is important to you? Seen from the perspective of eternity, receiving the Lord Christ through faith is better than treasure, a precious stone, bountiful fish to a fisherman and everything else we might consider valuable. As we saw in Verses 24-30, the "kingdom of heaven" is more than just those who have trusted in the Lord, for it encompasses the world, along with the institutional church, full of the lost and saved alike. There are basically three classes of people: Those who love the Lord and commit their lives to Him, smug counterfeits who don't know Him but pretend they do, and the utterly lost, who neither know nor want the Lord. Actually, the second group is in even greater danger than the third because they don't want to see their need. The third group at least knows that something is wrong.
Verses49-53: "So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 Have you understood all these things?'They said to Him, 'Yes.' 52 And Jesus said to them,'Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.' 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there." There is a real place that bears the description of what we call, "hell." The reason for it is clear. If you don't place your faith in the Lord right now, with all that is being shown to you, if you won't recognize you are a sinner in need of God's grace, if you value the things of this world more than Him, you won't receive Him ever. You don't want the Lord, and are granted your wish. The place of fire is never-ending, not unlike our present universe, but your defense mechanisms against everything will be blown away, and you see the Lord before being cast away from Him. The Jewish scribes were educated leaders among the people, and for those who would give themselves to Jesus, and some did, they brought formal education and training into the new life of the Holy Spirit, the "new and old."
Verses 54-58: "He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, 'Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?' 57 And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them,'A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.' 58 And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief." Jesus taught and did miracles in Nazareth, but "they took offense at Him." What is your attitude toward the Lord? Are you willing to give your life to the Lord like many who followed Him? Or do you take offense, somehow feeling you don't need Him? Notice that the human Jesus had brothers and sisters, and most critical of all, do we limit the miracles in our lives because of our unbelief? We need miracles, most of all the miracle of new life in our Lord.
Father, thank You for this glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. I am a sinner, Lord, and I need You. I see that I am not sufficient to save myself—thank You for offering Yourself in my place. Please forgive me. I trust in You now. In Jesus Name. Amen.