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Basic Bible: Growing God’s Kingdom

Matthew 13:24-33

In the text before us, Jesus relates three parables — The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, The Parable of the Mustard Seed, and The Parable of the Leaven. These parables were spoken to a multitude (Matt. 13:34). In all three parables, Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to natural occurrences with which His listeners understood.

New Testament believers of today understand that the kingdom of heaven is the spiritual kingdom which God the Father has established in His Son. None who heard the parables had understanding. Many in the multitude knew that John the Baptist had declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 3:2). To them, the kingdom of heaven was the kingdom which God would establish — which kingdom Daniel prophesied (Dan. 2:44). They were looking for a kingdom which would consume all other kingdoms and stand forever. The notion that the kingdom which God would establish would be likened to a man sewing seed in his field or to a mustard seed which would eventually provide lodging for birds or to be like leaven which leavens the meal in which it is hidden was puzzling to both the multitude and the disciples.

Parables are simple stories that illustrate profound truths. Parables hold little meaning for those who are ignorant of the truth which they illustrate. Jesus spoke these parables before the kingdom of heaven was established. The good seed had not been planted and the enemy had not planted tares among the wheat when Jesus said these things. The parables illustrated happenings which were yet future.

Each of the three parables likens the kingdom of heaven to a series of events which unfold over time. In the wheat and the tares, we see a man sewing good seed, followed by an enemy sewing tares; fruit production by the good seed, followed by the appearance of tares which bear no fruit; an interval of time in which the wheat and the tares coexist, followed by the harvest in which the wheat and the tares are separated. In the mustard seed, we look upon a minute seed which is sown, grows into a tree with branches that provide lodging places for birds of the air. In the parable of the leaven, we see three measures of meal at two different times — an initial time in which no leaven is present and a later time in which the three measures of meal have undergone dramatic change.

Neither the disciples or members of the multitude understood. The purpose for which Jesus spoke these parables was not to impart understanding. Matthew 13:34-35 states the reason for His speaking in parables. By speaking in parables concerning the kingdom of heaven, Jesus identified Himself as the Lord God who spoke to Israel through the psalmist in Psalms 78:1-2. Understanding is forever hidden from those who refuse to hear (see v. 11-15). New Testament believers are given understanding of the parable by the Lord God. It is God’s intent that believers should understand the parables which Jesus spoke. Not all believers, however, possess the same understanding. The Lord did not give us understanding with the intent that we should sit idly upon it. The sewer of the good seed instructed his servants not to remove the tares from the wheat because it would cause the wheat to be uprooted. Uprooted wheat produces no fruit. The presence of tares most certainly hinders the yield which the good seed can produce but the good seed is able to produce fruit under adverse conditions. The Lord wants all believers to know that we, the good seed, shall produce fruit in adversity. We are not to uproot adversity. Uprooting is self-destructive. Uprooting destroys the testimony of loving one another as Christ loves us.

Harvest time will come and His angels shall gather and bind the tares to be burnt and gather the wheat for His barn (v. 30). The wheat, the fruit of the good seed, shall rest in the Lord’s barn and the tares, the seed of the devil, shall be burnt. The Lord has not revealed the future to us with the intent that we hide it from men. Quite the contrary. We are to declare it to all who have the ears to hear. The Lord would have all men come to Him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9). It is only the tares, the children of the devil, who will not hear.

In the parable of the mustard seed, we see the kingdom of heaven increasing in size from a minute seed to a tree which serves as a habitat for the birds of the air. The disciples did not ask for an explanation. The birds of the air are not part of the kingdom but they use the kingdom of heaven for their purposes. The branches of the kingdom of heaven will be exploited by birds of the air. Jesus said it would happen — it shall be. The mustard tree is to continue growing — not to severe its branches.

The parable of the leaven is a picture which has confused some because leaven is a symbol of evil (Matt. 16:5, Mk. 8:15, Gal. 5:9). The leaven of the kingdom of heaven is not evil. The kingdom of heaven influences the meal in which it is placed for God’s purposes. We are the lumps of leaven which God has chosen to make many, many more lumps of leaven.

These parables are given to us such that we might walk according to His will. We, the good seed, have heard. Our rest is yet future. Let us work while we may. Let us share that which God has made known to us.

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