The Parables of Jesus Season 1 - Matthew 13, Part 1 (Pastor Tan Seow How)

We started on a pretty cool Bible Study series last week called The Parables of Jesus. It's only Season 1 of the series because apparently there are over 40 Parables in the Bible! Pastor How says that he will be covering all of the parables over different seasons in the next few years and I'm very excited because Part 1 was absolutely WOW!

(edit 15 October)
I mention at the end of this post that there is Part 2 coming up -- you can read Part 2 here!


Season 1: Matthew 13, Part 1

What is a parable?
Para = parallel = alongside
A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
A parable is a natural story with spiritual meaning / significance

Matthew 13 - 8 parables that need to be read together as a package. 

Matthew 13:1-2 (NKJV)
​1 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

The first 4 parables are spoken to the multitude / crowd.

Matthew 13:36 (NKJV)
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

The next 4 parables were spoken only to the disciples.

Matthew 13:10-11 (NKJV)
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

The first 4 parables are how the world sees the church / Christianity.
The next 4 parables are how God sees the church / Christianity.

This week it will seem like the church is on a decline and the devil is winning.
Next week when you see it from God's perspective you will see the church from a victorious perspective.

It is like how it looked like when Jesus was hanging on the cross. 
It looked like Jesus was defeated but it was actually the greatest victory.

1. The Parable of the Sower / Soils
The first parable speaks of the beginning of the kingdom of heaven. 
All other parables start with "the kingdom of heaven is like" This one starts as "a man went out to sow"

Mark 4:13 (NKJV) - same parable but in different book
13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

The first parable is the key to unlock the rest of the parables.
It is the key to decode the other 7 parables.

Matthew 13:3-8
Matthew 13:18-23 - the explanation

Seed = Word of God
Birds of the air = wicked one / Satan
Soil = heart

There are 4 kinds of soils / hearts:
1. Wayside = hardened ground = heart has been trampled upon becuase of hurts, bad experiences
There are people whose hearts are hardened and they are skeptical and disillusioned.

2. Stony places = shallow ground
Sun = tribulation / persecution = problems 
Plants need sunlight. Sunlight is actually good for plants. 
If we have roots / depth problems and persecutions are good for Christians. 
Sun is only bad for plants that do not have roots / depth.

Hot water hardens eggs but softens potatoes.
It depends on what substance you are made of. Everyone goes through hard times in life, it depends on your substance.

3. Thorns = Unfruitful Ground
Thorns = cares of this world, deceitfulness of riches = pressures and pleasures
Christians will be tested under pressure and tempted with pleasures.
It is interesting to note the plant doesn't die it just becomes unfruitful.

4. Good Ground = hears the word and understands it = bear fruit
Hearing the word is not the key. It is hearing and understanding. 

In any place, there will be people of different hearts.

Real Christians bear fruit:
= Holiness (Romans 6:22)
= Christian character, fruit of te Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
= Good works (Colossians 1:10)
= winning others to Christ (Romans 1:13)

We are saved by grace through faith but after salvation we must bear fruits.
Fruits are not gifts. Gifts are imparted by the HS. Fruits need to be cultivated and grown
If someone is a Christian for a while but does not display fruit, something is wrong.

2. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares
What is the kingdom of heaven?
The kingdom of heaven = the dominion of the king on earth during the King's absence.
This is not the heaven we go to when we die. The kingdom of heaven is a mixture of good and evil.

Matthew 13:24-30 - the parable
Matthew 13:36-39 - explanation only to the disciples

The man / Sower = Son of Man (Jesus)
Field = world (soil is the individual hearts, field is the hearts of the world)
Good seeds = sons of the kingdom
Tares = sons of the wicked one
Enemy = devil
harvest = end of the age
reapers = angels

Sow the Word in us and sow us into the world.
If you are good, Jesus takes you and then sows you into the world.
Because God wants us to shine like lights in the darkened world.

But when we are sown into the world, the enemy comes and sow tares.
Wheat and tares when they are growing look exactly alike especially when they are growing but at harvest the time the wheat has fruit the tares have no fruit.

When the devil fails at pulling you away, he copies.
The devil cannot create. He can only copy and counterfeit.
Tares are false Christians.
They look exactly the same.
Just like wheat and tares look exactly alike in the eyes of the farmer until harvest season when the wheat bears fruit and the tares don't.

Matthew 13:40-43
-- things that offend (stumbling blocks) and those who practice lawlessness

In Singapore, in the world, even in church, there will be true Christians and false Christians.
They give us the most problems because it sets 2 standards. It undermines our efforts to shine like a light.

What do we do?
Matthew 13:28-29
"Do you want us then to go and gather them up?" "no, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them"

This teaching is not for people to be judgmental. 
It is for us to understand and pray for them and not become like them. 
You either become like them or influence them to become like you.
What to do? Don't judge but also don't be naive.

3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed

Matthew 13:31-32 (NKJV)
31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

Traditional Interpretation
The church will grow to be big and powerful befor Jesus comes

But this is inconsistent with the rest of the Bible and with the key that birds = satan
It is also inconsistent with the fact that the mustard seed grows to become a big tree. 
The mustard seed doesn't grow to be a mustard tree it grows to be a mustard plant. 
The mustard tree and mustard plant are from 2 different species.

Mustard Plant = Brassica & Sinapis
Mustard Tree = Salvadora Persica

There is something not quite right about a mustard seed growing into a tree -- an herb doesn't grow into a tree. 
Even Jesus warns of it.
Matthew 13:32 ... Greater than the herbs and becomes a tree...

It is like a body that is put on steroids and grows unnaturally big... It represents a church on steroids.
There is something wrong with a church that experiences unnatural (not supernatural) growth.
There is something wrong if the devil is able to have an opportunity on the fringe of the church.

This is a parable is a picture of false church growth.
If the devil is not able to destroy a church wih failure, it will destroy a church with success.
eg. church in Medieval Europe 

We are all for big churches but big naturally.
It is not about growing big becuase of the ambition or personality of the pastor.
A tree can only grow as big as its seed - according to its genetic code.
A church can only grow as big as its genetic code -- not beyond that. 
We want people to be saved but not at all costs.
Matthew 13:4 / 13:9

People ask, what is the magic number?
Every church is different. 
Just like you can't determine how tall a child can grow you can't determine how big a church can grow. 
But just like adults stop growing but give birth an adult church at some point in time will not grow but will reproduce .

4. The Parable of the Leaven
Matthew 13:33 (NKJV)
33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

Traditional Interpretation
The gospel is hidden and then it will spread and be successful..

But this is inconsistent - because leaven in the Bible speaks of evil.
In the OT God says eat unleavened bread. 
Luke 12:1 "beware of the leaven of the pharisees" -- hypocrisy
Matthew 16:11-12 -- leaven = false doctrine
1 Corinthians 5:6-8 -- leaven = malice and wickedness, unleavened bread = sincerity and truth.

If the leaven is the gospel, why hide it?
Leaven is false doctrine hidden among the bread. The bread speaks of the word of God.

False doctrine is effective when you do not know it is false. I
t is effective when it is half true. It sounds good. It sounds right. But part is subtly wrong.

The devil's tactics are the same.
He can only copy and counterfeit.
- he plants counterfeit Christians
- he establishes counterfeit churches
- he preaches a counterfeit gospel

Christians can be too simplistic.
We have to be a careful.

The first 4 parables from a macro view looks very morbid. 
From the human perspective it looks like the church is in decline and the devil has won.

* the wicked one steals the seed with doubts and fear (birds of the air)
* encounters tribulation and persecution (sun)
* tested by the pressures (cares of this world) tempted by pleasures (deceitfulness of riches)

1/4 survives and Jesus sows them into the world.
- False Christians - disappointments and discouragements
- False Church frowhr - disillusionment
- False doctrines - deception

1 Corinthians 16:13

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.

This is not the end of the story... must hear the kingdom of heaven from the Divine Perspective.