Let us take stock of the parables so far and their focus.
Parables told by the lake to a large crowd (Matthew 13:1-2)
- Parable of the sower
The gospel is accepted in many different ways by the receiver, notice that this is the only parable that doesn’t begin with “the kingdom of heaven is like”
- Parable of the weeds
The righteous and the wicked grow together and God’s intention is that separation (and judgement) only occurs when the harvest is ready
- Parable of the mustard seed
The kingdom of heaven starts small but grows to world dominion and the nations will find rest in it
- Parable of the yeast
The kingdom of heaven starts small but works from the inside and permeates the whole world
Parables told to the disciples in the house (Matthew 13:36)
- Parable of the hidden pearl
Dual meaning: The kingdom of heaven is precious and worth losing everything to have; Christ is redeeming his treasured people, Israel
- Parable of the treasure
Christ is redeeming all the peoples of the world
- Parable of the net
The righteous and wicked will be judged in the end and there will be a separation that determines their final destiny
Matthew 13:11 makes it clear that Jesus was intentional in his teaching through parables so that the disciples would understand while others would not. He then points to Isaiah and claims the fulfilment of his prophesy (Matthew 13:13-15; Isaiah 6:9-10). Isaiah’s prophesy highlights that while the people see and hear, it does not lead to perceiving or understanding. The reason for this is that “this people’s heart has become calloused”. If they would connect their seeing and hearing to their hearts to perceive and understand, they would “turn, and I would heal them.”
The parables told have two themes – the all-encompassing nature of the kingdom (from a seemingly small start to it’s global dominion) and the future destiny of the people of God’s kingdom and the people outside His kingdom. What happens in between the start of His kingdom and the end is what is in focus in this passage – with the first parable, the last question and conclusion.
This last passage is perhaps the most perplexing part of these parables, but we see in this little section the idea that ties all this together.
“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
What has all the parables and explanations got to do with Jesus’ question to the disciples? Everything.
The revelation of who the sowers are
This question is what links this concluding passage to the first parable, stringing through all the other parables. The disciples would be the ones to sow the seed from its small start to world dominion and all the way till the world is judged (or with a view that the world will be judged). It was crucial that the disciples (of all people) connected what they were seeing and hearing to their hearts because only then would they be able to produce “a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:23) They needed to understand the message of the gospel because they are to be the sowers.
That is why the “kingdom of heaven” bit was left out from the first parable, it was different from the rest of the parables. In this parable, Christ wasn’t the sower, He is the seed. All the following parables after the Parable of the Sower is about himself:
- It is Christ who sows good seed with the prospect of a good harvest and does the harvesting in the end like the sower – “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” (Matthew 13:24)
- It is Christ who starts small like the mustard seed – “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed” (Matthew 13:31)
- It is Christ who works effectively in the world like the yeast – “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast ” (Matthew 13:33)
- It is Christ who is more precious than life itself like the treasure – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure” (Matthew 13:44)
- It is Christ who purchases the world with himself like the merchant – “the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant” (Matthew 13:25)
- It is Christ who gathers everyone to himself for the final judgement like the net – “the kingdom of heaven is like a net” (Matthew 13:47)
When Christ leaves the message of the kingdom of heaven to his disciples and instructs them to make disciples, he intends that the kingdom grows – like the good crop, like the mustard seed, like the yeast, because in the end, there will be a harvest and a judgement. The means of this growth is through the evangelism and apostolic ministry of the disciples. This is the balance between God’s right to predestine and man’s responsibility to evangelise.
New and old treasures
With this understanding, the conclusion of the message (note the use of “therefore”) is much less puzzling. The teacher of the law (also in Matthew 2:4) who becomes a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is a pretty impressive description. Teachers of the law were known to be leaders of the Jewish community with a deep understanding of the Old Testament scriptures. Such a teacher of the law who becomes “a disciple in the kingdom of heaven” comes to the saving knowledge of Christ Jesus as the Messiah. Such a person understands the gravity of growing the kingdom and brings the message of Christ to both the Jews (the hidden treasure) and the Gentiles (the pearl), saving them in his/her shelter and bringing them out in the day of Christ, ready for the final judgement.
Lets have a different view of the parables (again) with this in mind:
- Christ sows the good seed (gospel) with the intention that the righteous and wicked live together till the harvest is ready (the end time)
- This small seed planted in an individual is capable of multiplying it’s saving effect on the nations
- The small seed starts working within a person (or in the nations) changing the composition of the person (nations), causing the kingdom to grow from within
- The salvation of Israel (Romans 1:16, “first for the Jew, then for the
- The salvation of all of the world (Romans 11:25-26)
- The gathering unto the Christ and the final judgement
The teacher of the law plays an important role in this picture of the kingdom. He is another sower (from the first parable), bringing the seed of the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. Some theologians believe that Matthew was referring to himself in his role of conveying Christ to his audience. Others say this was written to encourage the Jewish readers (the intended audience for the Book of Matthew) to evangalise. No one knows for sure, but what we do know is our responsibility to sow the gospel to the nations.
So bring on the seed, its time to sow.