When a Parable is More than a Parable

July 21, 2016

Matthew 13:18-23

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a word in today’s text I’m not sure I have paid attention to before. In the past I have rather summarily equated the good soil with people who do good—those who hear the word and go out and do it in the world. This is not untrue, but I don’t think this is the point the parable is making. Jesus doesn’t tell these stories as an effort to motivate people into action. He teaches like this in order to lead people beyond mere comprehension and into true understanding. That’s the word I think I’ve only finally seen in today’s text: Understanding. Did you see it? Go back and check it out in v.19 and v.23. Parables do not intend to increase our knowledge as much as they want to stretch us beyond knowledge and into true wisdom.

Parables are meant to inspire the kind of curiosity that seeks after understanding. Jesus, the Teacher, is looking for people who will stay after class and approach the circle of disciples who press in for more understanding. This is why those who have will be given more. Wisdom, which comes from spiritual understanding, favors the ardent seeker. It always has. Hear Solomon on this point from Proverbs 2.

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Did you catch how he piled up the strong action verbs there? One more from Proverbs 3. This is my favorite.

Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

A few parables from now Jesus will speak of pearls of great price and treasure buried in a field. It makes sense doesn’t it. It’s quite simple. Jesus reveals an understanding of his kingdom to anyone who seeks him for it.

One more thing. I’ve always kind of understood a preferred status for Jesus’ disciples. I’ve seen the inner circle as being something formed by Jesus. I’ve learned otherwise. In this kind of ancient Near Eastern setting, a Rabbi would never have excluded apparent outsider approaching the smaller circle of conversation after the public teaching. There is no preferred exclusive inner circle with Jesus. Sure he chose disciples, and this was for the sake of making more disciples.

Bringing it full circle. For the first time, it strikes me that the very parable Jesus was teaching was actually being played out at the same time. As Jesus stood in the boat teaching he was doing precisely what he was talking about—casting the seed extravagantly among everyone there. Those who sought him afterward turned out to be the “good soil.” They were the ones seeking understanding, and, of course, the sign of true understanding would be an ongoing life in the Way and the Truth and the Life of Jesus.

And the most amazing part? The parable of the sower is actually happening right now. ;0)
Daily Text MATTHEW 07-21-16

THE QUESTIONS

1. Have you ever come out and specifically asked God for the gift of wisdom and understanding? Or are you still trying to sort it all out yourself?

2. Do you see what I mean with respect to the parable he was teaching actually unfolding in real time? What do you think about that?

3. Are you finding the humble posture before God that befits a disciple of Jesus. Are you growing in your understanding? How do you know?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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