We live in a quick fix world, wanting solutions at our fingertips. In Matthew chapter 11 people wanted to know if Jesus really was the Messiah when there were so many being faced. In verse 35 Matthew links the parables to the prophet; we are to know God through the teaching of the parables, ‘This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”’ (Matthew 13: 35).
In this passage we have three parables of encouragement:
in times of trouble (The parable of the Weeds)
when there is little growth (The Parable of the Mustard Seed)
when the good work seems to be hidden (The Parable of the Leaven).
- The Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13: 24-33 & 36-43).
In this parable we see the challenge of troubles. Matthew probably refers to a weed that resembles wheat and is very plentiful today in Israel, the seed of wild rice grasses. The difference between the weed and wheat is only noticeable when they mature. When the servants first notice the weeds they question the quality of the seed. When they are told it’s been planted by the enemy they want to get rid of it. The master wants to restrain the servants, letting both plants grow together. Over time they will be identifiable. Today we have the church against the world. Later Jesus will send His reapers, His angels. Jesus identifies Himself as the sower, the enemy is the devil and the field is the world. Some teach we should welcome all into the church, we shouldn’t be worried about purity, church discipline is not to be thought of too much. This is entirely unscriptural. Jesus teaches how important church discipline is. Jesus says there is to be no immediate judgement. A premature judgement will ruin the crop. God’s way is to have the gospel preached to an unbelieving world whilst the enemy does his work. God has permitted the church and evil to grow together. A harvest will come at the end of the age, when there will be eternal judgement, ‘The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 13:41-42). However, be encouraged, ‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’ (Matthew 13:43).
- The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13: 31-32): Smallness
The second parable is about the smallness of the kingdom, when there seems to be little growth. The mustard seed is small, we feel ourselves so small, wanting to be bigger. We may look to super churches, wanting our own church to be bigger. However, small things can have a big impact. Jesus encourages His disciples by telling them the kingdom will grow. Size is not important but growth. From small beginnings there is growth, just as Daniel saw the kingdom’s growth to include many nations. Christ’s kingdom is such; we may have small beginnings but there is always growth when you have the Holy Spirit. Here is a living seed, very small, but awakened. It grew. We may feel our days are small, this cuts our desire to preach the gospel, reduces our resolve to move forward. It can narrow our vision, we become satisfied with our smallness. But Jesus says there will be growth. Our God is gracious, be encouraged. He will build His church. We must keep on preaching the gospel, believing others will be saved. Expect growth because Jesus has determined there will be growth. Be encouraged!
- The Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33) Hiddenness
This parable has caused a lot of controversy; in the Old Testament leaven was associated with evil. Many have taken this parable as corruption of the church, and that a new, pure church needs to be started. However, there is only one church – God’s people redeemed by Christ. The world encapsulates false churches and we must have nothing to do with them. Part of the challenge of living with the weeds is to be discerning. The New Testament church remains under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There will be no corruption of the true church. Biblical symbolism does not always have the same meaning in all circumstances. Look at the context.
Jesus is encouraging His disciples here. In this parable there is a small amount of leaven, of yeast. There is a lack of outward and obvious success. The woman in this parable hid the leaven in the mixture. The word of God is within, we are to hide the word of God in our hearts. We must seek the Holy Spirit deep down in our hearts, keep it treasured. The word of God must change us from within. Don’t be concerned for outward success, seek from within. Is there a work of grace going on in our hearts?
The three parables are parables of encouragement. There is no quick fix, no sweeping away of unbelief. In spite of smallness, Christ’s kingdom will come on earth. None will be able to stop its flow, until the end of the age when there will be righteous judgement.