Setting

In the first parable, the parable of the sower, the Lord Jesus spoke of the four different responses to the message of the kingdom. He also explained that the effect of the parables is further hardening of heart for the unbelieving. In the remaining parables, we will get a closer look at the expansion of the kingdom of heaven and the final separation of the righteous and the wicked.

Key Verse

(13:35)

Did You Know...?

  1. Tares/weeds (13:25): Darnel, a weed that closely resembles wheat. The two are almost indistinguishable until fully mature at harvest time. [ref]
  2. Mustard seed (13:31): The mustard seed is not the smallest seed known today, but it was the smallest seed used by Palestinian farmers and gardeners, and under favorable conditions the plant could reach some ten feet in height. [ref]
  3. Three measures of meal/three satas of flour (13:33): probably about 1/2 bushel or 22 liters.
  4. “The kingdom of heaven is like”: The kingdom of heaven is not “like a man” but “like the situation of a man…”: the “is like” formula reflects an Aramaic idiom meaning “It is the case with X as with Y.” [ref]
  5. Under rabbinic law if a workman came on a treasure in a field and lifted it out, it would belong to his master, the field’s owner. [ref]

Outline

Segment Analysis

  • 13:24-30, 37-43

    1.

    To better understand the meaning of the term, “the kingdom of heaven is like,” read it instead as “the kingdom of heaven is like the situation of.” For example, the kingdom of heaven is not “like a man,” (24) but like the situation of a man who sowed good seeds…. 1. Who is the man that sowed the good seeds? How did he sow the seeds?

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    The Son of Man, our Lord Jesus (37). He sowed the seed by coming to this world to preach the message of the kingdom and to lay down His life so we may be heirs of the kingdom (cf. Eph 2:11-19).

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  • 2.

    What distinguishes the “sons of the kingdom” and the “sons of the wicked one” in the same way that the wheat can be distinguished from the tares?

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    As seeds, the tares look the same as the wheat, but when they sprout and produce a crop, the difference shows. In the same way, although every professed Christian confesses Christ at his conversion, the life and conduct of the Christian is what marks him as a true believer (1Jn 2:3-6; Mt 7:15-27).

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  • 3.

    What does the parable teach us about the presence of wickedness in the world?

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    God does not mete out punishment because even the righteous can hardly withstand an immediate judgment (1Pet 4:18). God waits until the sin of the wicked reaches its full measure (cf. Gen 15:16). While God allows evil to remain in the world, it does not mean that judgment will not come on the wicked.

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  • 4.

    What is the kingdom of heaven? Put your definition in relation to the parable.

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    It is God’s exercise of His authority through the words and saving works of the Lord Jesus Christ (12:28). While the gospel of Jesus Christ spreads in the world, evil will still reside in the world, either in the form of outright rejection of the gospel or wicked deeds. But Christ will not judge those who reject Him and the evildoers until the time of the final separation (Jn 12:47, 48).

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  • 5.

    Does the parable teach that we should tolerate evil? If so, wouldn’t this be contradictory to the command to expel wicked doers in the church (1Cor 5:1-13)?

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    Evil should not exist in the assembly of believers, although it does exist in the world (the field represents the world), as Paul makes clear in 1Cor 5:10. Although God does not bring about immediate judgment to those outside the church, wicked doers in the Christian community who claim to be believers must be ostracized in order to preserve the purity of the church (2Jn 9-11; Mt 18:15-17).

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  • 13:31-33

    6.

    Explain these analogies: a. Birds nesting in the branches; b. Leaven hidden in the meal (flour):

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    a. Birds nesting in the branches: If we carry forward the Lord’s own interpretation from the previous parable, the birds would represent the wicked one (19; cf. Rev 18:2).

    b. Leaven hidden in the meal (flour): In most cases, the Bible uses leaven as a symbol of sin, wickedness, or false teachings (Mt 16:6-12; Mk 8:15; 1Cor 5:6-8; Gal 5:9; Ex 12:15).

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  • 7.

    What do these two parables teach us about the expansion of the kingdom of heaven?

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    Like the mustard seed, the kingdom of heaven seems small and insignificant at the start. But it will become much more visible and seemingly large. Ironically, hidden in the appearance of expansion is the ever-present work of Satan.

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  • 8.

    How is the kingdom of heaven different from what the people of Jesus’ time thought?

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    Many expected that God’s kingdom would come mightily and visibly, and that it will only come at the end of the age. But the Lord told them that the kingdom of heaven had already come, even though it had a humble appearance and wickedness still persisted. The final judgment and removal of evil will take place at the end of the age.

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  • 13:34-36

    9.

    What does Isaiah’s prophecy (35) tell us about the function of parables? Compare this to the prophecies recorded in 13-15. Is there a contradiction?

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    Parables serve to reveal what is hidden. Taken with 13-15, we learn that parables have a dual function of revealing and concealing. God’s mysteries (gospel of salvation) are revealed to the humble but concealed to the hard-hearted (12; 11:25).

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  • 13:44-46

    10a.

    What can we learn here about the value of the gospel of the kingdom?

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    Itisworthfarmorethaneverythingweownorcanbeproudof.

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  • 10b.

    What does the action of selling everything to buy the land or pearl teach us about what we should do to inherit the kingdom?

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    Insteadofholdingontoourpossessions,betheywealth,fame,or accomplishments, we must be willing to devote ourselves and everything we have to the Lord in order to receive the kingdom of heaven. This is not to say that we can earn salvation, but that every moment of our lives and everything we own should be used solely for living for Christ rather than for our own enjoyment or pride (Php 3:4-9).

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  • 13:47-50

    11.

    How is the parable of the dragnet similar to the parable of the wheat and tares?

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    In both parables, the good and the bad were allowed to coexist for the time being. But at the end comes the separation, when the wicked will be thrown into the furnace of fire and the righteous received into the kingdom.

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  • 13:51-53

    12a.

    What kind of “scribe” was the Lord referring to?

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    Teacherswhohavebeen“instructedconcerningthekingdomof heaven.” In other words, those who have accepted the message and become Christ’s follower.

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  • 12b.

    What is the meaning of “bringing out things new and old”?

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    AscribewhodoesnotacceptJesusasLordcanonlyteachpeopleabout the old, i.e. the works of the law. But someone who believes in Christ is able to understand and bring out the full meaning of God’s law because Christ is the fulfillment of the law (Gal 3:23, 24; Mt 5:17). As believers who have been instructed about the kingdom of heaven, it is our responsibility to preach the message of salvation and teach others to obey what Christ has commanded (Mt 28:18-20).

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