Matthew 13

 

A few remarks by way of introduction to the characteristic portion of this

chapter (vs. 1-52).

 

(1) We have here a collection of the Lord’s parables, all spoken, as it

would appear, at an early period in His ministry, descriptive of the

principles of the kingdom of heaven as they make themselves felt in history,

and of the way in which those who are brought into contact with the

kingdom ought to act. As the chapter stands, it consists of three chief parts,

which probably roughly correspond to three stages of development in its

composition.

 

            (a) Vs. 1-23, also in Mark and Luke, except some characteristic

            enlargements in vs. 10-17. The section contains the parable of the sower

            and its interpretation, together with a statement of our Lord’s reasons for

            teaching by parables. This is so nearly akin to the fundamental lesson of the

            first parable, that we cannot be surprised that the two should be recorded

            together. They seem, indeed, to have formed the nucleus of the whole

            collection.

 

            (b) Vs. 24-35, of which vs. 31-32 alone are found both in Mark and

            Luke. Vs. 34-35 also are represented in Mark, besides some expressions

            occurring in vs. 24-30. This part contains the parables of the tares, the

            mustard seed, and the leaven, and a statement that our Lord spoke in

            parables to the multitudes, together with a passage from the Old Testament

            illustrating His doing so.

 

            (c) Vs. 36-52. A series wholly peculiar to our Gospel, containing matter

            addressed to the disciples alone (the explanation of the parable of the tares,

            and the three parables of the treasure, the pearl, and the dragnet), ending

            with a special promise to disciples as such.

 

(2) But although this chapter is apparently the result of growth and

development, this does not exclude the probability that it is no chance

collection of fragmentary parables, but rather a mosaic of which the several

parts stand in artistic relation to each other and are intended to form one

whole.  It is natural to see in the parables a summary by our Lord of

certain principles which are always at work, i.e. “the ideas and laws, not

the actual facts, of the Church’s history. Thus we have the leading thoughts of

the dissemination and reception of the kingdom of God (the sower), the obstacles to

its success that exist even within its borders (the tares), its external and internal

influence (the mustard seed and the leaven), the need for making it a personal

possession, cost what it may, especially as it is worth all else (the treasure and the

pearl), and the necessity of personal holiness if the benefit of being within it

is not to be lost.

 

(3) It will have been noticed that our Lord did not use parables in the

earlier part of his ministry (even ch.7:24, sqq., is hardly more than an

illustration), and that when He began to use them it was a matter of

surprise to His disciples, who asked Him His reason for doing so (v. 10).

This was, as appears from v. 12, because of the value of parables as a means of

κρίσιςkrisiscondemnation; judgment.   Just as His coming was in itself to

test men’s hearts, and to act upon them according to their moral state (John 9:39;

compare ibid. 3:19; Luke 2:35), so in measure were all His sayings. But if  the

primary end [of a parable] everywhere is to place the doctrine, as yet unknown

to the hearers, so directly before their eyes that they shall intuitively recognize its

truth, it is evident that a parable was especially calculated to form a test of the

moral state of those to whom it was spoken. If they did not really care for

spiritual things, they would, either from sheer moral inability or from a lazy

unwillingness to apply their attention or make further inquiries, fail to catch

the lesson which the parable was intended to convey; while if they were in a

favorable state for its reception, they would learn fresh truth from it. But if

parables were so valuable why did not our Lord employ them from the beginning

of His ministry? Just because they were so decisive in their effects, He wished at

first to be as plain spoken as possible, but when He saw that in the majority

of His hearers His words produced no spiritual result, He then employed a

method of teaching which should bring out their characters more clearly

(compare further vs. 10-17, and notes).

 

Vs. 1-9. The parable of the sower. Parallel passages: Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8.

 

1 “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.”

The same day; on that day (Revised Version). Although day is

sometimes used in a metaphorical sense, so as to include what is, in fact, a

long period of time (e.g. Luke 6:23; Mark 2:20; compare  also John 14:20;

16:23, 26; and possibly even Acts 8:1), yet we are not justified

in assigning this sense to it unless the context clearly requires us to do so.

This is not the case here, so that we must assume that a literal day is

intended. But which day? Naturally, the day that has just before been

mentioned, either in the original source from which our narrative is taken

or in the narrative as it now stands. Since, however, ch.12:46-50

and our vs. 1-23 appear to have been already connected in the framework

(as is seen from their being in the same relative position in Mark), these

supposed alternatives really represent the same thing, the phrase probably

referring to the day on which our Lord’s mother and brethren sought to

speak to Him (ch.12:46). Went Jesus out of the house. Where

He had been when His mother came (ch. 12:46, note), and

presumably the one to which He returned in v. 36. Possibly it was

Peter’s house at Capernaum (ch. 8:14). And sat  (ch. 5:1, note).

By the seaside. Until the crowds compelled Him to enter the boat.

 

2 “And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He

went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the

shore.”  And great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so

that He went into a ship. The article wrongly inserted in the Received

Text (τὸ πλοῖον – to ploionthe ship) suggests that it was the boat which, as

some think, waited upon Him. (For another occasion when He taught from a boat,

compare Luke 5:3.) And sat; and the whole multitude stood; was standing.

The position of ἱστήκει histaekeistood - at the end of the sentence in the Greek

emphasizes their attitude. Their numbers compelled it, and they disregarded the

fatigue. Further, the tense (pluperfect, equivalent to imperfect) pictures them as

patiently standing there. On the shore; beach (Revised Version); ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλόν

epi ton aigialonon the beach: i.e. this part at least of the shore was covered with

sand or pebbles. Possibly we have signs of an eyewitness, both in the exact

description of the spot, and in the vividness of the ἱστήκει (compare John 1:35).

 

3 “And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a

sower went forth to sow;”  And He spake many things. Of which but a few are

here recorded (compare  vs. 34, 51). Unto them in parables. Taking the expression

in the widest sense, “speaking in parables” began in the very earliest ages,

when natural or spiritual truths were described under figures taken from

everyday life, and continues until the present time, more especially among

Eastern nations. Interesting examples of such a method of instruction are to

be seen in the Haggadoth (which are frequently parabolic narratives) of the

Talmuds and other Jewish works. But both myth and parabolic

Haggada share the common danger of being misunderstood as narratives

which are intended to be taken literally, while in the parable, in the

narrower sense of the word, such a confusion is hardly possible. For the

narrative then suggests, either by its introduction or its structure, that it is

only the mirror by which a truth can be seen, and is not the truth itself.

Such parables also, though seldom even approaching in beauty to our

Lord’s, are very frequent in Jewish writings, though they come but seldom

in the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:23-29; II Samuel 12:1-6; 14:6-11;

I Kings 20:35-40; compare also Isaiah 5:1-7 and Ezekiel 17:1-10,

which are rather allegories; and Judges 9:7-15 and II Kings 14:9,

which are fables).  Weiss thinks that the most profound reason of all which

the Lord had for employing parables was that He wished to show that the same

regulations which hold good for the world round us and ourselves in relation to the

world and each other, hold good also in the higher ethical and religious life.

But at the most this can have been a very subsidiary motive with Him.

Saying, Behold, a sower. Observe that our Lord enters upon His parable at

once (contrast v. 24). He will attract attention. Mark’s “Hear ye” would

have forwarded this. A sower; literally, the sower, as the Revised Version;

i.e. the sower of whom I am about to speak (compare I Samuel 19:13; also

Matthew 1:23; 12:43). Went forth. In the Greek this verb comes first, as

though our Lord wished to call attention, not so much to the

sower himself as to his action. To sow

 

4 “And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came

nd devoured them up:”  And when (as, Revised Version) he sowed, some seeds

(α} μένha men – which indeed). Here (compare vs. 5, 7-8) the seeds are, so to

speak, each singled out. But in the parallel passages they are viewed as one whole

(ο{ μένho men). Fell by the wayside. Along the road (παρὰ τὴν ὁδόνpara taen

hodonbeside the road), which evidently was at no mere corner of the field, but

ran for some distance by or through it. And the fowls (birds, Revised Version, as in

modern English) came and devoured them up.

 

The seed that falls into such a heart is carried away by the devil, whose agents are compared

to the “birds of the air.” To forget the Creator, whom we were taught to “remember” in our

youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1), is one of the temptations of early manhood. Thoughts of light

pleasures or of vain philosophy “catch away” that which pious hands have sown. The

careless heart is THE DEVIL’S THOROUGHFARE!

 

5 “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and

forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:”

Some (and others, Revised Version) fell upon stony places;

the rocky places (Revised Version). Where the underlying rock was hardly,

if at all, covered by soil. Such spots would be common in the fields of

Palestine, as in those of all mountainous countries. Where they had not

much earth: and forthwith they sprang up (ἐξανέτειλενexaneteilen

 it shoots up). They shot up quicker than the thorns in v. 7 (ἀνέβησαν

anebaesancame up). Because they had no deepness of earth.

 

6 “And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they

had no root, they withered away.”  And when the sun was up (ἀνατείλαντος

anateilantos -  rising). It can hardly be accidental that the Greek suggests the

contrast between the springing up of the seeds and of the sun’s rays. They were

scorched; and because they had not root, they withered away (compare

John 15:6).

 

7 “And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked

them:”  And some fell among thorns; upon the thorns (Revised Version);

which were sure to be close by (compare Jeremiah 4:3). And the thorns

sprang up (grew up, Revised Version, ἀνέβησαν (came up), and choked

them. Whether brambles or merely spinous weeds, which are abundant,

are here referred to is not certain. Even the former might be comparatively

low in sowing time, and only as they “grew up” cause serious injury to the

wheat.

 

The seed is wasted that falls among thorns.

 

Ø      The soil here is neither deficient nor barren. That which can nourish

                        briars can nourish something better. There are those who lack not

                        capacity, but culture. Not only must the wheat be sown; the thorns also

                        must be rooted out. There are studious and exemplary persons who do not

                        examine themselves in order to eradicate the evils of their neglected hearts.

 

Ø      The neglect of the briar is fatal to the wheat. The overgrowth of “the

                        cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches” is often more disastrous

                        than “tribulations and persecutions.” Grace is more needed in prosperity

                        than in adversity.

 

How plausible is the suggestion to one who is “making haste to be rich,”

that it is prudent to make provision for the future! They do not reflect that

it is still more prudent to make provision for the future life. How plausible,

that to increase wealth is to increase ability to do good! The effect upon

the disposition to do good is left out of the question. The appetite for

accumulating becomes more voracious and the liberality more stinted as

men become more wealthy.

 

8 “But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an

hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”  But other fell into (upon the,

Revised Version) good ground, and brought forth (yielded, Revised Version,

ἐδίδου edidou - gave); for effort is not implied. Contrast ἐποίησενepoiaesen -  

produces in ch. 7:18 and Luke 8:8, note. Fruit, some an hundred fold, some sixty

fold, some thirty fold. In Mark the numbers increase. Is this due to a desire to

avoid even the semblance of a contradiction to αὐξανόμενα auxanomena

growing up, that there precedes? In Luke “hundredfold” alone comes, the

difference that exists even in the good ground not being mentioned. (For

hundredfold, compare Genesis 26:12. Compare also the note on Luke 8:8

in this Commentary for instances of still greater production, and for the

beautiful parabolic saying recorded by Papias Elders (Iren., 5:33. 3).

See below:

 

                And bare fruit an hundredfold. This is by no means an

                unheard-of increase even in the West, where vegetation is less luxuriant.

                Herodotus, quoted by Trench (‘Parables’), mentions that two hundredfold

                was a common return in the Plain of Babylon, and sometimes three

                hundredfold; and Niebuhr mentions a species of maize that returns four

                hundredfold. On the marvelous fruit-bearing which would take place in the

                days of the Lord’s future kingdom on earth, Irenaeus gives a quotation

                from Papias, who gave it on the authority of those who had heard  John

                speak of the teaching of the Lord to that effect. Professor Westcott

                (‘Introduction to the Study of the Gospels,’ Appendix C, 21) thinks that

                the tradition was based on the real discourses of the Lord. It is, of course,

                allegorical, for is it not a memory of. a conversation between Jesus and His

                disciples arising out of this parable of the sower? “The Lord taught of

                those days (of His future kingdom on earth) and said, The days will come in

                which vines shall spring up, each having, ten thousand stocks, and on

                each stock ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand

                shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand bunches, and on each bunch ten

                thousand grapes, and each grape when pressed shalt give five and twenty

                measures of wine. And when any saint shall have seized one bunch,

                another shall cry, I am a better bunch; take me; through me bless the

                Lord. Likewise also (He said) that a grain of wheat shall produce ten

                thousand ears of corn, and each grain ten pounds of fine pure flour; and

                so all other fruits, and seeds, and each herb according to its proper

                nature.. . And he (Papias) added, saying, Now, these things are credible to

                them that believe. And when Judas the traitor believed not, and asked —

                How, then, shall such productions proceed from the Lord? the Lord said,

            They shall see who come to those times” (Papias; see Irenaeus, 5:33. 3).

 

9 “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  So in all the accounts.

Observe that it is not only a call to understand the parable, but is in itself a

summary of the chief lesson of the parable. (On the phrase, see ch.11:15, note.)

 

 

                        The Parable of the Soils (vs. 1-9)

 

Our Lord’s popularity is now at its height. Crowds throng Him wherever He

goes. But He is not dazzled by the blaze of public favor. On the contrary,

He sees how unsubstantial and delusive it is. Multitudes follow Him for the

charm of His words and the fame of His miracles; but of these large numbers

do not truly accept His message and profit by it. It is necessary that He

should sift His disciples, separating those who are in earnest from the

superficial and indifferent. The method employed with this object in view is

parabolic teaching (see vs. 13-16). By means of such teaching those who

are only amused at a tale will not see the truth which they do not care to

have, while those who are awake and alive to the gospel of the kingdom

will be prompted to think and inquire, and to get a better hold of Christ’s

teaching. It is natural that the transition to this more veiled method of

instruction should be made in a parable that illustrates the different classes

of hearers.

 

  • THE PRINCIPLE OF THE PARABLE. A great principle underlies the

            whole parable, and is revealed in all its parts, viz.: That the success or

            failure of preaching is partly dependent on the character and conduct of the

            hearers. In the present instance the Sower is Christ — the greatest of

            preachers; and the seed is the word of His gospel — the best of all teaching.

            Yet there are no uniformly good results, but a variety of issues, from utter

            failure to a bountiful harvest. Then the preacher is not always to blame if

            his preaching is barren, and the doctrine is not to be accounted false simply

            because in some cases it does not produce good effects. The hearer is

            responsible. He has freewill, and he may reject the highest truths of the

            greatest teacher, or he may receive them with different degrees of profit.

 

  • THE BAD SOILS. These represent three characters.

 

Ø      Dull indifference. Instead of being receptive soil for the seed of truth,

                        the heart of the worldly man is hard. The hardening is the result of the

                        traffic of innumerable earthly interests. Troops of these secular concerns

                        trample the heart into a highway. They may be harmless in themselves and

                        even necessary, but the full surrender to them is ruinous to the spiritual life.

                        The heart that is given up to the world is a prey to the ravages of Satan.

 

Ø      Sentimental fervor. The rocky ground is hot, and it provokes quick

                        growth. Sentimental people show a passion of devotion. But they have no

                        reservoirs of strength. When circumstances are adverse they are weak and

                        THEY YIELD!

 

Ø      Stifling worldliness. In the third case more progress is made, and yet

                        there is no harvest.  (“The harvewst is past, the summer is ended,

                        and we are not saved.” – Jeremiah 8:20)  Here we have not the gross

                        worldliness which produces indifference from the beginning as in the

                        first case. There is a competition between the spiritual and the worldly,

                        and the latter wins by reason of its rank vigor.

 

  • THE GOOD SOILS.

 

Ø      A common fruitfulness. All the good soils bring forth fruit. This is the

                        one result looked for. If it appears, we have the joy of harvest. Christ’s

                        preaching was not a failure, though many, failed to profit by it. If no good

                        comes from preaching, the fault may not lie wholly with the hearers. The

                        gospel of Christ brings in a rich harvest of souls.

 

Ø      A variation of productiveness. All who profit by the truth of the gospel

                        do not profit equally. It is not enough that some fruit is obtained. The aim

                        should be for an abundant return. The seed is capable of enormous

                        productiveness; there is no limit to the possibilities of Divine grace if only

                        we will let them be realized in our own lives.

 

 

.

The soil is the heart of the hearer. The interpretation makes this also plain.

He that made the seed made also the soil; and the Word and the heart

are co-related. In the Bible there is food for every faculty of the mind.

 

o        It has science for the reason.

o        It has poetry for the imagination.

o        It has history for the understanding.

o        It has prophecy for the anticipative faculties.

o        It has doctrines for the faith.

o        It has promises for the hope.

o        It has assurances for the love.

 

The soil of the heart should be prepared for the reception of the seed of truth.

 

Ø      It should be ploughed and harrowed and crushed with

                        conviction and grief and sorrow for sin.

Ø      It should also be weeded and cleaned by a thorough

                        reformation and amendment.

Ø      It should be dressed by the holy excitements of faith and hope.

.

vs. 10-17. The reason why Christ spoke to the multitudes in parables.

The question of the disciples (v. 10).  Christ’s antithesis — You are the

recipients of God’s gift; they are not (v. 11). This is not arbitrary, but in

accordance with a universal law (v. 12). They have not been using their

faculties, and therefore they are thus judged, in accordance with the words

of Isaiah (vs. 13-15). The privilege of the disciples further insisted upon

(vs. 16-17).

 

10 “And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto

them in parables?” Matthew alone in this form. In Luke the disciples asked our

Lord what the parable was; in Mark, more generally, they “asked of Him

the parables.” Whether the question as given by Matthew was actually

spoken by the disciples or not, the Lord’s answer, the substance of which is

the same in all three accounts, suggests that it at least represents their

thoughts. Matthew probably wishes to bring out with special clearness,

by his version of their words, the point of our Lord’s reply. And the

disciples. Including more than the twelve; so Mark, “They that were about

Him with the twelve” (compare ch.5:1, note) Came. Presumably some

little time afterwards, for He must have left the boat (v. 2). And said

unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? Them; i.e. those

outside the circle of Christ’s followers (τοἱς ἔξωtois exothe ones outside,

Mark). For the general meaning of our Lord’s reply to this question, see the

remarks at the beginning of this chapter. Other questions about our Lord’s

reasons for what He did are to be found in ch. 9:11, 14; 15:2; 17:19; 26:8

(compare also ch.12:2 with Luke 6:2).

 

11 “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to

know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not

given.”   He answered and said unto them, Because. Omit because,

with the Revised Version. The ὅτι hotithat - is merely recitative. In this

verse our Lord does not directly reply to their question, but only states God’s

ways of dealing with the two different classes of people (compare ch.11:25,

note). It is given unto you (unto you it is given, Revised Version); which

better represents the sharpness of the antithesis in the Greek. It is given;

already (δέδοται - dedotaihas been given), i.e. in the counsel of God,

though now given in possession, so far as regards this parable, by the

explanation that I will add. To know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

The secrets about the establishment and development of God’s realm, which

 cannot be discovered by human reason, but which are made known to the

initiated.  Under the term “mystery,” Paul refers to such revealed secrets as:

 

·         the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:3-4,9;

     Colossians 1:26),

·         the conversion of the Jews (Romans 11:25),

·         the relation of Christ to the Church being like that of husband and wife

     (Ephesians 5:32), and

·         the general resurrection (I  Corinthians 15:51-52).

 

 (Compare ch.11:25, note, “revealed;” and here v. 35, note) But to

them it is not given.

 

12 “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more

abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away

even that he hath.”  Matthew only in this context, but found in the parallel

passages shortly after the explanation of this parable — Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18.

The same saying is found in ch.25:29 (the talents) and Luke 19:26 (the pounds).

For. The reason of God’s action spoken of in the preceding verse. It is based on the

following principle. Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more

 abundance. The last phrase (Matthew only) is probably due to a reminiscence of the

form in which the saying was uttered at a much later period in our Lord’s ministry,

where it arises naturally out of the parable (ch.25:29). But whosoever hath not,

from him shall be taken away even that he hath.  A paradox. What he already

possesses, if it is so small as to be not worth speaking of, shall be lost to him.

Luke’s thinketh he hath” calls attention to the superficial character of the

man’s mind. The unfit ground loses the seed it receives (compare the remarks

at the beginning of this chapter).

 

13 “Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not;

and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”

Therefore (διὰ τοῦτο dia toutobecause of). To carry out the principle of the

whole preceding verse, but with special reference to the second half of it.

Because, in this case, they “have not,” therefore I speak to them thus.

Speak I to them in parables because. In the parallel passages Christ says

that he speaks in parables “in order that seeing,” etc.; but here, “because

seeing,’’ etc. The difference of the thought, which is more formal than real,

is that

 

(1) in the parallel passages their moral blindness and deafness are

represented as the effect of what he says, parables being used to bring

about the punishment for what was presumably earlier sloth (thus laying

stress on the idea of “shall be taken away” in our v. 12; compae “that they

which see not may be made blind,” John 9:39).

 

(2) In Matthew their present moral blindness and deafness are represented

as the reason for the use of parables. Parables are themselves the

punishment; the people are fit for nothing else (thus laying stress on the

“has not” of v. 12); therefore Christ speaks to them in parables. They

seeing see not (seeing they see not, Revised Version, keeping the order of

the Greek, as even the Authorized Version in the next clause); and

hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. The participles

“seeing,” “hearing,” in Matthew and Luke, probably do not represent the

Hebrew infinitive in its common usage of giving intensity or continuance to

the idea of the finite verb to which it is joined (so in the original passage of

Isaiah, and perhaps in Mark; compare also “seeing” in the next verse), but

are to be taken separately, i.e. “Though they have powers of seeing and of

hearing, they nevertheless do not so use these powers as to see and hear”

(for the thought, compare Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2). Thus in meaning,

though not in form, as compared with the next verse, seeing is equivalent

to “seeing ye shall see;” they see not, to “and shall in no wise perceive;”

hearing, to “hearing ye shall hear;” they hear not, to “and shall in no wise

understand.”

 

14 “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By

hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall

see, and shall not perceive:”  And in them; and unto them (Revised Version);

i.e. with reference to them (compare Jude 1:14). Is fulfilled. Completely

(ἀναπληροῦται anaplaeroutaiis being filled up; compare I Thessalonians 2:16).

The present, because the process is still going on. The prophecy of Esaias, which

saith (Isaiah 6:9-10). Not quoted in this form in the parallel passages; for Mark 4:12

and Luke 8:10 are really nearer our v. 13. The quotation is taken verbally from the

Septuagint, and so in Acts 28:26-27. But John 12:40, on the contrary, is nearer the

Hebrew. By hearing ye shall hear (ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε akoae akouseteto hearing

ye shall be hearing). A too literal translation of the Greek attempt to reproduce the

Hebrew idiom, which is rather “hear ye indeed” as a continued action

(שמעו שמוע). And shall not understand (ch.11:25, note); and seeing ye shall

see, and shall not perceive. You may gaze at the object, but you shall not really

see it. So with the bodily eye, an image may be formed in the retina, yet no

 impression conveyed to the brain.

 

15 “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of

hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they

should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should

understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should

heal them.” For this people’s heart is waxed gross. There are two ways

of understanding this verse as it comes here.

 

(1) It states the reason why God pronounced the judgment of v. 14. The

people’s heart had already become fat, lest (μήποτε maepote - lest at some time –

will then express the effect from the Divine point of view) they should see, etc.

 

(2) It merely enlarges the statement of v. 14, expanding its meaning (for

this force of γάρ – gar - for, compare Mark 2:15; Luke 18:32): their heart is

waxed fat (by God’s judgment for preceding sins), lest they should see, etc. This

second explanation is preferable, for it alone suits the imperative found in

the Hebrew (compare the transitive verbs in John 12:40), and is strictly

parallel to the introductory vs. 11-13, which do not dwell upon the

causes of God’s judgment. And their ears are dull of hearing, and their

eyes have they closed; lest at any time (ch. 4:6, note) they

should see; perceive (Revised Version) — to recall the same word in v. 14.

With their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand

with their heart. Notice the order; first came heart, ears, eyes; here, eyes,

ears, heart.  And should be converted; and should turn again (Revised Version,

ἐπιστρέψωσι epistrepsosishould be turning about); for “to be

converted” has acquired too technical a meaning. And I should heal them

(καὶ ἰάσομαι αὐτούς kai iasomai autousand I should be healing them).

The verb is still dependent on the lest (compare ch. 5:25; 7:6), but the future

brings out the certainty of God’s healing them on their turning, etc.

 

vs. 16-17 - Parallel passage: Luke 10:23-24, after the return of

the seventy, and immediately following our ch.11:25, 27. The

verses stand there, that is to say, in close connection with the other great

utterance contrasting God’s revelation of spiritual things to some and His

hiding them from others. Possibly He spoke the verses only once (compare

the repetitions in the Prophets), but, in view of the frequency with which

Christ’s utterances are placed out of their original connection, the

assumption should be the other way. If He really only spoke them once, we

cannot be sure which the occasion was, but the possibility that they do not

properly belong here is increased by the doubt whether also v. 12 was

originally spoken now.

 

16 “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they

hear.”  But blessed (ch. 5:3, note) are your eyes. Christ now returns to

emphasize v. 11a. For they see (ὅτι βλέπουσινhoti blepousinthat they

are observing). This may refer to the disciples being able to see spiritual truths

before God’s special grace given them by way of reward to this effect, but this

hardly suits the context from the phrase, “it is given” (v. 12). It is, therefore,

better to understand the verse to refer to their seeing and hearing things by

virtue of grace given in reward for earlier faithfulness.

 

17 “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men

have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen

them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard

them.”  For verily (ch. 5:18, note). Not in the parallel passage; it is much more

common in Matthew than Luke. Our Lord contrasts His disciples’ “blessedness”

not only with the state of their contemporaries, but with that of their predecessors

in faith. I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men. Those who were

specially favored with insight into God’s methods, and those who approached most

closely to His standard of righteousness. Righteous men; “kings” in Luke.

Luke’s readers would probably not appreciate the force of the term,

“righteous men.” to the same degree that Matthew’s would. Have

desired (ἐπεθύμησαν epethumaesan - yearn). To see those things which ye

see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and

have not heard them (compare Hebrews 11:13; I Peter 1:10-12).

 

                       

                        The Reason of the Parable (vs. 10-17)

 

After our Lord had discoursed in parables to the multitude assembled on

the seashore, His disciples inquired of Him why He used that mode of

teaching, for hitherto he had spoken in simple and explicit language. The

reply shows that the design was:

 

·         TO EVINCE THE SPIRITUALITY OF SAVING TRUTH.

 

Ø      It is a mystery to be revealed.

 

o        The universe is dual, having material and spiritual complements.

                              Between these there are wonderful correspondences. There are,

                              therefore, similitudes in abundance in the visible to illustrate

                              the spiritual.

o        Yet we cannot, by natural reason unaided, attain to the knowledge of

                              the spiritual. We know not how to apply the similitudes.

o        Revelation from God is therefore necessary to supply this need. “The

                              things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God.”

o        So this knowledge comes to us as a gift from God. 1 Kings 3:9, 12;

      Proverbs 2:6; John 3:27; James 1:5-6, 17).

 

·         TO LIMIT THE REVELATION OF THE SAVING TRUTH.

 

Ø      It was to hide it from the false.

 

o        The disciples perceived that in using the parable Jesus intended to

                              conceal His meaning, and this prompted their question. The answer

                              confirmed their suspicion.

 

o        It also showed that it was a judgment upon unbelief. Jesus did not at

                              first discourse in parables. He adopted this method after His message

                              had been refused. The Pharisees had seen the grandest miracles; they

                              had heard the noblest doctrine; they were only moved to rancor. Now

                              He abandons them to their obduracy. Pharaoh for a long time hardened

                              his heart; then God hardened it for him (see Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:12; 10:20).

                              A gross heart is a heart stupefied by sensual indulgence (see Deuteronomy

                              32:15; Psalm 58:4-5).

 

o        In the passage cited from Isaiah the prophet anticipated the judgments

                              which came upon the Jewish nation in the Babylonish captivity (see

                              Isaiah 6:9-12). But the prophecy also refers to the days of Messiah.

                             This is suggested in the fact that it was uttered in connection with a vision

                              of the glory of the Lord which was the glory of Christ (see John 12:39-41).

                             This double or second fulfillment is recognized in the words, “in them

                             is fulfilled” (v. 14), ἀναπληροῦται anaoplaeroutaiis being filled

                             up - , again fufilled.” So the parabolic teaching of Jesus was a prelude

                             to the abandonment of the nation to the terrible consequences of their

                            unbelief.

 

o        The Gentile also has his admonition. From him that hath not, uses not,

                              God’s gifts, the gifts will be withdrawn. They will not see, therefore they

                               shall not see. They will not be converted, therefore they shall not be

                               converted. God says this at the end of every sinner’s life. Sometimes He

                               says it before the sinner’s life is ended.

 

Ø      It was to preserve it for the true.

 

o        The parable encourages the diligent. The similitude is striking and

                              pleasing, and arrests attention. It is a mystery, or secret thing. Its

                              meaning is not on the surface. Inquisitiveness is excited. The

                              prayerful heart has the help of the Spirit of truth. So the parable

                              is “a shell that keeps good fruit for the diligent, but keeps it from

                              the slothful” (Matthew Henry).

 

o        A man has what he uses. What he uses not he only seems to have

      (compare Luke 8:18). What a man uses not is wasted; but in the

      using it becomes a part of himself. Its resultant is in his character.

     Thus it is preserved. He hath it.

 

o        God increases His gifts to those who use them. Men act on the same

                              principle. Truth attained is the key to truth concealed. For in all truth is

                              unity and harmony. In the disciples of Christ is fulfilled the promised

                              blessing, viz. that the eyes of them that see shall not be dim (Isaiah

                              32:3).

 

o        Those who now “see through a glass darkly” shall in the world to come

                              see “face to face.”  (I Corinthians 13:12)  The noblest blessings are

                              entailed upon the true understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom

                              of heaven.

 

 

                        Christians Enjoying What Prophets Desired (v. 17)

 

They who truly receive the teaching of Christ and profit by it enjoy privileges which

prophets and righteous men longed for in vain.

 

  • THE PROPHETS’ DESIRES. The saints and seers of antiquity were not

            satisfied with the revelations made to them and the favor bestowed upon

            them. They looked forward to a glorious future when fuller light should

            appear, and when greater works of heavenly power should be

            accomplished. Let us consider the objects of the prophets’ desire, what

            things they were the prophets longed to see and hear.

 

Ø      The vision of God. Job yearned to see God (Job 23:3). The older

                        revelations of God awakened a hunger for a nearer vision. The best

                        men of antiquity desired above all things to “see the King in His beauty.”

                        (Isaiah 33:17)

 

Ø      The redemption of man. Some were satisfied with the course of events

                        and the condition of the world. But two classes of men were profoundly

                        dissatisfied, viz.

 

o        prophets, who saw the truth of God and perceived the falseness

      of the world, its direct antagonism to the Divine will; and

 

o        righteous men, who had a keen conscience, and were horrified

      at the sin and guilt of mankind. Both of these saw that only ruin

      faced man when left to himself; both cried out for A DIVINE

      REDEMPTION!

 

Ø      The advent of the kingdom of heaven. This was the grand topic of

                        Messianic prophecy; it was the supreme object of the patient hope of

                        devout people, such as Anna and Simeon at the time of our Lord’s infancy

                        (Luke 2:25-38). Such a hope went beyond deliverance and redemption;

                        it pointed to A GOLDEN AGE in the future excelling the best days of

                        the past.

 

  • THE CHRISTIANS’ PRIVILEGES. Christ congratulates His true

            disciples on their happy estate. Let us consider what privileges this brings.

 

Ø      THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST!.

 

o        He is the Revelation of God, longed for by prophets, but never seen

      in Old Testament times. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father

      and it sufficeth us;” and Jesus replied, “He that hath seen me hath

      seen the Father”  (John 14:8-9).

 

o        He, too, brings redemption, for He is the Redeemer, and He comes

      to save the world by the sacrifice of Himself.

 

o        He establishes the kingdom of heaven, for He is its King. When

      Christ has come to us the kingdom is among us. But many saw

      Christ “after the flesh,” in His bodily presence, and yet discerned

      none of these things. We do not see Him walking in our streets or

      sitting at our table. Yet when we see Him with the eyes of the heart,

      and perceive His Divine and redeeming presence, ours also is the

      vision longed for by the good and wise in ancient time.

 

Ø      The Word of life. This is what Christians hear. It is the good news of

                        salvation in Christ. But it is also a living Word that awakens dead souls and

                        quickens the Divine life within men. All who are within reach of the gospel

                        may be familiar with the sound of this Word. But, alas! how many never

                        perceive that to them has come a privilege greatly desired by prophets and

                        righteous men of old. This Word must be heard in the heart to be appreciated.

                        Then its gracious tones awaken responses of faith and love, because then it

                        speaks in deep harmonies as the very music of heaven.

 

vs. 18-23 - The explanation of the parable of the sower. Parallel passages:

Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15. Observe that after the preceding verses Matthew’s

readers would the more easily catch the lesson of the parable.

 

18 “Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.”  Matthew only.

Hear ye therefore; Revised Version, hear ye then, which leaves

more room for the rightful emphasis on ye (ὑμεῖς humeis - ye) than

the Authorized Version, but hardly gives the full force of οϋνounthen;

therefore), i.e. in accordance with the privileges that have been given you.

The parable of the sower.

 

19 “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth

it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which

was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way

side.”  When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and

understandeth it not. Understandeth. The form of the explanation here is

influenced by the language of vs. 14-15. Then (not in the Greek)

cometh the wicked one; the evil one (Revised Version); ch.6:13, note.

And catcheth (snatcheth, Revised Version) away seizeth

for himself (ἁρπάζειharpazeiis snatching, ch.11:12, note) — that

which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed. That was

sown (Revised Version, σπαρείς – ho spareisthe one being sown).

And so throughout. The masculine is not merely concise, but also expresses

the fact that, as even with land, the man who receives the seed does not put

forth in turn merely the seed as something alien, but rather himself so far as

he is influenced by the seed; or (regarding the subject from another point of view)

he puts forth the new life and energy of the seed as conditioned by that which

makes up himself.

 

20 “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that

heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;”  And anon;

and straightway (Revised Version, καὶ εὐθύς kai euthus - straightway).

 

21 “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when

tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he

is offended.”  But dureth for a while (ἀλλὰ πρόσκαιρός ἐστινalla

proskairos estinbut temporary is). Luke’s οἱ πρὸς καιρὸν πιστεύουσιν

hoi pros kairon pisteuousinwho toward season is believing, is an evidently

later form. (For the thought, compare John 5:35.) By and by; straightway

(Revised Version, εὐθύς (straightway). He is offended (ch. 5:29, note).

 

The superficial readily accept the truth, profess it, but, discovering that

the cross must go before the crown, renounce the crown to avoid the cross.

“Swift to come, swift to go.”

 

22 “He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the

word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches,

choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.”  And the care (ἡ µέριµνα

hae merimnaand the worry); ch.6:25, note. Of this world (of the world, Revised

Version, τοῦ αἰῶνος tou aionosof the eon, omitting the τούτου toutouthis –

 of the Received Text). (For αἰών aion - age [“age,” Revised Version margin],

compare ch.12:32, note.) Choke the word. Which is no unchanging thing, but

is always affected for good or evil, however great progress it has made.

 

“The deceitfulness of riches” is a significant phrase. It suggests:

            (a) That riches promise more than they give.

            (b) That men are readily deluded by them.

 

23 “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth

the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and

bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Which also; who verily (Revised Version, ς δή - hos dae -the one yet),

the particle giving exactness, to the relative.  Some;   μεν ho men –

 which indeed. Neuter, and so the Vulgate. Nominative, the thought refers

to the seed as such (compare v. 8). An hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty.

The reason of the difference in the produce of the good ground is not stated,

but, according to the tenor of the whole passage since v. 3. this lay in a

difference already existing within this good ground. Into the question of the

ultimate cause of some men being in a better state of preparedness to receive

Divine truths than others, our Lord does not enter. Prevenient (preceding in

time or order) grace is not  always to be insisted upon in practical exhortation.

 

 

 

The Parable of the Sower (vs. 1-23)

 

·         THE CIRCUMSTANCES

 

Ø      The time. It was the day, Matthew says (the order in Luke is different),

on which our Lord had cast the devil out of the blind and dumb

man; the day on which the Pharisees had so fiercely accused Him of being in

cahoots with Satan; when His own mother and brethren had feared for

His safety, and sought to guide and regulate His work; when, as appears

from Luke (Luke 11:37), a Pharisee had invited Him in no friendly

spirit to his house, and there the disagreement had been so great, the

antagonism so marked and intense, that the scribes and Pharisees, in their

bitter anger, pressed vehemently upon Him, catechizing him with wrathful

and ensnaring questions, to find, if possible, an opportunity for accusing

Him. “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the seaside.”

After all that fury of opposition He was quiet and collected. In the holy

calm of His soul He was able to think of others, able to teach them on that

very day of strife. It is a blessed thing to be enabled by the grace of God to

turn from the cares and conflicts of life to holy meditation, and to find rest

for our troubled soul in communion with God.

 

Ø      The audience. Multitudes followed Him, excited probably by the startling

events of the day. They longed to hear again the great Teacher who had

held His ground against those famous rabbis, and had convicted them of

hypocrisy and envy and falsehood. Many, doubtless, came from curiosity,

some from better reasons. The Lord would lose no opportunity of saving

souls. Wearied as He must have been, He went into a boat and sat down to

preach to them, the whole multitude standing on the beach of fine white

sand that borders the lake.

 

Ø      His mode of teaching. He spake in parables; now, it seems, for the first

time. The parable was a bright, lively way of presenting truth, best suited

for the dull understanding of the listeners. It would excite their interest; it

would rivet their attention; it would stimulate them to think. The parables

of Christ have sunk deep into the very heart of the Church. Perhaps they

have been especially blessed to the simple and the unlearned; but they have

been a rich store of spiritual teaching for all Christian people, the most

educated as well as the ignorant; they have given us many precious sayings,

current now in daily life; they have colored our language. Another

advantage in the use of parables at that time was that the parable would

give the Lord’s enemies no opportunity for their malicious accusations.

They might perceive (as in ch. 21:45) that He spake of them, or

with reference to their doctrine; but they could find no ground for a charge

of heresy. We shall meet with another reason for the introduction of this

mode of teaching in vs. 13-15.

 

·         THE STORY.

 

Ø      The call for attention. “Behold,” the Lord said; in Mark there is the

further preface, “Hearken.” It is the Lord who speaks. We must listen; we

must give Him the attention which He claims. His words are simple, but they

are full of spiritual instruction. Meditate on them; pray over them. They

will throw a light on the dark mysteries of human life; they will guide us on

our way to God.

 

Ø      The incidents. They were taken from the commonest details of daily life.

The Lord’s hearers might see them any day at sowing time. Perhaps they

were to be seen at that very moment. It may well be that the Lord, sitting

on the raised prow of the boat, could see the corn land descending, as we

are told it does, to the water’s edge. He saw, it may be, the sower as he

went forth to sow. He could see the hard-trodden pathway running through

the midst, with no fence to prevent the seed from falling on it. He could see

the countless birds hovering over the rich Plain of Gennesaret. He could

see the rocky ground of the hillside protruding here and there through the

cornfield. He could see the large bushes of thorns springing up, as they do

now, in the midst of the wheat. “He could see the good rich soil, which

distinguishes the whole of that plain and its neighborhood from the bare

hills elsewhere descending into the lake, and which, where there is no

interruption, produces one vast mass of corn” (Stanley, ‘Sinai and

Palestine,’ pp. 426-427). And He saw in these common sights a happy

illustration of the varied effects of that Word of everlasting life which He

came to preach. Happy are those who see in earthly things the shadows of

heavenly realities, who walk by faith, not by sight.

 

Ø      The enforcement. “Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The Lord had

bespoken attention at the beginning; He enforces that requirement again. He

had shadowed forth solemn truths in those simple words; He would have

men ponder them in their hearts. But; not all would do so, He knew. All had

listened with the outward ear; but to many it was simply a story, a story

and nothing more. They would not penetrate into its real meaning; they had

not ears to hear. But “who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Let him whose

heart God hath opened weigh well these holy words, for they relate to the

most momentous issues in our earthly life.

 

·         THE CONVERSATION WITH THE DISCIPLES.

 

Ø      Their question. It was the first time, it seems, that the Lord had taught

by parables. His disciples were struck by the change in his mode of

teaching. When the multitude had departed and they were alone (Mark

4:10), they asked him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” Men

who are in earnest will be inquirers after truth.

 

Ø      The Lords answer.

 

o        His immediate disciples were more advanced in religious knowledge

than the multitude; they had had the inestimable advantage of His teaching

and example. It was given unto them to know the mysteries of the kingdom

of God — those secrets which are revealed to faith and love. Those secrets

are mysteries, unintelligible and incredible to the worldly and the

unconverted; hidden from the wise and prudent of the world, but revealed

to the babes in Christ. That knowledge is a gift; it is not gained by thought

and study. It is given in the gift of the Holy Spirit of God to those who

come to Christ in faith. It is not given to all, for not all have the will to

come, It is a law in spiritual as in natural things, that “whosoever hath, to

him shall be given.” It is so in all the various aspects of life — in the pursuit

of wealth, honor, learning. Wealth leads to wealth; one step in rank to

another; the learning already gained is the means for acquiring more. There

must be energy, ability, industry. So in things spiritual there must be a

receptivity, an honest and good heart ready to receive the holy seed; even

that is God’s gift. Every measure of grace given is a means of gaining

more. There is a continued progress from strength to strength, nearer and

nearer to God. “But whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away

even that he hath;” or, as it is in Luke 8:18, “that which he seemeth to

have.” The one talent must be taken from him who doth not use it. He

seemed to have, but it was only seeming. That is not really ours which is

hidden in the earth, which is not used. The means of grace, the

opportunities of improvement, what seems to be natural goodness, the very

receptivity of grace, — all this must at last be taken away from him who

hath not (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-29).

 

o        The fulfilment of prophecy. The prophecy of Isaiah, fulfilled first in the

prophet’s own experience, was fulfilled again in its ultimate meaning in the

result of the preaching of Christ. The multitude heard His words, and yet

they heard not, for they did not understand them with the understanding of

faith. They saw Him, and yet they saw not; for they saw only His outward

form, and failed to perceive His Divine character. Their heart was gross and

their ears dull, and they had closed their eyes, lest they should see and hear

and understand, and should turn unto Christ. It is instructive to notice that

in the prophecy the gross heart and the dull ears and the closed eyes are

attributed to the will of God. The blindness is a judicial infliction, a penal

visitation. But here our Lord Himself seems to give a somewhat different

turn to the prophet’s words. The blindness is self-caused. “Their eyes they

have closed.” Then these two statements, contradictory as they may seem,

must really express only two sides of the same truth. Both are true; we

cannot wholly reconcile them; we incline sometimes towards the one,

sometimes towards the other. We cannot yet unite them in one point of

view. We must be content with our imperfect vision now; we shall see

plainly hereafter. In some sense, then, the use of parables was penal. That

mode of teaching would conceal the truth from the profane and hard

hearted, from those who had willfully closed their eyes and judged

themselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46). The parables

conveyed precious lessons of spiritual wisdom to the thoughtful; to

careless hearers they were mere ordinary stories. God, in his awful justice,

hides the truth at last from those who will not see it. It is a law of His

moral government that perseverance in sin should result in hardness of

heart and insensibility to the truth. That law is the ordinance of God, the

expression of His holy will. The sinner by his obstinacy in sin brings

himself under its operation. Hence it is that Holy Scripture tells us

sometimes that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, sometimes that Pharaoh

hardened it himself.

 

o        The blessedness of the disciples. Their eyes were blessed, for they saw

the Christ of God; they saw Him not only with the outward eye, as others

saw, but with the vision of faith. Their ears were blessed, for they heard His

holy words. They heard them not only with the outward ear, as scribes and

Pharisees heard; but they heard them with the spiritual understanding, with

the attentive ear of obedience. Many prophets and righteous men had

longed to see and hear the Christ. Abraham had seen His day by faith, Isaiah

had seen His life in the prophetic vision. But they had seen only glimpses.

They had seen the promises afar off, and were persuaded of them, and

embraced them. Now the Christ was come; the kingdom of heaven was in

the world. Blessed are those who see by faith the Lord Christ, and hear His

voice speaking to them in their hearts, guiding, teaching, comforting.

 

·         THE INTERPRETATION.

 

Ø      The seed. It is the Word of God. Even the weightier words of men are

seeds germinant with a living power; they strike root in the heart, and

produce, sometimes noxious weeds and poisonous fruit, sometimes good

and fruitful growths. How much more is this true of the living Word of

God! The Lord Jesus Himself was the Sower. Others, in their measure, have

been sowers — his apostles, evangelists, and pastors — but, in the first and

highest sense, the Lord Himself. He had been sowing now for many months.

His holy words had taken root in some faithful hearts; many had heard

listlessly without serious thought; some, like the Pharisees, had rejected the

Word with scorn and anger. He is the Sower, and in a true and deep sense

He Himself is the Seed. He soweth the Word, and he is the Word. The

spoken word will not live in the hearts of the hearers without His grace, His

presence. Christians are born again of incorruptible seed — “by the Word

of God, which liveth and abideth forever” (I Peter 1:23; compare also

I John 3:9). That incorruptible seed is the grace of Christ, Christ’s

presence, Christ Himself abiding in the heart by His Spirit. His grace lives in

the soul, growing, spreading through the heart, filling it with a new life,

transforming him in whom the seed abideth into the measure of the stature

of the fullness of Christ. The Word soweth the Word. He is both Sower and

Seed, as He is both Priest and Sacrifice.

 

Ø      The wayside. Some hear, but do not heed; they do not send their

thoughts forth to meet the Word. It falls upon their ears; it does not excite

their attention; it does not reach their hearts. And that for two reasons.

 

o        Their heart is hard, like the path through the cornfields. The path,

trodden by many feet, was hard and dry; the seed could only lie on the

surface; it could not sink into the earth. Such is the soil offered by many

hearers to the holy Word of God. The Lord sowed all the field over; his

followers must do the same. They must not choose one part which seems

likely to be fruitful and neglect another which seems unpromising; they

must try to reach all who are within the sphere of their influence. But there

are, alas! many hearts worn hard by worldliness and selfishness, trodden

into the hardness of stone by the constant passage of worldly thoughts and

worldly cares. Such cannot receive the Word. It lies outside; it cannot

enter. All that is high and holy, all that speaks of Christ and heaven, and of

the life of faith and love, is unintelligible to such men. “The natural man

receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto

him.”  (I Corinthians 2:14) 

 

o        The fowls came and devoured it. The Word was not received into the

heart; the wicked one cometh and taketh it immediately away. Such men

have exposed themselves to his devices; for the hard-trodden path was

good ground once. The hard heart was once tender, receptive of the truth.

“Today if ye will hear His voice,” said the psalmist, “harden not your

hearts.” They who will not listen to the solemn warning expose themselves

to the wiles of the devil. His evil spirits, countless like the fowls of the air,

carry off the good seed. They fill the cold, unheeding heart with idle

thoughts, with selfish and wicked imaginations; and the good seed is lost.

“Take heed how ye hear.” The good seed is precious exceedingly. Lose it

not; to lose the good seed is to lose the very life.

 

o        The stony places. Here and there in the field the rock rose to the surface;

there was a thin covering of earth lying on a sheet of rock. The seed could

not sink in; it sprang up quickly because it had no deepness of earth. But

when the sun was up it was scorched; it had no moisture, no root, and it

withered away. The heart was as hard as in the first case; it was utterly

selfish, it had no capacity of real self-denial. But it had an appearance of

softness. There was an outside of feeling, or what seemed like feeling; there

was quickness of apprehension, a lively interest in novelties, a liking for

excitement. But there was no depth, no real conviction, no truth of love.

Underneath that outside of seeming life there lay the heart unchanged,

unconverted, hard and cold as rock. Such persons are easily excited; they

receive the Word with joy. But it is only the external beauty of religion, its

attractiveness, its poetry, that charms them; they like religious excitement

just as they like other forms of excitement. But they have not counted the

cost; they have looked only on the fair side of religion, not on its severer

aspect. They have never thought deeply of the sharpness of the cross, of

their own danger, of the sacrifices which the cross demands. That

premature joy is often a bad sign; it often means that there is no sense of

sin, no genuine sorrow and contrition for the past. Such a one has no

perseverance; he dureth for a while, but only for a while. The novelty wears

off; perhaps trouble comes, or sickness and pain. The sun kindles into more

vigorous life the deeply rooted plants; it scorches those that have no depth.

So it is with affliction; it refines and strengthens the true disciple who is

rooted in Christ; it offends the superficial Christian. The religion of

excitement and outward form will not help us in sickness and in the hour of

death; we want something deeper. The root of the plant is not seen; it is

hidden in the earth. So is the true life of the Christian. It is rooted in Christ,

hidden with Christ in God. Such a man doth not fall away in time of

temptation; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. He does not need

novelty and excitement. The old story of the love of Christ is ever new to

him. Nothing can separate him from the love of Christ, neither tribulation

nor distress; for he dwelleth in Christ, and Christ in him.

 

o        The thorns. In this case the soil is good; the seed sinks deep; all promises

well. But there were thorn roots left in the ground. The thorn bushes had

been burnt or cut off, but the roots remained. And so the thorns sprang up

with the wheat and absorbed its nourishment, and grew above it, taking

away its light and heat. It did not wither, it still grew; there were stalk and

leaves and ear; but the ear was empty; there was no fruit. The Lord is

thinking of men, not superficial and thoughtless like those described last,

but men of character, men of depth and thought and power, men of

earnestness and stability. But, alas! there are thorn roots. Such a man might

have been a great saint; he becomes only a great merchant, or a great

writer, or a great statesman. He never casts aside his profession of religion.

He is upright, moral, attentive to the outward ordinances of worship. But

he brings no fruit to perfection; and that because of the thorn roots. He had

not by diligent self-examination and anxious prayer weeded out the

tendencies to worldliness which lie in every heart. They grew up, and

acquired daily more height and strength. The soil was good, the thorns

grew thick and strong and high. He met with great successes; he prospered

in his undertakings; his engagements became more and more numerous. His

cares increased. The cares of this world little by little filled his heart,

leaving him no time, he supposed, for thought and self-examination and

prayer. He grows rich; his riches become a snare; they draw him further

from Christ. The love of money, the root of all evil, becomes a tyrant

passion; it rules his heart. Or, it may be, the pleasures of this life allure him

with their deceitful glitter; and he fritters away in frivolous gaieties the

talents that might have raised him high in the service of Christ. All the time

he keeps up the respectabilities of a religious profession; his life is decent

and fair to look upon. There are leaves, but no fruit. The thorns have

choked the wheat. The cares and pleasures of life have filled the heart that

should have been given to Christ. He has no time, no thought, no real love,

for the things that belong to his peace. He beareth no fruit. The fruit of

holy thoughts, holy words, and holy deeds; the blessed fruit of the Spirit —

love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness,

temperance; — he hath none of these things. He might have been a saint of

God; but, alas! he hath gained the world, he hath lost his soul.

 

o        The good ground. The honest and true heart is the good ground. Such a

heart offers no hindrance to the growth of the Divine seed, to the gracious

inworking of the Holy Spirit of God. The soil is deep; there are no thorn

roots; or rather they have been extirpated by diligent care. The heart is

thoughtful and serious; evil passions and covetous desires have been

subdued by the grace of God. Such men bring forth fruit with patience.

They go on from strength to strength in patient continuance of well doing.

They differ from one another in their natural gifts, in their opportunities;

also in the degree of their devotion, their self-denial. But all bring forth the

fruit of holy living, “some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” “One

star differeth from another star in glory;” but all are bright, shining with the

reflected glory of the Sun of Righteousness.

 

Ø      General reflections.

 

o        The honest and good heart is good only because God hath made it so.

“There is none righteous, no, not one.” The living seed of the Word hath a

power which earthly seed hath not. Not only hath it life in itself, but it

fertilizes the soil on which it falls; it gives richness and depth to the ground

that once was barren. “By the grace of God I am what I am.” It is His grace

that makes the heart good and honest. That grace is offered to all. He

giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” The Sower sowed the

precious seed all the field over. The seed has the same life-giving power

wherever it falls. The hard heart, the shallow heart, the heart filled full with

cares or given up to pleasures, need not always remain what now they are.

The holy seed, if received and cherished, will give richness and depth and

freedom. The distinctions figured in the parable are not fixed and

immutable. Thank God, the wicked man may turn from his wickedness

which he hath committed; he may do that which is lawful and right; he may

save his soul alive. The conditions of the soil may change. Yet there are

differences, the principles of which lie hidden in deepest mystery. Some

hearts have a receptivity for God’s grace; some have not. Some men come

to the light, hating their own darkness, feeling their sinfulness, drawn to the

light by its attractive power; others — strange and awful infatuation! —

love darkness rather than light, and will not come to the Light which

shineth in the world. But we must not despair; we know not what wonders

the grace of God may work. The Sower soweth the Word; he sows it

everywhere. His servants must do the like, sowing in all soils, even the

hardest and most unpromising, in humble faith and hope.

 

o        We may notice a progress in the three classes of hearers figured in the

parable.

 

§         In the first case the seed does not spring up at all;

§         in the second, it springs up, but is withered almost immediately;

§         in the third it is checked, but not withered; it yields stalk and leaves

and empty ears, but brings no fruit to perfection.

 

The first understand not; the second receive the Word with joy; the third do

something more — they “go forth,” they enter on the way that leadeth unto

life; but while they are on the way (πορευόμενοι  - poreuomenoi - going)

the Word is choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life. It has

been noticed that the first is more the fault of careless, inattentive childhood;

the second, of ardent, shallow youth; the third, of worldly, self-seeking age. 

All three cases are sad; the last is the saddest, “for it had been better for

them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have

known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them”

 (II Peter 2:21).

 

Pray for an honest and good heart. God can soften the hard hearted; He

can make the frivolous thoughtful; He can turn men from the cares of the

world to the holy love of Christ. Pray always; despair not.

 

vs. 24-30  - The parable of the tares. Matthew only. The parable of the

sower dealt with the first reception of the gospel; this deals with the after-

development.  The aim of this parable is to prevent over-optimistic

expectations as to the purity of the society of believers, and to hinder rash

attempts to purify it by merely external processes. Archbishop Benson (‘Dict. of

Christian Biogr.,’ 1:745) calls attention to the fact that the first extant exposition

of this parable is in Cyprian’s successful appeal to the Novatianists not to separate

from the Church (Ep. 54.).  The aim of the somewhat similar parable in Mark 4:26-29

is:

 

·         to show the slowness and gradualness of the growth of the kingdom

      of heaven, and

·         AND THE CERTAINTY OF ITS CONSUMATION!   

 

So many words and phrases in the two parables are identical, that the possibility

of one being derived from the other, either by omission or addition, must be

acknowledged, but the definiteness of the aim in each points rather to their being

originally two distinct parables.

 

The divisions of the parable are:

 

(1) The fact of tares being present as well as good seed, and its cause (vs. 24-28a).

(2) Although there is the natural desire to gather out the tares at once, yet,

      on account of the impossibility of doing so without destroying some of the

      good seed, this must not be attempted. At the proper time full separation

     shall be made by the proper agents (vs. 28b-30).

 

 

The Beginning of Parables (vs. 1-23)

(see also Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15)

 

Utilize introduction to dwell on the plain assertions of vs. 10-17.

However deep their real theological meaning, however mysterious their

significance in respect of the sovereign conduct of the world and the

judgment of mankind, the statements are plain. The deep, unfathomable

fact underlying the quotation from Isaiah (vs. 14-15) is not altogether

free from offering some analogy to the subject of the sin against the Holy

Ghost (see our homily, supra), “not to be forgiven, in this world nor in the

world to come.” In the very pleasantest paths of the gospel the inscrutable

meets us, and stands right across our way; yet not at all to destroy us, but

to order knowledge, faith, and reverence. It is plain, from the express

assertion of Christ, that it is to be regarded by us as some of the highest of

our privilege, to have authoritative revelation of matters that may be called

knowledge in “things present or things to come,” which may be

nevertheless utterly inscrutable. The absolutely mysterious in the individual

facts of our individual life, and for which, nevertheless, the current of that

life does not stand still, may stand in some sort of analogy to these greater

phenomena and greater pronouncements of Divine knowledge and

foreknowledge. The promise is not to be found — it were an impossible

promise to find — that the marvels of Heaven’s government of earth

should be all intelligible to us, or should be all of them even uttered in

revelation. But some are uttered; they are written, and there, deep graven,

they lie from age to age, weather beaten enough, yet showing no wear, no

attrition, no obliteration of their hieroglyphic inscription — hieroglyphic

not for their alphabet, but confessedly for their construction, and the

vindicating of it. Note also, in introduction, that the seven parables related

in this chapter, a rich cluster, certainly appear from internal evidence (alike

the language of the evangelist, v. 3; that of the disciples in their question,

v. 10; and that of Christ Himself, vs. 9, 13) to have been the first

formally spoken by Christ. Of the beginning of parables, therefore, as of the

beginning of miracles, we are for some reason specifically advised. Notice:

 

  • THE PERFECT NATURALNESS, FAMILIAR HOMELINESS,

EXQUISITE APTNESS, OF THE MATERIAL OUT OF WHICH THE

STRUCTURE OF THIS PARABLE IS MADE. Seed and soil; Sower and

sowing; and, to throw moving life into the picture, the touch thrown in of

the sower “going forth” to sow.

 

  • THE SPECIFIC SUBJECT OF THIS PARABLE — AN

ILLUSTRATION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, i.e. THE WILL

OF GOD “DONE IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” Such an

illustration might be given very variously. The view might be taken from

many a point of vantage, and as the kingdom should be found growing or

grown at many a date. This Christ might have given from all His stores of

knowledge, and His true gift, true possession, of foresight. He might have

shown it in the early days of martyrs; He might have shown it when

Constantine proclaimed it the kingdom of Europe, and something beside;

He might have shown it as Christendom projects it now; or He might have

shown it even as glimpses — so strange are they that we are frightened to

fix our gaze on them — are flashed before our doubting vision in the

wonderful Book of the Revelation. But that which Jesus did really choose

to give was one of a more present, practical character. It was, as one might

suppose from very first glance, an illustration of sowing time. The sowing

time of :

 

Ø      God’s truth,

Ø      God’s will,

Ø      God’s love and grace,

 

            in the midst of a hard, and unprepared, and shallow, and ill-preoccupied world —

            witth nevertheless some better, some more promising material, in it.

 

  • THE ILLUSTRATION ITSELF IN DETAIL. It consists of the

statement of the ways in which men would act on the “hearing” of the

“Word of God.” Four leading ways are described.

 

Ø      That of the man who is said (in Christ’s own interpretation of his

parable) “not to understand” the Word spoken; i.e. he has no sympathy

with it, he possesses no instinct for it, finds awakened within him no

response whatever. This is the man whose receptive state amounts to

nothing. As the trodden path (all the more trodden and more hard as it is

comparatively narrow) across the ploughed field is approached again and

again by the bountifully flinging hand of the sower, as he paces the acres,

even it receives of the good seed, but its callous surface finds no entrance

for it, offers it no fertilizing or even fertilized resting place, and yet others,

who at least better know its value, for whatsoever reason, see it, seize it,

and bear it off.

 

Ø      That of the man who “anon with joy receives” the Word. But it is a

vapid and shallow joy. It does not last, it does not grow; its very root

withers. The coating of hardness is not, as in the callous pathway, visible to

the eye at first, for it is just concealed and covered over by a slightest layer

of earth, just below which the hardness is not simply like that of “rock,”

but it is rock itself. There is nothing that has such a root wherewith to root

itself as the Word of God, and this needs deep earth. Not the birds of the

air, not Satan and his evil emissaries, take this seed away, before ever it

could show a symptom of its own vital force, at any rate; this has shown its

vitality, and has detected, discovered, and laid ruinously bare to sight the

unsustaining, because itself unsustained, power to feed life, of that other

element, that other essential in the solemn matter.

 

Ø      That of the man “who hears the Word, but the cares of this world, and

the [seductive] deceitfulness of riches, and the [crowding] desires of other

things,” i.e. other things than the Word, “choke that Word, and it        

becometh unfruitful,” or, if not unfruitful altogether, “it bringeth no fruit to

perfection.” It is the seed, still the good seed, lost, wasted, mocked of its

glorious fruit, because that same liberal, scattering, Sower’s hand has not

grudged it, to earth, that is all the while attesting its own richness, quality,

force, by what is growing out of it, but is untilled, undressed, unweeded

thorns, briers, brambles, and all most precocious growths suffered to

tyrannize and usurp its best energies! How often have men moralized, and

justly, that the cleverness of the sinner, and his wisdom in his generation,

and his dexterity and resources when pushed to the last extremities, would

have made the saint, and the eminent saint, had his gifts, instead of being so

prostituted, so miserably misdirected, been turned in the right direction,

fixed on the right objects! But short far of flagrant vice, true it is that the

absorbing things and the seductive things and the crowding competition of

desires of things of this world, have, millions of times untold, choked the

Word.

 

o        No room,

o        no time,

o        no care,

o        no energy,

 

                      has been left for the things of eternal value, immortal wealth,

                      present holiness.

 

Ø      That of the man who heareth, and understandeth, who also beareth

fruit;” or again, “who in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word,

keeps it, and brings forth fruit with patience.” It is the seed, that pricelessly

good seed, which now at last has found its appropriate earth. It falls not on

the hard pathway; it falls not on the treacherous, deceptive, depthlessness,

all radiant with light and sun though it be; it falls not on the soil bearing at

the same time incontestable evidence of two things:

 

o        its own power to grow, and

o        its own doomed state to grow the things “whose end is to be

            burned.”

 

                        It falls “into the good ground.” We are in the presence of the

mystery, not of “who made us to differ,” but of how and why He who made

us to differ, did so. The practical part of the question is plain for every one

who has an eye to see. Every man must give account of himself at the last;

and every one MUST NOW prepare for that account. What sign of

“goodness,” what slightest germ of “goodness,” what instinct, as it may

seem, and power of “goodness,” any man’s heart, passing thought, life may

just suggest — if it be but like a suggestion — MUST BE:

 

o        reckoned with now,

o        improved now, and

o        solemnly consecrated NOW,

 

                        and the mystery will still for the present be left mystery. But the facts and the

                        results and the blessedness will speak for themselves. And the kingdom of

                        heaven be receiving its fairer and fairest illustration, instead of its darker

                        and darkest illustrations. That kingdom will be the more A “COMING

                        KINGDOM!”

 

 

             Parable of the Sower  (vs. 3-23)

 

The object of this parable is to explain the causes of the failure and success

of the gospel. It might have been supposed enough to proclaim the

kingdom. Why does this fail? It fails, says our Lord, because of the nature

of the soil. This soil is often impervious, often shallow, often dirty.

 

  • SOME SEEDS FELL BY THE WAYSIDE, AND THE FOWLS

CAME AND DEVOURED THEM.  The spiritual analogue is said to be in

him “who heareth the Word, but understandeth it not. The beaten

footpath and the cart track have their uses, but they grow no corn. The

seed may be of the best quality, but for all purposes of sowing you might as

well sprinkle pebbles or shot. So there is a hearing which keeps the Word

entirely outside. It does not even enter the understanding. It rouses no

inquiry, provokes no contradiction. You have occasion sometimes to

mention a fact to a friend which should alter all his purpose, but you find he

has not taken it in. So, says our Lord, there are hearers who do not take in

what is said; their understanding is impervious, impenetrable. They hear

because this has come to be one of the many employments with which they

fill up their time, but they have never considered why they should do so, or

what result they should look for. Or there may be a slowness and cold

frostiness of nature which prevents the seed from fructifying. The proposals

made suggest nothing to the wayside hearer. In some cases the seed

apparently lost for years is quickened and brings forth fruit, but in this case

never.

 

  • THE SECOND FAULT IS SHALLOWNESS. The sprinkling of soil

on the surface of the rock, where the seed quickly springs, and for the same

reason quickly decays. There is not depth of soil for any time to be spent in

rooting. The shallow hearer is distinguished by two characteristics — he

straightway receives the Word, and he receives it with joy. The man of

deeper character receives it with seriousness, reverence, trembling,

foreseeing the trials he will be subjected to. But while these are pondering

the vastness of the revelation and the majesty of the hope, and striving to

forecast all the results in and upon them, hesitating because they would

receive the Word for eternity or not at all, the superficial man has settled

the whole matter out of hand, and he who yesterday was known as a

scoffer is today a loud-voiced child of the kingdom. These men are almost

certainly taken to be the most earnest; you cannot see the root, and what is

seen is shown in greatest luxuriance by them. But the same nature which

made them susceptible to the gospel and quickly responsive makes them

susceptible to pain, suffering, hardship, and easily defeated. When

consequences have to be faced they give way. The question of how these

shallow natures can be saved hardly falls within the parable, but it may be

right to say a man’s nature may be deepened by the relationships and

conflicts of life. Much deepening of character is effected in passing through

life.

 

  • THE THIRD FAULT IS WHAT IS TECHNICALLY KNOWN AS

DIRT. The soil can only support a certain amount of vegetation, and every

living weed means a choked blade of corn. This is a picture of the

preoccupied heart, the rich vigorous nature occupied with so many other

interests that only a small part is available for giving effect to Christ’s

ideas. Their interest is real, but there are so many other cares and desires

that the result is scarcely discernible. The good crop is not the one with the

greatest density of vegetation, but where all is wheat. Most soils have a

kind of weed congenial, and the weeds here specified are “the care of this

world, and the deceitfulness of riches,” the former being merely the poor

man’s species of the latter Among rich and poor alike you will find many

who would be left without any subject of thought and any guiding principle

in action, if you took from them anxiety about their own position in life. It

is not enough to put aside distracting thoughts. Cutting down the thorns

won’t do; still less holding them aside till the seed be sown. It is vain to

hope for the only right harvest of a human life if your heart is sown with:

 

o        worldly ambitions,

o        a greedy hasting to be rich,

o         an undue love of comfort, or

o         a true earthliness of spirit.

 

            One seed only must be sown in you, and it will produce all needed diligence in

            business as well as all fervur of spirit.  There is one important distinction between

            material and moral sowing.  Man is possessed of free will, the power of checking

            to some extent natural consequences. Therefore the gospel is to be preached to every

            creature, and we may be expected to bring to the hearing of it a soft, deep, clean soil

of heart — what Luke calls “an honest and good heart.” There will be

differences of crop even among those who bring good hearts, but wherever

the Word is held fast and patiently cared for, there the life wilt produce all

that God cares to have from it. But even the honest heart is not enough

unless we keep the Word. The sower must be at pains to cover in the seed

and watch that it be not taken away. So the hearer loses his labor unless

his mind goes back on what he has heard, and he sees that he has really got

hold of it. We have all heard all that is necessary for life and godliness; it

remains that we make it our own, that it secures a living root in us and in

our life. We must bear it in mind, so that all that comes before us may

throw new light on it and give it further hold on us.

 

24 “Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of

heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:”

Another parable put he forth unto them; set he before them (Revised Version,

παρέθηκεν αὐτοῖς parethaeken autoisHe places before them); so also v. 31.

(compare also Exodus 19:7; Acts 17:3). Elsewhere it is often used of setting

food before any one; e.g. Mark 6:41; 8:6; Luke 11:6; Acts 16:34.

Them. The people (vs. 3, 10, 34). Saying, The kingdom of heaven. The

principles of its establishment and full development. Is likened unto

(ὡμοιώθη homoiothaewas likened). The aorist regards the moment in

our Lord’s mind in which he made the comparison. Observe that the verb is

transitional; in v. 3 our Lord began his parable without any introduction, so

that He might attract attention; here He says that He gives an illustration of

the kingdom of heaven; but in the later parables of this discourse (vs. 31, 33,

44-45, 47; compare v.52) He is able merely to say that the kingdom of heaven

is, in its principles, etc., absolutely like (ὁμοῖα ἐστίν homoia estinis like).

A man which sowed. Explained as “the Son of man” in v. 37. Good seed;

“the sons of the kingdom” (v. 38); i.e. the seed represents, not good or bad

doctrine as such, but persons. In his field; “the world” (v. 37). Not exactly the

Church, i.e. the Church upon earth, but the world so far as it is the sphere

of the Church’s missionary activity, even the physical world so far as it

becomes the scene of Divine sowing of the gospel.

 

25 “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the

wheat, and went his way.”  But while men slept. Not in the explanation.

If more than merely a part of the necessary framework of the story, it points

to the secrecy with which the devil works. His enemy came. This form of malice

is still well known in the East. And sowed. Sowed over or in (ἐπέσπειρεν

epespeiren - sows ). Tares; i.e. bearded darnel, Lolium temulentum, “a kind of

rye grass, and the only species of the grass family the seeds of which are

poisonous. The derivation of zauan [ζιζάνια zizania -  bearded darnell] is

from zan, ‘vomiting,’ the effect of eating darnel being to produce violent nausea,

convulsions, and diarrhea, which frequently ends in death” (Tristram, ‘Nat. Hist.

of Bible,’ p. 487, edit. 1889). Among the wheat, and went his way; went away

(Revised Version, ἀπῆλθεν apaelthen came away).

 

26 “But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then

appeared the tares also.” But when the blade was sprung up (ἐβλάστησεν

χόρτος eblastaesen ho chortosgerminates the blade:  Compare Mark 4:27),

and brought forth fruit. Observe that there is no thought of the tares injuring

the wheat (contrast vs. 7, 22). Then appeared the tares also.

 

27 “So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir,

didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it

tares?”  So; and (Revised Version, δέ - de – so; yet). The servants of the

householder came. The explanation (v. 38) does not say who are

represented by these; they must be really identical with some of the wheat,

yet since they are spoken of as though they are also the agents of the

Sower, they must represent the more active, and especially the ministerial,

members of the kingdom. Is it a mere coincidence that historically the

clergy have shown themselves always the most eager advocates of the

policy of rooting up the tares? And said unto him: Sir, didst not thou

sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? Thy. For

the knowledge that the world belongs to God, and is under His governance

and care, makes the question so much the more serious to the servants.

 

28 “He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said

unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?”

He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. An enemy (ἔχθρος ἄνθρωπος

echthros anthroposhuman enemy). Not “my enemy,” referring to some

one person, for in real life a man can seldom be at once sure, without inquiry,

who it is that has injured him secretly. There are so many coincidences in this

verse and v. 39 (ἔχθρος ἄνθρωπος τοῦτο ἐποίησεν, [Ἁμάν] πονηρὸς [οῦτος],

διάβολος echthros anthropos touto epoiaesen [Haman] ponaeros - [outos],

ho diabolos an enemy has done this, [Haman] wicked – [this]  the adversary)

with the Septuagint of Esther 7:4-6, that it would almost seem as though

the evangelist remembered that passage. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou

then that we go and gather them up? Omit up (συλλέξωμεν sullexomen

we should be culling); the servants, in their zeal to separate the tares from the

wheat, forget the difficulty connected with pulling them up.

 

29 “But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also

the wheat with them.  30 “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in

the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the

tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into

my barn.” To the reapers. Not all my servants, but they to whom such

work belongs (cf. Goebel); i.e. the angels (ver. 39). Gather ye together;

gather up (Revised Version), because the same word (συλλέγεινsullegein

to collect; gather) is employed as in v. 28. This command belongs to the

time after the field is reaped. First the tares. The tares are to be separated

and gathered together before the wheat is garnered. And hind them in

bundles to burn them: but gather (συνάγετε sunagetetogether collect;

cull ye). This word regards rather the destination, συλλέγειν the operation.

The wheat into my barn (ch.3:12, notes).

 

 

                                    The Tares (vs. 24-30)

 

The parable of the soils showed the various results of sowing the same

good seed according to the various conditions of soil on which the seed

fell; now this parable of the tares disregards differences of soil, but treats of

different kinds of seed sown by different hands. Thus it introduces us to

something worse than the failure of good work, to the existence of evil

influences in the world.

 

  • CHRISTIAN PEOPLE ARE THE GROWTH OF SEED SOWN BY

            CHRIST IN THE WORLD. In His explanation of the parable our Lord tells

            us three things about this branch of His teaching.

 

Ø      Christ is the Sower. All good spiritual life springs from Him.

 

Ø      The field is the world. Christ is no narrow ecclesiastic confining His

                        interests to the Church. Nor has He the parochial mind. His gospel is for

                        THE WHOLE WORLD!   Christians are to be “the salt of the earth.”

 

Ø      The good seed represents the sons of the kingdom, i.e. Christian

                        people. Christ is not satisfied with teaching ideas; He aims at growing

                        souls.  His harvest is not of thoughts and doctrines, but of men and women.

           

  • BAD MEN ARE LIKE TARES SOWN BY SATAN.

 

Ø      Evil influences are at work is the world. There is worse than the

                        negative failure of good seed. Weeds spring up; nettles and poison plants

                        take their place in the garden of nature. The world as we know it has been

                        sown with the seed of sin. Here is positive evil, alive and propagating

                        further evil.

 

Ø      These evil influences are due to the great enemy of souls. A malignant

                        power, the enemy of Christ and of mankind, is busy sowing evil.

 

Ø      The fruit of these evil influences is seen in the lives of bad people, it is

                        not in false doctrine but in wicked living that the greatest mischief is

                        manifested. The aim of Satan is to grow a crop of noxious characters.

 

  • THE SERVANTS OF CHRIST ARE FORBIDDEN TO USE

            FORCIBLE MEANS FOR THE EXTINCTION OF EVIL LIVES. This

            parable has often been abused by being applied to Church discipline, a

            subject with which it has nothing to do, seeing that “the field is the world”

            — not the Church. What it excludes is the violent uprooting of bad men

            from the world. If it is to be pressed to a literal application, it may be

            thought to forbid capital punishment. But as it deals with religious relations

            it is rather aimed at persecution; e.g. it is absolutely opposed to such action

            as that of the Spanish Inquisition. The violation of its precepts has

            vindicated our Lord’s warning. The wheat has been rooted up with the

            tares. Too often persecution selected the very sons of the kingdom for its

            victims. This may be done honestly, by a horrible blunder; we cannot well

            distinguish between the blades of wheat and those of the plant that

            simulates it. At present it is premature to judge men finally, for characters

            are not yet developed.

 

  • THERE WILL BE A FINAL JUDGMENT AND DOOM OF THE

            WICKED.

 

Ø      This will happen at the end of all, when characters have fully ripened,

                        when the harvest is come. Even now the harvest is anticipated by the

                        reaper Death, and after death there is THE GREAT JUDGMENT!

                         The liberty of the present is no guarantee against THE GREAT

                        DOOM OF THE FUTURE!   Evil will not flourish forever.

 

Ø      This will be in the hands of God. It is not for man to use violent

                        measures against his fellow man; but God and His angels will search

                        into all characters, and the issue must be fearful for those who have

                        permitted themselves to become as THE RANK GROWTH OF SATAN!

 

 

Parable of the Tares (vs. 24-30)

 

In the parable of the tares we see what appearance the kingdom of heaven

presents in this world, and are warned against expecting to see now that

perfect condition which wilt in the end be brought about. It has perplexed

God’s servants in all times that all in this earth should not be unmingled

good. This world is God’s; men are his property. And all that is needful for

the production of the fruit dear to God has been done by Him; and yet look

at the result. Has He mistaken the capabilities of the field, or does He not

care to develop them? The answer is, “An enemy hath done this.” This is

enough for us to know. We are not to stop short of this, and pause at men

and hate them; but, pitying them, are to pass with our indignation and

hatred to the enemy. We are not, on the other hand, to go beyond Satan,

and think blasphemously of God as the Sower of bad seed; but, viewing His

friendliness, and the cost He spends on this field, and His destruction of our

enemy by His Son, are to spend all our hate on Satan. Such being the

condition of the field and such the cause, what is to be the conduct of the

servants? “Wilt thou that we go and gather them up?” This and that other

propagator of falsehood, and perpetrator of evil, would it not be well if

their hindrance were taken out of the way? Would not good men come to a

quicker and more fruitful maturity were they not continually held down by

the scoffing, exasperated by the persecution, and led astray by the example

of the ungodly? “Let both grow together until the harvest,” is the law of

the Master. Again and again the Church has, in the face of this parable,

taken upon her to root up infidels and heretics. The reasoning has been

short and summary. We are Christ’s; these men are Satan’s — let us

destroy them. This attempt to make the field of the world appear uniform

has been one of the most disastrous hindrances to the growth of religion.

This measure of the servants has effected a more frightful desolation and

barrenness than anything which the existence of the tares could have done.

But each of us has something of the persecutor within him, and needs to

apply this parable to himself. It does not say that the world is as it ought to

be, does not say that there is no distinction, or a very insignificant one,

between good and bad men, but tells us we are not to act upon this

distinction to the extent of injuring a man. If a man, because he is ungodly,

defrauds his neighbor, murders, or robs, he is of course lawfully punished,

but not on the score of his ungodliness, but of his breaking human law; not

because he has been an unprofitable creature of God’s and an offence in the

sight of God, but because he is an injurious member of a civil community.

No punishment is to be inflicted by us purely on the ground of a man’s

spiritual condition, of his not bearing fruit in the kingdom of heaven. It is

most detrimental to the cause of Christianity when a Christian in his

conduct towards an ungodly person seems to be always saying, “I wish you

were out of the world; and for my part, and as far as I can, you shall be

deprived of all its advantages.” From the earliest times, however, it has

been the all but universal opinion that this parable had reference to

ecclesiastical discipline. And if not meant in its first intention to be applied

thus, it is valid for this purpose as well. Within the Church it is often very

difficult to know what is wheat and what is not. An opinion which is

condemned as scandalous or full of danger may turn out to be true and

wholesome; if it be at once pronounced tares and thrown over the hedge,

the good fruit it might have borne is thrown away with it. And even where

it is clear that evil has sprung up in the Church, it is a further question

whether it should be summarily removed. If you leave false doctrine alone,

may you not get rid of it sooner than if you fix public attention upon it? No

man who had a regard for his field would carry a seeding thistle through

every part of it and shake it in every corner. Our Lord gives two reasons

for this method of delay.

 

Ø      If we endeavor to anticipate the end, we shall injure the children of the

kingdom. You are not to root up the tares, because you will inevitably root

up good corn along with them. You cannot injure one man and one only,

and of those who are attached to him can you be sure there are none who

are of the kingdom?

 

Ø      But the kingdom of heaven has a Judge and an Executive of its own,

which will be apparent IN THE END! And when we reflect that what has

raised our indignation has been observed by God, and will assuredly be

dealt with by Him, this not only stifles our indignation, but impels us to

seek to save the sinner from the punishment he is earning. The bearing of

this parable, then, on ourselves cannot be mistaken. Wheat and darnel, it

says, are almost identical in appearance, but the root of the principle of the

one is different from the other;

 

o        the one is good food,

o        the other is poison and

 

they will eventually be treated accordingly. From this similarity it arises:

 

o        That the darnel is apt to think itself as good as the wheat. But the

question is not whether you are not at present to all appearance as

useful and pleasant a member of society as they, but whether there

is not that in them which will grow to good and that in you which

will grow to evil. What is it that is producing your actual life and

character? What is the motive power? Is it mere desire to get on,

or respect for your own good name? Or is your character being

more and more formed by the belief that God calls you to live for

Him and for eternity? Are you rooted in Christ? Do you grow out

of Him?

 

o        The wheat is apt to think itself no better than darnel. You are troubled

because others seem to be as regular, as zealous, as successful, in duty

as you; they have even the advantage of you in some respects. Some

natural infirmity of temper has fixed its stamp on you, or you are

choked by uncongenial surroundings. But look to the end here

predicted, “when all that offends shall be taken out of the way,” and

“the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

Be sure only that there is that in you which will shine forth if the

hindrances and blinds be taken out of the way.

 

 

                        The Tares in the Field (vs. 24-30)

 

The kingdom of heaven is the Church of God at once in heaven and on

earth. This parable, like that of the sower, was afterwards explained to the

disciples. As the exposition explains the parable, and the parable illustrates

the exposition, it is fitting they should be considered together. From this

parable we learn:

 

  • THAT THIS LIFE IS A SCENE OF TRIAL.

 

Ø      The field is the world.

 

o        So we have it in the interpretation (v. 38). It is a wide field,

      whether viewed physically or morally. Still it is the Lord’s domain.

      One day it will be universally fruitful to His glory (see Isaiah 11:9;

      Habakkuk 2:14).

o        Here we are now on our trial. This thought makes life solemn.

      The more so since there is no second probation.

o        The issues are tremendous. In quality. In duration.

o        How precious are the opportunities of the present!

 

 Note the differences in the sowing. The Son of man sows openly in the

day. The evil one works in the darkness of night. “While men slept” (v. 25).

Satan takes every advantage of our drowsiness, indolence, lukewarmness.

 

Note that there is forbearance of God towards evil.  This puzzled the servants.

“Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?” “Wilt thou that we bid fire to

come down from heaven, and consume them?” (Luke 9:54-56).

 

God tolerates the evil for the sake of the good.  His grace is exemplified in supporting

the good amongst the evil and to give them a chance to be converted!

 

The darnel so resembles the wheat that it may be mistaken for it. So

may the unbeliever be mistaken for the believer, the hypocrite for the true

man. So, on the contrary, some saints are so clumsy and awkward that they

may be mistaken for deceivers.

 

The Judgment will vindicate the ways of God.    Then will He separate the evil from

the good. Angels will be employed in this service. Then will the wicked be punished.

The tares are bound in bundles. “Bind them in bundles to burn them.” Is this a

classification according to character?  Are atheists to be bundled together?

Blasphemers? Epicures? Persecutors? Hypocrites?  Is the bundling promiscuous?

Will the humanistic scientist be bound in the same bundle with the sot?

 

The Son of man “shall cast them into the furnace of fire” (v. 42). What a prison!

What an imprisonment!  Despair is it’s woeful expression. “There shall be weeping

and gnashing of teeth” (v. 42).

 

Then will He reward the saved! 

 

  • They will enjoy security. “Gather the wheat into my barn” (v. 30;

            Psalm 50:5).

  • They will enjoy distinction. “In the kingdom of their Father.” “Now we

            are the sons of God.” Then will the grandeur of this sonship appear

            (compare John 20:17; I John 3:2). The palace. The throne (Revelation 3:21).

  • They will be invested with glory. “Shall shine forth as the sun” (compare

      Judges 5:31; Daniel 12:3). In the glory of purity like the “Sun of

            Righteousness.” In glorified bodies like that of Jesus. They shall not “burn”

            like the wicked, but “shine.”

 

Who hath ears, let him hear how tenderly God cares for the good.

 

vs. 31-32. The parable of the mustard seed. Parallel passages:

Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19. The central thought of the parable

is the growth of the kingdom of heaven considered externally. Although it

has small beginnings, it is to have a marvelous expansion, so that even

those who naturally are outside it are glad to avail themselves of its

protection. Observe that we have no right to limit its growth either to the

reputation of its principles alone or to the power of its organization; both

are included.  Regarded as a prophecy, the parable is partially fulfilled every

time that a heathen nation places itself under the protection of a Christian

nation, and more truly fulfilled whenever a nation accepts Christianity as

its own religion. (How strange then, that the United States of America, in

it’s public arena is doing everything it can to distance itself from CHRIST!

CY – 2016)  It is parodied when a nation or a collection of nations submits its

political freedom to the dictates of claimants to spiritual superiority,

whether these claim to have received such superiority as an inheritance

from the past, or to have acquired it in the present.

 

31 “Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of

heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and

sowed in his field:”  Another parable put he forth unto them (v. 24, note),

saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto (v. 24, note; also ch.11:16, note)

a grain of mustard seed. The Common Mustard of Palestine is Sinapis nigra,

of the order Cruciferae, the Black Mustard, which is found abundantly in a

wild state, and is also cultivated in the gardens for its seed. It is the same as

our own Mustard, but grows especially in the richer soils of the Jordan valley

to a much greater size than in this country. We noticed its great height on the

banks of the Jordan, as have several other travelers; and Dr. Thomson remarks

that in the Plain of Acre he has seen it as tall as a horse and its rider” (Tristram,

‘Nat. Hist. of Bible,’ p. 472, edit. 1889). Which a man took. The insertion of

λαβών labontook – is probably to exclude the idea of a chance sowing.

True that the seed might, under certain circumstances, then grow as well,

but the reality which is being described was the result of long and deliberate

purpose (Titus 1:3; I Peter 1:20). And sowed in his field. “His garden” (Luke)

suggests a piece of ground that was at once smaller and more cared for.

 

32 “Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the

greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the

air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”  Which indeed is the least of

(is less than, Revised Version) all seeds; i.e. all those ordinarily sown in

Palestine then. Instances of the proverbial use in the Talmuds of the size of

a grain of mustard to express something very small, may be seen in Levy, s.v.

חרדל. But when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs; it is greater than

the herbs (Revised Version); i.e. than those which are usually called λάχανα

lachanaherbs; greens. And becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air. There

is not necessarily any connotation of evil about these (compare vs. 4, 19); the

thought is simply that those who are naturally outsiders are glad to come under

cover of this tree.  Compare, for both thought and language, Daniel’s description

of the empire of Babylon (Daniel 4:12, 21), and Ezekiel’s prophecy of the

kingdom of Judah (Ezekiel 17:23). Come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Lodge (κατασκηνοῖν kataskaenointo be roosting); ch. 8:20, note. In Palestine

the goldfinches and linnets settle on the mustard in flocks (Tristram, ‘Nat. Hist.

of Bible,’ p. 473, edit. 1889).

 

 

The Herb that is a Tree (vs. 31-32)

        (see also Mark 4:30-32; Luke 13:18-19)

 

Note, in introduction, how much of most relevant suggestion is comprised

in this very brief parable, not nevertheless of the essence of its direct

meaning or direct object. E.g. is it not almost a parable within a parable to

be able to observe on the appropriateness of the use of the illustration of

the small mustard seed, and the seed instanced being such kind of seed as

the mustard seed, to characterize Jesus Christ Himself (the Sower of the

seed of the kingdom) as well as that kingdom which He sowed? Another

very relevant suggestion, as just intimated, springs out of the character of

the mustard seed, its own intrinsic quality for fragrance, pungency, power

to bring out flavor, either adding to that with which it is used, or

counteracting it, or so combining with it as to make a new tertium quid

(a third thing that is indefinite and undefined but is related to two definite or

known things).  And so once more a most relevant suggestion springs out of the

descriptive touch respecting the birds that fly to its shadow by day and its

hospitable lodging by night. The subject, however, of this parable is of course

still illustration of the kingdom of heaven, in some one certain respect or more.

As the first parable was an illustration of it, ever applicable and on the

broadest foundation; and the second, one still ever applicable, but intensely

important as it might be, and that especially in its far reaching, yet

somewhat more limited in its scope; so we shall be sure to find the specialty

of this third parable stamped unmistakably upon it. Notice that it is

distinctly foretold that:

 

  • THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS TO HAVE ITS OWN

DEVELOPMENT; IT IS TO GROW OF ITSELF AND FROM ITSELF.

Wherever it is, whatever it works upon, whatever it may attract to itself, it

shall receive into itself; leave some of it, take some of it, incorporate this,

have one body and one spirit, and own to no rival.

 

  • THAT DEVELOPMENT WILL IN NO SENSE BE SIMPLY

COMMENSURABLE WITH ITS BEGINNING, EVEN WHEN EVERY

ALLOWANCE SHALL BE MADE FOR THE ORDINARY MEASURE

OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BEGINNING AND THAT TO WHICH

IT MAY GROW. It will contradict and gloriously disappoint untaught

expectation. No mere proverbial oak from acorn will suffice to set forth the

development this growth will attain. The only analogy that wilt suit will be

the example of something that is indeed perfectly natural, but looks

something other than natural. Wide nature, the work of God, will indeed

find the analogue, however humble the scale of it. This is a very small seed,

and its proper growth a herb; but the herb refuses to answer very strictly to

its own sort, and waxes into a tree; and shows the features and properties

of the tree, “shooting out great branches.” So is the kingdom of heaven.

And whether the seed be called that which was once found in the manger,

or that which was once found in the tomb, it seemed small indeed —

neither at the former time nor at the latter was it counted for anything but a

thing to be disregarded and despisedYET TO WHAT WAS IT TO GROW?

 

  • THAT GROWTH FROM SMALLEST SEED, THAT KINGDOM

FOUNDED FROM MOST UNPROMISING MATERIAL, SHALL

PROVE ITSELF NOT A GROWTH OF MERE GRANDEUR TO

BEHOLD, NOT A MONUMENT OF HUMAN PRIDE OF POWER

AND CONQUEST; BUT A RESORT OF HEAVENLY SHADE,

HEAVENLY SAFETY, HEAVENLY REST A HEAVENLY HOME

FOR ALL THAT WILL, SEEK IT, FOR ALL THAT WILL WING

THEIR FLIGHT, WEARY OR GLAD, TO IT. This tree is in a new sense

the Tree of Life, offered to all, and as free to all as air, and. spreading

branches, and whispering winds, the breath of morning, or the sweet

sighings of evening, with their invitations, could make it, for all birds and

“fowl of every wing” that fly under heaven.

 

33 “Another parable spake He unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like

unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the

whole was leavened.”  The parable of the leaven. Parallel passage: Luke 13:20-21.

The growth of the kingdom regarded in its quiet and secret influence.

This is to be ultimately complete and universal. The prophecy is partially

fulfilled with every fresh recognition of Christian principles in public

opinion, or customs, or laws. For “every thought” shall be brought “captive

unto the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:5). Another parable

spake He unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven. This is

the only passage where leaven is spoken of with reference to its permeating

qualities alone, without any trace of the notion of defilement, which the

Paschal and other regulations (Exodus 12:15, 18; 23:15, 18; Leviticus 2:11)

so readily suggested. Even in I Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9 this connotation

of evil is not altogether absent.  Which a woman took (v. 31, note), and hid. The

woman probably belongs entirely to the framework of the parable (compare

Luke 15:4, 8). For the work described is always, in normal societies,

performed by women. Of other interpretations that which sees in her the

Church as the agent by whom the kingdom of God is wrought into the

world is the best. In three measures of meal; i.e. an ephah. This appears

to have been a convenient quantity (about a peck) for kneading at one time

(Genesis 18:6; Judges 6:19). Until the whole was leavened; literally,

until it was leavened, even the whole of it (ἕως οῦ ἐζυμώθη ὅλον heos ou

ezumothae holontill the whole was leavened). While our Lord thus promises

that the permeating influence of thekingdom of heaven shall at last be entirely

successful, it is unfair to so press the parable as to deduce from it that the world

as such will continue to be gradually and continuously improved up to the Lord’s

return. It may be so (contrast, however, Luke 18:8), but even direct prophecy,

and still more parable, frequently regards the ultimate result, and passes over the

intermediate stages.

 

 

                        The Mustard Seed and the Leaven  (vs. 31-33)

 

These parables illustrate the worldwide growth and influence of the kingdom of heaven.

It might not be wonderful that a peasant living in remote Syrian highlands should have

dared to predict such a vast future for His work if He were only speaking in the enthusiasm

of hope; but it is the wonder of the ages that the Galilaean predictions have been verified

by history, which has proved that the Speaker uttered true words and was able to realize

what He foretold. Let us consider the prophecy in the light of its fulfillment. The two

parables set forth two different phases of the extension of the kingdom.

 

  • THE VISIBLE GROWTH OF THE KINGDOM ITSELF.

 

Ø      It appears in a small beginning. Christ gathered about Him a little group

                        of fishermen; there was the kingdom, but as yet a minute seed. How many

                        of the best movements spring from small beginnings — the river from the

                        brook, the man from the child, the city from the hamlet, the empire from

                        the city! History forbids us to despise the day of small things. It is better to

                        begin obscurely and grow, than to commence with a flourish of trumpets,

                        raising expectations which we may not be able to fulfill.

 

Ø      It contains a center of life. The pebble will not grow. Multitudes of

                        small ventures are destined to remain small or to fade away altogether.

                        It is only the vital seed that grows. There is a life-principle in

                        Christianity.  Christ Himself is in it.

 

Ø      It has a great development. The mustard seed becomes a tree. The little

                        group of disciples becomes a world wide Church. Christ has large aims,

                        and He accomplishes them. He has not yet seen the full growth of the seed

                        He sowed. Christianity is still spreading — spreading in heathen lands as in

                        no previous age; it has in it vitality enough to fill the whole world.

 

Ø      Its growth is beneficial to the world. The kingdom of heaven is not a

                        deadly Upas tree; it does not destroy all other lives in fostering its own

                        life.  The mustard tree furnishes night shelter for the birds; the kingdom

                        of heaven is a great refuge for helpless, benighted souls.

 

  • THE INVISIBLE INFLUENCE OF THE KINGDOM. It works like

            leaven in a mass of meal.

 

Ø      It spreads through the world. The gospel has a marvelous penetrating

                        influence. Early Christianity extended itself without any organized method

                        of propagation, reaching all classes of society and touching remotest

                        regions. There is a happy infection in Christian TRUTH!   A saintly

                        example is healthily contagious.

 

Ø      It influences the world. The whole mass of meal is leavened. Christ gives

                        us a leaven of society, not merely a new life to be in society and to spread

                        itself, growing and multiplying, but a transforming and uplifting influence.

                        Left to itself the world is DEAD!  The gospel comes as a ferment, breaking

                        up the old lethargy and rousing fresh activity. It affects every part of life, and

                        whatever it affects it assimilates to itself. We are not to think of the

                        kingdom of heaven standing aloof from the world, which is to be let lie in

                        its own deadness. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, The purpose of

                        Christianity is to sanctify the secular.” CY – 2016)  It is sent into the

                        world that it may benefit the world. Plunged into the midst of society,

                        it works for the benefit of society.  Commerce, science, literature, art,

                        politics, social order, and domestic life are all sought out by the Christian

                        spirit, and as they come under its influence they are purified and quickened.

                        Seeing that the influences of the gospel are destined to be so widespread and

                        manifold, it becomes us not to cramp them by any narrowness of our own,

                        but rather to further them with courageous hopefulness.

 

 

The Foretold Now Become the Told (vs. 33)

           (see also Luke 13:20-21)

 

In introduction, note that perhaps no parable more postulates that the

student of it insist on observing the essential canon in the interpretation of

every parable, viz. that its one main object be kept steadily in view, and

that it was kept in view by the Author of it. So much may be made, even by

warrant of Scripture, in respect of the ill associations of leaven, that if this

be dwelt upon without a steady memory of the quality and the one use of

leaven, whether in good association or in bad, the student vision will be a

double one, and his judgment warped and distorted. So, though in risk far

inferior, and of far less moment, the incidents of this very brief parable, e.g.

of the mention of the “woman” who took the leaven, and of the “three

measures” of meal in which she is represented as hiding it, may easily be

turned, for they have been so turned, to what tends to mar, instead of to

complete our distinct apprehension and appropriation of the matter of the

parable. These may, indeed, heighten effect, and, if possible, may beautify

effect. They may be, perhaps, not illegitimately used to these very ends.

They may so chime in with history, with fact, with reverent associations of

faith, as not to be unjustified, for the very helpfulness and devoutness of

them. But they must be subordinated to their right place and sphere with a

stern resolution. Of this simplest parable illustration of the kingdom of

heaven on earth many difficulties have been made, and not a little distortion

and perversion even; but in its brief simplicity it says:

 

Ø      That a certain presence of self-acting intrinsic quality and transmuting

      force is introduced into what may be called the Society of this World,

      or more formally, the Kingdom of this World.

 

Ø      That so soon as introduced, however silently, however suddenly, it

      begins to incorporate itself, and to be assimilated, working unceasingly

      and in every direction upon the mass of material in which it is hidden,

      and in which it seems to be smothered.

 

Ø      That its operation does not cease until it has transmuted THAT WHOLE

      MASS!!

 

All this was foretold; and all this was divinely called parable. But history has told it, and

it has ceased by any possibility to be able to be called mere parable. In every respect it

has been witnessed to, illustrated by most evident facts, and proved with not a shadow

of doubt or uncertainty. The amazing mission of Christ to this world, His sojourn in it,

His replacement by the Holy Spirit, the suddenness of this new and most wonderful and

most gracious “departure,” the silence and obscurity of the subduing and transforming

work, and its unceasingness to the present hour, have all been fact, and are all forming an

overwhelming presage of the further development and growth of their conquering power

and grace. It means that the process;

 

o        so wonderful,

o        so potent, and

o        so beneficent,

 

shall know NO PAUSE  till the whole lump is leavened.

 

 

Parable of the Leaven (v. 33)

 

This parable directs our attention to two points connected with the extension of Christianity.

It illustrates:

 

(1) first, the kind of change which Christianity works in the world;

(2) second, the method by which this change is wrought.

 

  • THE CHANGE OUR LORD MEANT TO EFFECT IN THE WORLD

was to be a change not so much of outward forms as of the spirit and

character of all things. The propagation of His influence is set forth and

illustrated, not by a woman taking a mass of dough and making it into new

shapes, but by a woman putting that into the dough which alters the

character of the whole mass. There are two ways in which you may

revolutionize a country or society. You may pull down the old forms of

government, or you may fill them with men of a different spirit, revise the

constitution, or, leaving it untouched, fill official positions with the right

men. A machine refuses to work, and people tell you the construction is

wrong; but the skilled mechanic pushes aside the ignorant crowd, and puts

all to rights with a few drops of oil. Few distinctions are of wider

application. What is pointed at is rather the REGENERATIVE than the

CREATIVE power of Christ’s Spirit; not so much the new facts and habits to

which Christian feeling gives birth, as the new feelings and views it has about

existing customs, institutions, relationships, occupations. His Spirit, He

says, does not require new channels; a man does not require new arteries,

but to have them filled with health-giving blood. In establishing the

kingdom of heaven our Lord did not intend to erect a vast organization

over against the world, but He meant to introduce into the world itself a

leaven which should subdue all things to His own Spirit. It was to be

without observation, hidden as leaven among meal.

 

  • THE METHOD BY WHICH THE KINGDOM IS TO GROW.

Kingdoms have been extended in various ways, but chiefly by force, by the

strong hand. And the idea that men can be compelled to accept the truth

seems never to be wholly eradicated from the human mind. But our Lord

teaches that the extension of His Spirit throughout the world is to be by the

secret unnoticed influence of man upon man. No doubt there is a direct

agency of God in each case, but God works through natural means, and the

natural means here pointed to is personal influence. Than this there is no

mightier power. Take even the influence of those who least tend to

influence you, and seem least capable of it. Think of the influence in many

ways of the little child who cannot stand alone; or of those who seem

wholly pushed aside from the busy world by ill health or misfortune. How

we have been brought to a chastened, sober habit by their suffering; and to

the recognition of what is essential and what accidental, what good and

what evil in the world! For the operation of this influence there must be:

 

Ø      A mixing; that is to say, there must be contact of the closest kind

between the regenerate and the unregenerate. The leaven is manifestly

useless while it lies by itself. If our Lord had secluded Himself in the

household of Bethany, and never eaten with publicans and sinners, little of

His Spirit could have passed into other men. The closeness of the intimacy,

the depth of the love, is the measure of the effect produced. And in a

country like ours, where what belonged yesterday to one person is today

possessed by a thousand, good or evil propagates itself with the speed and

certainty of contagion, the more effectually because insensibly. There is no

banishment for the moral leper; no man can be evil for himself alone. This

mixing is provided for in various ways:

 

o        by nature, which sets us in families;

o        by society, which compels contact of various kinds with others.

 

Beyond these are the casual meetings we are unawares thrown into, and

the voluntary friendships and associations we form. Of the first we may

say, that if we cannot always choose our company we can always choose

how we shall conduct ourselves in it; we can make our meeting a means of

spreading the Spirit of Christ. The additions to His kingdom must be chiefly

from among those who do not at present respond to Christian sentiments.

For the regulation of connections which we form of our own choice the

parable suffices. Can they be leavened, and by us? It is folly to argue that

because some one else can go into certain company, or engage in certain

pursuits and not be the worse for it, that therefore you can do so. But there

is a culpable refusal to mix as well as a too great eagerness to do so. Two

very opposite feelings lead to this.

 

o        One is the Pharisaic contempt for, or hopelessness about, other people.

A converted person often seems to forget the hole of the rock whence

he was dug (Isaiah 51:1) — what he was yesterday, and what the

unbeliever on  whom he scowls may be tomorrow. Or

 

o        there is the opposite feeling, that our influence can only do harm. But

this feeling should prompt us not to separate ourselves from the world,

but to renew our connection with the leaven. If we fear to touch another

lest we communicate disease, let us first touch him out of whom flows

healing for all diseases.  (Compare how Jesus dealt with the leper;

ch. 8:1-4)

 

Ø      But, the mixing being accomplished, how does the process succeed? The

parable says — Be leaven, and YOU WILL LEAVEN. Be a Christian, and

you must make Christians or help to make them. No doubt direct address

forms one great part of the means of leavening those around you, but the

figure here points rather to the all-pervading and subtle extension of Christian

principles than to their declared and aggressive advocacy. What is the

influence of your example? If you are not leavening others, it is because

you are yourself unleavened. There is no such thing as leaven that does not

work. You cannot confine the perfume to the flower, or restrict the light of

the sun to its own globe. It is a glorious consummation here spoken of —

till the whole” is leavened. In Christ’s kingdom is to be gathered all that

has ever served or gladdened humanity. His Spirit is to take possession of

all national characteristics and all individual gifts. And all is to be achieved

through personal influence. Can you know the earnestness of Christ in this

behalf, and lift no finger to help Him? Is there nothing you ought to do in

leavening some little bit of the great mass?

 

 

                        The Force There May Be in Quiet Things (v. 33)

 

“Like leaven.” The word “leaven” means “something that raises,” from the

mode of its operation. In one way it corrupts; in another way it makes

edible and wholesome. Leaven consists of myriads of the cells of the

common green mold in an undeveloped state. It is at once a principle of

destruction and construction, of decay and of growth, of death and of life.

In this parable our Lord seems to fix attention on the very silent, quiet,

hidden, yet persistent way in which leaven works its great results. The

parable teaches the self-developing power of truth. The mode of its

operation; ever from within outwards. And the fact which can be verified in

human experience, that the greatest results may follow the most

insignificant beginnings.

 

  • HOW SILENT ARE THE BEGINNINGS OF THE NEW LIFE IN

            SOULS! The devotion of the disciples to Christ was a power they did not

            estimate. It was a small beginning, but it grew in power to make them

            martyrs. The first faith and love of Christ’s disciples was so weak that an

            evening breeze could have blown it away; by and by it stood the raging

            wintry storms of persecution. It was life, and, spreading, it gained power.

            The beginning of the new life in us is the time when mind and heart waken

            to personal interest in Christ. But this beginning is often hidden from

            others, and even from the man himself. If we recognized this fact:

 

Ø      we should make more of God’s part, and less of our own, in the work

                        of redemption;

Ø      we should be more quick to discern signs of God’s working;

Ø      we should much oftener be encouraged by noticing the results of our

                        Christian labor.

 

  • HOW CONSTANT ARE THE ACTIVITIES OF THE NEW LIFE IN

            SOULS! Like the leaven, that is always going on leavening. Think of it as

            the spirit of faith, of trust in God, put into our carnal, corrupt, self-seeking

            nature, even as leaven is put in meal; and as Christianity is put into an evil

            world. The spirit of trust is active, like the leaven. Christian life and

            relations provide the spheres in which the active principle of faith is

            spreading.

 

  • HOW GLORIOUS IS THE ISSUE TOWARD WHICH THE NEW

            LIFE IN SOULS IS WORKING!

 

Ø      It will “leaven the whole lump.” True of humanity; but now we see that

                        it is especially true of our humanity, ourselves. It is working to win:

 

o        the body, with all its passions and relations;

o        the mind, with all its endowments and interests;

o        the soul, with all its capacities and possibilities.

 

                        When the whole lump is leavened, then holiness, and therefore

                        heaven, is gained.       

 

vs. 34-35 -  The parallel passage in Mark 4:33-34 is as follows:

And with many such parables spoke He the word unto them, as they were

able to hear it; and without a parable spoke He not unto them: but privately

to His own disciples He expounded all things.” The same general idea

underlies our present verses, but although each evangelist appears to have

used the same words as a basis, he has worked them out in his own

characteristic way. For while both writers contrast our Lord’s treatment of

the multitudes and His treatment of the disciples in the matter of parables,

Mark barely alludes to His using them as a judicial punishment upon the

people, and  Matthew merely hints here at the fact that Christ explained

them to His disciples (see further, v. 35b, note).  It will be noticed that our

verses have much in common with the thought of v. 10, sqq. It seems just

possible that both paragraphs had one common nucleus from which they were

each developed. But according to existing evidence, v. 10, sqq., and the parallel

passages in Mark and Luke serve to introduce explanatory matter to the disciples,

and our present verses with the parallel in Mark to close a series of parables.

 

34 “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and

without a parable spake He not unto them:” All these things (ταῦτα πάντα

tauta panta). All seems to imply that the four preceding parables are but a few

typical ones taken from a larger collection (compare  Mark, “with many such

parables;” also vs. 3, 51). Spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; in parables

unto the multitudes (Revised Version); for the order of the Greek is the same as in

the next clause. Observe the “parallelism” of the two clauses (contrast Mark). Is it

due to the influence of Hebrew Christians? And without a parable spake

He not (nothing, Revised Version, ebony) unto them, As happens often in

Semitic writers (compare John’s Gospel), the thought of the preceding clause

is now expressed negatively, and yet a fresh thought is added, namely, that

He spake in parables alone. Nothing (Revised Version); i.e. under these

circumstances, when large crowds of Galilaeans were listening to Him.

Spake (ἐλάλει elaleiHe spake: contrast ἐλάλησεν elalaesen He speaks –

v. 33); i.e. during this period.

 

35 “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept

secret from the foundation of the world.” That it might be fulfilled (ch. 1:22,

note) which was spoken by (through, Revised Version; (ibid., note) the

prophet; rather, Isaiah the prophet, according to the margin of Westcott

and Hort, on the evidence of the original hand of the Sinaitic and a few

cursive manuscripts, the Rushworth Latin Gospels, a manuscript of the

AEthiopic Version, the Clementine Homilies, Porphyry as quoted by

Jerome, and remarks by Eusebius. Dr. Herr (‘Appendix’) writes, “It is

difficult not to think Ἠσαίου (Isaiah) genuine. There was a strong temptation to

omit it (compare ch. 27:9); and, though its insertion might be accounted for

by an impulse to supply the name of the best known prophet, the evidence

of the actual operation of such an impulse is much more trifling than might

have been anticipated .... The erroneous introduction of Isaiah’s name is

limited to two passages, and in each case to a single Latin manuscript.” If it

be genuine, it is a parallel case to the reading “Jeremiah” instead of

“Zechariah” in Matthew 27:9, for which no satisfactory explanation has

yet been suggested. A simple error of memory on the part of

one who shows himself so well acquainted with Hebrew customs and

modes of thought as our evangelist does, is perhaps the most improbable of

all solutions. Possibly, just as there were summaries of legal maxims

current in our Lord’s time (compare ch. 5:21, note), so there were in

Hebrew-Christian circles well known sets of quotations from the Old

Testament, which were not expressly divided one from another (compare

Romans 3:10-18), and which were ferreted to under the name of the

author of the best known passage. (Observe that this would distinguish

these summaries from liturgical quotations.) Thus Zechariah’s mention of

the potter (Zechariah 11:13) was placed in connection with Jeremiah’s

visit to the potter’s house, and with his warning of the possible rejection of

Israel (Jeremiah 18:1-6; compare 19:1-11); compare further Pusey’s remarks

on the passage in Zechariah, and Psalm 78:2 (or perhaps 1-3), where Israel is

bid listen to the lessons derived from their ancestors’ behavior, with the

warning in Isaiah 6:9-10 (compare our vs. 34-35 with v. 14). We have an

example of a similar connection of passages in Mark 1:2-3, where

Malachi 3:1 is closely joined to Isaiah 40:3. Observe that if  Mark had

copied his source (ex hypothesi) to the end of the quotation from

Malachi, and for some reason omitted the next quotation, he might very

easily have still retained the name “Isaiah” with which he introduces his

double quotation. Had he done so, we should have had another parallel to

our present verse and ch. 27:9. The prophet. If “Isaiah” be not genuine,

this refers to “Asaph the seer” (II Chronicles 29:30), who was the recognized

author of the psalm. So David is called “a prophet” in Acts 2:30. Saying, I will

open my mouth (ch.5:2, note) in parables;  I will utter things which have been

kept secret from the foundation of the world.  From Psalm 78:1, 2. The first

clause of the quotation is verbally the same as the Septuagint, and fairly represents

the meaning of the original (אפתחה במשל פי). The second clause is

different from the Septuagint, the first verb being a literal translation from the

Hebrew, and the rest a paraphrase. I will utter (ἐρεύξομαι ereuxomaiI shall

be emitting: אביעה): so the Septuagint in19:2; and compare Psalm 119:171; 145:7.

Things which have been kept secret (κεκρυμμέναkekrummenathings having

been hid); but the Hebrew is חידות, i.e. “enigmatical sayings.” From the foundation

of the world. Ἀπὸ καταβολῆς Apo katabolaesfrom the foundation -

for κόσμου kosmou -  world of the Received Text must be omitted. But the

Hebrew מני קדם (i.e. “from of old”) hardly, in the context of the psalm,

refers further back than the beginning of the national history of Israel,

when the Israelites came out of Egypt. “Asaph… here recounts to the

people their history from that Egyptaeo-Sinaitic age of yore to which

Israel’s national independence and specific position in relation to the rest

of the world goes back.  He will set forth the history of the fathers after the

manner of a parable and riddle, so that it may become as a parable, i.e. a

didactic history, and its events as marks of interrogation and nota benes

[used to call attention to something that is important] to the present age”

(Delitzsch). What, however, is the exact connection of thought in the gospel

between the passage as it stands, and its context? The first clause evidently

corresponds in meaning to v. 34; Christ fulfils in a fresh sense the expression

of the psalmist by speaking in parables (vide infra). But the second clause brings

in a different thought, not found, save very indirectly, in v. 34, namely, that Christ

utters things that before were always hidden. What does the evangelist mean by

this second clause?

 

(1) Truths never before revealed have now been revealed by Christ’s

parables, especially by those two which have just been related. For in these

it has been affirmed that outsiders, i.e. those belonging to other nations

than the Jewish nation, shall seek the protection of the kingdom of heaven,

and also that the whole world, including, therefore, these Gentile nations,

shall become permeated with its principles. It may well be thought that the

clause refers to the announcement of these great truths.

 

(2) This interpretation, however, if taken alone, is not enough. For the

evangelist is not speaking of Christ revealing truths to men generally. On

the contrary, he says that Christ does not reveal them to the multitudes,

but to His disciples (compare ver. 10, sqq.) — a contrast which the emphatic

language of v. 34 (τοῖς ὄχλοιςαὐτοῖς tois ochloisautoisto the

multitudes….to them) would probably suggest, even though it is not expressly

mentioned. It is, therefore, likely that it was this latter fact to which the evangelist

specially wished to refer by his quotation of the second clause. Hence, to make his

meaning clearer, he has modified its language. As he quotes it, not merely

“enigmatical sayings,” but “things hidden” (and that from the foundation of the world)

are uttered by Christ; but these are now no longer “hidden” to those to whom He

speaks them. This complete meaning of the clause — revelation to his disciples of

truths before hidden — corresponds to the idea of μυστήριον mustaerion

mystery – in v. 11 (where see note) and in Paul (compare especially Romans 16:25),

and  is merely another side of Mark’s phrase, “Privately to His own disciples He

expounded all things” (compare here vs. 16-17). It is also possible that

κεκρυμμένα (things hidden), which is not merely negative, so as to mean

“unrevealed,” but implies a positive concealment, includes a reference to

the thought of ἔκρυψας ekrupsasthou hast hid; you conceal -  in ch. 11:25,

that God purposely hid these truths from those who were morally unfit to receive

them. These, indeed, belonged in general to the times before Christ came, but also

the multitudes’’ came under this category. If it be asked — What is the relation of

the quotation in its context here to the verse in its original context? the easiest

answer is that it is only superficial, that the “accidental” employment by the

psalmist of the word “parable” was the only reason why the evangelist made the

quotation. Yet it may not be quite so; for there was a real similarity

between the psalmist teaching his contemporaries by history and Christ

teaching his contemporaries by truths couched in narrative form. May we

not go even further, and say that in both cases the message was, generally

speaking, refused, though in both a remnant of those who heard it were

saved (compare also Isaiah 6:9-13; vide supra)?

 

 

            The Parables Before us May be Viewed as Prophecies

                                                (vs. 31-35)

 

  • They describe the gospel in its feeble beginning.

 

Ø      How apparently insignificant is the grain of mustard seed! So apparently

                  insignificant was Jesus in His feeble infancy; in the meanness of

                        His circumstances; in the social grade of His few followers. Fishermen of

                        Galilee! “Hath any of the rulers believed on Him, or of the Pharisees?”

 

Ø      How apparently insignificant is the lump of leaven as compared with

                        the lump of meal! How are these words of Jesus uttered in the air of

                        Galilee so to multiply as to reverberate in every human ear the world over?

                        How is this company of fishermen to preach the gospel to every creature?

 

  • They describe the gospel in its secret power.

 

Ø      The grain of mustard seed is small; but it is a seed. It has in it an

                        unlimited power of growth and multiplication. So Jesus has in Himself

                        illimitable resources. See His power flashing from Him in miracles.

o        Physical.

o        Moral.

 

Ø      The “little leaven,” also, possesses wonderful potency. The word of

                        Christ differs from every other word in that it carries in it the energy of

                        omnipotence. During the first year of the ministry of Jesus we read of

                        seventy disciples.” Note: They were not seventy units, but seventy

                        preachers. In three years “the number of the names was one hundred and

                        twenty.” After the outpouring of the Spirit the disciples multiplied by

                        thousands (Acts 2:41; 4:4).

 

Ø      The gospel has not only won its converts by millions, but it has

                        demolished the idolatrous systems of the classic nations. It is now

                        undermining the colossal systems of the East. It is in the van of all true

                        science and civilization.

 

  • They describe the gospel in its ultimate triumph.

 

Ø      These parables do not predict that the visible Church by the gospel is to

                        convert the whole world before Christ comes again. For this would oppose

                        His own teaching, as when He advises us that at His coming the moral state

                        of the world will sadly resemble that of the antediluvians in the days of

                        Noah AND LOT (see Luke 17:24-30). Paul also declares that “in the last

                        days perilous times shall come;” that “evil men and seducers shall wax

                        worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:1,13).

 

Ø      The interval of the seed lying in the soil is that portion of the parable of

                        the mustard seed to which may be compared the period through which we

                        are passing, extending from the first to the second advent of Christ. So

                        with the leaven. Leaven works secretly in the meal for a long time before

                        its power is visible in a universal commotion. As yet the kingdom of God is

                        without observation. It comes secretly in the heart without ostentation or

                        display.

 

Ø      The parables carry us beyond the time of the coming of Christ. They

                        carry us forward to the millennium, in which season the grain of mustard

                        seed will have become a great tree, in which the birds of the air — all

                        nations and peoples — will find rest and shelter (compare Psalm 80:9,11;

                        Isaiah 60:1, 2; Amos 9:15). Then will the work of the leaven be

                        visible in the whole lump. We cannot consider these words, the whole,

                        less than a prophecy that the leaven shall yet pervade all nations and purify

                        all life. Note: The gospel, like leaven, works silently and insensibly in

                        the heart (see Psalm 119:11). The Word, like fermenting leaven, is quick

                        and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). It works “until the whole is leavened, or

                        brought into similitude to itself. Leaven does not work in corn unground.

                        So neither does the gospel work on the unbroken heart. The similes in

                        these parables are encouraging to those who work for Christ and souls.

                        The same gospel which now converts the individual believer will convert

                        the race in the coming age.

 

vs. 36-52 -  Christ alone with His disciples. He explains to them at their

request the parable of the tares (vs. 36-43), and adds three parables;

o       the treasure,

o       the pearl, and

o       the dragnet,

 

the first two calculated to urge them to full renunciation of everything for Christ,

the third to save them from presumption (vs. 44-50). Upon their acknowledging

progress in spiritual understanding, He shows them further possibilities (vs. 51-52).

 

vs. 36-43 -  The explanation of the parable of the tares of the field.

 

36 “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and

His disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of

the tares of the field.”  Then Jesus sent the multitude away; then He left the

multitudes (Revised Version, ἀφείς apheis - leaving); compare ch. 26:44.

And went into the house (v. 1, note): and His disciples came unto him, saying,

Declare; explain (Revised Version, διασάφησονdiasaphaeson - explain);

i.e. make it thoroughly clear. The verb is found elsewhere in the New Testament

only in ch.18:31, where the thought is that the man’s fellow servants brought his

behavior fully before their lord’s knowledge (compae also II Maccabees 1:18).

As compared with φράσον phrasondecipher you -  (Received Text, and

ch.15:15), it leaves room for the disciples having already partially understood

it. Unto us the parable of the tares of the field. The addition, “of the

field,” indicates the point of the parable, considered even as a mere story,

that the tares grew in no chance place, but in a piece of cultivated ground

already allotted to other produce.

 

37 “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is

the Son of man;”  He answered and said unto them. In the following reply of

our Lord (vs. 37-43) observe the change of style at v. 40. Until then we

have pithy, concise sentences all joined by the simple copula δέ - de – yet –

 which can hardly be anything else than literal translations of the Lord’s

own phrases.  But vs. 40-43 are in the usual style of this Gospel.

The Son of man (ch. 8:20, note).

 

38 “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the

kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;”

The children of the kingdom; the sons, etc. (Revised Version);

ch. 5:9, note. The tares are the children of the wicked one;

of the evil one (Revised Version); compare ch.6:13, note.

 

39 “The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of

the world; and the reapers are the angels.”  The enemy that sowed them

(σπείρας – ho speirasthe one sowing); contrast v. 37 (σπείρων τὸ καλὸν

σπέρμαho speiron to kalon spermathe one sowing the good seed). V. 37

states what is ever true; v. 39 merely refers back to the enemy spoken of in the

parable. Is the devil (ch. 4:1, note). (For the thought of this and the preceding

clause, see John 8:44; I John 3:8, 10.) The harvest is the end of the

world; literally, as the margin of the Revised Version, the consummation

of the age (συντέλεια αἰῶνος sunteleia aionosconclusion of the eon);

when the present age shall have received its completion, and the more

glorious one be ushered in (compare ch.12:32, note). And the reapers are

the angels; are angels (Revised Version). But it is exactly parallel to the

preceding predicate, and if the insertion of our English idiomatic “the” fails

to lay the stress which the Greek has on the fact that the reapers are such beings

as angels (as contrasted with human workers, ch. 9:37-38), its omission adds a

thought which the Greek was probably not intended to convey — that the

reapers would be only some among the angels.

 

40 “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it

be in the end of this world.” As therefore. Observe that in vs. 40-43 our Lord

dwells at much greater length on the details of the reapers’ work than on the

preceding stages of the parable.  He wishes to draw special attention to the

fact that the tares will, without any doubt, be one day separated, and the

wheat appear in full splendor. The tares are gathered and burned in the

fire — burned with fire (Revised Version); compare ch. 3:10, note —

so shall it be in the end of this world (v. 39, note).

 

41 “The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather

out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do

iniquity;” The Son of man. Observe how expressly Christ identifies the

Sower with the Lord of the angels. Shall send forth (ἀποστελεῖ - apostelei

shall be dispatching) – as His representatives (ch. 10:2, note) — His angels, and

they shall gather out of His kingdom — though they are now there — all things

that offend, and them which do iniquity (πάντα τὰ σκάνδαλα καὶ τοῦς ποιοῦντας

τὴν ἀνομιάν - panta ta skandala kai tous poiountas taen anomianall the snares

and the ones doing lawlessness); all things that offend (that cause stumbling,

Revised Version); ch. 5:29, note. In itself it would naturally be understood of

persons, in accordance with the meaning of “tares.” But what is its relation

to the following clause, for this latter cannot be merely tautological (saying

the same things twice in different words)? There are two answers:

 

(a) The two phrases bring out different aspects under which the persons

are regarded. They, as “sons of the evil one,” are both stumbling blocks to

others (“the sons of the kingdom”), and also active workers of lawlessness

(vide infra). They sin against men (compare 24:24b) and against

God.

 

(b) The first term regards not so much them as their actions — their

scandalous acts; the second, the persons themselves. The former

of the two answers seems preferable, as keeping closer to the parable. It

also agrees with the personal use of σκάνδαλον skandalonsnare - in

ch.16:23, and the use of αὐτούς  - autousthem -  alone in the next clause

(v. 42). With respect to the whole phrase, observe:

 

(1) It is taken partly from Zephaniah 1:3 (Hebrew), “I will consume

[the verb אָסֵפ; would readily lend itself to the interpretation ‘gather’]... the

stumbling blocks with the wicked (המכשלות את־הרשעים... אספ).”

 

(2) Yet, as it stands, it is taken partly also from Psalm 37:1-2, for the

Greek of them that do iniquity is the same as in the Septuagint there.

Besides, the context is not dissimilar; it is that the righteous should not be

envious at the prosperity of the wicked, for it is only transitory, “They shall

soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.”

 

(3) The phrase, them which do iniquity (rather, lawlessness; ch. 7:23, note),

looks as though Paul’s teaching of “the man of sin” [Anti-Christ] (ἄνθρωπος

τῆς ἀνομίαςho anthropos taes anomies - : in II Thessalonians 2:3;

compare ibid. vs.7-8 – the mentioning of lawlessness and the lawless one

in the Greek -  CY – 2016) might have some basis in the direct teaching of

the Lord (compare v. 43, note).

 

(4) Ephraem Syrus, evidently quoting this passage, but in the form in

which, presumably, it existed in the ‘Diatessaron,’ deduces from it that the

earth will be the abode of the glorified saints: “Quod autem dicit: Mandabit

domum regni sui ab omni scandalo, intellige de terra et rebus creatis, quas

renovabit, ibique justos suos collocabit” (Resch, ‘Agrapha,’ p. 295).

 

42 “And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and

gnashing of teeth.”  And shall cast them into a (the, Revised Version) furnace

of fire: there shall be (the, Revised Version) wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Judging by the analogy of v. 50, even the first clause is not necessarily

due to the image of the tares. The furnace of fire was no unknown

expression for the punishment of the wicked (compare also ch. 8:12, note).

 

43 “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of

their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”  Then shall the righteous.

For with these also their character is seen in their lives (ch. 5:45, note). Shine forth

as the sun. An undoubted reference to the substance of Daniel 12:3. Observe that

according to the thought of the parable, it is suggested that the likeness

consists not only in the brightness of the sun in itself, but also in its being

alone in the sky, with nothing round it to prevent its full glory being seen.

Then. The chief lesson of the parable; not before, but at, that time. In the

kingdom of their Father. In v. 38 they were spoken of as “the sons of

the kingdom;” here their Father is expressly mentioned, not “the Son of

man” (vs. 37, 41). The same reference to His Father rather than to Himself

is found in ch. 26:29. Did our Lord wish already to hint that “then cometh the end,

when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father” (I Corinthians 15:24)?

Had Paul’s teaching also here a direct connection with that of our Lord (v. 41,

note)?  Who hath ears to hear, let him hear (v. 9, note).

 

 

The Tares; the Mustard Seed; the Leaven (vs. 24-43)

 

  • THE STORY OF THE TARES.

 

Ø      Resemblance to the first parable. Again we have the field, the sower,

and the seed. Again the seed is good. “God saw everything that He had

made, and, behold, it was very good.” Again the Sower sowed the good

seed all over the field. No part was neglected.

 

Ø      The differences.

 

o        In this case there is an enemy; he came by night and sowed tares

Among the wheat. It was an act of pure malice; it could do him no

good. But such things are sometimes done, we are told, in Eastern

countries now; and, alas! actions of equal malice are done nearer

home. In the blade the tares were like the wheat; the mischief was

not discovered till the ears began to form.

 

o        There are servants also. They tell their lord; they suggest the plucking

up of the tares. It is a thing often done (comp. ‘Sinai and Palestine,’ p.

426); if the tares had been few and scattered, it would have seemed

the best course. But the enemy had done his work too thoroughly;

the tares were sown thickly all over the field; their roots were

intertwined with the wheat roots. The lord bade his servants wait

till the harvest; then the field should be reaped as it was; the tares

should be burned, the wheat gathered into the garner.

 

  • THE GRAIN OF MUSTARD SEED.

 

Ø      The parable. The mustard seed is small. It is sown in the field; it

becomes greater than the herbs, a tree; the birds of the air lodge in its

branches.

 

Ø      Its meaning. Such was the kingdom of heaven. It was small in its

beginning; only a little Child was born in Bethlehem of Judaea. At first its

growth seemed very slow. The King was a Man of sorrows; He died the

cruel death of the cross. Twelve men were sent forth to fight the battle of

the kingdom, to confront the whole power of heathendom; they were few;

they were, for the most part, of no reputation, unknown and unregarded.

But as the little seed had a vital power inherent in it, so was it with the

kingdom of heaven. It spread itself with a strange expansive force, till it

filled all the greatest kingdoms of the earth, and men flocked from all

sides to take refuge in its shelter.  (A couple of years back, I had my

driveway paved.  Since then, there has been a patch of grass force its

way through the pavement, “…the seed should spring and grow up,

he knoweth not how.”   Mark 4:27 – CY – 2016)

 

Ø      Its encouragement. It may be, as Chrysostom thinks, that this and the

following parable were intended to encourage the disciples. There was

something very saddening in the lessons of the first two parables. Three

parts of the good seed were lost; the remainder was mingled with tares.

It seemed a melancholy prospect. But now there is a word of comfort. The

seed will grow; it will become a tree, spreading its branches far; it will offer

refuge to the wandering and the homeless. Let us take courage. The

Church hath a vital expansive force, so long as it abides IN CHRIST who

is the Life. It will live on; it will spread. The wandering children will return;

the restless, who have been driven about by every blast of vain doctrine,

will find a home at last in the Church of Christ.

 

  • THE LEAVES.

 

Ø      The difference between this parable and the last. The seed has a

principle of life in it. Plant it, and under favorable circumstances it will

grow. You cannot watch the actual process of growth from minute to

minute; but day after day you see the results. The plant springs up, rises

into the air, expands on all sides. So doth the Church of Christ. The leaven

works secretly, silently, invisibly; it is hidden in the meal; little by little it

spreads its assimilating influence through the whole mass. It figures the

silent, unseen spreading of the gospel

 

Ø      The silent growth of Christianity. The gospel was hidden in the world, in

its three ancient divisions, among the descendants of the three sons of

Noah. Its growth at first was silent; few marked it, as by slow degrees it

spread its influence through the masses of heathenism. Heathen

contemporary writers seem for the most part ignorant of its existence;

but in silence and in secret it worked on, softening, refining, purifying.

 

Ø      The unseen growth of personal religion. But the three measures of meal

may well be understood of the three constituent parts of our human nature

body, soul, and spirit. The leaven which is to regenerate society must

first regenerate its individual elements. The germ of spiritual life is hidden

in the soul; it is unseen, hid with Christ in God. But it is quick and

powerful. It works under the surface with a strange penetrating energy. It

diffuses its influence through the heart, which without it would be dull and

heavy, indifferent to religion. Little by little it expels the counteracting

agencies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It spreads itself more and

more through the whole life, assimilating with its secret influence every

form of human activity. It works, and will work, till every thought is

brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; till we have learned,

whatever we do, to do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

 

  • REMARKS OF THE EVANGELIST.

 

Ø      The Lords method. On that occasion He taught the multitude only by

parables. He spoke to the people as they were able to hear it (Mark

4:33). He reserved the explanation for His disciples. Religious teaching

should be adapted to the circumstances of the hearers. Simple teaching is

best suited for simple minds. The teacher should imitate the Lord’s

example, and teach in singleness of heart, seeking only the good of souls.

 

Ø      The reason: the fulfilment of prophecy. There were other reasons,

mentioned already, for the adoption of this mode of teaching. But the

fulfillment of prophecy always underlay all the Lord’s acts and words. The

whole Scriptures of the ancient covenant spake of Him and the new

covenant which He was to inaugurate. Thus the seventy-eighth psalm

prefigured His use of parables. That psalm represents the history of God’s

ancient people as a parable of spiritual things. There was a spiritual

meaning in all its details. “These things were our examples (tu>poi) (1

Corinthians 10:6, 11 – I marvel at how much of the world the Holy Spirit

interprets to us individually!  CY  - 2016); they were types of the vicissitudes

of the spiritual life, written for our admonition; a parable of God’s dealings

with the individual soul. Let us learn to look on the Old Testament in this

light, to understand its religious use.

 

  • EXPLANATION OF THE PARABLE OF THE TARES.

 

Ø      The petition of the disciples. The multitude had departed; the Lord and

His disciples had returned to the house; they were alone. The disciples

sought further instruction. So it is now. The multitude depart; the true

disciples follow the Lord whithersoever He goeth. They are near Him in the

crowded church, sometimes even nearer in the silent hour of solitary

prayer. Then they sit at His feet like Mary, seeking to learn ever deeper

lessons of faith and love. He hears their prayer; He answers in His grace

and mercy.

 

Ø      The answer. The Lord explained the parable to His disciples, as He will

explain to us the meaning of our trials and perplexities, if we come to Him

in faith and prayer.

 

o        The Sower is the Son of man. God the Son, come in the flesh, and

henceforth Son of man as well as Son of God.

 

o        The field is the world. But it is a parable of the kingdom of God (vs.

24, 41). The field is God’s. He sowed the good seed in it. The world,

so far as it is sown over with the good seed, becomes the Church.

“The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters

cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)

 

o        The seed. In the parable of the sower, the seed is the Word of God;

here it is the children of the kingdom. But the seed is identical with the

plant. The living seed pervades and takes into itself the whole human

nature. The principle of spiritual life which was sown by the Divine

Sower becomes the full-grown plant, the Christian living in the faith

of the Son of God. “Not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

This identification is seen even in the parable of the sower. In

vs. 20, 22-23 the true translation is not “he that received seed,”

but “he that was sown.”

 

o        The enemy. “God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it

Was very good.” It was not He who sowed the tares; it was the devil.

This parable brings out into clear light the personality of Satan, his

malice, his intense hostility TO CHRIST!  Dark, perplexing questions

rise in our minds.  Our very children ask us Why did not God destroy

the devil? We know that there is “eternal fire prepared for the devil

and his angels.” (ch. 25:41)  He shall be cast into the bottomless pit,

and deceive men no more. (Revelation 20)  But in the meantime it

seems to be necessary, for deep inscrutable reasons, that his malice

should be counteracted, not by a direct act of almighty power, but

by moral and spiritual forces. Such forces radiate into the Church

from the cradle of Bethlehem, from the cross of Calvary. “For this

purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy

the works of the devil.” (I John 3:8)  The enemy sowed the tares;

they are the children of the wicked one. The evil seed has,

through their own sinful compliance, so spread through their nature

that it has made them like their father the devil, and the lusts of their

father they do (John 8:44). It is an awful thought; but we know that

though, in the natural world, tares can never become wheat, yet, in

the spiritual world, they who were once under the power of darkness

may by the grace of God be translated into the kingdom of his dear

Son. A parable cannot, from the nature of the case, correspond in all

its minute details with the eternal verities which it is intended to

shadow forth.

 

o        The tares are to remain till the end of the world. The servants were

impatient. Christians have been so often. “Whence then hath it tares?”

is a question which has been asked in every age of the Church —

which we often ask ourselves. The servants would have anticipated

the office of the heavenly reapers; but the Lord forbade. The time was

not come. They had not the knowledge. They would do more harm

than good, wheat and tares were so inextricably mingled. Christians

must wait for the Lord in patience.  In the visible Church the evil

will be ever mingled with the good. Earthly power must not be used

to exterminate religious errors. The tares must grow with the wheat,

for such is the Lord’s command. It is a saddening thought that the

Church, the bride of Christ, which ought to be “a glorious Church,

not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,” (Epheians 5:27)

should be so rent asunder by schism and heresies, so disfigured with

the evil lives of many baptized men. But the Lord warned us that it

would be so. We must live in patient hope, purifying ourselves even

as He is pure, and seeking by His gracious help to influence for good

all who come within our reach.

 

o        For the harvest cometh. It is the end of the world. “The Son of man

shall send forth His angels.” He seemed a man among men, as He

said the words; but He was in truth the high Son of God. None other

could dare to describe the angels of judgment as His messengers.

The reapers are the angels; they shall gather out of His kingdom:

 

§         all things that offend, and

§         them that do iniquity.

 

                      They were in the outward  kingdom, the visible Church; they have no

                      part in the kingdom of glory. The Lord hath prepared no place there

                      for them. There remaineth only the furnace of fire, the wailing

and gnashing of teeth. Most awful words!

 

o        The glory of the blessed. “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the

sun in the kingdom of their Father.” They were in His earthly

kingdom; they had called Him “Our Father.” Now they are with Him

forever in the everlasting glory. They shall shine forth. The glory

which they had before, which Christ had given them (John 17:22),

but which had been hidden in that inner life of holiness which is hid

WITH CHRIST IN GOD, shall be manifested then. They shall shine

as the sun. As the raiment of the Lord shone on the Mount of the

Transfiguration, so shall shine the glorified bodies of the blessed

in the day when He shall change the body of our humiliation,

that it may be like unto the body of His glory. (Philippians 3:21)

Listen, the Lord says; His words are of momentous importance.

“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the

which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth

and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” The parable of the

hidden treasure found. Matthew only. It seems probable, from v. 51, that this

and the next two parables were spoken to the disciples in private. They alone

would appreciate the value of what they had found; to them alone could the

warning be as yet given, that it is not sufficient to have been gathered within the

gospel net. Observe in this parable that the treasure was found by chance, and it

was near to the man without his knowing it. Again. To be omitted, with the

Revised Version. Its absence (contrast vs. 45, 47) suggests that this parable is the

first of a group, marked as such either by our Lord beginning with it after He had

made a pause, or by merely coming first in one of the sources that the evangelist

used. The kingdom of heaven (v. 24, note) is like unto treasure hid in a field

(compare Proverbs 2:4). Hid (hidden, Revised Version, κεκρυμμένῳ - kekrummeno

having been hid). It was not there by accident; it had been purposely placed there,

hid by its former possessor for safety (ch. 25:18, 25). Observe that, doubtless

unintentionally on the part of the evangelist, the parable forms in this

respect the complement to v. 35b. In a field (ἐν τῷ ἀγρῷ - en to agro –

in the field); in the field (Revised Version). The which when a man

hath found, he hideth; which a man found, and hid (Revised Version).

For fear some one else should take it. Premature assertion would lose the

man the treasure. (For a similar truth in spiritual things, compare Galatians

1:17.) And for joy thereof. So also the margin of the Revised Version; but

and in his joy (Revised Version) is better (καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς αὐτοῦ - kai apo

taes charas autouand for the joy of him). Goeth and selleth all that he hath,

and buyeth that field. Goeth sellethbuyeth. All in the present tense. Our Lord

in this parable (contrast v. 46) brings the man vividly before us in each separate

stage of his action. For the self-denial that is a necessary of acquiring gospel

privileges, compare ch.19:21-22 (where contrast the young man’s grief with the

joy spoken of here). Field. Observe that, though the figure is the same as in

v. 24, the thing signified is very different. Here field represents merely

that which contains the treasure, perhaps the outward profession of

Christianity. All. Westcott and Hort omit, chiefly on the authority of the

Vatican manuscript (cf. ver. 46, note). And buyeth that field. Into the

morality of the action our Lord does not enter; He only illustrates His

teaching by an incident that must have happened not unfrequently in a

country like Palestine, which had already been the scene of so many wars.

But the transaction was, at least, in entire accordance with Jewish law. If a

man had found a treasure in loose coins among the corn, it would certainly

be his, if he bought the corn. If he had found it on the ground, or in the

soil, it would equally certainly belong to him, if he could claim ownership

of the soil, and even if the field were not his own, unless others could prove

their right to it. The law went so far as to adjudge to the purchaser of fruits

anything found among these fruits.

 

 

The Treasure of Great Joy (v. 44)

 

Note, in introduction, that this fifth parable was not spoken from the ship

to the multitude upon the shore, but within “the house;” and the character

of it seems in some relative degree to alter. It is no longer a parable,

illustrating the kingdom of heaven in respect of the manner of its

operation, but emphasizing the value of itself, and the sense of its value as

entertained and proved by some; and it is no longer a parable revealing the

wide hold it shall establish over the mass of mankind, but the mighty hold it

shall gain upon the individuals of whom the mass is composed. The parable

exhibits these facts respecting the kingdom, and that which is of the very

essence of it — the treasure of the gospel, the truth of Christ.  The present parable

is not spoken of one who seeks already, but of one who, in the midst of his own

duty, life’s labor and toil, lights on the treasure. Why has he lighted upon it? In this

case it will not do to say chance! Nor is it often given to us to say why. It is for the

blest man himself, however, to count it an example of free, unmerited, sovereign

goodness and mercy. The effect in the case is immediate; the man takes in at once

the value of THE OPPORTUNITY OF THAT HAS OPENED BEFORE HIM!

 

vs. 45-46.  The parable of the pearl merchant, Matthew only.

Observe in this parable that the merchant is accustomed to deal in pearls,

and is searching for good ones, when he meets with one worth more than

the others he possesses all put together. If the former parable described one

who finds the gospel as it were by chance (e.g. the woman of Samaria), this

speaks of one who has long been searching for truth (e.g. Andrew and

John, the Ethiopian eunuch).

 

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking

goodly pearls:” Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant

man. Evidently no poor man, but a rich wholesale dealer (ἔμπορος emporos

merchant: compare Revelation 18:23; not κάπηλος kapaelosa retailer - 

compare II Corinthians 2:17). Seeking. According to the usual manner of his life.

Goodly pearls.  He cared nothing about the inferior kinds or specimens. The man

aimed high; he got more than he can have thought possible (ch. 7:7-8).

 

46 “Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all

that he had, and bought it.” Who, when he had found (and having found,

Revised Version? εὑρὼν δέ - euron de – having found) one pearl of great price

(Job 28:18, Revised Version margin, one); hardly the indefinite article (compare

ch. 8:19, note).  Went (ἀπελθών apelthon - coming away); i.e. some distance,

for he might well have to go much further than the man in the preceding parable

(ὑπάγει hupageiis going away – v. 45). Went (aorist)… sold (perfect) ... bought

(aorist). He starts without delay; he sells irrevocably; he purchases at once (compare

v. 44). And sold all that he had, and bought it. All. Genuine here. It may have been

a great deal as worldly wealth is reckoned. Thus Saul of Tarsus acted (Philippians

3:7-8), and Moses (Hebrews 11:26).

 

 

                                    The Chief Good (vs. 44-46)

 

The parable of the treasure and that of the pearl as they are here together

may well be considered together, for the subject is the same. The repetition

emphasizes the importance and value of THE GOSPEL!  These parables set

before us the gospel as  a hidden “treasure.”   Why is it hidden?

 

  • For the rousing of our faculties and quickening of our diligence (see

      Proverbs 2:1-7). This stimulus is an important factor in our moral

            education. The miner becomes skilful in mining. So the merchantman in

            estimating the quality and value of pearls.

 

  • The diligence thus called forth enhances the value of the treasure. We

            value things according to the price we will pay. Also according to the price

            we have paid. The endurance of our faith is intimately associated with the

            thoroughness of our repentance.

 

  • They are hidden to conceal them from the unworthy.

 

Ø      Lest they should insult them. The swine will trample on the pearl,

      and turn and rend the merchantman.

Ø      As a judgment upon their brutishness (compare vs. 10-15; Isaiah 6:9).

 

·         From whom are they hidden?

 

Ø      From the wise and understanding, viz. in their own conceits

      (compare ch.11:25-27). Not many of our sophs are called.

Ø      From the self-righteous. From the Pharisees, who were notably of

      this order, especially it was that Christ taught in parables to hide

      the saving truth.

Ø      From the sensual. The treasure of the gospel is spiritual. It is, therefore,

                        to be discerned by the spiritual senses. The grosser sensualism of the flesh

                        blinds the finer sense of the spirit (compare John 14:9).

Ø      From the worldly. They can only see the surface of the field. A

                        nobleman once gave a celebrated actress a Bible, telling her at the same

                        time that there was a treasure in it. She, thinking he meant religion, laid

                        the Bible aside. She died, and all she had was sold. The person who

                        bought the Bible, on turning over its leaves, found a five hundred pound

                        note in it. Had the actress read that book she might not only have found

                        the note, but the Pearl of great price.”

 

  • Where is it found!

 

Ø      In this present world. “The field is the world” (v. 38).

 

o        In this present world we are probationers for eternity.

      If we miss the opportunities of this probation we have no