Focus on Jesus Series
Thoughts About the Parables
by Ed Vasicek
Matthew 13 presents us with the "Parables of the Kingdom." In this section, it seems as though Jesus, having been rejected by the Jewish establishment in Matthew 12, is revealing the nature of the "mystery" form of His kingdom, what we would call the "church age." The Old Testament set up (in theory) a "theocracy," a government where God ruled through His Law (the Torah), mediated by priests and judges and later by kings. The Old Testament predicted a better era in which God Himself would reign through the Messiah. This period we call the "Millennium" because Revelation tells us it will be 1,000 years in duration.
But what about now? Since most Jews rejected Jesus and the Millennium did not come, where do Jesus' followers fit? The answer is "within the mystery Kingdom of God." The term "mystery" does not mean mysterious, but refers to previously withheld information—an era about which God had been tightlipped. The parables of Matthew 13 describe this era, but many first-century Jews could not understand this concept because of spiritual paradigm blindness.
The Parable of the Soils has some interesting parallels from within Judaism in the Talmud. These descriptions frequently divided disciples (learners) into four categories. Here is one such division. Those who are:
The Parable of the Mustard Seed gives us an example of the figure of speech known as ellipsis, where a phrase from a previous sentence is understood in the latter. When Jesus tells us that many seeds are sown by a farmer and the mustard seed is the smallest seed, the expression, "of seeds farmers sow," is understood from the previous sentence. Ellipsis is the key to sorting out many seemingly difficult passages. If I said, "I ate steak for dinner" and then said, "I ate green beans and potatoes," the context tells my mind to insert "during dinner." We use ellipsis everyday.
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares mentions a wheat-like grain (translated "tares") that resembles wheat but is not wheat. Ann Punton tells us the grain referred to as "tares" is really darnel—"Darnel is indistinguishable from wheat until both are ripe. Then, the heavier wheat heads bend while the lighter darnel remains upright. Just before harvest, workers go through the fields picking it out. It is poisonous and can make people very ill if any is left and gets ground into the flour..." (The World Jesus Knew).
Highland Park Church