“Emmanuel’s Kingdom Pt 10” – Matthew 13:24-43

November 1st, 2015

Matthew 13:24-43 (Mk 4:30-34; Lk 13;18-21)

“Emmanuel’s Kingdom Pt 10”


Service Orientation:  In a world in which we are surrounded by hard, superficial and divided hearts, it is easy to think that the Kingdom of God is an insignificant and encumbered pipe dream.  Guard your heart.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:   These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. —  Hebrews 11:39


Background Information:

  • The previous parable was concerned with unproductive soil, this one with bad seed. Both have a determining effect on the harvest.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 75)
  • (v. 24) The terms “kingdom of heaven’ and “kingdom of God” are synonymous. Matthew, being a Jew, was exceedingly scrupulous about using the name of God, so he chose to refer to the kingdom of heaven.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 428)
  • (v. 25) Remember that in parables, not every item needs to be interpreted; some details are added to give color. That the enemy came while everybody was asleep does not indicate neglect on anyone’s part; that he went away does not indicate his absence.  Instead, these details merely highlight the stealth and malicious intent of Satan (the enemy, “the evil one”).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 267)
  • (v. 25) What this enemy does is mean, cruel, cowardly, sadistic. He waits until everybody is fast asleep, so that he will not be seen and caught.  Then, without the least bit of concern for all the labor that has been bestowed on the field, the expenses incurred, and the hopes inspired, he oversows the field with tares.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 563)
  • (v. 25) This “bearded darnel” is host to a fungus which, if eaten by animals or man, is poisonous. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 563)
  • (v. 25) Tares (NIV- weeds) is from zizanion, a variety of darnel weed that closely resembles wheat and is almost impossible to distinguish from it until the wheat ripens and bears grain. Because of this resemblance, sowing tares . . . among the wheat was sometimes done in ancient times out of spite or revenge by an enemy who wanted to destroy or at least greatly reduce the value of someone’s crop.  It was a common enough crime for the Romans to have had a specific law against it.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 367)
  • (v. 25) It was not uncommon, of course, for a few weeds, including some tares, to grow up among the good plants; but the great quantity of tares in this field made it obvious that their crop was intentionally sabotaged. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 367)
  • (v. 27) The ratio of tares to wheat must have been unusually large. Otherwise these servants would not have been so surprised, for to see some tares among the wheat was, after all, not very strange.  What these men see in this field however is altogether different and calls for an explanation.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 564)
  • (v. 30) The “harvest” was a common metaphor for the final judgment (Jer 51:33; Hos 6:11; see also Rv 14:14-16). Jesus soon explained that “the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels” (13:39 NRSV).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 269)
  • (vss. 31-33) Long before Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion it was evident that the Jewish leaders rejected His claims of messiahship. It was also obvious that the multitudes who praised and followed Him did not understand His true nature or mission and were only superficially attracted to Him.  His true disciples were a handful against the whole nation of Israel, not to mention the vast and ungodly Roman empire and the regions beyond.  In response to that unspoken concern, Jesus used these two parables to emphasize that small things can have far-reaching effects.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 368)
  • (v. 31) The mustard plant of Palestine was very different from the mustard plant which we know in this country. To be strictly accurate, the mustard seed is not the smallest of seeds; the seed of the cypress tree, for instance, is still smaller; but in the middle east it was proverbial for smallness.  For example, the Jews talked of a drop of blood as small as a mustard seed; or, if they were talking of some tiny breach of the ceremonial law, they would speak of a defilement as small as a mustard seed; and Jesus himself used the phrase in this way when he spoke of faith as a grain of mustard seed (Mt 17:20).  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 88-9)
  • (v. 31) The mustard seed was so small that it would take almost twenty thousand seeds to make one ounce. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 269)
  • (v. 32) The phrase about “nesting” (NIV- perching) had dear and striking associations with Jewish hope, as we shall note. (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 416)
  • (v. 32) The figure of birds making nests normally calls to mind that which is positive and helpful. Nesting carries the idea of protection, safety, refuge, and sanctuary, which the mother bird provides for her young.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 371)
  • (v. 32) “Did not the OT contain prophecies concerning the exaltation of Israel, its expansion among the nations, and its cosmic significance during the Messianic age?” See Gn 22:17, 18; Ps 72:8-11; Isa 54:2, 3; chap. 60-62; Jer 31:31-40; 32:36-44; Amos 9:11-15; Mic 2:12, 13; 4:18-8; chap. 5; Zech chap 2; 8:18-23; etc.  But in the thinking of the people these passages if pondered at all were probably often lifted out of their contexts.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 566)
  • (v. 32) Dr. L. H. Shinners, director of the herbarium at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution, stated in a conversation that

the mustard seed would indeed have been the smallest of those to have been noticed by the people at the time of Christ.  The principal field crops (barley, wheat, lentils, and beans) have much larger seeds, as do other plants which might have been present as weeds and so forth.  There are various weeds and wild flowers belonging to the mustard, amaranth, pigweed, or chickweed families with seeds that are as small as or smaller than mustard; but they would not have been known or noticed by the inhabitants.  They are wild and they certainly would not have been planted as a crop . . . The only modern crop plant in existence with smaller seeds than mustard is tobacco, and this plant of American origin was not grown in the old world until the sixteenth century or later.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 369)

  • (v. 33) The point is emphasized by the amount of flour used, an exaggeration comparable with calling the mustard plant a “tree”: sixty pounds of flour would make enough bread to feed a small village! But the (presumably small) amount of leaven is able to make it all expand into a huge quantity of bread.  The kingdom of heaven may be initially insignificant, but it is pervasive.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 528)
  • (v. 33) Three such measures would therefore amount to a huge quantity, not less than an ephah; one might say “more than a bushel.” But it was not at all unusual for a woman to make so large a batch.  Sarah did it (Gn 18:6).  A similar amount is also mentioned in Jdg 6:19 and in 1 Sm 1:24.  The point of the parable is that yeast once inserted continues its process of fermentation until the whole batch has risen.  So also the citizen of the kingdom demands that every sphere of life shall contribute its full share of service, honor, and glory to him who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rv 19:16).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 567)
  • (v. 33) Scripture uses leaven almost exclusively as a negative metaphor, probably because fermentation implied disintegration and corruption (Ex 12:8, 15-20). But Jesus uses yeast to symbolize the positive, hidden permeation of the kingdom of heaven in this world.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 483-4)
  • (v. 33) They were not even allowed to have leaven of any sort in the house during the seven days of the feast [of Passover] (Ex 12:15, 18-19). But the bread they ate the rest of the year was leavened and perfectly acceptable to the Lord.  To the average person of Jesus’ day, Jew or Gentile, there is no evidence that leaven carried any connotation of evil or corruption.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 372)
  • (v. 33) A typical lump of leaven might have been no more than 2 percent of the dough weight. (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol 1, 86)
  • (v. 35) But what are these “hidden things” Jesus is now uttering? In Psalm 78 they are “the righteous acts of God in redemption” (Lindars, Apologetic, 157).  Likewise that is what Jesus is now revealing–the righteous acts of God in redemption taking place in his teaching, miracles, death, and resurrection.  Matthew insists that the OT Scriptures prophesied these things.  They are not novel.  If in one sense they have not been known before, it is because they have not all been brought together in the same pattern before.  Jesus’ kingdom parables to the crowds declare new things, secrets (v. 11), hidden things (v. 35). Yet they are secret and new chiefly because they depend on an approach to Scripture not unlike Asaph’s–bringing together various pieces of previous revelation into new perspectives.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 322)
  • (v. 35) The psalmist Asaph reflected on Israel’s history and clarified through parables the meaning of past events so that the people would learn from their history and would not be a stubborn and rebellious people with hearts hard to God (Ps 78:2, 8). Matthew’s standard fulfillment formula says that Jesus has done a similar service to Israel in his day, revealing in his parables the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven that have been hidden since the beginning.  Once again, the difference is in the response of the audience.  Those spiritually alive will come to Jesus for further clarification and understanding, while those spiritually deadened will turn away.  (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol 1, 86)
  • (v. 35) The point is that though the history of the Jews, which Asaph relates, is well known, the psalmist selects the historical events he treats and brings them together in such a way as to bring out things that have been riddles and enigmas “from of old.” The pattern of history is not self-evident; but the psalmist will show what it is really all about.  He enlarges on God’s might at the time of the Exodus and at other major turning points, a might exercised on behalf of his people.  With these events the psalmist juxtaposes the people’s persistent rebellion, the result being a vivid portrayal of God’s justice and mercy and the people’s obtuseness, need, and privilege.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 321)
  • (v. 36) The “house” that is a safe haven from the pressing crowd is once again probably Peter’s and Andrew’s home in Capernaum where his disciples again ask for a clarification of a parable, this time the one regarding the weeds (cf. 13:10). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 485)
  • (v. 38) Jesus said, “The field is the world,” not the church. (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 177)
  • (v. 41) If you read through the seven parables carefully, this theme (judgment) is hard to miss. In fact, this theme of judgment is prevalent almost everywhere in Matthew where Jesus speaks in parables.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 377)
  • (v. 42) Hell will not be a place, as some jokingly envision, where the ungodly will continue to do their thing while the godly do theirs in heaven. Hell will have no friendships, no fellowship, no camaraderie, no comfort.  It will not even have the debauched pleasures in which the ungodly love to revel on earth.  There will be no pleasure in hell of any kind or degree–only torment, “day and night forever and ever” (Rv 20:10).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 379)
  • (v. 42) The “weeping” indicates sorrow or remorse, and “gnashing of teeth” shows extreme anxiety or pain. Those who say they don’t care what happens to them after they die don’t realize what they are saying.  God will punish them for living in selfishness and indifference to him.  Jesus, who has already identified himself as the Son of Man (8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 32, 40) revealed that he will inaugurate the end of the age and the final judgment.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 272-3)
  • (v. 42) The passages in which the doctrine of everlasting punishment is taught are so numerous that one stands aghast that there are people who affirm that they accept Scripture, but who nevertheless reject this doctrine. What is perhaps the most telling argument against the notion that the wicked are simply annihilated but that the righteous continue to live forevermore is the fact that in Mt 25:46 the same word describes the duration both of the punishment of the former and of the blessedness of the latter:  the wicked go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.   (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 571-2)


The questions to be answered are . . . What is Jesus telling us about the Kingdom of Heaven?  Why should we care?


Answer:  Jesus tells us to persevere in our faith because the Kingdom of Heaven will not appear to achieve what was promised until the end.


The Word for the Day is . . .  Finale


I-  God allows the Devil to challenge the fledgling Kingdom of Heaven until the Finale.  (Mt 13:24-30, 37-43; see also: bk of Job; Mt 7:21-23; Rom 5:1-5; 2 Cor 2:11; 11:14-15; Jam 1:2-4; 1 Pt 5:8; 2 Pt 2:1-3, 13-22;  1 Jn 2:19)


There is another item which we strangely miss.  Would we ourselves like to be “purged” from the church and from the fellowship of Christ?  We are tares:  only by a self-righteous pride could we claim to be a weedless field.  “There go I, but for the grace of God.”  Perhaps the more accurate word might be, “There I ought to go, for my despising of the grace of God.”  Surely “all have sinned.”  We should be ruthless with the evil in ourselves, but cautious in our dealings with evil in others–since our eyes and understanding are both short; and we should be grateful to God’s patience that he does not “liquidate” us.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 415)


Every person who is uncertain about his relationship to God should ask himself if he is wheat or merely a tare that looks like wheat, if he is a child of God or of the evil one.  If he does not belong to God, he can come to God, because God is in the business of making wheat out of tares, saints out of sinners.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 379)


We cannot always distinguish between the wheat and tares in this age.  But a day is coming when that distinction will be made.  The harvest will happen, the wheat will be gathered into God’s barn, and the tares will be burned.  As a result, we should examine ourselves as to whether we are true children of God or not.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 240)


Christians are not qualified to infallibly distinguish between true and false believers.  Every time the church has presumed to do that it has produced an ungodly bloodbath.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 378)


The lesson taught here is always timely.  It was certainly needed by the disciples, who were too eager to expel from their company some of those who did not belong to Christ’s regular followers (Lk 9:49, 50), too ready to flare up in anger and quarrelsomeness even against fellow-disciples, members of their own group of Twelve (Mt 20:24; Lk 22:24).  The lesson has been needed by the church ever since.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 574)


This raises the mystery of sin in the world God created.  Why does God permit the wrong to crowd out the right, the evil to crowd out the good until the final day of reaping?  Jesus does not explain the fact, neither does He explain it away.  These are the facts and they are attributable to the agency of the Evil One.

Why does He not root up the evil?  Because it is not until the ear is formed that the nature of the grain becomes evident.  There is tenderness and hope in the words, ‘Let both grow together until harvest.’ Men can change, and the contact of the professors with the possessors gives opportunity to the former of coming to repentance and faith.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 76)


If we are extreme in our efforts to obtain purity we do more harm than good; we run the risk of encouraging many a Judas Iscariot, and breaking many a bruised reed.  In our zeal to pull up the weeds (v. 28), we are in danger of rooting up the wheat with them (v. 29).  Such zeal is not based on knowledge and has often done much harm.  Those who do not care what happens to the wheat provided they can root up the weeds show little of the mind of Christ–and after all, there is deep truth in the charitable saying of Augustine, “Those who are weeds today may be wheat tomorrow.”  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 107)


We shall never find a perfect church.  We may spend our lives in migrating from communion to communion, and pass our days in perpetual disappointment:  go where we will, and worship where we may we always find “weeds.”  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 108)


There are good seeds and bad seeds, children of God and children of Satan, in the church.  At first glance, the works of each may be difficult to distinguish.  Jesus appealed to us to be appropriately inclusive (we should avoid exclusiveness and arrogant separatism).  We should strive for unity with others even when it may present the risk of “weeds.”  The work of judgment is God’s.  Yet we must not be naive.  Satan has a strategy and his children are at work.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 267)


The wheat and tares could not be safely separated when both were growing, but in the end they had to be separated, because the grain of the bearded darnel is slightly poisonous.  It causes dizziness and sickness and is narcotic in its effects, and even a small amount has a bitter and unpleasant taste.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 86)


Within “the world” believers and unbelievers continue to exist side by side even after the proclamation of the kingdom of heaven and Jesus’ assault on the kingdom of Satan, and some disciples may have found this apparently unchanged situation perplexing.  Where was the new world order they had been promised?  What sort of “kingdom” was this that allowed opposition to continue unchecked?  Why did God not straightaway destroy the “sons of darkness” and so make his world a place fit for the “sons of light” (to use the language of Qumran)?  The parable answers that question by a call to patience, directing attention away from the current situation to the coming judgment, when it will be made plain who are the true people of God and who are the “children of the Evil One.”  God is not in a hurry, and they must be prepared to wait for his time.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 533)


The great Augustine argued that the church in the world is always a corpus permixtum, which simply means “mixed body.”  He was saying that the church is a mixture of those who are true believers and those who have made professions of faith but who are not actually regenerate or numbered among the elect.  Because of this reality, Augustine also introduced the very important distinction between the visible church and the invisible church.  The visible church refers to all of those people whose names appear on the rolls of a given congregation.  The invisible church refers to those people who are truly saved.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 431)


If the field is the world rather than the church, it would be more correct to say that the devil’s people are in the world already and that it is Jesus, rather than Satan, who plants his seed among that which is already growing.  It would be Jesus who does the new thing, not Satan.  However, as Jesus tells the story, the point is what Satan is doing, and that is something done after Jesus has already sown his seed.  In other words, the devil places his own counterfeit Christians among true believers to hinder God’s work.

So that is the real message, and whether the field is the world or the church is actually irrelevant.  The point is simply that the devil is going to bring forward people (whether in the church of out of it) so much like true Christians, though they are not Christians, that even the servants of God will not be able to tell them apart.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 239)


This is not the age of God’s judgment, and certainly not of judgment and execution by the church.  While on earth, the Lord Himself would not lift a finger against His enemies.  To Judas, who betrayed Him to His death, He offered the first sop at the Last Supper as a gesture of love and a final appeal for belief (Jn 13:26).  For those who falsely accused Him and sent Him to the cross, He asked forgiveness (Lk 23:34).  How, then, can His followers consider themselves ever justified in taking the role of judge or avenger and executioner?  In the present age, believers are not God’s instruments of judgment and destruction but of truth and grace.  Toward unbelievers we are not to have hearts of condemnation but of compassion.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 378)


The Scriptural teaching regarding discipline is not hereby overruled.  Quite the contrary.  If the spirit of loving patience is exercised, personal discipline (1 Cor 11:28), mutual discipline (Mt 18:15, 16; Gal 6:1, 2), and church discipline (Mt 18:17, 18; Ti 3:10, 11; Rv 2:14-16), will all be strengthened and ennobled.  Even in the case of church discipline one of the chief purposes is “that the spirit may be saved” (1 Cor 5:5).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 574)


They were a weed called bearded darnel (lolium temulentum).  In their early stages, the tares so closely resembled the wheat that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other.  When both had produced seed heads it was easy to distinguish them; but by that time their roots were so intertwined that the tares could not be weeded out without tearing the wheat out with them.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 85)


This was a known practice in ancient warfare and feuds–destroy a nation’s (or person’s) agricultural base and his military might would also be destroyed.  The presence of Satan’s children among God’s people would also serve to weaken them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 267)


The invisible church is called invisible because the real state of any individual’s heart, the condition of his or her soul–regenerate or unregenerate–is beyond the scope of anyone’s vision, except God’s.  We look on the outward appearances, but God looks on the heart (1 Sm 16:7).  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 431)


But we cannot get a real picture of the health of Christianity in the twenty-first century by looking at the West.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 438)


Jesus does not make the point in this parable, because it would not fit the analogy, but all good seeds were once tares; all the sons of the kingdom were once sons of the evil one.  To go beyond the scope of this parable, while still using some of its figures, it could be said that the primary purpose of the “good seeds” in the world is to make converts of “tares,” that they might also become sons of the kingdom.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 377)


The parable does not address the church situation at all but explains how the kingdom can be present in the world while not yet wiping out all opposition.  That must await the harvest.  The parable deals with eschatological expectation, not ecclesiological deterioration.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 317)


II-  The Kingdom of Heaven begins small.   But, at the Finale, the Kingdom of Heaven will triumph over all other competing forces in the cosmos and God will make all things new.  (Mt 13:31-33, 40-43; see also: Gn 3:15; Isa 11:1, 9; 53:2-3; Ez 17:22-24; 31:2-18; Dn 4:9-27; Zech 4:10; Mt 3:12; 8:12; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30, 41; 16:18, 27; Lk 3:17; 12:32; 13:18-19; Rom 8:18-25; 1 Cor 1:26-31; 15:24-28, 42-43; 2 Cor 5:17; 10:5; Eph 3:10; Col 3:4; 2 Thes 1:7-10; 2:8; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Jude 1:6-7; Rv 14:3-20; 19:16-20; 20:10; 21:5)


Now – Not Yet

  • The Kingdom of God will transform the life of the individual
  • The Kingdom of God will transform the life of women
  • The Kingdom of God will transform the life of the weak and ill
  • The Kingdom of God will transform the life of the elderly
  • The Kingdom of God will transform the life of the child


The leaven, though it is buried, is not destroyed.  Little by little it transmutes the whole lump into its own condition.  This happens with the gospel.  Do not fear, then, that there will be many dangerous circumstances.  For even then you will shine forth and be victorious.  (Chrysostom, The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 46.2)


This parable emphasizes the transforming power of the gospel of the Kingdom; it changes persons, social orders, economic relations, and primary loyalties.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 174-5)


Individual believers become the source of benediction to nations.  And with all their faults, those nations of the world who have been so influenced and who have recognized God’s sovereignty and have sought to build their laws and standards of living on His Word have proved a blessing to the rest of the world in economic, legal, cultural, and social ways as well as spiritual and moral.  It is from the teachings of Scripture through Christian witness that high standards of education, justice, the dignity of women, the rights of children, prison reform, and countless other such social benefits have come.  Whenever the gospel of the kingdom of God is faithfully preached and practiced, all the world benefits.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 371-2)


The dough is not kept on one shelf and the leaven on another; the bit of leaven is plunged into the heart of the mass, and then the woman kneads the whole up in her pan, and so the influence is spread.  We Christians are not doing our duty, nor are we using our capacities, unless we fling ourselves frankly and energetically into all the currents of the national life, commercial, political, municipal, intellectual, and make our influence felt in them all.  The ‘salt of the earth’ is to be rubbed into the meat in order to keep it from putrefaction; the leaven is to be kneaded up into the dough in order to raise it.  Christian people are to remember that they are here, not for the purpose of isolating themselves, but in order that they may touch life at all points, and at all points bring into contact with earthly life the better life and the principles of Christian morality.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 247-8)


Both Jesus and the disciples were familiar with those accounts, and the parallel to the parable of the mustard seed seems obvious.  The kingdom of heaven would grow from tiny beginnings to a great tree and would ultimately provide shelter, protection, and benefit to the entire world.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 371)


Hope is one of the Theological virtues.  This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do.  It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is.  If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.  The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.  Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”: aim at earth and you will get neither.  It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters.  Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you.  You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more–food, games, work, fun, open air.  In the same way, we shall never save civilization as long as civilization is our main object.  We must learn to want something else even more.  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 118-19)


The whole point of the parable lies in one thing–the transforming power of the leaven.  Leaven changed the character of a whole baking.  Unleavened bread is like a water biscuit, hard, dry, unappetizing and uninteresting; bread baked with leaven is soft and porous and spongy, tasty and good to eat.  The introduction of the leaven causes a transformation in the dough; and the coming of the kingdom causes a transformation in life.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 93)


The professor of medicine Dr. A. Rendle Short points out that the first blind asylum was founded by Thalasius, a Christian monk; the first free dispensary was founded by Apollonius, a Christian merchant; the first hospital of which there is any record was founded by Fabiola, a Christian lady.  Christianity was the first faith to be interested in the broken things of life.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 94)


The truth about the kingdom of heaven is not only inconspicuous; it is also deliberately kept hidden for the time being.  But one day it will be plain for all to see.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 527)


The meaning of the parable is that as the Son of Man introduces the Kingdom of heaven into the world, the powers of evil will do everything possible to resist the Kingdom.  Ultimately, the Kingdom will succeed.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 176)


No pious Jew doubted that the kingdom would come and that it would be vast and glorious.  What Jesus is teaching goes beyond that:  he is saying that there is a basic connection between the small beginnings taking place under his ministry and the kingdom in its future glory.  Though the initial appearance of the kingdom may seem inconsequential, the tiny seed leads to the mature plant.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 318)


Plainly this is a parable of hope:  there shall be mighty growth from small beginnings.  How small was the seed!  A Babe born into a harsh world, a Teacher on a hillside, a condemned Man slain on a shameful Cross, an empty grave, and eleven men believing in him:  what a tiny seed in a vast and alien field!  How could such a seed ever come to harvest?  The story rebukes our cult of bigness.  Our pride in huge cities and mighty explosions has little to do with Jesus, or even with any human good.  Actually our human life is small–a series of breaths, a sequence of footsteps, a frail chain of words.  It is worth noticing that Jesus preferred a cult of smallness, for he stressed “a cup of cold water only” (10:42) and faithfulness “in that which is least” (Lk 16:10).  Science is teaching us the infinite in the tiny; but Jesus taught it long ago, both as to the worth of man and as to the significance of the seemingly small kingdom.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 416)


When a Jewish girl was married, her mother would give her a small piece of leavened dough from a batch baked just before the wedding.  From that gift of leaven the bride would bake bread for her own household throughout her married life.  That gift, simple as it was, was among the most cherished that the bride received, because it represented the love and blessedness of the household in which she grew up and that would be carried into the household she was about to establish.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 373)


In middle eastern language and in the OT itself, one of the commonest pictures of a great empire is the picture of a great tree, with the subject nations depicted as birds finding rest and shelter within its branches (Ez 31:6).  This parable tells us that the kingdom of heaven begins very small but that in the end many nations will be gathered within it.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 89)


The account of the birds roosting in the branches of the tree recalls Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in Dn 4:12, 21, which is interpreted in terms of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire stretching “to the ends of the earth”; the birds are not directly identified in Daniel 4, but it is likely that they would have been understood as the subject nations which had found shelter within the great empire of Babylon.  If so, this parable invites a comparison between the great but short-lived earthly empire of Babylon and the far greater and more permanent kingdom of heaven.  The inclusion of all nations in that kingdom might be a bonus point for the sharp-eyed reader who knew the Daniel text and understood the birds as symbolic of the nations, but it is not emphasized.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 526-7)


Jesus’ point:  the kingdom of heaven, though now very small and seemingly insignificant, would one day grow into a large body of believers.  That is the central lesson of this parable.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 370)


Since Immanuel has come:   Everything sad is going to come untrue.


The birds which find shelter in the branches of the mustard tree would be the Gentile nations (cf. Dn 4:20-22).  In like manner the leaven would illustrate the permeation of the witness of the Church into all strata of society.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 77)


Why does judgment, when found on the lips of Jesus, get a bad rap?  Think about it.  We call judges in our country from the Supreme Court to the lowest court “justices.”  The idea is that their rulings are just and bring about justice.  Nobody complains if a justice punishes a lawbreaker for breaking one of our nations’ laws.  The Bible depicts Jesus as the ultimate Justice.  Why then do people complain all the time about God punishing someone for breaking his laws?  Our laws are imperfect.  His are perfect.  Our justices are imperfect.  His Son is perfect.  Jesus is the ultimate just Justice.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 378)


When you wake up in the morning and open the newspaper and read what it reports–everything from terrorism to murder to sex scandals to kidnappings–don’t you long for justice?  Don’t you long for a world made right?  Don’t you long for the kingdom of heaven to reign on earth?  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 378)


Christ’s true follower actively promotes such causes as the abolition of slavery, the restoration of women’s rights, the alleviation of poverty, the repatriation, if practicable, of the displaced (if not practicable then help of some other kind), the education of the illiterate, the reorientation of fine arts along Christian lines, etc.  He promotes honesty among those who govern and those who are governed, as well as in business, industry, and commerce.  He does all this not apart from but in connection with, in fact as part and parcel of, the evangelization of the world.  That this “yeast” of the rule of Christ in human hearts, lives, and spheres has already exerted a wholesome influence in thousands of ways, and that this influence is still continuing, is clear to all who have eyes to see.  All one has to do is to compare conditions–for example, the treatment of prisoners of war, of women, of workmen, of the underprivileged–in countries where Christ’s rule has not yet become acknowledged to any great extent, with those existing in nations where this principle has already been operative for some time on a generous scale.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 567-8)


Jesus, then, is once again going to impress upon these men that before the final judgment arrives there will be a lengthy period of waiting, during which they must exercise patience.  To be sure, the kingdom of heaven had indeed entered a new stage with the coming of the Son of man (11:4, 5).  As has been shown in the explanation of 4:17, the declaration, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” was fully justified.  But the disciples must learn that this was not as yet the final act in the drama.  The great consummation was a matter for future realization.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 570)


On the day of judgment–but not before!, that is the emphasis here–the kingdom will be purged of all impurities.  As to the spheres of activity (see on 13:33), whatever in them was offensive or seductive, hence contrary to God’s holy law, will in the gloriously transformed universe have been completely removed.  Between the perpetrators of lawlessness, who nevertheless, as in 7:22, claim a share in this kingdom, and those who, out of gratitude for salvation freely bestowed, obey God’s law, there will then be and forever remain a complete separation.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 572)


The kingdom works by contagion in day-by-day friendship.  No handclasp is in vain; no word of witness fails of its purpose.  Not always can the revolution be seen, but it moves on its course.  It is irresistible.  It gives lightness and wholeness to the world–till the whole [is] leavened.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 418)


Worship Point:  God will make all things new (Rv 21:5).  “Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that” (Tim Keller).  Trust Him!  Worship Him! 


Gospel Application:  Jesus will weed out everything that causes sin and all who do evil (Mt 13:41).  Jesus will make all things new (Rv 21:5).


Spiritual Challenge: Never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up hope.   God will do what He has promised.  




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