christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

matthew 13, the key to the parables

Read Matthew 13 at Bible Gateway.

Mat 13 is a mass of greater and smaller, and overlapping chiastic structures. Rather than try to list them all, I will post the elements as they are written in my notes so that you can see the possible combinations:

Mat 12:46-13:58
Mat 12:46-50, Mother and brothers of Jesus;

Mat 13:1-9, Parable of the sower;
Mat 13:10-12, Revealed to the disciples the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven;
Mat 13:13-15, Not revealed to the multitudes that the prophets might be fulfilled;
Mat 13:16-17, Blessed are your eyes and ears for they see and hear;
Mat 13:18-23, Parable of the sower explained;

Mat 13:24-30, Parable of the wheat and tares;
Mat 13:31-32, Parable of the mustard seed;
Mat 13:33, Parable of the leaven;
Mat 13:34-35, Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, that the prophets might be fulfilled;
Mat 13:36-43, Parable of the wheat and tares explained;

Mat 13:44, Parable of the hidden treasure;
Mat 13:45-46, Parable of the pearl of great price;
Mat 13:47-50, Parable of the dragnet;

Mat 13:51-52, Scribes instructed in the kingdom of heaven;
Mat 13:53-58, Mother and brothers of Jesus.

The appearance of Jesus’ mother and brothers are the bookends of the structures. At the end of the teaching by parables, Jesus asks His disciples if they have understood Him. They answer, “Yes,” (Mat 13:51).  This is thematically connected to His explanation of why He teaches in parables in Mat 13:10-17: so that only His disciples will understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. But it does not make a nice and neat closure to the chiastic structure, because the parable of the sower in Mat 13:1-9 interrupts the flow. If a man was arranging this chapter, the parable of the sower would be somewhere else, so that the mother and brother bookends would neatly surround the matching element of only the disciples understanding the parables (Mat 13:10-17 and Mat 13:51-52).

God does not think like men! Aren’t you glad? He will teach us the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven if we will let Him! Mat 13:1-23 forms a mini chaistic structure by itself as we can see, which requires the parable of the sower to precede Mat 13:10-17; but also, there is this:

If the matching element for Mat 13:51, Jesus asking His disciples if they have understood Him, is Mat 13:10-17, Jesus explaining that to only His disciples it has been granted to understand, then that leaves Mat 13:52, scribes instructed in the kingdom, hanging out there in the position of the matching element with the parable of the sower. This is on purpose, because they are supposed to go together.

Now when Mark recounts this same parable, Jesus says, in essence, that if we understand this one, we will understand them all (Mar 4:13). But if we don’t understand this one, we can’t understand any of the others. The parable of the sower is the key parable, in other words, which unlocks the door of the understanding for all the other parables.

So this parable is paired with Jesus’ statement about scribes (who daily have the Word of God — the seed — before their eyes) who have been instructed in the kingdom of heaven. They have understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They bring something of value out of that treasure house; in other words, they bear fruit.

Fruit comes from the seed of the Word of God. If the Word of God is not before your eyes, before your ears and your mind, then from what seed can fruit be produced? There is none. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, etc., but fruit still comes from seed, the parable teaches us. Without the seed there cannot be fruit.

The Word is the Seed that bears the Fruit of the Spirit. I know this is not what we have been taught in our charismatic churches. Maybe that is why so many of them are out in left field.

Keep the Word of God daily before your eyes! It doesn’t matter then, what you face in life; because in your heart and mind is a treasure house of seed and fruit, and the Spirit can then bring out what is of value, whether old or new, to help you or others you happen across, in that moment.

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