Stories At Work

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), October 6

imagesJesus’ teaching with parables is like dropping a baited hook into water to see what’s biting. His pool is the world, and his bait is the Gospel. Jesus uses the parables of the kingdom of heaven to demonstrate the two groups of people in the pool of life: those of unbelief and those of faith.

That the crowd enjoys Jesus’ messages without applying it to their lives is obvious. The parable of the soils and the parable of the weeds, containing only two groups of people, get under the disciples’ skin, and they immediately seek Jesus for clarification—“His disciples came to Him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field” (Mt. 13:36).

The lamp, the wheat and the tares, and the net parables teach the exclusivity of the Gospel. The parable of the soils offers three types of non-producers (hard, shallow, distracted) and three types of reproducers (30-, 60-, and 100-fold reproducers). The parable of the weeds demonstrates two types of seed: good seed, and the counterfeit planted by the enemy. Both wheat and weeds reproduce. The harvest reveals the end of each: the weeds will be harvested and burned, while the wheat will be harvested and brought into the master’s barn. The net parable discloses two types of fish–the good and the bad–and the eventual separation of both. Jesus reveals, “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (13:50). The mustard seed and the leaven parables highlight the small beginnings of faith and its great influence. The hidden treasure and pearl parables command a response of absolute surrender and commend the joy that the response brings.

The kingdom of heaven parables teach small beginnings and surrender. Though the mustard seed is small, “when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree” (13:32). Yeast causes the dough into which it is mixed to multiply (13:33). The good seed takes advantage of the fertile and cultivated soil, matures, and reproduces. Those who discover treasure in a field sell all that they have and purchase the field (13:44). The treasure is worth all that the man possesses. Same thing with the pearl of great value. Nothing (including all that he has) exceeds its value and prevents the finder from possessing it (13:45-46).

These parables separate the real seeker from the casual and reveal the nature of spiritual growth: proclamation precedes faith, and all faith begins small. The disciples demonstrate the truths taught in Jesus’ parables.

The disciples’ interaction with Christ teaches that circumstances often mature the faith of those who follow Christ, pushing them to produce 30-, 60-, and 100-fold. Jesus promptly falls asleep in the boat after informing his disciples that they are to go to the other side of the lake. A storm arises, and His disciples panic—it must have been a terrible storm, to freak out the disciples, who are seasoned fishermen. Their faith wanes as the winds increase. They believe their present circumstances over Christ’s word. Jesus uses this experience to mature this soil—His disciples—into which He has so carefully sown the good seed.

Finally, Jesus uses parables to separate the unbelieving from the believing, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand” (Lk. 8:10).

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Mt. 8:22-27; 13:10-52; Lk. 8:9-18, 22-25; Mk. 4:21-41):
Jesus uses parables, not statistics and data, as vehicles through which to communicate spiritual truth. How may His followers adopt His method in sharing the Gospel today?
What do the kingdom parables reveal about God’s work?
Jesus prefaces the disciples’ trip across the Sea of Galilee with, “Let us go cross over to the other side” (Mk. 4:35). Their trip is interrupted by a storm. What does this storm teach them about Jesus? About His Word and about themselves?