Nov. 28, 2010 INTRODUCTION – As we have been working our way through the gospel of Matthew – we keep running into this thing called “the kingdom of God.” One of the privileges sons and daughters of the King have – is He chooses to reveal the mysteries of His kingdom to us. Jesus said to His disciples in Matt. 13:11 “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…”
To reveal His kingdom to His disciples and at the same time hide it from the skeptical hard hearted crowds, Jesus used seven parables to communicate crucial truths for learning to see and seek His kingdom until He returns.
So far we have discussed the parable of the sower or the soils; and the parable of the tares among the wheat. This morning we are going to discuss the other five parables. One thing that is unique about them is – none come with explanations – unlike the parables of the soils and the tares among the wheat. Thus there are a variety of interesting interpretations out there. Speaking of interpreting these parables, let me make a couple of observations from all of my reading.
1. One’s world view affects one’s interpretation. If you believe the devil wins until Jesus returns; and the world just gets darker and darker; and there is just not much we can do – – then you will see most of these in a negative – darkness wins way. If you believe the kingdom of God is something which only is instituted when Jesus Christ returns, then you will interpret these as mostly negative.
If you believe God is great, and He is on the move, and His kingdom rule on the earth will never end and is unshakeable and is the best news ever to hit planet earth, and it is not subject to the whims of insecure, man fearing, self consumed politicians, then you will see them in a more positive light.
2. Each part of a parable is not equal in meaning or importance. Look for the main point, and don’t throw out common sense aided by the Holy Spirit.
Mark Twain – “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Let’s try to focus on those.
Four principles from five parables.
I. The kingdom of God does not despise small beginnings – vs. 31,32 When God is seeking to establish and expand His kingdom rule on the earth, He does not despise our seemingly feeble, weak efforts. “He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” A. Our initial efforts seem futile and weak
B. The results though surprise many
C. When Pete Maloney called me in August over a year ago and asked me if we would consider letting him drop off the foods from area stores here as a central distribution point to the people of this community – we had no leader, no team, no plan to do anything like this, no experience per se; and I had not been in relationship with Peter for perhaps 10 years or longer. Personally I was nervous at the thought of launching a new ministry. So I said why don’t you just come by and let us see what you have, what it looks like, I will spread the idea around and we will just see what happens. 15 months later, we have fed hundreds of people each month – with a team that has served these people with the love of Christ – – and thus have been able to give them much more than just physical food.
Our efforts – especially mine – in the beginning were nothing more than the smallest of seeds. But today every Wednesday up to sixty something people come walking through those doors; and while in the beginning they did not want to be talked to or touched, most of those walls have come down, and the light and love of Christ is having more and more of an impact.
II. The kingdom of God spreads like gangrene, like a weed, like gossip, like …. leaven – vs. 33 (read it) “He spoke another parable to them, “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
A. Where the kingdom of God is present – everything and everyone will be affected by it. Not all will embrace it. But everyone will be influenced by it..
B. Definition of leaven – Webster’s says leaven is “a substance (as yeast) used to produce fermentation in dough or a liquid; esp: sourdough; a material (as baking powder) used to produce a gas that lightens dough or batter as it spreads throughout. It is a spreading, penetrating, transforming substance.
C. Quotes from article The way the term leaven is used here is highly unusual. In the OT “leaven” was always used as a negative metaphor for contagion – particularly the contagious nature of sin. Jesus even used it this way when He spoke about the contagious legalism of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:6-12). Leaven was that which was fermenting, contagious, sinister, defiling. In the Old Testament if the clean touched the unclean – then it become unclean, but the reverse was not also true. Sin was contagious but holiness was contained (Haggai 2:11-13). Thus the unclean could change the clean, but the clean could never purify the unclean. Sin could work its way through a community and ruin it, but righteousness could never spread like that. It had to be guarded from contamination at all costs. A little leaven was dangerous and could ruin “the whole lump”. But this is turned upside down in the Gospels where the Kingdom of the Heavens is incorruptible and when the clean touched the unclean then purity resulted! For instance in the OT if a priest touched a leper then he was defiled and unable to perform his duties. However when Jesus touched a leper He was not defiled, for He is incorruptible, rather the leper became clean. In the OT if anyone touched a dead body, they were unclean, but when Jesus touched a dead body, He was not defiled, rather that person rose from the dead. The Pharisees went to great lengths to avoid defilement, to not touch leaven, to be pure by separation from all defiling things. But Jesus went and sought out the most unclean and defiling people – the lepers, the woman with the issue of blood, the prostitutes, the tax-gatherers, the Gentile soldiers contaminated twice by race and contact with death, the Samaritan woman, and sinners,drunkards and the gluttons. He willingly plunged into their midst ate, with them, drank with them, healed them and called them to repentance and transformed their lives. Jesus was never defiled, never corrupted, never made unholy by them. They did not defile Him. Rather He transformed them! Jesus could turn being touched by a distraught prostitute into a moment of grace. Leaven is all about intimate close contact. Its put right inside, its mixed in, its hidden, its intimate in the closest way with the flour and in that close contact, in that mixing, it leavens the whole loaf. In the OT view where ritual purity was a very important issue intimate close contact was spiritually dangerous “you could catch something”, impurity could “accidentally” pass along to you from a menstruating woman, a dead body, even touching a dead lizard defiled you until evening. You had to watch your step and not get too close to anything or anyone. But Jesus got intimate with a sinful world, taking on the likeness of sinful flesh and living and dying amongst sinful people. Jesus died in disgrace, executed by Gentiles, on a cross, between two thieves and even this did not defile and destroy Him but became our purification. The Kingdom of God is leaven turned upside down. Its the holy transforming the unholy – impossible by OT standards but possible with God. It means Mother Teresa can minister to lepers and Calcutta and come out a saint. It means you can minister among gangs and street kids and prostitutes and remain pure. The Kingdom leaven wins. Kingdom purity is indestructible. It means intimacy with sinners is spiritually safe.
D. Example of spontaneous Messiah youtube sing along
E. These people were not off in an expensive concert hall – separate from the common folk. They were mixed in – leavened among the people in a food court in a shopping mall of all places, where probably the last thing on people’s minds was the Messiah.
III. The kingdom of God is of immense value – vs. 44-46 (read it) “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” A. Bottom line of the treasure in the field = kingdom of God is of immense value – worth selling all one has to attain or receive or experience it. Vs. 44
B. Bottom line of the pearl of pearls = kingdom of God is of immense value –. Again worth selling all one has to attain or receive or experience it. Vs. 45, 46
C. We have at least two problems: 1. We don’t really believe it is this valuable. 2. Therefore we are not willing to sacrifice to obtain it.
By last Tuesday night – this much was clear to me in my wrestling with this passage – – and thus I shared it with Brian H., and we went after this in prayer
David Wells quote – “It must be asserted that petitionary prayer only flourishes where there is a twofold belief: that God’s name is hallowed too irregularly, His kingdom has come too little, and His will is done too infrequently; second, that God Himself can change this situation.”
D. The normal response to a person seeing the kingdom of God for what it is – is to lay down anything and everything to obtain it and experience it and to be used to expand it.
IV. The kingdom of God on earth attracts all kinds of people; but a day of reckoning will come soon to weed out the imposters and posers. – vs. 47-52 (read it) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
A. The kingdom of God attracts people of all kinds with all kinds of motives. Only at the end will all this be sorted out and forever justly dealt with. Wouldn’t it be better if King Jesus dealt more quickly and forthrightly with hypocrites and posers in the church who stain His name with their ungodliness? Well evidently not – – and again I think one of the reasons is as Peter says in his second epistle, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” II Pet. 3:9
B. Please note that the wimpy, feminine, harmless angels that we see on decorations in stores, and Christmas cards at this time of the year, have little resemblance of the real angels that the scriptures describe. It is powerful, holy angels that at the return of Christ will throw humans – women, men, young people and yes even children into the literal horrible fires of hell.
C. Please note that the reason they will do this is because in the eyes of God these people are “wicked” as contrasted to the righteous whom He will take unto Himself for the rest of eternity. The apostle Peter – after Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father – preached his second spontaneous sermon to the crowds that gathered because of the healing of the lame man. He ended it with these words, “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:26) Peter said to a crowd of religious Jews that every one of them needed to turn from their wicked ways and turn to Christ – the only one who could free them from the chains of sin. Please do not get your concept of angels or wickedness from the spiritually deceived and dumbed down society we find ourselves in today. The consequences of getting either of these wrong are horrible beyond imagination.
“This is the very worst wickedness, that we refuse to acknowledge the passionate evil that is in us. This makes us secret and rotten.” D.H. Lawrence quotes (British Poet, Novelist and Essayist, 1885-1930)
D. “Weeping and gnashing of teeth” speaks to these horrible consequences.
CONCLUSION – 1. Do not despise your or our small beginnings/loaves and fishes. Most kingdom expanding enterprises have started this way. When the Holy Spirit begins to speak to you about what He wants you to do for Him, please do not sell yourself short. Or more to the point, do not sell the powerful ever expanding kingdom of God short.
2. Don’t doubt the power of leaven. The fragrance of Christ and His kingdom oozes through you more than you realize. It lives to spread and infiltrate and transform society at every level.
3. Don’t separate; instead incarnate! Leaven can only do what leaven does if you and I get out of our Christian ghettos and mix with the poor and the needy and those who have yet to come to know the King. What if I tend to compromise when I get around my non Christian friends or acquaintances?
4. When Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God” – it is because it is the most important thing we can ever seek. So ask Christ daily to help you value His kingdom more, and the things that compete for your affections less.
5. Don’t get too caught up with hypocrites and posers in the kingdom. Focus on your own responsibilities and growth – – and leave the sorting to Him.
6. Ask Him to help you grasp the urgency of the day because of this soon awful judgment coming for the lost.
7. If you have never stopped your busy life; and looked in the mirror and realized your heart is full of deception and wickedness and much in need of being cleaned up – – today would be a great day to turn to Jesus – the only one who can make us righteous before a holy God.
Time of corporate prayer?