THE PARABLES of JESUS

BY: JONATHAN MITCHELL

PARTS

TITLE and SUBTITLES

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ARE the PARABLES of JESUS ESCHATOLOGICAL FORCASTS

     Preliminary Considerations

     Parable Of The Kingdom (Sovereign Influence And Activity)

    The Parable of the Sower: Matt.13:3-23

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THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

     The Parable of the Tares: Matt. 13:24-30; 37-43

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THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

     The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Matt. 13:31-32

     The Parable of the Leaven: Matt. 13:33-35

     The Parable of the Treasure Hidden in a Field: Matt. 13:44

     The Parable of the Pearl Merchant: Matt. 13:45-46

     The Parable of the Fishing Net: Matt.13:47-52

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THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

     What defines a Person: Matt. 15:10-20

     Discerning the Sky and the Predicting the Weather: Matt. 16:24

     Little Children/Little Folks: Matt..18:1-10

     One Sheep gone Astray: Matt. 18:12-14

     The Unmerciful Servant: Matt. 18:23-35

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THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

     The Householder who hired Laborers to Work in a Vineyard: Matt. 20:1-1

     The Householder who Planted a Vineyard: Matt. 21:33-41

     The Marriage of the King’s Son: Matt. 22:2-13

     The Ten Virgins: Matt. 25:1-13

     The Talents: Matt. 25:14-30

     The Sheep and the Goats: Matt. 26:31-46

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PART ONE

ARE the PARABLES of JESUS ESCHATOLOGICAL FORECASTS?

PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS

William Barclay has said that a parable puts thoughts in pictures, puts truth in the form of a story to make it “concrete,” begins with what is understood then leads to what is not yet understood, and it compels a person to discover in and for himself the truth that it presents.

A parable can both reveal and conceal – depending upon the internal condition of the hearer/reader. We will see that both happened, with different people.

We will begin by looking at some passages in Matthew that will give us some keys for understanding the parables, which begin in Ch. 13. These studies will lead us to an overview of the eschatological aspects contained in the parables given by Jesus in the book of Matthew.

In Matt. 5:45 we have an interesting qualifying phrase by Jesus, “so that you folks can come to be sons of your Father in heaven…” He gave the conditions for this in the previous verse:

44. “Yet I, Myself, am now saying to you folks: Be constantly loving your enemies (those folks hostile to you; [comment: this could have applied to the Romans, as well as to personal enemies]), and be habitually praying over (on behalf of) the people continuously persecuting you.

Is this saying that we become “born again” by works, or is Jesus using a Hebrew idiom, “sons of…,” as a teaching device to indicate how His followers should live? We will see this idiom again in this study.

In 6:33 He tells us to seek FIRST God’s kingdom (sovereign reign and influence).

In 7:7-12 we are told to keep on asking, seeking and knocking, and then Jesus gives examples of a son asking for something good from his father, and how our Father will “be giving good, excellent things as well as virtues to those continuing in requesting from Him.” He ends these thoughts in vs. 12 with what has been called “the golden rule,” about which He says, “You see, THIS is (or: exists being; = is the meaning of) the Law and the Prophets (= this sums up the message of the Scriptures)!”

In 7:21-27 He gives more qualifiers for “entering into the reign/kingdom,” and for being a “wise” person in His work:

1) doing the will of the Father

2) building the house upon the Rock.

In this passage we see two eschatological (= that which pertains to “the end”) statements:

1) vs. 23, “And at that time I will speak assuredly to them, ‘I never became acquainted with or came to know you folks (or: not even once had intimate experiential knowledge of you). Those people habitually working (performing; or: making a trade of; making a living in) the lawlessness proceed to go to a room (or: territory) away from Me.[Ps. 6:9].

2) vs. 27, “And when the rain descended (or: falls) and the rivers came (or: come) [flooding] and the winds blew (or: blow) and lunged (or: fall toward; lash against) that house, it fell (or: falls), and its fall (collapse) was great.”

Are these general statements, or do they hold a subtle message about the Jewish leadership, the temple in Jerusalem and the Jewish nation? We know from the gospels that the scribes and Pharisees were not doing the Father’s will, so is it possible that the flooding storm was prophetic of the Roman army that was to come against their nation?

In 8:12 we see a more specific eschatological statement:

12. “Yet the ‘sons of the kingdom (or: reign)’ [= those who were in line to inherit the kingdom; or: = those who were supposed to manifest its reign] will be thrown out into the external (exterior) darkness. There [= outside the banqueting building] it will be ‘weeping and grinding of teeth’ (or: The crying and the gnashing of teeth will be in that [outdoor] place, or situation).”

The “sons of the kingdom” was a symbolic reference to the Jews who should have inherited God’s kingdom (cf Rom. 9:3-5).

In 9:13 let us consider if this is a purpose statement by Jesus which has import for the future of the Jews, and the Jewish religion:

13. “Now, upon going your way, learn and become a disciple of what [this] is and means, ‘I am presently desiring, habitually intending and progressively purposing mercy, and not a sacrifice!’ [Hos. 6:6] You see, I am not (or: did not) come to call ‘righteous folks’ (people who were supposedly in right relationship with God and community and who were convinced that they walked in accord with the path pointed out), but on the contrary, outcasts (‘sinners’ who knew that they were neither connected nor in right relationship, nor approved in their way of life: failures).”

Jesus spoke this to the Pharisees, so does it foreshadows the end of the sacrificial system of religion, and the grafting in of the Gentiles – or at least of those who normally did not measure up to the purity laws of the Pharisees? The scribes and Pharisees were “the righteous folks” in His proclamation.

In 9:16-17 we see the new cloth on an old garment (= old covenant/arrangement) and the new wine in a new wineskin (= new covenant/arrangement). His new wine would burst the old system, so it had to go into a new “body” of the called-out community.

In. 9:37-38 Jesus says that the harvest was vast, but that He only had a few laborers. In Ch. 13:39 He said that the harvest was the end of an age, and in vs. 40 said that He was speaking of that age in which He was living.

In 10:7 He said that the kingdom (or: reign; sovereign influence) of heaven was at hand. “At hand” means that it is available, close enough to touch. At that time He was sending them as sheep within the midst of wolves (vs. 16). In vs. 17 He explained that these wolves were in the synagogues.

In 10:24 Jesus says to His disciples that both He, Himself, as well as they, would be called Baal-zebub (spellings vary). This happens in 12:24, and we will discuss it there. Vs. 37-42 give qualifications for discipleship (37-39), His and God’s solidarity with them (40), and the receiving of rewards for receiving people and supplying their needs.

In 11:12 the KJV says “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,” while the NIV reads, “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing.” The difference in readings is that the verb form is either passive (KJV reading) or middle (NIV reading). Here the NIV seems both more logical and in alignment with history.

In 11:28 we are told to come to Him to receive rest. Is this echoed in Heb. 4:3-11? This “rest,” in Heb. 4, was a figure of Israel entering into the promised land, so could He here, in vs. 28, be speaking of receiving of the “rest” of His reign and kingdom?

In 12:24 the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by Baalzebub (a Philistine idol/deity – see 2 Kings 1:2, the god of Ekron). By saying this, they were giving validity to Baal-zebub (an idol) being real, and showing the duality of their thinking. Ps. 96:5 says, “All the gods of the nations are idols (things that are nothing).”

In 12:33 He speaks of knowing a tree by its fruit, whether “ideal or rotten (decayed).” Note that He is speaking of the condition of the fruit, not the tree itself. If the fruit is decayed and rotten the tree has passed its season of producing a crop to be harvested. The KJV rendering of “corrupt” is misleading. What the Jewish leadership was producing was spoiled and beyond its time.

In 12:34-37 He describes that generation of Jewish leadership as serpents. They were incapable of speaking good things because of what was in their hearts, and vs. 35 says,

35. “The good and virtuous person is habitually extracting and spurting out good and virtuous things from out of the midst of the Good and Virtuous Treasure-house. And yet the good-for-nothing and useless person is continuously extracting and spurting out worthless, oppressive, knavish, base, wicked and evil things from out of the mist of the worthless treasure-house.”

Then, in vs. 37, He gives an often overlooked key to His kingdom and reign:

37. “For you see, from out of your words (or: verbal expressions; ideas and thoughts) you [individually] will be brought into right relationship (rightwised and made fair) within the Way pointed out; and from out of your words (expressed thoughts and ideas) you [individually] will have actions brought down on you from out of the Way pointed out (or: be opposed by fairness, equity and right relationships; or: be convicted).”

This has been a sketch of the pre-text of this study. The first use of the word “parable” (something cast along side as an illustration) is found in Ch. 13, where our study will begin.

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM (SOVEREIGN INFLUENCE AND ACTIVITY)

THE PARABLE of the SOWER: Matt. 13:3-23

There are four kinds of soil/ground described:

1) wayside/path (vs. 4) – the downtrodden and walked-on person

2) the rocky places (vs. 5) – folks with stony hearts; only surface receptivity

3) the area overgrown with thornbushes – the overgrown and crowded life

4) the ideal soil – land that had been torn up by a plow, and which had attention and preparation given to it by the Farmer.

Now Jesus gives the explanation of these soils in vs. 19-23. The birds represent the worthless person or the disadvantageous circumstance which snatches away the “word of the kingdom” from the person which could not receive the word into his or her inner being. The second situation is one who takes the message in, but because of the stony core of their being, it cannot take root and withers from pressures or persecution from other folks with regard to Christ’s message. The third situation speaks of those who had perhaps once produced good crops, for there is a lot of overgrowth in their lives (cf Heb. 6:7-8), so the soil is productive. But it is not producing the message of God’s reign, because, “the anxiety (care; worry; concern; distraction) of the age [other MSS: this age], and the seductiveness and deception of the riches and wealth [involved], together progressively choke the Word (or: message) and it (or: he) progresses to become unfruitful.”

The good soil is productive, from 30 to 100 times what was planted. Now the question arises: who were those represented by the good soil, and who where those represented by the three types of unproductive soil?

Vs. 11 gives the answer for the “ideal soil” – it was the disciples.

“To (or: For; With) you folks it has been given to intimately experience and insightfully know the secrets (mysteries) of the reign of the heavens.”

This verse and the following, through vs. 15, also give the answer as to whom the other three soil conditions represent,

“… yet it has not been given to those people.”

“Those people” are the Jewish religious leaders, and others who He was not at that time calling into His reign and sovereign activities.

Vs. 12-15 are not just an aside, but are key to our understanding the parables of the kingdom. In vs. 12, the disciples were the ones who “presently and habitually possessed” (present tense); the Jewish leadership, culture and religion did not possess or currently hold “the Word of the Reign” (vs. 19), and vs. 13 explains,

“because while seeing (or: observing) they continue not seeing, and during listening (or: hearing) they are not hearing (or: listening) – neither are they comprehending or understanding (having things flow together so as to get the picture or see the relationships).”

Then,

14. “And so the prophecy of Isaiah is progressively being filled up in (or: for; by) them – the one continuing in saying, ‘In listening you folks will keep on hearing, and yet you can by no means have things flow together so as to get the picture or see the relationships (or: comprehend or understand), and while constantly looking, you will be observing, and yet you can by no means see so as to perceive.

15. For the heart of this people was made thick and fat, and thus has become impervious, dull and insensitive, and with the ears they hear heavily, and are thus hard of hearing, and they shut (or: closed) their eyes (or: they squint their eyes), lest at some time they might see with [their] eyes and should then be listening and hearing with [their] ears, and with the heart they could make things flow together so as to comprehend – and they might turn about! And so, I will cure and heal them!’ [Isa. 6:9-10]”

Now the question logically arises, why did Jesus then quote Isa. 6:9-10 in reference to these folks (here, in vs. 14-15), saying that this same prophecy was being filled up is these folks to whom He had just spoken the parable? If we read Isa. 6:11-13 we see that Isaiah was speaking about the Jews going into the Babylonian captivity. Here, I suggest that Jesus is speaking of the soon coming overthrow of Jerusalem by the Romans, which was completed in AD 70.

THIS is the reason why it was not given to THEM (the Jewish leaders of that generation) to know the secrets of His reign and sovereign activity. Their religious system was going to be torn down (cf Matt. 24, the destruction of the temple; Lu. 21:20); the next covenant would have these characteristics:

“an hour is progressively coming – and now exists (or: is; is being) – when the true (real; genuine) worshipers will worship (or: will give worship to) the Father within spirit and Truth (or: in breath and reality; within the midst of [the] Spirit and a Fact; in union with attitude and genuineness, or actuality), for the Father is also constantly seeking after such folks (habitually searching out such ones as this; continuously looking for and trying to find lost ones to be this kind) – ones presently by habit worshiping Him!” (John 4: 23)

He had just made another significant statement to the Samaritan woman,

21. Jesus then says to her, “Be constantly trusting in Me (or: by and with Me; or: Continue believing Me), O woman (= dear lady), because an hour is progressively coming when neither within this mountain nor within Jerusalem will you folks give worship to the Father.”

By saying this, He was predicting the end of both the Jewish system of religion and that of the Samaritans – as well as the end of religion in general. You see, the phrases “this mountain” and “within Jerusalem” were representing both places and forms of religion. We will see further evidence of Jesus’ eschatological forecasts in parables that follow.

PART TWO

THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

THE PARABLE of the TARES: MATTHEW 13:24-30; 37-43

Reading Jesus’ explanation in vs. 37 with vs. 24, we see that the Son of man sowed good seed into His field, and this is what the reign/kingdom/sovereign activity of the heaven is like.

We need to first go to vs. 38 and examine what Jesus said about the field, the good seed, and the tares, and to have these in mind when we read the parable:

38. “Now the field is the organized System (the ordered arrangement; the world; the world of religion as well as of economy, culture and government in the secular; = the realm of society). As for the fine, ideal seed, these are the sons of the reign (= the produce and the resulting situation which have the kingdom as their source and origin; the offspring which are the reign; = those things having the character and quality of the kingdom and are associated with its reign). Yet the weeds (darnel) are the sons of the worthless person or the disadvantageous circumstance (or: the sons whose source and origin is the one who brings pain and misery through hard labor; the produce whose character and quality are malevolent and wicked; the sons of the evil one; or: offspring of the difficult and wearisome situation [the predicament of mankind?]; the bad environment; may = the result of the work of a worthless person [perhaps: the words of a religious person]).

Let us consider the phrase “the organized System,” and the parenthetical expansion which gives other ways of rendering the Greek “kosmos.” This word is commonly rendered “world,” but the religious viewpoint often assumes this to mean “that which is outside the religious community.” This is not necessarily the case. Kosmos literally means “an organized system; an ordered arrangement.” On its broadest sense, it can refer to the universe. It is sometimes meant to mean a society and its people, as in John 3:16,

“For thus (or: You see, in this manner) God loves the world (the universe; the ordered arrangement; the organized system [of life and society]; or: = all mankind)…” However, it often means “the world of religion as well as of economy, culture and government, in the secular.”

I suggest that the organized System in this verse is speaking of the people and their system of religion, culture and government. It was into people that Jesus sowed His words, His teachings, His thoughts and ideas (the Logos). Please note: He did not come “planting people.”

So the logical question arises: what about His saying that “the fine, ideal seed” are “the sons of the reign/kingdom/sovereign activities and influences”? It is often assumed that this is speaking of people, as are the tares. But let us consider the phrase “the sons of…” that we first saw in Matt. 5:44, in the previous lesson, and there noted that this term is a Hebrew idiom. It means “that which has the quality and character of something, or that with which a person is associated.” Examples of this elsewhere are:

1) Matt. 8:11-12, “sons of the reign/kingdom,” as in our present verse

2) Matt. 9:15, “sons of the bridechamber,” = the friends of the bride or groom; members of the wedding party

3) Matt. 23:15, “sons of Gehenna,” = those that will end up in the waste pile, or the dump (note: Gehenna was the dump outside Jerusalem)

4) Mark 3:17, Boanerges, “sons of thunder,” = loud and explosive, impetuous, bold, daring

5) Lu. 10:6, “son of peace,” = a person whose nature is peace

6) Lu. 16:8, “sons of this age… sons of light,” = those having the character of the one, or the other

7) John 12:36, “sons of light,” which came from believing into the Light

8) Acts 4:36, Barnabas, “son of consolation” = that was his character.

9) Acts 13:10, Elymas the sorcerer – Paul called him a “son of the devil,” which he went on to explain as “an enemy of righteousness”

10) Ps. 89:22, “son of wickedness,” = a person who does wicked things.

11) Deut. 13:13, “sons of Belial,” = people who live in a worthless manner.

So we should consider that here, in vs. 38, the phrase “sons of the reign/sovereign-activities/kingdom” represents the crop of righteous characteristics which come from having His Word planted in our hearts. Likewise, the phrase “sons of the worthless person or of the disadvantageous circumstance” represents the results of the teachings which had no value, or which were contrary to God’s Word (i.e., the tares, that were a worthless crop).

The good harvest would be eaten (just as we eat the Bread of Life) and bring life to people, or it would be planted (via the teachings of Christ’s disciples) in the hearts of others to bring another crop. But “the righteousness of the Pharisees” (the result of carnal reasoning and pagan ideas; the legalistic mindset) would be brought to an end, just like the wood, hay and stubble of 1 Cor. 3:12-17. What is in view is a person’s “works.” That corresponds here to the harvest of His field, whether it be of value, or worthless.

Now let us return to vs. 25 and read the parable:

25. “Now during the continued sleeping of the people, his enemy (the one hostile to him) came and oversowed weed seeds (scattered-on darnel [= a wild grass, or, bastard wheat]; i.e., plants that would compete with the main crop, and that would cause extra work at harvest time) again, through the midst of the wheat (or: grain), and then went away.

26. “So when the blade sprouted and put forth leaves, and then produced fruit (a crop), at that time the weeds (darnel: indistinguishable from wheat stalks until close to harvest time) also became apparent (visible and evident).

27. “And so the slaves, upon approaching the householder, said to him, ‘Master (Lord; Sir), did you not sow fine, ideal seed within your field? From where, then, is it now having weeds (darnel)?’

28. “So the man affirmed to them, ‘A human – an enemy – did this!’

Now they continue in saying to him, ‘Are you now, therefore, desiring [that] we, upon going off, should gather them [i.e., the weeds] together (= cull them out)?’

29. “But he affirms, ‘No, otherwise (or: lest at some point) during collecting together the weeds you men might at the same time uproot the wheat (or: grain) along with them.

30. ‘Allow (or: Leave) both to continue growing side by side until the harvest, and within the season of the harvest I will tell the reapers, First gather the weeds together and bind them into bundles for the purpose of burning them down. But progressively gather the wheat (or: grain) into my barn (storehouse).'”

Recall that Jesus said that He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? Can it be that the field/religio-cultural system was Israel? So who would have been Christ’s enemy that oversowed weed seeds (tares) into His field?

The immediate answer is the “traditions of men” that were sown in among the Words of truth, that corrupted the understanding and made His Word of no effect. Behind these, consider the likelihood of enculturations and syncretisms that invaded the purity of His word through Israel‘s times of contact with, or domination by, the mystery religions of the Egyptians, the Persians, Hellenism, etc. Recall the incident of the “golden calf” at Mt. Sinai; the embracing of the idols when in the Promised Land. It may be wise to have a healthy skepticism toward the rabbinical expansions of the inter-testamental period, which led to the belief systems that Jesus encountered in the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.

So were the tares, these false seeds, actually those pagan teachings that their enemies (up to and including the Pharisees and Sadducees) planted while Israel slept in darkness? Later, Paul would tell folks to awake, to arise from the dead, and Christ would give them light. (Eph. 5:14)

Note that Christ said that a human, an enemy, had done this (vs. 28), but that the workers should not pull them out, lest the crop be ruined (vs. 29). In like manner, Jesus did not rip out all the “traditions of the elders” during His ministry, but His agents (the disciples and sent-forth folks) did this in the years to come which led up to the end of that age. Vs. 30 gives the conclusion, which happened in the consummation of AD 70. The called-out communities gathered the true teachings into the store houses of their hearts and their teachings/writings. Also consider that at the harvest, both the wheat and the tares were dead plants. All that was to be kept was the Seed of Truth which the OT Scriptures had produced (even the chaff – the old covenant system – that produced the Seed was burned). Peter, John, Paul and the other NT writers quoted these Seeds of Truth throughout their letters.

39. “And now the enemy (the hostile person) – the person sowing them – is the adversary (the person who will thrust something through you; or: the “devil”). And then [the] harvest is [the] bringing of the parts together to one end (or: a combined final act; a consummation; a putting together of the final product; a joining of all aspects into the fruition of the goal) of an age, but the harvesters (reapers) are agents (messengers; folks with the message).

40. “Therefore, just as the weeds (darnel) are periodically collected together and are normally burned down (or: up) in a fire, thus will it be within the conclusion (the combined final act; the joining of all parts and aspects to one end and goal) of the age [other MSS: this age].

41. “The Son of the Man will send off His agents (messengers; folks with the message) as emissaries, and they will gather together out of His kingdom (collect and cull out of His reign) all the snares and things which entrap, as well as the folks habitually producing (or: doing; constructing; practicing; creating) the lawlessness.

42. “Next they will throw them into the furnace (oven; kiln) of The Fire [note: a figure of being dealt with in, and by, God]: “the weeping (crying and lamentation) and the grinding of teeth” will be in that situation (or: place).

43. “At that time, the fair and equitable folks – who live in the pointed-out Way of right relationships, rightwised behavior and justice – will be giving out light, as from lamps (or: will shine forth from out of the midst), in the same way as the sun, in union with the reign, and within the kingdom, of their Father. Let the person having ears to hear continue listening and be constantly hearing!

Where vs. 39 says that the harvest is the end of the age, He was speaking of the eschatology of the age in which they were living (the “this age” of vs. 40), and which was soon to end. The agents (unfortunately transliterated “angels,” rather than translated, “agents; folks with the message”) were His disciples, and others, as mentioned above. Keep in mind that the actions of these folks were the sovereign activities of His reign/kingdom – to which this parable is compared. This is the central point of the parable, but it points to an upcoming harvest of His teachings that includes the removal of the tares.

We can see that in vs. 41 the field is now described as “His reign, kingdom and sovereign activity.” These burdens that the Jewish teachers had loaded upon the people (Matt. 23:4; Lu. 11:46), and which caused offense, were to be gathered out of His reign and activity (which activity would be seen in the book of Acts), as well as “the folks habitually producing (or: doing; constructing; practicing; creating) the lawlessness” (vs. 41). These are the folks (primarily the Jewish leadership) that were to be broken out of their olive tree (Rom. 11:17).

Seeing this parable in a 1st century context and as the eschatology of the Jewish age, puts it in alignment with the previous parable of the sower, and continues to set the stage for other parables and statements that the Pharisees realized that He spoke against them (e.g., Ch. 15:1-20; Ch. 16:1-4; Ch. 21:45; Ch. 23:2-39; Ch. 25).

Thus, as we consider vs. 42 we should see that the “wailing and gnashing of teeth” applied directly to this same Jewish leadership, when the Romans would be the agents that would bring the fire to Jerusalem.

The killing of the Jewish babies in Matt. 2 brought the situation of “Rachel weeping [over; for] her children” (vs. 18). In Ch. 8:12 the weeping and gnashing of teeth was to happen when the “sons of the kingdom” were to be cast into outer darkness (a figure of being outside the light of His reign and sovereign activities – losing their place in what God was doing). This is the same as the picture of the “foolish virgins” of Ch. 25 being shut out of the wedding festivities.

Luke 13:25-30 presents the same message:

25. “From [the point or time] where the master of the house (or: the owner and lord of the house; the householder) may get up and lock off (close and bar) the door (or: entry), and then you folks should begin to stand outside and to repeatedly knock [at] the door (or: entry), repeatedly saying, ‘Sir (or: Master; Lord; [other MSS: Sir, sir! {or: Lord, Lord!}]), open up to us (or: for us)!’ And then, giving a decided reply, he will declare to you folks, ‘I have not seen, and thus do not know, you people. From what place are you? (or: I am not acquainted [with] whence you are [come]!).’

26. “At that point you will begin to be saying, one after another, ‘We ate and drank in front of you (in your sight)! Also, you taught in our town squares (plazas; broad streets)!’

27. “And yet, he will be declaring, ‘I am now saying to you, I have not seen, and thus do not know, from where you are. Stand off away from me, all [you] workers of injustice (laborers in that which is not right; unfair workmen; folks whose actions do not accord with the Way pointed out; workers void of rightwised relationships)!’

28. “Whenever you may [other MSS: will] see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – as well as all the prophets – within the midst of God’s reign (or: sovereign rule; kingdom), yet you yourselves, one after another, being thrown outside, the weeping and the grinding (or: gnashing) of the teeth (= the sorrow and regret) will be [out] there, in that place.

29. “Not only that, people will arrive from eastern regions and western territories, as well as from [the] north and [the] south, and they will be made to recline back at a meal, within God’s reign (kingdom; domain).

30. “And so – now think about this – there are last ones who will be first ones; and there are first ones who will be last ones.”

Vs. 28 speaks to the same situation of which He later that day spoke concerning Jerusalem, and her house (temple) being left desolate (vs. 34-35). Christ’s kingdom was moving ahead, and they were “being thrown outside” of their city and His forthcoming activities. Jerusalem was the place of “the weeping and the grinding/gnashing of the teeth.”

The first ones who will be last ones (vs. 30) are those Jews that were locked out of the Master’s house; the last ones who will be first ones are the Gentiles, the “people from the eastern regions and western territories, as well as from [the] north and [the] south” (vs. 29). The new age, the new creation, the new covenant, the new priesthood and the new “principle and law of, and which is, the spirit and attitude of ‘The Life within Christ Jesus'” (Rom. 8:2) were all about to be inaugurated, and John said, “O undeveloped ones or folks of the age to be educated (or: servants, little boys and little girls who might be hit in training and for discipline), it is continuously (or: presently; repeatedly) a last hour (= an eschaton of the Day, or the closing moment of the age)” – 1 John 2:18.

1 Pet. 1:20 states, “One being set in clear light and manifested upon [the] last part (or: final; [p72 and others read plural: last things, circumstances or aspects]) of the times (or: of the [or: these] successive chronological time periods)…”

Heb. 1:2 says, “upon [the] last of these days spoke to us in a Son…” In Acts 2:17, while referring to the Day of Pentecost, Peter quotes Joel, “And so it will be (or: shall exist) within (or: during) the last days…”

What all this was referring to was the same eschatological period to which most of the parables of Jesus pointed. Returning to our Matt. text, vs. 41 speaks of His agents gathering/culling out “all the snares and things which entrap, as well as the folks habitually producing (or: doing; constructing; practicing; creating) the lawlessness.” He expands the meaning of the “tares” to include both the false teachings, and those who propagated them. Their sowing would be fruitless, and they would lose their position within God’s sovereign activities. Verse 43 prophesies the kingdom activities that would shine forth with the dawning of the new age – as recorded in the book of Acts.

PART THREE

THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

In this section we will continue tracing the thread of the eschatological aspects and forecasts of Jesus’ parables in the book of Matthew. We pick up the trail in the middle of chapter 13, and will end with an overview of the rest of His parables from chapters 18-25. We will be looking for things that might point to an end, or a destiny, within His stories.

The PARABLE of the MUSTARD SEED: MATTHEW 13:31-32

31. He placed (or: put; set) another parable (illustration) beside [the previous one] for them, proceeding in saying, “The reign and sovereignty of the heavens (or: kingdom of the sky and atmosphere) exists being (or: is) like seed of a mustard plant – which, upon taking, a man (a person) sowed within his field –

32. “which on the one hand is smaller than all the seeds, yet on the other hand, whenever it might grow, is greater than the vegetables (is the largest of the garden plants and herbs) and progressively comes to be a [veritable] tree [in size and form], so that the birds of the sky (or: atmosphere) come and periodically roost within its branches.”

Here again, we have an agricultural parable, and, like the parable of the tares, it is about a farmer sowing in his field. As before, the sower would be the Son of man, Jesus. And so we can also conclude that the field is His world of culture and religion.

This mustard seed is “smaller than all the seed” which a farmer normally plants in a field. By this He means that His teaching is not like the teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees, nor like the large dissertations on the Scriptures which the schools of the famous rabbis (like Hillel, or Shammai, Talmudic scholars). Even His sermons were composed of small bites of kingdom information, not essays explaining the deeper layers of the Scripture or the “spiritual levels” of God’s Word.

Nonetheless, His simple illustrations would be truths that grew into something greater than the rest of what was being planted in His field, and become a veritable tree where the same folks that ate the seeds sown on the pathway would also periodically roost within its branches. His reign would be from time to time inhabited by that which was not a part of His sovereign activity.

Observe that we have a picture of death, burial and resurrection portrayed in this illustration. These seeds fall into the ground and die, yet they bring forth the new which expands into the atmosphere. That which grows up, out of the earth, becomes a virtual ladder into the heavens, where we see Jesus – just as Zaccheus climbed the sycamore tree to see Him. So this is a parable about both Himself and, like the preceding parable of the wheat and the tares, is also about the Word of the kingdom which He was proclaiming – for its seeds would likewise be harvested, and that harvest would also be the end of an age (vs. 39).

THE PARABLE of the LEAVEN: MATTHEW 13:33-35

33. He spoke another parable (illustration) to them: “The reign (kingdom; sovereignty) of the heavens and atmospheres exists being (is) like leaven (or: yeast) which a woman, upon getting (taking; receiving) [it], hides within (= mixes in) three large measures (1.5 pecks, or 12 quarts, per measure) of wheat flour, or meal, until [the] whole [batch] is leavened to thus be fermented, risen [and teeming with life]!”

Like the last parable, this one also speaks of death, burial and resurrection. The leaven is “hidden” with the batch of dough, but it “rises.” The flour, or meal, comes from the grain that was harvested from the field. So we have a continuation of the same context.

There is also the element of growth and permeation, as the leaven which was “planted” within the flour spreads throughout it and grows so that the whole batch is teaming with its life. The message is twofold here: it will spread into every part of your life, and it will affect every part of His kingdom.

But there is another thing that we must not miss. Leaven is a part of the previous batch of leavened dough, saved out before the rest of that batch was put into the fire – to bake the bread. Here is the message: Christ and His Word was a part of the previous Word, the OT Scriptures. The living part (for leaven is something alive) of the old was being hidden, planted, within the new batch of dough – His reign of the new covenant within His followers. There was both continuity (of the anointed Word), and yet it was something new. It would cause the milled seed (the flour) to rise and become a loaf, which also would feel the heat of the fire before it became life and food for the new Day. But it should also be pointed out that this was not “the leaven of the Pharisees (their teachings),” but was the unadulterated Christ of the OT Scriptures.

As the mustard plant illustrated growth and expansion within the heaven/spirit, the leaven illustrates total permeation. Both were planted within His disciples (the field, the flour), to be spread forth, as seen in the book of Acts; both were eschatological statements predicting what His soon-coming planting would accomplish.

Following His explanation of the parable of the tares (vs. 37-42), Jesus forecasts the book of Acts in the next verse:

43. “At that time, the fair and equitable folks – who live in the pointed-out Way of right relationships, rightwised behavior and justice – will be giving out light, as from lamps (or: will shine forth from out of the midst), in the same way as the sun, in union with the reign, and within the kingdom, of their Father. Let the person having ears to hear continue listening and be constantly hearing!”

THE PARABLE of the TREASURE HIDDEN in a FIELD: MATTHEW 13:44

44. “The reign (or: kingdom; sovereignty) of the heavens and atmospheres exists being (or: is) like a treasure – having been hidden (or: being concealed) within the midst of a field – which, upon finding, a person hid (concealed) [again] and then, from the joy he has, he proceeds leaving [it] and one after another sells as many things as he is then possessing and is proceeding in purchasing that field.”

Once again we can conclude that the field stays the same: His disciples within whose hearts He had been hiding the word of His reign, the treasure which is His kingdom within them. They were the then present “good soil,” but the field that was purchased was the entire world (1 Tim. 2:6) – the systems of culture, religion, economics and government. By buying this He had the treasure, but He now also had the field, some of which was not yet good soil.

Likewise, it is the Son of man – Jesus – Who gives His all, to the point of emptying Himself (Phil. 2:7), to ransom them from slavery, purchasing them with His blood (1 Cor. 6:20; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 5:9). Here we see another eschatological statement, pointing to the end of that age that came with His sacrifice of Himself.

THE PARABLE of the PEARL MERCHANT: MATTHEW 13:45-46

45. “Again, the reign (or: kingdom; sovereignty) of the heavens and atmospheres exists being (or: is) like a human being – a traveling business man (or: merchant), constantly trying to find beautiful, ideal pearls.

46. “Now upon finding one very valuable pearl, after at once going away, he has exported for sale and disposed of everything – as much as he was holding (possessing) – and he buys it at the market place.”

In this parable we see a specific treasure, a “beautiful, ideal pearl,” and the Son of man is pictured as a traveling business man. The message of sell all for the treasure is the same as in the last story: Christ/God giving Himself for that which He loves (John 3:16). There is also a call to us in this illustration: like the rich young ruler, we are invited to sell all, give to the poor, and follow Him. This picture shows us the value of His reign in our lives, and of His sovereign activity even within the world of business and market places.

THE PARABLE of the FISHING NET: MATTHEW 13:47-52

47. “Again, the reign (or: kingdom; sovereignty) of the heavens and atmospheres exists being (or: is) like a dragnet (a seine) being cast into the lake (or: sea) and gathering together [some] of every species [of marine life, into the net].

48. “from which – when it was filled up, after hauling it up upon the beach and sitting down – they gathered together the ideal ones into containers (buckets, crocks or baskets). Yet the decayed and rotten ones they threw outside.

49. “It will be the same way within the conclusion (the combined final act; the joining of all parts and aspects to one end and goal) of the (or: = this) age: the agents (messengers) will be going forth (or: coming out) and will be marking off boundaries for (limiting off, thus separating) the worthless and disadvantageous folks or circumstances (those people or situations who/which bring pain and misery through hard works; the wicked people or evil conditions) from out of the midst of the fair and equitable folks or situations (those having been placed within the Way of right relationships, rightwised behavior and justice)

50. “and will be casting them into the furnace (oven; kiln) of The Fire [= God’s dealings]: “the weeping (crying and lamentation) and the grinding of teeth” will be in that situation (or: place).”

For His next illustration, Jesus now moves to another familiar way of making a living: the fishing industry. There are a number of things to be considered as we look at this description of God’s sovereign actions.

First, we should note that His reign “drags in everything” in His dragnet. Next there comes a separation of the ideal fish from the decayed and rotten ones. We can note that this happens in the same time context as that of the separation of the good grain from the tares – “within the conclusion of the age” (vs. 49 and vs. 39) – where we also saw the action of a separation.

So the question that we should ask is, “Is this illustrating the same thing as the parable of the tares (See Part 2 of this series)?” He uses the same Greek word for what is gathered aside: “poneros,” “the worthless person or the disadvantageous circumstance,” in each case, and both are burned (vs. 40 and vs. 50), and then in both situations “the weeping (crying and lamentation) and the grinding of teeth” will be in that situation (or: place)” (vs. 42 and vs. 50).

Please note that I gave both possible renderings of “poneros,” in that this can refer either to people, or to things/situations. In part 2 we saw that “the phrase ‘sons of the worthless person or of the disadvantageous circumstance’ represents the results of the teachings which had no value, or which were contrary to God’s Word (i.e., the tares, that were a worthless crop).” Even though the worthless fish of this present parable may be a veiled reference to the Jewish religious leaders (the branches that were going to be broken out, Rom. 11:17), and their end is with the burning of Jerusalem in AD 70, the main subject of all of the parables has been His teachings/word and Himself being planted into fields or bread dough, or being found in a marketplace.

Thus, would it not be logical to conclude that as the tares could refer to the false teachings and traditions of the elders, that here the worthless fish could refer to the same. Recall that while Jesus used leaven as a figure for the planting of His teachings into the bread dough, He elsewhere advised the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees – by which figure He was referring to their teachings (Matt. 16:6, 12).

God’s reign is inclusive of all (He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him – Matt. 28:18), but His sovereign activity involves separating the good from the worthless, the true from the counterfeit, as His judging constantly continues (1 Pet. 2:23). When people’s selfish kingdoms are exposed as being counterfeit and are destroyed, people weep and express sorrow at their loss. Jesus threw the vendors and moneychangers out of the temple courts saying that they had made His Father house a marketplace in which theft took place. John was given a vision of the merchants weeping and wailing and casting dust on their heads when Jerusalem (there pictured as Babylon the Great, but given her identity in vs. 24) would be burned and destroyed in Rev. 18.

Recall from part one where we discussed Ch. 12:33, that the fruit that was either “ideal, or rotten (decayed).” Jesus uses the same Greek word, “sapros”, here in vs. 48 to describe the “rotten and decaying” fish. As the fruit was the produce of the tree, so the fish are the produce of the sea. Here the sea represents people (e.g., Isa. 57:20), and elsewhere it is the tree, the field, the flour, the marketplace that represent the people. The distinction is between the good, beautiful, fine and ideal, or the rotten – past its time of use – and the worthless.

Now take note that Jesus ends this section of parables first with a question, “Have you understood ALL these things?” – suggesting that the conclusion of the matter of His parables really has one message throughout all of the examples – and then He concludes these parables by saying,

“Therefore (or: That being the situation; For this reason), every scribe (well-trained writer, translator or scholar; or: theologian; expert and instructor in the Law), being one taught, schooled and made a disciple by the reign from the atmospheres (or: in the kingdom of the heavens) exists being (or: is) like a person (a human) – a householder (an owner of a home) – who is habitually extracting and spurting out from the midst of his store of treasures things fresh and new in character and quality, as well as old, well-worn and even obsolete” (vs. 51-52).

We can look at this from two perspectives:

1) there is both continuity from the old (like Christ seen in the OT) as well as the new covenant, new creation teachings and unveilings, and both are treasures, or

2) we are just like the scribes of His day, bringing forth both new revelation and fresh treasures, as well as things that are old, well-worn and even obsolete.

It can be recognized that even the teachings of the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees were a part of what His royal activity dragged in. But He discarded the worthless from what they produced. Let us do the same, today.

All these parables pointed to the closing of the Jewish age and the end of the old covenant, and then the opening of the age of the Messiah, and the new creation of the next age. Paul and other experts in the Law would bring forth revelation from the old, but use them to highlight and contrast the new. In Gal. 4 he would tell folks to recognize that our mother is the Jerusalem that is above, the heavenly one (cf Heb. 12:22), and that we are to cast out the slave girl (the then existing, earthly Jerusalem of the old covenant) and what she produced (the Law).

PART FOUR

THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

Further on in Matthew, we come across more parables in which we can detect the eschatological thrust which portrayed the exclusion of the Jewish leadership, and the old covenant, from the new movements of His reign:

WHAT DEFINES a PERSON: MATTHEW 15:10-20.

10. With that, upon calling the crowd to Himself, He said to them, “Be constantly listening, so as to hear. And let things flow together, so as to understand:

11. “The things normally and habitually entering into the mouth do not repeatedly make the person unclean (common; contaminated; defiled; polluted). To the contrary, [it is] the things habitually emerging and flowing forth from out of the mouth – this is constantly making the person contaminated (unclean; common)!”

12. At that point, after approaching, the disciples proceed saying to Him, “Did You see, or are You aware, that the Pharisees were caused to trip the bait stick and stumble into [their own] trap (or: were snared and offended; perhaps: were horrified) at hearing [that] thought and idea (or: the word; the message; = that remark)?”

13. Yet He, giving a decided reply, said, “Every plant, which My Father – the heavenly One (or: the One Who inhabits, and can be compared to, the atmosphere) – did not plant, will be pulled out by the roots.

14. “Abandon them at once! (other choices: Divorce them; Let them flow away; Leave them; Leave them [alone]; Send them away; Let them go) They exist being blind guides of the Path (or: blind leaders of the Way). Now if a blind person should ever lead or guide [another] blind person, both people will fall into a pit!”

15. Now Peter, after trying to separate the elements of the discourse and to discern the meaning of what He had spoken, said to Him, “Expound the parable in distinct terms and explain the meaning to (or: for) us (or: Tell us plainly the interpretation of the illustration).”

16. So Jesus said, “At this point in time, do you folks, as well, continue being unable to let things flow together, and are you without comprehension?

17. “Are you not habitually using your minds and your intelligence to carefully think, that everything normally and habitually flowing into the mouth is progressively moving on into the stomach and then the intestines, and later is periodically discharged (or: thrust out) into a toilet or a sewer?

18. “Yet the things constantly emerging and flowing forth out of the mouth are continually coming forth from out of the midst of the heart (the core of the individual; the self as a whole, at its deepest level, which is the individual’s animating and driving force [note: I owe these last phrases to Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity]) – and those things continually make the person contaminated, defiled, ceremonially unclean and common.

19. “For example, from out of the heart (the core of our being) habitually come forth worthless reasonings (wicked designs; considerations having a bad quality; miserable and laborious dialogues and arguments), murders, adulteries, fornications and prostitutions, sexual immoralities (fornications; prostitutions), thefts, false testimonies (or: false presentations of evidence), blasphemies (malicious slanders; abusive speeches).

20. “These continue being the things that are making the person contaminated (unclean; defiled; common) – yet to eat a meal with unwashed hands does not make the person common, contaminated or unclean!”

It is Peter, in vs. 15, that alert us that this saying of Jesus in vs. 11 is a parable. Notice that the disciples saw that the Pharisees were offended, or horrified, at it (vs. 12), since Jesus is in effect cancelling out the dietary code of the Law – and thus indicating that He is proclaiming something new. Proclaiming something new as a replacement of the status quo is in reality making an eschatological statement. Things have changed – or as Paul says, “the old has passed away.”

The explanation which Jesus gives (vs. 17-20) are perfectly logical, but they are also part of the progressive revelation of Truth which the message of goodness brings in the new arrangement (or: covenant) and the new creation.

This parable was a response to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ complaint about the disciples eating without washing their hands (vs. 2). But here Jesus is also giving more information about what is important in His reign: the heart. This is similar to what He said to the Samaritan woman regarding the change that was coming (John 4:21-24), and the revelation that what counted was “spirit and truth (or: attitude and reality).” These statements proclaim the end of the old and the inauguration of the new.

Vs. 13-14 is another direct statement that the scribes and the Pharisees are going to be “Pulled out by the roots.” They will no longer have a place in God’s reign in the earth. He says regarding these folks, “THEY exist being blind guides of the Path,” and they are destined to “fall into a pit” – a veiled reference to Gehenna, the city dump (pit).” He is predicting their ruin (which came in AD 70) and the end of the old covenant religion.

DISCERNING the SKY and PREDICTING the WEATHER: MATTHEW 16:2-4

2. So, giving a decided response, He said to them, “Upon the coming of evening, you folks are customarily saying, ‘[It will be] fair weather (or: good weather; a fine day), you see, the sky continues being fiery-red;’

3. “and early in the morning, [you say], ‘Today [it will be] stormy (or: rainy; or: wintry weather), for the sky continues being fiery-red [and] is progressively being gloomy-looking.’ On the one hand you, by experience and familiarity, habitually know how to read and discern (thoroughly discern, judge and decide about) the face and appearance of the sky, yet on the other hand, you continue unable and without power [to discern and interpret] the signs of the appointed seasons and fitting situations (or: fertile moments)!

4. “A worthless, wicked and adulterous (or: immoral; [note: an OT word used for Israel‘s idolatry – e.g. Ezk 16:32]) generation is habitually searching for and thoroughly seeking a sign, and yet a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah!”

The Pharisees and Sadducees (vs. 1) could not see what was coming in the season and situation that was about to come upon them. The sign of Jonah was a figure of His burial and resurrection, which would inaugurate the next age.

Although it is not a parable, in the statement in Ch. 17:20 about having faith as a mustard seed and with this the ability to “say to THIS MOUNTAIN, ‘Move at once, from this place [to over] there,” I suggest the He was speaking figuratively about Mount Zion, to which His followers have now come (Heb. 12:22-24). In Ch. 21:21, while being in Jerusalem (vs. 18), He speaks of casting the mountain into the sea (a figure of Gentile humanity – the pagans). A mountain was used in the OT as a figure for a kingdom (e.g., Ezk. 35:2, 7, 8; Zech. 4:7; Dan. 2:35, 44, 45; Isa. 2:1-4; 11:9; 13:4; 41:15; 42:15). The kingdom was being moved into the ethnic multitudes. Once again, this is an eschatological statement.

LITTLE CHILDREN/LITTLE FOLKS: MATTHEW 18:1-10; ONE SHEEP GONE ASTRAY: Vs 12-14

The first section of this chapter tells us that those who become like little children, and bring themselves low in attitude, situation and condition, will be the greatest in the heaven’s reign (kingdom of the atmospheres) – vs. 3-4. Verses 6-10 describe the tragedy that awaits those who snare or entrap the little folks (the insignificant ones). The child (vs. 2) that Jesus uses becomes His parable. A child in that culture was like a woman was: property.

In vs. 7 He speaks a woe to the System (the culture and religion of the Jews) from which came “bait-laden traps and snares.” In vs. 8, the hand and foot that keeps on being a snare speaks of their way of life. In vs. 9 the eye speaks of their vision and the things upon which they focus their lives. The Jewish leadership and religion had become a snare to the unimportant people – the ones whom they called “sinners” and who became outcasts of their society. These hands, feet and eyes were parables speaking against those who treated others unjustly and unkindly: they would be drowned by the sea (fall as with a stone tied to their neck – vs. 6b) of the Romans; they would be cast into the city dump and their bodies burned (vs. 8-9) in the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna). And so it happened, in AD 70.

The lost sheep (vs. 12-14) were the outcasts to whom Jesus went (vs. 11). He left the 99 sheep (the religious system and world of the scribes and Pharisees) who supposed that they had not been caused to wander (vs. 13), but rather viewed themselves as God’s flock, and He saved the one – the insignificant “one.” He went “from place to place, continuing] [in] trying to find ‘the one’ continuing in being led astray” (vs. 12). The eschatological purpose of the Father (vs. 14) is “that [not] one of these little folks would destroy himself or should become [permanently] lost.”

THE UNMERCIFUL SERVANT: MATTHEW 18:23-35

The Unmerciful Servant shows the Jews as having received mercy but not showing it to the outcasts, Samaritans or Gentiles. In vs. 21-22 Peter had asked Jesus how many times a repeated wrong from a brother should be let pass away for him (or: forgiven him). Jesus answers with this parable:

23. “Because of this [situation and reason], the heavens’ reign (or: the kingdom of the heavens and the sovereignty emanating from the atmospheres) is likened to a man – a king – who willed and intended to settle [the] account[s] with his slaves.

24. “Now at his beginning to proceed settling, one person was led toward him: a debtor [owing] ten thousand talents (probably = millions of dollars; [ten thousand was the highest number used in calculating; a talent was the largest denomination of currency, = sixty million denarii; therefore this was a staggering amount of debt – Jesus is obviously using hyperbole, as no slave could owe that much]).

25. “So, at his not having [the means] to pay [it] back, the owner gave orders for him to be immediately sold, as well as the wife, the children and everything – as many things as he is presently having – and then for payment to be made.

26. “Therefore, upon falling down, the slave was repeatedly doing obeisance to him, repeatedly saying, ‘Be long-enduring in you strong emotions so as to be patient with me, and I will pay back everything to you!’

27. “So, being moved with compassion in the pit of his stomach, the owner of that slave released him and canceled the debt for him.

28. “Yet, upon going out, that slave found one of his fellow slaves who was owing (or: who continued being indebted to) him one hundred denarii, and, grabbing him, he began to choke [him], saying, ‘Pay back the debt, since you continue owing me something!’

29. “Therefore, upon falling down, his fellow slave kept on calling upon him for help, even entreating and continuing to beg him, repeatedly saying, ‘Be long-enduring in you strong emotions so as to be patient with me, and I will pay [it] back to you!’

30. “However, he continued being unwilling, and furthermore, upon going off, he had him thrown into prison (or: jail), until he could (or: should; would) pay back what was continuing to be owed.

31. “Then, upon seeing the things that were happening, his fellow slaves experienced tremendous pain and were filled with extreme grief, and so after coming, they made it thoroughly clear and gave a distinct picture to their owner about all the things that were happening.

32. “At that point, after calling him [i.e., the first slave] to himself, the owner proceeds saying to him, ‘O worthless and wicked slave! I cancelled that entire debt for you, since you begged and entreated me.

33. “‘Was it not of necessity binding [on; for] you, also, to dispense mercy to your fellow slave, just as I myself also dispensed mercy to you?’

34. “So, internally swelling with indignation and anger, his owner handed him over to ‘the men who to test folks’ (those who apply the touchstone to determine the grade and to show the quality of fine metals) until where [the occasion or situation develops that] he could (or: would) pay back all that continued being owed.

35. “My heavenly Father (or: My Father, Who inhabits, and can be compared to, the atmosphere) will deal with you folks in this same way (or: do to you men in like manner), too, if each person does not release and forgive his brother (and let things flow away for him), from your hearts.”

Here Jesus ties in His previous teaching about the little folks (the “fellow slave” of vs. 28) to the teaching on forgiveness. I suggest that the debtor owing ten thousand talents is a figure for the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees (also figured as the Rich Man in Lu. 16:19-31). Only a rich person could have such a debt. These were at the top of the social ladder in 1st century Judea.

These were the “sons of the kingdom” that we discussed in part 2 of this series: they were God’s slaves (vs. 23). They had great debt to God, but had received His mercy, and their debt had been cancelled through His compassion (vs. 27). It was “of necessity binding [on; for] [them], also, to dispense mercy to [their] fellow slaves…” However, they did not treat their fellow slaves the way they had been treated, and so now the King’s judgment was coming upon them – via the Romans: a time of being tested (vs. 34). We continue seeing this same theme in the parables that follow.

Once again, in vs. 35, we see that it is now a matter of the heart. We no longer see “an eye for an eye” in the way the King treated the first slave – things had changed. But that first slave continued to behave as under the former arrangement (as the King was at first going to treat him – according to Law). But now the very Law of Moses which none of the scribes, Pharisees or Sadducees had kept (mercy and justice) was the very Law that brought judgment upon them (cf Deut. 31:16-21; 32:15-38).

PART FIVE

THE PARABLES of JESUS – ESCHATOLOGICAL ASPECTS

THE HOUSEHOLDER WHO HIRED LABORERS to WORK in his VINEYARD: MATT 20:1-16

This parable depicts God’s extraordinary care for people through how the householder (figure of God) overextends himself in repeatedly going to the town square to provide work for the unemployed (note vs. 8, that he had a foreman or supervisor who could have done this), promising to give to them “whatever may be fair and equitable” (vs. 4). No mention is made that the vineyard owner had great urgency to get the harvest in: the focus is on giving work to those who had none. He knew that without work they could not provide for their families.

The equity of God’s kingdom is shown in that not only are the last folks who worked only one hour are paid the same as those who worked all day, enduring its heat and discomfort, but further that each worker was paid the same.

The complaint of those who were hired early on is that the rest received the same pay. I suggest that this was the view of the Pharisees who took great pains to follow the “nth” degree of the Law, and what they thought of Jesus welcoming into the kingdom those who had lived their lives as sinners. The Jews had been in God’s vineyard for hundreds of years, and felt that they had paid dearly to be the chosen people. But Jesus is here saying that a change is coming in which all – Jew and Gentile, early-comers and late-comers, would all be treated the same way. In the eschatological situation of the age of Messiah, “the last folks will be first and the first folks [will be] last” (vs. 16). This speaks to the same reversal that is depicted in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In the reign of Messiah the proud must be humbled, and the lowly raised up.

THE HOUSEHOLDER who PLANTED a VINEYARD: MATTHEW 21:33-41

The end of the age forecast of this parable is readily seen in vs. 43:

“Because of this, I am now saying to you men that God’s reign of God (or: the kingdom of God; the influence and activity of God’s sovereignty) will be lifted up away from you folks, and it will be given to an ethnic multitude (or: nation; people group) consistently producing its fruit!”

Then vs. 45 states that the priests and Pharisees perceived that He spoke this about them.

This illustration describes how the householder plants the vineyard, fences it, and provides for the handling of the grapes, etc. Then he leased it out to farmers who would cultivate and dress the vines, and he himself then traveled abroad (vs. 33). In due season, he knew that there should be a crop, so he sent off slaves to receive his share of the harvest. But the farmers did not comply with the agreement (figure of the covenant), and rejected the slaves that he had sent to receive his fruit, or profits. This story leads to their killing His Son, for of course the householder is a figure of God, again, and Jesus cites Ps. 118:22-23 as an indicator that the “Son” was referring to Himself.

Vs. 41 gives the end of the story, which as mentioned above speaks of the end of those Jewish leaders, and the end of their place in the activities and influences of God’s sovereign reign – it would go to the ethnic multitudes (vs. 43).

THE MARRIAGE of the KING’S SON: MATTHEW 22:2-13

In this illustration, “the reign of the heavens is compared to a human, a king, who made arrangements and prepared wedding festivities for his son. People had been invited to this occasion, but when the time came they were “unwilling to attend.” Here again, Jesus is speaking of the Jewish religion and its representatives not participating in the coming of the age of the Messiah. Vs. 6 says that they even killed His slaves (figure of His disciples).

So in vs. 7 it speaks of the King sending His armies (the Romans) and destroying those murderers and burning their city (Jerusalem), and then in vs. 11-13 He speaks of the Jews who did not “put on Christ” (figured by the “wedding apparel”) and found themselves outside His sovereign activity “weeping and gnashing their teeth.”

Vs. 14 presents a curious statement:

“Now you see, many folks continue existing being called and invited ones, yet a few people [are also] chosen ones (selected and picked out folks)!”

This seems to be an ironic inversion: here there were two sorts of people that were invited; the first group, then the second – these latter being the ones that actually attended the feast (and these were strangers from the streets and alleys: folks that were “both worthless or bad, and good/virtuous ones” – vs. 10). Now the only one that was “picked out (chosen and focused on)” was the one without proper wedding apparel – and he was kicked out. Is Jesus here saying that the people who all this time thought that they were the “chosen” were the ones that were being rejected?

THE TEN VIRGINS: MATTHEW 25:1-13

This is a story of ten “virgins” (or: unmarried girls) who were planning to attend a local wedding feast. The celebration began at night, so they needed lamps in order to see their way to the “bridegroom’s meeting” place, and they were awaiting for the arrival of the bridegroom (who eventually arrived in the middle of the night) so that they could join the procession to the location of the celebration. However, as time passed and the bridegroom delayed in coming, they all fell asleep. At his approach, someone shouted for everyone to go out to meet him.

Five of these young ladies came prepared, but the other five did not bring extra oil, and their lamps were eventually starting to run dry and be extinguished by the time the procession came by where they were waiting. So they had to run to a merchant to get more oil, and by the time they returned, the procession had arrived at its destination and everyone had entered, then the door was locked (probably to prevent party-crashers). In the story, the doorman would not let them in because he did not know them, and they had not arrived with the rest of the group. Jesus described these five young ladies as being foolish. His concluding remark about this parable is in vs. 13,

“Therefore, stay awake and be constantly alert and watchful, because you people have not seen or know [either] the day, nor yet the hour!”

There are a number of things that we should note in this illustration about “the reign of the heavens” (vs. 1):

1) Five are described as wise, because of their preparedness; five are described as mentally dull, because of their lack of forethought. None of them are characterized as either good or bad, believers or nonbelievers. They are all looking for the coming of the bridegroom (a figure of the coming Messiah). They all desired to participate in the celebration.

2) They were shut out of the party because:

a. the doorman did not recognize them.

b. they did not arrive with the rest of the group: they were late.

3) What they missed out on was being participants of the festivities – this did not signify any sort of “eternal loss or destruction.”

4) The final admonition (vs. 13) was about being constantly alert and watchful, for Jesus’ listeners did not know either the day or the hour of this occasion.

The logical question is, To what occasion is He referring? Of what are the terms “bridegroom’s meeting” (vs. 1) or “wedding festivities” (vs. 10) a figure? The story is taken from a common cultural event, but its point is on some people missing out on this event. John the Baptist referred to Jesus as being the bridegroom (John 3:29), and Rev. 19:7 refers to the bride as the “Lamb’s wife.” In that scene the marriage had already happened, and thus she is called His wife, not His bride.

But Israel was already the wife of Yahweh (Ezekiel 16:8), and so this spoke of something new. It spoke of the new covenant, and the coming of the age of the Messiah, which meant the end of the age in which those people were then living. The admonition to be alert and watchful meant that it was soon to come, and that those folks could easily miss its celebrations, and be left out.

Furthermore, this story depicts the “coming” as being in the middle of the night. In John 9:4 Jesus says that He must work while it was still daytime, because “night progressively comes, when no one is able to continue performing work.” So the night was soon to come, when His work would be finished. We know that His work was finished at the cross. That was the point when the Day of the Law came to an end with the death of Husband/Testator (Rom. 7:3-4; Heb. 9:16-17), and a new Day – or age – began. Now, at Pentecost, we see that His followers (His bride) are those who have the oil (figure of the Holy Spirit), and by His coming to them He and His bride become one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17) when He joined Himself to them, and it was Christ in them; them in union with Christ. Union is the basic meaning of “marriage.” This parable predicts a major eschatological event, and the inference is that the Jewish leadership were the ones whose lamps were going out, and that they were going to miss the kingdom celebrations that were about to take place, along with its ensuing influence and activities.

THE TALENTS: MATTHEW 25:14-30

The focus of this illustration is on the worthless, incompetent and hesitating employee who dug a hole in the ground and hid his employer’s money (vs. 18). Because he did not invest the money given to him he is fired from his job and winds up lamenting (weeping and grinding his teeth in regret) in the dark with the unemployed. The “darkness which is farther outside” (vs. 30) is a figure for not being included in the activities of the kingdom (the Light).

It is similar to the worthless slave described in Ch. 24:48-51 who is cut off from employment and then finds his part being with the hyper-critical and overly judgmental folks (usually translated “hypocrites” – a word which Jesus used to describe the scribes and Pharisees in Ch. 23:14, and used to describe their teachings in Lu. 12:1): a place of weeping, moaning and grinding of teeth.

In this latter case, it was his worthless behavior (24:49) that lost him his job; in the former it was his lack of productivity. Both of these are a polemic against the scribes, the priests and the Pharisees who failed to use what Yahweh had given them to benefit His kingdom, and to treat the people rightly. The loss of jobs was an eschatological forecast for the scribes, priests and Pharisees losing their position with the coming of the new order of Christ.

THE SHEEP and the GOATS: MATTHEW 26:31-46

This parable presents His sheep (the disciples and followers, and the teachings of Jesus that they manifested) who demonstrated His love in their lives, in their actions toward others, and who would move into His reign in the book of Acts, as compared to others in His herd who knew Him as Lord, but did not recognize what He was all about, and did not discern Him in other people. These goats (literally, “kids,” immature ones) were clean animals that were used in old covenant sacrifices, but they were not ready to receive His reign. They portrayed the Jewish leaders and the old covenant teachings that must be pruned (literal meaning of “kolasis” in vs. 46) in His fiery dealings, while the sheep brought His sovereign influence to the world, by proclaiming His message of goodness.

It should be noted that there is no issue about whether or not either of these groups put faith or trust in Christ as the Messiah (the Son of Man in this story). Both groups belonged to Him, and thus both of these groups represent His people and He is portrayed as their Shepherd, in vs. 32. But His role as the Messiah is indicated since He is also shown to be the King (vs. 31 & 34).

This story is prophetic of a coming judgment, a decision about what God was about to do with His People. Those who had been followers of Jesus (His sheep) would at once “come into possession of the inheritance of, and enjoy the allotment of, the reign (the influence and activity of [His] sovereignty).” Why? Because they had demonstrated the maturity of love lived-out. They were shepherds and paracletes to the folks in need. His reign would come upon them on the Day of Pentecost, and they would continue ministering to Him as they continued serving His brothers (vs. 40) and manifesting the power of His rule (e.g. Acts 3:1-11).

But the kids had not displayed the maturity of God’s love and had not observed Him in those being hungry or thirsty, a foreigner or someone naked, sick or in prison – and so had not given Him attending service (vs. 44). These were still His People, but they were the ones to whom Jesus said, “You folks, in particular, are from out of, and have your source in, the ancestor who cast [an object] through [someone] (or: the father, the devil – the one thrusting [words or issues] through [folks/groups] and dividing them)…” (John 8:44). They were to be cast into a period of “eonian pruning (a lopping-off which lasts for an undetermined length of time; an age-lasting correction and rehabilitation)”vs. 46 – which Jesus had described as an “eonian fire” (a figure of the dealing of God Who is a Consuming Fire – Heb. 12:29) in vs. 41. They were the branches that were broken out of their olive tree (Rom. 11:17) but who could later be grafted back in again (Rom. 11:23). This time of correction is designed to burn out and the impurities from His people (it is characterized as a “refiner’s fire” in Mal. 3:2 – and His coming was to “purify the sons of Levi,” vs. 3) These impurities are described as causing these folks to be “the person who thrusts [something] through [folks] (the adversary; the devil),” and it had been “made ready in and for” such folks (vs. 41).

Note that in vs. 41 He said to them

“[You] folks having been brought under the curse…”

These were folks who were being brought into the judgment of the curse of the Law. This judgment had to come, because they had broken the covenant, and upon them would come “all [the] just blood being continuously poured out upon the Land” (Ch. 23:35), Lu. 11:50-51 indicating that this would “be required and exacted from THIS generation.”

Another eschatological marker of this parable is that the King is shown as gathering “the ethnic multitudes (people groups)” vs. 32. This foreshadows the new age when He had broken down the dividing wall and made of the former “two groups (Jew and Gentile)” one new humanity (Eph. 2:15-16), or as Paul said in Rom. 11:17, it was the grafting in of the Gentiles among the believing branches of the Jews, making one new olive tree.

A second foreshadowing in this pertains to the coming of the Romans (whose army contained those from the surrounding ethnic groups and nations), bringing fires to Jerusalem in AD 70.

The term “eonian” is the adjective form of the word “eon; age.” It is a term that the Jews used to refer to the coming age of the Messiah, the age in which we now live. Folks who are incompliant, stubborn, disobedient and unpersuaded presently have God’s inherent fervor (or: wrath) continuously dwelling and abiding upon them (John 3:36). But at the time that Father directs us, this fire having done its work, we can deliver them, “snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23).

Note that in vs. 46, the sheep are termed “fair and just folks who are in right relationship with people and are in accord with the Way pointed out.” The only way a person is fair and just is by being “in Christ” Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is Christ who characterizes the sheep and Who makes them His sheep. But He has the “kids” well in hand, in His purifying and correcting dealing. The agricultural metaphor “pruning” means that in due time they will bear His fruit (John 15:1-17).

In conclusion, the parables of Jesus in Matthew have an eschatological message that pertained to the first century Jewish religious, cultural and political entity centered in Jerusalem. They signified that the kingdom of God was being transferred to all ethnic groups to create a new humanity, and that the old covenant was ending – that they were living in “the last days” of that age. The Messiah had come and the new age was beginning, while judgment was coming to Jerusalem and the old religious system was being terminated – a demonstration of which was the destruction of the temple. As Paul later put it in 2 Cor. 5:17. Consequently, since someone [is] within Christ (or: if anyone [is] in union with [the] Anointed One), [there is] a new creation (or: [it is] a framing and founding of a different kind; [he or she is] an act of creation having a fresh character and a new quality): the original things (the beginning [situations]; the archaic and primitive [arrangements]) passed by (or: went to the side). Consider! New things have come into existence (have been birthed; or: It has become new things; or: He has been birthed and now exists being ones of a different kind, character and quality).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PARABLE of JESUS, THE, Parts 1-5 [Jonathan Mitchell] ~ BIBLE STUDY        1

 

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