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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Revisiting the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13)

 After looking back at my summation of the Parable of Sower in our series on the Kingdom parables of Matthew 13, I realized I needed to add some more context and depth. The two posts work together. 


And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

-Matthew 4:23


We need to understand that the context of the parable is not the gospel of the grace of God by faith in the death burial and resurrection of the Lord. Apart from the obvious reason that none of that had happened yet, they didn't even know it was going to happen. The Lord announced his impending death in Matthew 16:21-23 to his disciples. They refused to believe it. So, they certainly were not preaching it (as we shall see) nor was the Lord referencing here in Matthew 13.

The context of Matthew 13 is the gospel of the Kingdom announced by the Lord in Matthew 4:23 and Matthew 9:35. Young's Literal Translation calls it "the word of the reign." This is the message he sent the 12 to preach in Matthew 10:5-7. Note that it was forbidden to be preached to anyone but to Jews and only in the land of Israel (Matt 10:5-7). It involves the Kingdom and Reign of the Lord on earth. 

This is what the Olivet Discourse and the Revelation and the Prophets (and related scriptures) are about. That is, this is part of God's plan for the earth (Israel land... as is The Book of Matthew). These are the "promises made to the fathers" and "the hope of Israel" taught by Paul and the Lord's mission during the Acts Age.

Matthew starts his gospel with the genealogy of the Lord back to Abraham (the promise of the Land) and David (the promise of the throne and a Kingdom for his seed). The meek shall inherit the earth (not heaven). They will pray in the Tribulation that God's will "be done on earth as it is in heaven." The twelve are promised to sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel, in the kingdom, on the earth. Even the New Jerusalem comes down to earth (the land). Most of scripture deals with God's plan for Israel and for the earth. The Tree of Life and Paradise are not restored until the very end.

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

We know from Matthew 15 that the Lord, in dealing with a Gentile woman who called him "Son of David" (for which she had no right) stated that he was "not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 5:24). He did not lie.

Peter confirms this in Acts 3 when he addresses "ye men of Israel" and promises them that if they repented, the Lord would return (we do not preach this today). Paul states in Romans 15:8 and at his trial that the Lord came to confirm the promises made "to the fathers." The Kingdom is "the hope of Israel." (As noted above)

[Here we should consider the gentile centurion in Matthew 8 and the future role of Israel as priests for the nations in Zechariah]

The Centrality of the Restoration of Israel

After the Lord's resurrection he spent 40 days teaching the disciples, who had their understanding opened about the Kingdom (Acts 1:3). They had one question: "will you, at this time, restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). They didn't misunderstand him for 40 days about the Kingdom and the Lord does not correct them.

So, the sowing in Matthew 13 (The Parables of the Kingdom) is not about the individual gift of resurrection life (although that's part of it), it is about national Israel (which does include individuals). We note quickly here again that this specific "gospel of the Kingdom" will again be preached in the future (Matthew 24:9-14). It will preached during the tribulation "and then the end will come."

And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations [gentiles]; and then shall the end come.

In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 we see the "nations" judged for how they treated "the least of these my brethren" (the Jews) during the Tribulation. We must see the centrality of Israel and the God's plan for the land and the earth in the synoptic gospels (especially in Matthew) if we are going to understand the parables.

What we see in the parable of the Sower: 
the different sowings of the gospel of the Kingdom to Israel.

In Matthew 12, The Lord was accused of being "possessed of a demon." This was the unpardonable sin. From that time, he began to speak in parables as a judgment (he left the HOUSE and went down by the sea). Part of that judgment was that he began to speak to the multitudes in parables (no longer plain speech). This judgment upon Israel was prophesied by Isaiah and thus quoted by the Lord here.

Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’

-Matthew 13:13-15 

Parables are cryptic and hard to be understood. They are given so that only the diligent will understand.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, "Why speakest thou unto THEM in parables? 11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to THEM it is not given.

A Brief Summary

The parables of the kingdom are given to Israel and are difficult to discern. The Parable of the Sower lays out the different sowings to the people of Israel in the past and in the "end" (Matthew 24). We know the seed is, specifically, "the word of the kingdom" (Matthew 13:19) here. This is for Israel. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The restoration of the Kingdom in Israel (Acts 1:3-6) was close, if they would accept it. 

We see four sowings in the parable. In the Parable of the Tares we are told the sower there is "the Son of Man," we are not told that in the first parable. There is a surface meaning which can apply in any age. There will always be those who reject scripture, those who accept gladly, but shrink away because of persecution or love of the world; and some who are radically changed. But here the meaning is deeper and the context is the "word of the Kingdom."

As we noted, the gospel of the kingdom is for Israel alone. In this parable we see the great prophetic sowings of the gospel of the kingdom offer to Israel (the land):

1. John the Baptist: Israel hardly affected. Birds representing the evil one.

2. The Lord Jesus: we see great swelling crowds cheering the Lord. But their faith is short-lived. Within days of hailing Him as the King of Israel, they are calling for his crucifixion.

3. The Apostles in the Acts: the 12 "went to Jews only" (Acts 11) and ministered the gospel to the circumcision. They wrote epistles to the Jewish dispersion. Paul went "to the Jew first" in that age. But while there was a great move of faith in the early days, when pressure and persecution came, many returned to the slavery of the law (minus the finished work). Jews kept the Law in the Acts age, but were to never mix it with grace or to impose it on Gentiles (apart from where scripture imposed it). We also see the future persecution during the tribulation in Israel. Many considered the message, but rejected it in the end.

[The present age, hidden from the prophets (Eph 3), is not seen in the parables of Matthew 13. This is the age of the Parable of the Wedding invitation which goes out to the highways and byways to find guests for the wedding, not a Bride, Matthew 22]

4. Fruit in the Tribulation and the End: Finally, during Israel's time of distress (the time of Jacob's trouble) the true is separated from the false... then when Israel sees her king, whom she has pierced, they weep for the ultimate son of Abraham. This is the message that goes out in the Revelation. Then the New Covenant with the House of Israel (to whom it is given)l comes in.

I can't quote the New Covenant here in toto, but it should be read in Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8. It is yet future. It is for Israel. Just a slice of it:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn..."
-Zech 12:10

Israel and her promises and her kingdom and her covenants is the context (especially in Matthew).

If we do not see Israel and God's promises and plans in regard to the promised land and the promised earthly kingdom, we will not understand the parables. Quick food for thought: the Gospel of John contains no parables.

For Reference: The Prophetic Word on the Ministries of John the Baptist and of Our Lord:

The fruit shall be of Israel

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

There is also a future prophecy of the Lord's ministry and reign over Israel.

Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel...

And behold, you [Mary] will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever [for the ages], and of His kingdom there will be no end.”