One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Monday, December 22, 2014

TOMS: Matthew 13, Part 1

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Dec. 19, 2006

There is so much in this chapter that at this point I think I am going to break it up in at least two parts, if not three. This chapter has some of the most hotly debated parables in the Gospels.

The first one is not so controversial, at least compared to the others, but it is a profound one. It is the parable of the sower, which is the title Jesus used, but the parable is actually about the soils in which the sower plants the seeds. You know the basic story: the sower scatters seed, and the seed falls into four types of soils: the footpath, rocky ground, thorny ground, and good soil. Jesus explains the parable later in the chapter, saying that the footpath are those who resist the Word and Satan takes it out of their hearts before it can take root. The rocky ground hear the Word and seem to respond positively, but they soon fall away and prove that they never really believed to begin with. The thorny ground are those who receive the Word and appear to make progress, but they get distracted and abandon the faith. The good ground are those who hear the Word and respond and bear fruit.

Jesus is very clear that all who are truly born again will bear fruit, and those who can leave the faith do so because they were never truly born again in the first place. Not all who bear fruit bear the same amount, but they all produce fruit of some sort. I am not one to judge another person, but in my short life in Christianity I have seen all four of these types of people. I am afraid that too often in our zeal to see people come to know the Lord we talk people into an assurance of salvation they don't really have in the first place. I know I have seen examples of it. We play a dangerous game with people's lives in our churches every day. I am of the opinion that we need to give people space to grow in their faith. Those who are truly converted will remain faithful, at some level, and we will allow those who are not born again to leave so they can see where they truly are and perhaps they will really repent.

Between the parable and the explanation, though, Jesus tells the disciples why He taught in parables. It is the exact opposite of what most people think. Jesus did not teach in parables to make the Gospel easy to understand; He used parables to obscure the Gospel to those who chose not to believe. Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said:
"To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand... But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear."(13:11-14,16, ESV)

There are those who see this passage as primarily teaching election. While I don't deny election, in the larger context of Matthew I think there is something else Jesus is teaching here. In the previous few chapters, especially chapter 12, many of the people living in Israel had rejected Jesus. If they physically followed Him, they only did so for the miracles or to see what was going to happen to Him, since everyone knew the religious and political leaders hated Him. These people had heard Jesus teach. They had seen the miracles, even actually been healed. And they rejected everything they had heard and seen. And so Jesus does not, as He said Himself, cast his pearls before the swine. He chose to open Himself to the Apostles and others who truly believed, but to most of society He remained closed. It has to be significant that we never see Jesus teaching in Galilee in Matthew's Gospel, the Gospel written for a Jewish audience, again without parables.

Many folks today take Christianity for granted - it's what we grew up in, it's part of the fabric of our lives. But just growing up in a Christian nation or community or home doesn't mean we are automatically part of God's family. We personally and individually have to make the choice to follow Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment