Matthew 13:1-23 Part 2

Last Lord's Day we began to define the parables for ourselves; and hopefully by the time we're done with the parabolic language, we'll know enough about it to be able to perceive the eternal truths of God and His Kingdom when observing the common every-day occurrences of living.  That's really what the mysteries of the Kingdom are all about, isn't it?  A reasoning, self-knowing God is governing all His creation.  And the eternal truths of that government are clearly seen in everything around us.

But no man can see it; no man can hear it; no man can perceive it in the heart – because all men are fallen into the depths of depravity, and they are abandoned to the wrath and fury of a just God!  So God, at the predestined time, caused His Own Son to take on the flesh of man in order that He could be the prescribed perfect sacrifice – God and man, the perfect mediator between God and man!  He's the reconciler!

And, having arisen from the dead, He shed forth His Spirit to facilitate our being united in Christ through faith.  And when we are united to Him – in Him – we are eternally covered and protected from the wrath of God.  And, in fact, because of Him and in Him we become intensely loved, for God dearly loves the body of His Own Son!

And through the process of maturation and preservation and perseverance in Christ, by His Spirit, our eyes are opened and our ears can hear and our hearts perceive the mysteries of all these things – mysteries which no man can know except it be given to Him as a gift!

And, as Jesus says, it was not given to the nation of Judaizers to know those mysteries of the Kingdom, (verse eleven).  It was given to the apostles, and it was given to the remnant; but it was not given to the nation!

When we left off last time we were dealing a little bit with Isaiah chapter six, because that's where Jesus quotes from the prophet.  And in that prophecy God told Isaiah to go and preach to the people; and to tell them that they could not see and could not hear and could not perceive with the heart!  When Isaiah asked, "How long?" God told him, "Until the land was laid desolate and the Holy Seed remained!"

So the context in which Jesus teaches in parables – and the context of the Old Testament from which He quotes Isaiah's prophecy – are one and the same!  It's the context of the people of Israel – Judaizers not seeing, and not hearing and not perceiving with the heart – the mysteries of the Kingdom – until Israel was laid desolate!  Do you see that?  Isaiah prophesied it and Jesus continues it!  He quotes it in the context of His parables!  They couldn't hear and see then, and they still couldn't see and hear when Jesus spoke.  And the destruction of Israel was coming, and all that would be left was the Holy Seed – Christ Jesus and the Church in Him – His Father's remnant.  The vine lost all its limbs.  The tree lost all its leaves – and all that was left was the stump, the stump of the New Covenant.  The old had been cut off and the new was being grafted in!

Jesus' apostles asked Him,


"Why do you speak to them in parables?"


And here's the reason – to continue the mystery; to continue the prophecy of My Father; My Father said it would be this way until the nation was destroyed!  But if I caused them to see, they would see!  And if I caused them to hear, they would hear!  And if I caused the heart to perceive, the heart of this nation would perceive.  And they would turn, and I would heal them. 


"For this reason I speak to them in parables, in order that the seeing don't see and the hearing don't hear – nor do they understand.  And the prophecy of Isaiah is confirmed to them..." (verses thirteen and fourteen). 


In other words, what God said to them by the prophet Isaiah is being confirmed to Israel in the fact that they cannot see or hear, and it is being confirmed to them in the fact that Jesus spoke in parables!

You see, the parabolic language was an indication to the Jews – no, let me put that stronger, it was a confirmation to the Jews that the prophecy was still in effect!  The language itself – the form of speaking – plus the direct reference to Isaiah chapter six, was enough to panic the greatest warrior, but, of course, the Jews could not see and could not hear and the heart could not perceive!  They didn't know what was happening to them any more than the apostles knew before they were told.  But Jesus was continuing the government of His Father – the predestining, electing government, etc.

His parables were indications and confirmations that the eyes of this nation were shut; and that they heard "heavily" and the heart was "fat" or "dull".

But Jesus, after telling His apostles that it had been given to them to see and hear and perceive the mysteries of the Kingdom, He says this in verse twelve: 


"For whoever has, it shall be given to him, and he shall be made to abound; but whoever has not, even what he has shall be taken away from him."


Now, let me read that again and fill in the blank spaces for you: 


"For whoever has been given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, shall be made to abound in knowing the mysteries of the Kingdom!  But whoever has not been given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, even what he has shall be taken away from him."


Now once more let's get this straight in our minds.  No one knows the mysteries of the Kingdom naturally!  Since all men are born dead because of their own sin in their father Adam, they cannot see; they cannot hear; and they cannot perceive in the heart – the mysteries of the Kingdom.  So there were two groups – two only – in Israel.  To one group of unsighted, unhearing and unperceptive people it was given to see and hear and perceive with the heart!  But to the others it was not given!

And Jesus says that, to the first group - the one to whom it was given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom - it shall be given, and it shall be given in abundance!  Ultimately that means that all the grace available in the body of the Savior would be heaped upon them.  To know.  To have the heart completely perceptive of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  To know His divine election; to be preserved eternally in the sacrifice of Christ; to experience the glory of living in Him and receiving, as a participant, His character and virtue; to be committed to the will of God; to faith and hope in all the promises of God; to receive of the power of Christ as the Spirit gives us access to Him; to desire righteousness and holiness in living; to anticipate and work for the fullness of the Kingdom that is promised to the world; and to be able to perceive the working of the government of God in all the experience of living!  And so much more!  To those given to know it, it shall be given in abundance.


"But, to the one to whom it has not been given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, even what he has will be taken away," says Jesus.


"Even what he has…."  That's kind of mysterious itself, isn't it?  But it's a key phrase here, and we have to do a good job in interpreting it.  What is said here can be interpreted in two or three different ways.  And the first one is that of the immediate, historical context of Israel being blinded since the commission of Isaiah in 760 B.C.  It hasn't been given them to know; but they've had all these blessings!  They've had the benefit of being the covenant people of God and receiving His Word – the revealed Word, temple, sacrifice, ceremonies and the revelation of the coming Christ of God.

But, in addition to having not been given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, Israel is about to be separated from that which he did have!  No longer would the nation be the object of God's covenantal attention, and it would no longer be the recipient of God's Word!  For "…the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us....but they knew Him not."  What they had was to be taken from them.  The covenant – the Word.  That's one way to interpret it.

Well, what's the second way we can interpret this mysterious verse?  "Even what he has shall be taken away....”  We can take the universal approach; that it applies to all men individually in all times and in every place – Jew, Gentile, Israel, Rome, Germany, Russia, or America.  35 A.D. or 1991 A.D.  It doesn't matter.  If it hasn't been given by God to know, then what one has will be taken away.

And what is it that men have that is being referred to?  It could be said that, since God has taken His covenant from the nation of Israel and has made a new covenant which includes the Gentiles as well, that when a person, individually, hasn't been given to know that mysteries of the Kingdom, the covenant of God to all peoples of the earth has been taken away from him!  And a good case could be made for that!

You could also say, as a result of that, that the light of Christ has gone into all the nations of the earth; and none of the earth's peoples are as barbarian as they once were!  That civilizations are so much better off in life as a result of Christ's terminating the old, more exclusivistic, covenant and bringing the Light to the world!  But that those to whom it isn't given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, even this additional blessing to the world which consists of His Kingdom being in all the world, would be taken away!

And, in addition to that, (concerning every individual in all times and in every place) it is also true that, as a result of being blind and deaf to the mysteries of the Kingdom, sin against God (which in essence is self-will rather than the Will of God) sin against God grows deeper and more hardened.  The longer a man (or woman or child) continues blind in his eyes and deaf in his ears and non-perceptive in the heart, the more stiff-necked and self-willed he becomes!  Therefore it can be said that whatever restraints might have been there in his earlier years – restraints against the sinfulness of sin – are taken away from him, and he becomes more entrenched in his self-will!

We could go on with that, but that's enough for now.  What's the third way this verse could be interpreted?  "For whoever has been given (to know the mysteries of the Kingdom) it shall be given to him, and he shall be made to abound; but whoever has not been given (to know the mysteries of the Kingdom), even what he has shall be taken away from him...."

Well, we could just go to the context itself and try to develop the answer from that!  Novel idea.  The parable of the sower is right before this verse.  And the interpretation, of the sower is right after this verse!  So that's the immediate context – the language context.  And with this verse is the quote from Isaiah concerning the blinding and hardening of Israel until the establishment or sacrifice of the New Covenant in Christ!

So let's begin the interpretation with this:  Jesus only describes two classes of people here in the parable, doesn't He?  Those to whom it has been given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom, and those who have been left in their own blind and deaf condition.  Whatever else is said in the parable, that is the fact of the case.

And here is the second thing that comes into play – Isaiah was commanded to preach the words of God; but that the people would not hear – their eyes would be shut and the ears dulled and the heart made fat.  And from Isaiah on, the prophets preached to the nation with little or no effect.  Israel just continued in its refusal to turn as a result of God's Word being preached!  So preaching and urging and exhorting and commanding with the Word of God continues throughout Israel's spiral into its ungodly condition.  In fact it invigorated the condition!

And when Jesus arrived, He and His disciples preached the Word of the Kingdom in every city and town in the nation.  And it still didn't repent.  The lost sheep of the house of Israel – that remnant who hadn't bowed the knee to Baal, were found and taken out; they heard, but the nation refused to listen.  It was blind and deaf and unperceptive with the heart - as was prophesied in Isaiah chapter six.

So there was no dearth of preaching of the Word of the Kingdom – the Gospel, was there?  No lack of preaching.  And neither was there lack of hearing the words of these preachers!  Everybody heard the preaching!  And the prophets who brought the Gospel to them – and Jesus and His disciples – beaten and imprisoned and disgraced and persecuted, and even put to death because of that preaching.

But the point here is that some in Israel were given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom and some weren’t.  Two classes.  And the preaching was the seed sowed.  And of that group to whom it was not given to know the mysteries, there were some who were occultic and demon infested.  And what they heard of the preaching of the Word was taken away immediately.  “… Even what he has….”

And of that same group were even some who eagerly listened with excitement to the fantastic things that Jesus and His apostles were saying and doing! But the terrible persecution and the social and political pressure built up against Christ and His followers caused them to be entrapped; and they chose not to be associated with Him for their own safety and security!  “…Even what he has….”

And, of that same group – the group to whom is was not given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom – there were some whose interests were purely self-motivated and narcissistic; and whatever they heard of the Gospel was quickly overridden by care for their own lifestyle!  “…Even what he has….”

And there was only one group from whom was brought forth fruit from the sowing!  And that group was the one to whom it was given to know.  That group whose eyes were opened and whose ears were made to hear and who perceived with the heart.  The seed was not snatched up by demons; they were not daunted by the awful pressure and persecution; they were not motivated by self, but by Christ and His Kingdom.  The Word of God sown struck roots!  And fruit came forth in various amounts.  “…It shall be given in abundance....”

 Now, that interpretation of the verse where Jesus says, “and even what he has will be taken away from him…” is in accord with the parabolic context and in accord with the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the blinding of Israel, because Jesus says in the parable that the Word sown will be taken away for various reasons!  “…What they have will be taken away…”  (third interpretation)

But that doesn’t mean at all that we should dispense with the premises underlying the other two interpretations!  Not in this case.  Because the parabolic language is so timeless and majestic, it can, indeed, be used in reference to all men, at all times, and in every place.  And next Lord’s Day I intend to make those references – directly from the parable and in the light of God’s governance over every creature and event in His creation.

But before we leave the preaching today I want to spend our last few minutes here – although it’s in the same verse we’ve been on all morning (verse twelve), on the word “Musterion” that Jesus uses here.  Mystery.  The Mysteries of the Kingdom of the Heavens.  And having done so, I think that this will open up so much for us – not only about the parables, but about the Kingdom itself and what it’s about. 

In all the written Gospel, Jesus uses the term “mysteries of the Kingdom…” only here, with respect to the parable of the sower and with respect to the reason He spoke in parables.  And immediately it is very obvious that, in the simplicity of this parable (which teaches those mysteries) is a very complex reality.  And to be able to get a fix on the Kingdom and its mysteries (and subsequently what the parable means in all its fullness) we need to go to the teaching portions of Scripture.  Christ, in all His wisdom, gave us inspired Instruction to help us understand the deep things of the faith.  And, believe me, that’s where we need to go right now!  For we desperately need to have the Kingdom laid out before us in all its grandeur, and then beg the King of Kings to allow us to participate in understanding it, and in its building and in its completion.  The parable has in it the germ – the core – of all the mysteries of the Kingdom, much like Genesis one, two, and three, to comprehend the fullness of the Gospel.  And, therefore, we need the explicit instruction of the teaching portions of the inspired Word in order to flesh it out and give it fullness for us.

And the place to go of course is to the letters of the apostle Paul.  And Paul makes it very clear that, by way of a gift of grace to the apostles, they are caused to see the new world of God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His “coming” in the clouds to receive His Glory and His Kingdom.  And that the revelation of the mysteries takes place in apostolic preaching and writing!  And in subsequent preaching of the Gospel.

And that the revelatory proclamation of the message revealed the mysteries of the Kingdom to others to whom it had been given!  That the mysteries were prepared by God before the world was; that they were concealed in the older age; that they were concealed in God; that the mysteries of God’s Will are brought to execution and manifestation by God Himself; and that the divine mystery is the culmination of the old age, and, as Colossians chapter one, verse twenty-seven says, it consists in the indwelling of the exalted Christ in the Gentile nations!

And in Ephesians chapter three, verse four, the mystery is the Gentiles participating in the inheritance – in the promise of God in Christ.  The ending of the old age and the receiving of the nations under the Lordship of Christ is an eschatologically cosmic event!  Its proportions are incalculable.  Jew and Gentile in one body in Christ!  And so, as we see in Ephesians one, verses nine and ten, the mystery is the comprehension of the whole world – the whole created world – in Christ, in Whom all of it receives its completion and in Whom it all receives its meanings!

Now, in the giving and receiving of the revelation and preaching of the mysteries of the Kingdom, there takes place the elected regeneration of believers!  And in Christ they are taken away from the old nature which is hostility to God and hostility from God, and, whether Jew or Gentile, they are united to Christ – the second Adam.  They become – they’re just given – to know Him and be a part of His body, the Church.  They are made to enter a new heaven and a new earth where Christ fills all in all.  Mysteries.

And lastly, as a result of being given knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom, there is this sharp antithesis with 1) the world order and 2) the powers and authorities of the air.  You can say that we were born – re-birthed – into a raging battlefield where we engage in constant, open, cosmic warfare; where the stakes are high and the costs are high.  But Jesus was raised the Son of God with power; and He came in the clouds of Glory and He is risen to the right hand of the Father; and He is the Lord of a New World.  And all of it is completed in Him.  That is the mystery concealed by God from the ages, but is now revealed to the saints – “Christ in you, the hope of glory….”

The prophets desired to look into these things; righteous men desired to look into these things – “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered in to the heart of men the things which God hath prepared for them who love Him….”

The parable lends itself to the state of blindness and deafness to those to whom it has not been given to know; but, in the proclamation of the message, the parable mediates the knowledge of the mystery – the Divine rule in the Word and work of Jesus, the Messiah of the world!