Matthew 13:24-43 Part 3

This morning I want to finish commenting about the text itself.  We’ve so far completed all but verses thirty-one through thirty-five, and those verses will hold our attention for most of our time this morning.  Then, next week – and possibly one more after that – I want to spend some time going back into the text in a much more specific way in order to make some good and necessary observations.

My prayers for today, as they are for every Lord’s Day, have been that our Father would turn our full attentions, through this in-depth study of His Words, to the Kingdom of His Son Jesus Christ.  And that His Kingdom, already eternally established, would receive all of our effort and attention – to the glory of the King and His Father.  And that, as a result of that, our lives would be made full and delightful.

You know, we can never be content and happy and fulfilled unless we fit into the role for which we were created!  And by His Word God reveals His Kingdom, and He causes us to love His Son – the King – and causes us to desire the fullness of the Kingdom.  You see, it works in the opposite way from that which most people imagine!  In the minds of most, in order to live a full life and be happy you must concentrate on who you are as an individual, analyze what it is that’s important to you, and go out and do that to the best of your ability.

And those who think that way and fail to do that are miserable people, aren’t they?  They can look at their failures and dream about what could have been!  That is a miserable life.

But I want you to know that that isn’t the most miserable person!  The most miserable one is the one who thinks that way and succeeds.  And he’s the most miserable one because he no longer has personal failure to blame, and he no longer has dreams about what could have been!  Because when one analyzes who one is, and then he – or she – goes out and accomplishes everything according to expectations, then there are no miserable failures to blame and no dreams to dream.  There’s only.…. emptiness.  There’s nothing there.

On the other hand, the Spirit and the Word turn men from seeing things in that light – should I say “from seeing things in that darkness.”  As I preach through the Gospel my prayer is that the Word of the Kingdom would turn you from meaningless and empty aspirations and cause you to be intensely desirous of the Glory of God and His Son – and of His Kingdom!  Because if that is not your hope, anticipation, and aspiration, then all you have to look forward to is forlorn despair.

And with that in mind, let’s go back to the Words of Jesus Christ… as He opens up the mysteries of His Kingdom.

Remember that in the parable of the zizanium in the field Old Israel and the Old Covenant is to be pulled up by its roots and burned.  And the remnant of Israel is to be joined with the Gentile nations and received as the New Israel in the New Covenant!  So there is, 1) separation in judgment and, 2) a receiving of the New.

Now, I’ve mentioned to you a number of times before that it is very important to deal with the text of Scripture.  And we’ve learned, through many instances, to do a thorough exegesis of the context and the history and the words themselves, and “the way they said things” two thousand years ago.  And we’ve also learned that Scripture is its own best interpreter.  The Old Testament prophetic Word helps us to understand what’s happening in the Gospel of Matthew – and vice versa, because the New Testament is the “fullness” of preaching.

This morning I want to look into Jesus’ grammar for a minute or two with you, because His grammatical construction is designed to be very specific in His proclamation of the Truth!  And when we’re thorough about His grammar – as we must be with the other things (context, history, etc.) – we are enlightened even more about the mysteries of His Kingdom.  Jesus not only chooses His Words carefully, but He is also very conscious of the verb tenses and the order of the words He uses in a sentence.  The way He says things has meaning and divine purpose!

As we move now into verse thirty-one, let me read it again for you:  “Another parable He set before them saying, ‘Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens to a grain….”  Now, the translations which we normally read don’t read that way.  (KJV, ASV, NIV)  Apparently there was no attempt to translate these words in the way Jesus said them.  The attempt is to make things more readable for fifteenth century Europeans or twentieth century Americans.  The common translations read, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like….”  But Jesus said, “Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens….”

And there was a reason for Him saying it like that!  And the reason for it was to contrast the parable of the mustard grain (and the parable of the leaven, in verse thirty-three) to the parable of the zizanium in the field!  There’s a difference in the way they’re constructed!

Let’s look at verse twenty-four and see the difference:  “Another parable He committed to them saying, ‘The Kingdom of the Heavens is likened to a man sowing good seed….”  “Is likened to….”

And back to verses thirty-one and thirty-three:  Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens….”  See the difference?  And the question we have to ask ourselves is “why didn’t Jesus say it the same way all three times?”  You can’t just pass it off as an aberration in the Greek language, and then proceed to Americanize it so it reads easier!  But that’s precisely what happens more often than not!  But we have to ask that question.  And, more importantly, we have to answer it!  The first time, in the parable of the zizanium in the field, Jesus says, “The Kingdom of the Heavens is likened to…”  And the second and third time (the next two parables) He says, “Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens….”  Why?

Well let me give you the grammatical differences, and then I’ll interpret them for you.  In the first place, the action in verse twenty-four is in the passive voice.  But in verses thirty-one and thirty-three the voice is active!  In the second place, the action in verse twenty-four is in a completed tense – the action is taken, done, completed.  But that action in verses thirty-one and thirty-three is in a continual tense – present, ongoing!  In the third place, the emphasis of the sentence in verse twenty-four is on the adverbial word – likened.  But in verses thirty-one and thirty-three, the emphasis is on the verb – is!  And, fourthly, all the instances in verses thirty-one and thirty-two and thirty-three are active, continual, ongoing, present tense verbs!

So, why would  Jesus put His whole statement in verse twenty-four in a passive and completed construction?  It’s because it’s done and over!

And the answer to that is related to the nature of the information in the parables!  The parable of the zizanium in the field concerns itself with the separation of the Old and the receiving of the New by the Son of Man.  It’s in the passive and completed sense!  But, the parables of the mustard grain and the leaven have to do with the continual and active growth and extension of the Kingdom in the New Covenant!  The Old is passive, done, and completed; the action is done!  And the New is active and continual – in continual process.  Even now!

Jesus is here revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom not only by referring to Old Testament prophecy, and not only by His Words in the parables, but also by the grammar He uses! He intentionally uses the completed and passive forms of His verbs to unmask for His people the mysteries of the Kingdom – that the Old is about to be separated out and burned to its very elements - finished – and that the New is to be received.  And that the New would grow and extend itself actively and continually!

Now.  That’s all a little bit technical, but I thought it would be beneficial and edifying to you to hear it.  But let’s go now to the parable of the mustard grain.  Let me read it once more for you – verse thirty-one:


“Another parable He set before them saying, ‘Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens to a grain of mustard which, having taken, a man sowed in his field.  It is smaller indeed than all the seeds, yet when it is grown it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the heavens come and roost in its branches.’”


Now, as with all the parables, as we’ve already learned, there is a great deal of fanciful, imaginative creativity out there among theologians and laymen alike.  And I suppose that will continue.  Some have said that the mustard grain is the baby Jesus.  And having been dropped as a little infant into the vast creation, He soon grew to be worshipped by many and establish a world-wide religion!  But that’s just not being true to the plain words of the text!  It says, “Like is the Kingdom of the Heavens to a grain of mustard…” NOT “Like is the baby Jesus to a grain of mustard….”

And others have concluded that, even with its insignificance and size, the mustard grain was chosen for its pungent taste, its heat and its fiery vigor; and that when it is bruised, smashed, or masticated, it gives out its best virtue!  Well, that’s so creative that it leaves out the point of the parable entirely, which is the growth of the mustard seed!

Just as when God destroyed the earth in the flood and what was left was a very small new beginning, so when He destroys “heaven and earth” which is the nation of Israel, what is left is a few apostles and the remnant of the house of Israel!  This is the beginning of the New Heavens and the New Earth; and it is the insignificant size of a mustard grain in comparison to all the plants of the garden!  But it will grow into a tree and overshadow all the garden plants!  Active voice and continual tense!

But we have to go all the way back to the beginning to see the full significance of this parable.  Adam and Eve were in God’s Garden in the beginning.  And there was a Tree of Life there.  But our first parents sinned against God and died.  And there was a separation/expulsion from God’s Garden.  The whole world suffered the effects of sin as it became a wilderness of rocks and thorns!

But later on Israel became God’s specially planted “garden” in this whole wilderness of sin-plagued earth.  And, as the Scriptures indicate, from Abraham until Christ, salvation was of the Jews (John four, twenty-two).  And God’s planted garden was called “Heaven and Earth” by God Himself.  It was a recreation and a new beginning.

But Israel, like Adam and his wife, sinned against God!  It would not obey, and it prostituted itself with idolatry and co-mingling with the world order!  Instead of being a Garden, it became a wilderness.  And, as Jesus is speaking this parable, there was to be another “destruction” of heaven and earth!  And rather than a flood, this time the very elements of heaven and earth would be melted in the fiery heat of God’s wrath!  And everything about it would be cast out eternally from the Garden of God!

God was about to cast down the high and mighty, and exalt the lowly (the mustard grain).  There was about to be a New beginning – a recreation – of heaven and earth.  A New Heavens and a New Earth – established on the shoulder of the God-man and paid for with His blood!  And this New Heavens and New Earth would grow continually – a Tree of Life in the New Garden of God which overshadowed the entire Garden!

And this terminology indicates the vast extent of the coming growth of the Kingdom in its scope, its compass, its sphere and its dimensions to the uttermost ends of the earth!  A large Garden with its Tree of Life.

Let me read to you a parallel prophetic passage from Ezekiel.  This is chapter seventeen, verses twenty-two through twenty-four:


“Thus saith the Lord God; ‘I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon a high and eminent mountain.  In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.  And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish:  I the Lord have spoken and have done it.’”


As you can see, that prophecy bears great resemblance to the parable of the mustard grain in that the insignificant is planted for a new beginning – a recreation in place of the old.  And it shall grow until it is high and mighty over all.  And the birds will nest, roost and sing in its branches.

Which brings me to the next point.  Why does Jesus say, that when the mustard grain becomes a tree, the birds come and roost in its branches?  In the light of all that we’ve just said, what would you think would be the significance of that?

We’ve heard about birds of prey before.  And in their peculiar context they are indicative of demon possession and wilderness activity – predators.  But that’s not the context here.  This context has to do with the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth by the Word, Jesus Christ.  Just as John chapter one says that in the beginning was the LOGOS… and apart from Him nothing was made that was made, here we have the recreation of heaven and earth by the Logos – the Word – the Son of God.

And birds have a very special place in creation.  Genesis chapter one says that birds were created by God during the fifth day of creation before animals and man were created on the sixth day!  They are especially named as having to do with the brand-new creation.  They roost and nest and sing!

And also it was with the newness of the world after the destruction of the flood!  The Psalmist sings God’s praises for the recreation of the earth after that inundation – Psalm one hundred four.  And he makes special mention, twice, of the birds singing and roosting in the trees of that rejuvenated world.  Birds singing and nesting while sheltered in the branches of trees is very often the figure of new life and newly created activity!  A Garden of Life and vitality.

And the birds here in the parable, regardless of the creative imaginations of theologians, indicate no more and no less than the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth – just as the Scriptures indicate after the creation of the world and after the recreation of the earth after the flood.  The great mystery of the Kingdom is the recreation of Heaven and Earth – a Garden of God.  And Jesus is letting us know that, by His reference to Genesis chapter one and Psalm one hundred four – the birds singing and roosting in the trees.

And what happens to Israel?  Casting out and decreation.  Israel returns to the original void and formlessness before the trees and the birds.  Having been cast out of the Garden, it became as before.  Formless, wilderness, void of trees, birds, animals; covered with thorns and rocks and predators.  She was in great travail, and through her travail she gave birth to a Child according to Jeremiah chapter four.  And then the green tree died.  And she was broken off and burned in the fire.  She was culled from the field and bundled up and burned.

So, let’s review what we know about the Kingdom from this parable. 

·      First, here is the Kingdom of Christ in visible growth – exalted over all the earth from an insignificant beginning.  And that viz a viz Israel being pruned and burned. 

·      Secondly, it is a Divine institution, recreated not unlike the Garden of Eden where man had communion with God and obeyed God. 

·      Thirdly, it implies a covenantal relationship with all creation.  The whole earth is to be renewed and recreated so that “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” 

·      Fourthly, The Kingdom of the Heavens is eternal and all-conquering.  The earth will be a Garden, and the Kingdom will cover it for a shelter.  It is forever, and all its enemies will eventually be destroyed.  And,

·      Fifthly, Christ’s rule is a New Heavens and a New Earth.  He is its Savior.  It belongs to Him.  He is Sovereign Lord.  Wherever there is submission to the Law of Christ, society and culture is recreated and rejuvenated.  And the entire system of Creation will have birds singing and roosting in its branches – which is the sign of the pushing back of the wilderness of rebellion and demonism, and the creating of newness of life.

Well, we don’t have any more time to get to the parable of the leaven.  We’ll begin there next time.  But before we quit let me just say that the Table of our Lord indicates submission to His rule.  Wherever man and women and children are truly in Christ – feeding off His person and being washed in His blood there is the Kingdom of the Heavens.  For we are new creations in Him, living in a New Heavens and a New Earth.  The old man is culled out and put to death, and the virtue and character of Christ is put on in its place.  The old man is a member of the old covenant.  The new man is a member of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.

The old heaven and earth was decreated in order that you and I could be created anew!  And the God-man Who came forth from her is the One in Whose body we now rest eternally secure.  And it’s the wine and the bread which signify all of that.  As we eat and drink together, think on these things.