This Sunday is the last time the text is from Matthew 13. Jesus has seven parables within this chapter--a nice, biblical number. And I think it is unfortunate that the middle parable, the fourth one, has been overlooked in the lectionary.
Admittedly it is quite small and is also introduced in a very normal fashion. When Jesus is giving the crowd the parable of the weeds, the text says that he 'put another parable before them....' The text says the very same thing regarding the parable of the mustard seed. But when it comes to the parable of the leaven, the text just says that he spoke to them another parable (13:24, 31, 33). Perhaps, with this normal introduction, it has some greater significance.
Leaven (or yeast) is an amazing thing. It works its way into all the bread. I think it is interesting that the text says the woman 'hid' it in the flour. And that word and idea appears elsewhere in this chapter.
There is a treasure that is hidden in a field. There is a man who FINDS a pearl of great value. Jesus, at the end of all these parables, says that 'every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (13:52).' Something brought out of the treasury has been previously hidden from sight.
That God's kingdom is a hidden one, now THAT is significant. God could make his kingdom quite obvious--he is God! But he has chosen a different way in which to work. He is choosing to be known in a different way.
If one would allow a connection between the five sermons in the Gospel according to Matthew and the five books of the Pentateuch, this sermon in Matthew 13, the middle one, would be connected to Leviticus, the middle book. And Leviticus has a way of being overlooked in the Old Testament.
There are lots of rules and guidelines--wear this, kill that. But all through the book God is dishing out his holiness, and he is dishing it out in a very hidden way.
This God is not like the others. God chooses to be stay with his chosen people while they were wandering around in the wilderness. He chooses to give out forgiveness when an innocent lamb is killed. When blood has been shed, God says that sins have been forgiven. He chooses to remain, for the most part, hidden, so he can be known for his love, not his power.
I am hoping you see a theme here.
The gospel text for this Sunday is another parable (and its explanation) from Matthew 13--this time the 'Parable of the Weeds'. And there is both the frightening and comforting phrase within it. That phrase is when the master of the house says this regarding the weeds and the wheat: 'Let both grow together... (Matt 13:30).'
The master is letting the weeds and the wheat grow together. That is both frightening and comforting.
It is frightening, first of all, in that the weeds are allowed to grow. Jesus explains that the weeds are the sons of the evil one. And he is not only letting them exist; he is letting them grow!
Sadly enough, this can be easily seen. Even more disappointing is that this can also be seen inside some churches these days. After the ecumenical movement of the last century, some churches have ended up having very similar beliefs to those who are already outside the church. To some, a church is a place that makes them feel better. But it could be so much more.
Allowing for the continued growth among the weeds hopefully makes the wheat even more quickly rely on something outside of themselves for help. Our words basically do not amount to anything. The words of God make eternal differences.
A wonderfully comforting thought is also found within Matthew 13:30, that the children of the kingdom are growing as well. God always grants growth to his Church. Certainly it may not seem like it at times--especially when it comes to numerical growth, but there is always growth when his Law and his Gospel are spoken to his people.
Having both the weeds and the wheat grow together, and having God deal gently with his people--by removing the weeds at the end and not any earlier--that focuses the action of God more on his love than his power. That is what we have seen with the way he dealt with Israel in the Old Testament and with Jesus in the New.
God is in charge; we are not. And the way in which he is in charge is extremely comforting to those who are his, who are listening to his words.
On this Sunday, the gospel text is the famous 'Parable of the Sower' from the Gospel according to Matthew. It is very well known.
At the heart of the issue is the wide variety of results in the seeds that were sown. Some multiplied a hundredfold. Others did not grow at all. At the heart of THAT issue is the person responsible for throwing all those seeds around. One could say that the sower is pretty careless with his seeds. He lets them fall along the path, along rocky ground, and near some thorns.
These seeds are the words of the kingdom, not words connected to God's power, but words connected to his love. Jesus is described as proclaiming the gospel (the good news) of the kingdom at two different times within this account (Matthew 4:23, 9:35).
How those wonderful seeds grow is an interesting topic to see synoptically, as you compare it with the other, similar gospel accounts.
This is so special a story that this parable is in the Gospel according to Matthew, the Gospel according to Mark, and the Gospel according to Luke. In each account, the growing seed is explained as one who hears the word, but then something else happens.
In Matthew 13:23, a person hears the word and understands it. In Mark 4:20, a person hears the word and accepts it. In Luke 8:15, a person hears the word and holds it fast in an honest and good heart.
If you are asking what ACTUALLY happened regarding Jesus and this parable and these differences, I cannot answer that question. The Bible does not answer that question. It looks like Jesus said all three differences at one time or another. The important thing to remember is that each account is designed to give a divine perspective of Jesus as God's authoritative messenger on earth. All three are from Jesus, God's ultimate messenger, and all three are most certainly true.
In Matthew, Jesus has authority as a man, a prophet. And a man is someone who hears God's word and understands it. In Mark, Jesus has authority like a lion, and a lion has a significant amount of authority in the animal kingdom. As a king has to 'accept' someone into his presence, someone who hears God's word has to accept it. In Luke, Jesus has authority like on ox, and an ox is a hard-working creature. You could say that an ox has to have an honest and good heart to be so helpful around the farm. And a person needs an honest and good heart for God's word to bear fruit.
I hope you can see that these characteristics of those who bear fruit are shown to have been given by God throughout the New Testament--and sometimes even in the Old! We need God's help to understand his words, we need help to accept his words, and we definitely need his help to have an honest and good heart.
This parable is a good reminder that we needed a Savior. And we have one who likes to overflow with the gospel, the good news!
When Jesus says in the text for this Sunday (from Matthew 11), 'Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,' there can be a wide variety of interpretations. At the heart of the matter is the meaning of that little word, 'Come'.
The disagreement comes in the amount of effort that the human being puts into it. Lutherans are accused of adding something to the text when they say that we really cannot come to Jesus, that we need help to do such a thing.
The answer to that accusation of adding something to the text is to see the text within a much greater and much more clearer context. When Jesus is saying a word, who is really saying it and to whom is he really saying it? Those are important questions.
I hope you do not mind me referencing a chapter in Acts, but I believe Acts 15 is a very important chapter when it comes to understanding any command of Jesus like the one above. In that chapter, the followers of Jesus are trying to decide if all followers of Jesus should be circumcised, like all the Jews have been basically since that race started.
It was decided that, since circumcision was considered an unbearable yoke by past generations, it was understood in a different way. In light of all that had happened recently, it was understood as the action of God cleansing a person's heart from sin by faith. Did you see the significant switch that just happened? A person fulfills a command by God doing something instead of that person!
By the way, that is the way I understand the four prohibitions that are listed later in the chapter. These four prohibitions are fulfilled by Jesus in the four gospel accounts.
So when Jesus says 'Come,' he makes it possible for me to come. When he says, 'Take my yoke,' he makes it possible for me to take his yoke. This is not adding anything to the text. This involves telling people who Jesus really is.
This is being clear regarding the Law. This is being clear regarding the Gospel. This is what it means to be Lutheran.
I do not think we should think that the word 'think' is a simple word
There are different words for thinking, and there should be. Just as--from what I have heard--the ekimos have different words for snow.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus uses a word for thinking that is closely related to the word for 'law', and that is also not very surprising. There are thoughts that people repeat so often that they start to think that they are completely true. Thoughts are powerful things (and if you search for that on google, you will see what I mean).
The first verse in the gospel text for this Sunday is Matthew 10:34. And there is an extremely similar verse in Luke 12:51. I will leave them in the ESV to show their similarities.
Matthew: Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Luke: Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.
This word 'think' in the Gospel according to Luke is connected to testing and examination. This, too, is a type of thinking, but it involves more things that are outside of ourselves.
To give you an example on how these two words compare, this is the same dictionary for the two different types of thinking. (This is also a good example of how it is difficult to translate one word into simply one other word.) Here is the definition of 'think' (according to BDAG) in Matthew: 'to form an idea about something, but with some suggestion of tentativeness or refraining from a definitive statement (think, believe, hold, consider). The same dictionary gives this much shorter definition of the different word in Luke: 'to consider as probable (think, believe, suppose, consider).'
Our thinking involves varying degrees of the things around us, but all of that is a bad starting place. All of that can be frustrating and literally self-defeating. The Bible is a much better foundation.
When you think of the cute baby Jesus in a manger, and when you hear the angels sing 'Peace on earth', that may start you down the wrong road--unless you hear the rest of the story.
The manger is really a feeding trough for animals. And when the people were praising Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday--in Luke--they were saying, 'Peace in HEAVEN....'
You might say that they were thinking 'outside of the box'. Now that is good. That is the peace that really matters.
There is no such a thing as a cute cross.