Matthew 13:31-33, 44-50
As well as the two parables that are set out in detail with an explanation (the sower and the weeds), Matthew 13 also contains five much shorter parables, all about the Kingdom of Heaven. This sermon looks at the lessons learned from these short stories.
The Seed: The Kingdom Starts Small But Grows – The first parable in in v31-32 and it likens the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed. The point that Jesus draws out about the mustard seed is that it is small – the smallest of all seeds! As Jesus was teaching, the number of people following him was just a few and it seemed insignificant. Yet the mustard seed grows. It ends up larger than all garden plants and becomes a tree in which the birds nest. The kingdom of heaven did start small but has grown and now includes billions of people all over the world. Yet the principle remains. We should not despise the small and the fledgling but realise that many initiatives of the kingdom do begin in small and unglamorous ways.
The Leaven: The Kingdom Spreads Everywhere – The second parable follows the first and this time compares the kingdom to leaven that a woman hid in some flour until it was all leavened. The idea is the the leaven does not stay in one place as a clump but gets everywhere. The kingdom of heaven has spread into every nation and every part of society. God’s people were never supposed to remain detached from the world but to enter into the different aspects of our culture and to bring the kingdom into them.
The Treasure and the Pearl: The Kingdom Is Bought at a Great Cost – The third and fourth parables are found in v44-46 and both have the same theme. In each there is a person who sees something of great value and they gave up everything in order to buy it. Often these parables are applied to talk about how valuable Jesus is. Whilst it is true that Jesus is of utmost value, this is not what these parables are saying. In all of the parables on the kingdom in this chapter, the active character is God, not us. The kingdom doesn’t come because of our sacrifice, but Christ’s. The kingdom of heaven is a man laying down everything he had, even his very life in order to buy that which he had set his affection and desire on. Christ died to bring many sons and daughters to glory. He paid the great cost to bring the kingdom.
The Net: In the Kingdom There Will Be a Separation – The final parable is in verses 51-52. It talks about a net that is thrown into the sea and catches all kinds of fish, which are then sorted and separated. In the same way, at the end of the age there will be a sorting of the evil from the righteous.
- Don’t Be Discouraged by the Small – Often we can be drawn to big and spectacular things and feel despondent when things we are involved in seem small or insignificant. These parables teach that God works through the small.
- Bring the Kingdom to Different Areas of Culture – In the congregation there will be people who work in lots of different spheres of society. Encourage them to reflect on how they can bring the kingdom into all of these different areas.
- Respond to the Gospel – These parables speak of Christ paying a great price for us that we would be his. They also warn of the separation to come. This is a good moment to share a clear gospel message and invite people to put their trust in what Jesus has done for them.