Mysteries of the Kingdom of God

Eyewitness Stories: Matthew 13: 11-17, Mark 4: 10-13; Luke 8: 10-11
The Message: Mark 4: 11-15
In Your Bible: Matthew 13: 11-17, Mark 4: 10-13; Luke 8: 10-11

A parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, capturing the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, yet it leaves doubt as to its application. * Jesus emphasized the need for his disciples to listen carefully to these parables. For in them were mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven!

Insight for the Believer

In New Testament times, a mystery meant something unintelligible to the outsider but was crystal clear to the informed. ** I like this wording from The Message:

He [Jesus] replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely.

“But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it “ (Matthew 13:11-15 The Message).

Warning – Listen Carefully

Jesus knew his disciples needed additional attention and more understanding as they built on his teaching. He explained this to them more precisely, saying, “If you do not understand this illustration [parable], you will not understand any other” (Eyewitness Stories Mark 4:13). He emphasized the need to listen carefully, because these parables show the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven.

Prayer: Father, thank you for these parables. Help me to grasp Jesus’ teachings on the mysteries of the Kingdom. They are truly words of life.

Questions: As a disciple of Jesus, what parables are difficult for you to grasp?

* The Parables of the Kingdom, C. H. Dodd, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961, p. 5.

** The Daily Study Bible Series, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, William Barclay, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975, p. 64.

A Parable About Hearing God’s Word

“If you have ears, pay attention to what I am saying” (Eyewitness Matthew 13:9).

Eyewitness: pp. 84,85
In Your Bible: Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15

The Parable of the Sower/Seed/Soil

Jesus sat in a boat just off shore at the Sea of Galilee. He told a parable about a farmer as he spoke to the huge crowd and his disciples who had gathered there. A parable, we understand, is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. This parable, found in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), is familiar to most church goers.

Jesus goes to great lengths to describe sowing seed in a field and showed the difficulty of seed germination in different types of soil. He emphasized the importance of fertile soil for a good crop yield. This teaching, however, confused even the closest to Jesus. Later he explained it concisely for them. This explanation enhances our own understanding for most of Jesus’ parables.

Jesus Gives Insight and Encouragement

The disciples and other followers asked why he was speaking in parables. Jesus responded, “I have given you insights into the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have [receive} only the stories. Those who have a desire to hear will be given an abundance of knowledge, but those who dislike the truth will lose what little understanding they have” (Eyewitness Mark 4:10,11).

As William Temple, the renowned British Bible teacher and preacher said, “Jesus taught men to see the operation of God in the regular and the normal – in the rising of the sun and the falling of the rain and the growth of the plant.” **

7 Facts About Parables

1. Parables are meant to be heard, rather than read
2. Parables produce an immediate impression and reaction
3. In a parable, one idea jumps out and shines like a bolt of lightning
4. Parables are used to make people listen
5. Parables are not allegories
6. Rabbis used parables and Jews were accustomed to this type of teaching
7. There are seven parables in the Old Testament

In the next few weeks/blogs, we’ll look at a variety of parables and seek understanding and insight for us today. Let’s dig into the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Application: Jesus gave his inner circle insight they needed for encouragement to continue. Today, believers need to rely on the Holy Spirit to help grasp Jesus’ teachings and attain what God wants us to hear.

Prayer: Father, thank you for wanting believers to understand what you say. We want to hear and obey you.

** From: William Barclay, The Daily Bible Study, The Gospel of Mark, Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1953, 1956, pp. 89,90.