<< Matthew XIII: Parables by the Seaside >>
WE are again by the shore where the plain of Gennesaret meets the Sea of Galilee. The clear waves are lapping on the little beach of shells and pebbles, as we look out across the bright waters to the mountains of the eastern shore. We can step into one of the fishermen's boats and push out a little from the land to enjoy this beautiful scene. The green plain of Gennesaret is close at hand. Behind it are the hills which protect it from the cold wind, where little thorny bushes blossom among the black rocks. Here at one corner of the plain is the rough, rocky valley through which we see the mountain of the Blessings, and from which the clouds of pigeons fly out over the plain to find food.
The Lord once sat where we are now sitting, in one of the little fishing-boats, and taught the people who stood listening on the shore. The same plain was spread before Him, the same hills, but it was not then deserted and lonely as it is now, and where the thistles grow now there were grain fields. Little towns stood near the shore, shaded by their orchards. There were many fishermen along the beach with their boats and nets. Traders were passing with lines of camels, and men were busy in the fields and gardens. In the autumn, when the early rains softened the ground after the summer's drought, the farmers loosened the earth with their rude ploughs, and the sower scattered grain broadcast. Some fell upon the paths beaten hard by many passing feet, and it was quickly picked up by the hungry birds. In the borders of the plain, ledges of rock from the hills lay near the surface of the soil. There was no depth nor moisture for the roots of the grain which sprouted in such places. Along the paths and in neglected corners of the fields thistles were growing, and the grain which fell among them was quickly crowded out. But some fell into good ground, and brought forth abundant fruit.
The people on the shore who listened to the Lord had often seen all this. Perhaps farmers were at that moment sowing in the field near by, when the Lord in His teaching said,'' Behold, a sower went forth to sow.'' It was a parable. Within this simple story there was a lesson about heaven and heavenly life. The people themselves who stood listening were the field; the Lord was the sower; His words were the grain. Some among those who listened were like the beaten path; their minds were taken up with other things so that the Lord's word did not take root, and was quickly snatched away. Some were like the shallow ground; they listened with interest, but made little effort to obey. Some tried, but evil things like thorns and thistles sprang up and crowded out the Lord's words. But some, like good ground, heard the word and understood it, and brought forth fruit with patience. Read just what the Lord said.
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith,
By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people's heart is waxed gross,
And their ears are dull of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed;
Lest at any time they should see with their eyes
And hear with their ears,
And should understand with their heart,
And should be converted,
And I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.---Matthew XIII. 1-23.
That same day by the shore the Lord taught the people in other parables. He told them of tares growing among the wheat. The tares were a weed which they all knew well, which looked much like the wheat while it was growing. But the ears were thin, and the grains, though heavy and hard to separate from the wheat, were not good for food, but were even a litttle poisonous. The good grain stood for the Lord's word, growing up into good, useful deeds, and these tares for thoughts leading to wrong actions.
The Lord told them of mustard seed, which in that country grows into a plant so high that it is above your head as you ride on horse-back. By this parable He taught how much of heaven may grow from the little beginnings which we make here on earth. He spoke of leaven or yeast to teach that when we learn of heavenly things it will make disturbance in our minds between what is bad and what is good, but that if we are faithful, our hearts will be made purer by this temptation. He told of treasure, and of a pearl of great price, to show how precious the things of heaven are, and that it is worth while to give up every selfish wish for the sake of them.
The Lord had spoken of the sowing, and the tares, and the mustard seed, things near by in the fields about the people. Now He turned their thoughts to the beach, where perhaps at that moment fishermen were drawing up their nets and gathering the good fish into vessels, but casting the bad away. And He made this a lesson of heaven, showing how good and evil people, and the good and bad in every heart, will be separated by the help of angels, when at the end of our life in this world we awaken into the spiritual world. The fire into which the evil are cast is the burning of their own evil passions, from which the Lord cannot save them, because they do not wish to be saved from them. So the Lord taught the people lessons of eternal life, in parables, in these simple stories of what was going on before their very eyes. The lessons are so full of wisdom that we shall never know all their meaning.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,
I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; soshall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.---Matthew XII. 24-53.
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Sea >>The plane of natural, worldly thought
Boat >>Principles of natural knowledge which serve to guide our thinking
The Lord's teaching from the sea and the boat >>The fact that He came to the people in their natural state of mind and spoke to them in their own language and their own familiar forms of thought.
The prophecy of Esaias >>The Lord's protection of holy things, guarding against their reception by those who would only profane them and confirm themselves more deeply in evil
Lord's teaching by parables >>Reach everyone at their own level and protect the holiness of Truth
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. >>Those who love and obey the Truth have while those who only receive it intellectually have not
Garden >>The Mind with its thoughts
Seeds >>Principles of truth received into the mind
Stages of a seed's growth through stem, leaf, blossom and fruit >>The development of principles to their fruit in good deeds
A hundred-fold, sixty-fold, and thirty-fold >>The degrees of quality of life in good works
A hundred-fold >>The greatest fullness and holiness of character
Sixty (10 x 6) >>The goodness of a life which has been faithful in every labor and temptation
Thirty, (5 x 6) >> Faithfulness in temptation, but in a less degree
Separation of the wheat and tares >> Separation of good and evil persons in the spiritual world Separation of good and evil things in one person
The tares were bound in bundles >> In the light of the spiritual world, all things of character are seen in their true order and relation; all evil things cling together as one
Furnace of fire >> State of evil feeling
Gnashing of teeth >> Conflict of false and wicked thoughts
There follows immediately, the same day the parable of the Sower, and of the several kinds of rejection and reception that the Word would meet ; also of the tares and the wheat, which must grow together until the harvest ; and many parables illustrating the preciousness of the kingdom of heaven, and its separation from the evil.
Then is recounted His rejection at Nazareth, here called His own country, the beginning of His rejection in Galilee ; of which it is only to be said that as His own sojourn in that place of Seclusion in the tribe of Zebulon represented His labor of uniting the good of the Father's love with the truth, so there was there a perverse uniting of evil with falsity in those who were related only to the outer nature which He was putting off. (Author: John Worchester, 1898. Matthew's Gospel.)
Pictures: James Tissot ----Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum