Bible Reading: MATTHEW 13:31-33 & verses 44-52
Theme: Search for the hidden treasure
Beloved in the Lord Jesus the Christ, I bring you warm greetings from Leeds.
In Sunday school, you might have learnt that a parable “is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”. Yes, but it needs further clarification. In the New Testament "parable" is a translation of two Greek terms parabolē and paroimia. In (Heb. 9:9; 11:19), it is used in the sense of "symbol” or "type". In the Synoptic Gospels “a characteristic form of the teaching of Jesus," (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957). John describes it as a figure of speech (Jn. 10), and peter calls it’s a proverb (2 Pet 2).
Bible Scholar, C. H. Dodd defined a parable as "a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought". Dodd's definition expresses the force of Jesus’ parables in the New Testament. They’re strange, yet realistic, paradoxical, challenging and open-minded. What makes Jesus parables challenging lies in their strange twists, often equating “something we normally think of as odd or negative with something positive—something, in fact, that points to an aspect of God's presence and power in the world.”
In the parables, we see Jesus describing the Kingdom of God with very down to earth analogies.
The first two parables use the images of mustard seed and yeast. Both describe how, from small and almost invisible beginnings, great things can happen to the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Matthew 13:31 begins with the parable of the mustard seed. One of the very common of Jesus’s parables. To his listeners in Palestine, the mustard seed is not just a very small seed, it is also an annoying weed and an invasive plant. That small seed, however, can grow into a big tree and take over the land. Jesus, I believe is pointing out two things to us, the invasive nature of a small seed—a pest, but also its ability to give life, grow into a tree where birds make their nest. God’s message is invasive but only through us, all of us for. The Kingdom of God is contrasted with small unnoticed beginnings but with great and surprising results.
"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast”. With Yeast, you get to bake bread that rises and tastier but it is also a corrupt agent. Yeast was to be avoided at the holiest times of the year. Bottom line was that yeast was unpredictable and difficult to control in that culture and ear. This parable does not present a comfortable image, both the mustard seed and yeast are pretty difficult to control.
In the second group of parables in MATTHEW 13:44-52, God's kingdom is described as a treasure hidden in a field, something that brings about life-changing happiness and joy when it is discovered - because the person who finds it is prepared to sell everything he/she owns in order to obtain it. In the final parable, Jesus describes the kingdom of God as a net that catches all kinds of fish. After they’re sorted, the good ones are kept safe for the use of the Master and the bad ones are tossed away.
What to make of these parables?
For me, these parables speak strongly about the nature of faith and what it does. In the parables Jesus described the kingdom of heaven, the way we perceive God and the way God is at work in this world, and about the nature of God and what he does, and, as usual, God does far more than we normally give him credit for. In the kingdom of God, the smallest and the least significant things have incredible power; the incredible power to affect the largest and most significant transformations
God's treasure, as scripture says, is contained in earthen vessels, in perishable and mortal containers - and so as Disciples of Christ we should value one another - and what they have to offer in order to further the kingdom. We’re all important and our contributions (our call) is never insignificant. An act of love no matter small can be a big leafy tree for a hurting soul.
Someone looked down on and despised in his community was the one who ended being the neighbour (Luke 10:30–35); a steward's dubious business practices are commended to those who would enter the kingdom of God (Luke 16:18) and workers who work for one hour are paid the same as those who have worked all day (Matt. 20:1–15). Just a little seed - from which can come a mighty bush. Just a little leaven - and we can change the entire loaf. Think of it—Amen.
Rev. Dr. Aidan