The Parables of Matthew
We just spent 28 weeks working our way through the gospel of Matthew. In the next service I will give you the 30,000-foot flyover. In this service we will focus on some of the parables.
A parable sets things in parallel. I use a form of parallelism which I take things that I know and can explain first hand from the Marine Corps and compare them with some scripture.
I also like to make parallels with sports. Baseball and football give me the most to work with. I have yet to use anything from badminton, but I’m not through preaching yet, so don’t write it off.
The man who doubts is like a shuttlecock batted around the court on a windy day. OK, I will probably stick with a wave tossed about the sea.
My baseball and football parallels were of absolutely no value when I went to Africa. I don’t do soccer. The only year that I watched my daughter play, it looked like a swarm of kids moving all over the field. I suspected there was a ball in the middle of the swarm.
Jesus was the only person who had walked the earth that had also been in heaven. He explained things we had never seen or did not understand in terms of things that we had.
Let’s take the Parable of the Sower or the Seed or the Soil, depending on what part you want to emphasize. Jesus knew that his word was true and that our hearts are so often corrupt, but when our heart is receptive to the word of God, it can produce a fantastic yield.
When our hearts are good soil, the word of God flourishes in us.
Jesus told us that we would struggle in this world. The Evil One is at work in the work. The Enemy has sown weeds with the wheat but both will be allowed to grow to the harvest. As we look at the explanation, there will be a sorting at the end of the age. God’s angels will sort out his children from amidst the weeds.
It’s for our benefit so we have a chance to grow before the harvest. We should not worry. God and his angels can tell the difference.
Jesus taught that once you realize what the kingdom of heaven is and that you can live there now, you will do whatever it takes to enter it. Buy a field to claim its treasure, sell everything to buy a pearl of great value, or pluck the bad fish out of your catch and keep only the good ones.
You can enter the kingdom of heaven now and there will be a sorting at the end of the age.
Jesus explained the kingdom of heaven with the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. This servant had a debt that he could never repay. He could hit the Powerball lottery and still not have enough to repay the debt; yet his master forgave the debt.
This servant did not pay this forward. He did not show the same forgiveness as his master. The master heard about this and restored the debt and executed the punishment.
God is serious about this forgiveness business. Check out what Jesus had to say about forgiveness right after he modeled what we call the Lord’s Prayer.
The Parable of the Two Sons is about words and deeds. One son says he will do what his father wants but doesn’t. The other says he won’t, but then decides that he will. Even the knuckleheaded Pharisees understood this one.
It was obviously the one whose actions not words did what the father desired.
The Parables of the Tenants and the Wedding Banquet are likely allegorical with Jews and Gentiles getting their chance to receive the grace of God.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins speaks of being ready. Remember the Coast Guard motto: Semper Paratus—Always Ready.
And then we come to the Parable of the Talents. By now, you should know this one by heart. I think next year, Matthew 25:14-30 will be one of our memory verses.
What did you do with what God gave you?
Then, of course, we get to the sheep and the goats. The question that we should ask ourselves is: What did we do for the least of these brothers and sisters among us?
What did we do for the least of these?
Jesus humbled himself and stepped out of heaven. He humbled himself to such an extent that he came as a baby. He lived as a human lives, needed food and water and shelter and care, but he had known heaven and the kingdom of God.
He wanted to share that with us. He did that by teaching, preaching, healing, and many miracles but he also put in parallel the things of heaven and things that we understood here on earth.
He wanted us to know and understand the kingdom of God before we got there. Parables are more than stories with a moral. They are more than examples. They open our eyes to see and our ears to hear the things of the kingdom of God and the way of our Lord.
They leave us hungry to learn more.