More Parables of God’s Kingdom
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
v34Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; he would not say a thing to them without using a parable. v35He did this to make come true what the prophet had said,
“I will use parables when I speak to them;
I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world.”
“…. It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good.” – Matthew 13:34-35, 49
The gospel lessons in the past two Sundays saw Jesus teaching about the kingdom of heaven using parables. In last week’s article we learned that ‘parables are stories from everyday life that relate and illustrate certain spiritual truths.’ We heard about the parable of the Sower which we understand as God planting His kingdom and good and evil grow together just like the weeds and the wheat but at the end be judged and segregated. The farmer-sower is the Creator of the Universe. The wheat and the weeds is about the reality of evil amidst goodness in God’s present kingdom (the church). The point of the parables: good and evil co-exist but at the end God always prevails. This Sunday five realities about the kingdom of heaven are taught by Jesus through the parables of the Mustard Seed, Yeast, Hidden Treasure, Pearl of Great Value and the Net (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49).
The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast are paired together. They describe the growth of evil within the visible kingdom. The small seed of the mustard in the parable illustrates the small beginning of God’s kingdom and its development through the centuries. It began only with Jesus and his small group of committed disciples. And as it is now evident the good news about God’s kingdom has saturated the whole inhabited world, established and recognized in the church that profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As of its parabolic pair, the yeast, it is symbolic in the Old Testament as the presence of evil or impurity; it ferments, disintegrates or corrupts. In the New Testament it represents the false and evil doctrines of the Sadducees, Pharisees and Herodians. In the epistle of Paul to the Christians in Corinth, yeast is regarded as representing ‘malice and wickedness’: v6It is not right for you to be proud! You know the saying, “A little bit of yeast makes the whole batch of dough rise.” v7You must remove the old yeast of sin so that you will be entirely pure. (1 Cor. 5:6-8) while the absence of yeast represents ‘sincerity and truth.’ (cf. Galatians 5:9ff)
Let me overemphasize the parable of yeast in consideration with the prevailing socio-cultural (and political) issues today. We have heard of the infamous political slogan “change is here!” and of its realistic implication and result today. The yeast has the same effect: change. As it will do to a dough to rise and change, it has the same effect to human situation. Change? For what and for whom? Is it for the people’s right of life or the politician’s assurance of power, wealth and control? Indeed, these are gospelic questions as we try to understand the meanings of the parables of heaven or God’s kingdom particularly of the yeast. It brings change – but of ‘malice and wickedness.’
In the parables, Jesus is helping us make our decision. He is saying, “If you decide to follow me, you will gain more than you will lose. I promise you the best kind of life which anyone can live.” There are three practical applications that we can learn from these parables. First, the life that God offers to us is a real treasure. In this kind of life, we know that we belong to God, through Jesus Christ. We know that we are accepted by Him in spite of our faults and unworthiness because of sinfulness, disobedience. It is a life in which we share both the happiness and sufferings of other people. There is both pain and joy. It is a full life. And it is joyfully received. Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, abundant life.” (Jn.10:10). Who will not accept joyfully such kind of life?
Secondly, we can have this life now. Not only in the hereafter. When Jesus offered this kind of life to people, he taught that they could have it now, and in this world. “If you believe in me, you have already eternal life.” (Jn. 5:24). It is like the treasure, not very far below the surface of the ground. It is not out of reach. It is found during our ordinary day’s work and life. But we often forget this. Remember this story of two boys studying at home in preparation for examinations. In the same room was the grandfather of one of them, reading his Bible. One of the boys asked, “What’s your grandfather doing?” The other laughed and said, “He’s just like us, he is preparing for his finals. The boy meant that his grandfather was reading his Bible to prepare for the time when God would examine him, after his death.
But if we think that the words of God (or the Bible) are only to prepare us for life after death we are making a big mistake: we shall fail to make the best of the gifts God has given us in this life that we can glean from reading His words in the Holy Bible.
Third, it is worth making any sacrifice in order to have this kind of life. Many of us are willing to shell out thousands of pesos for our children’s college assurance plan or health insurance plan or other business investments (which is practicable and right in my appreciation), or even put our hope to lotto or jueteng. We too are asked much more to give up or sacrifice something to have the life that God offers to us now.
A girl’s parent from a remote barangay saved enough money to send her to college here in Baguio City – away from home. The girl saw that she was being offered a good opportunity, but she also saw that certain things would have to be given up if she goes to college. She would give up dependence from her mother and father and the comfort of home. She has to give up these things in order that she can attain college education and would have better opportunities in life. Likewise, the parents have to give up the thoughts of security of their girl near them and the services that she does in the family. Many times during our lives we are like that farmer and the pearl trader, because throughout our lives God offers us opportunities to have a fuller life at a cost.
The Parable of the Net. The NIV Full Life Study Bible interprets that the parable of the net is a revelation about the truth that Christ has so greatly emphasized: not all who are in the visible kingdom of God (or those who claim to be Christ’s disciples) are truly children of God. Churches and Christian organizations are not synonymous with the true people of God, who consist of all believers living in true faith and righteousness.
“They who have ears to hear, let them hear!”
Let us pray.
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (ECP-BCP Proper 12 Collect)