1On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3Then He spoke many things to them in parables…
Chapter 13 is the third of five discourses in Matthew. This is a discourse on the period from Christ’s rejection until the Second Advent at the end of the Tribulation.
Chapters 11 and 12 show the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah-King by the attribution of His miracles to satanic power (12:22, 38). That was a turning point in Jesus’ ministry to the nation. He now turned to parables to reveal a change in the kingdom program; parables illustrate a new phase in the kingdom. Since the scribes and Pharisees (religious Israel) rejected Jesus as King, Jesus now demonstrated a new direction for the kingdom.
Jesus began a new phase of His kingdom with seven parables. Six start with the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like….” The exception is the parable of the sower. The kingdom of heaven is the sphere of God’s rule. The Word of God sets forth the kingdom in five stages:
The Old Testament prophesy of the kingdom
Jesus offered the kingdom “at hand” as present in the person of the King
The period of rejection of the King
Jesus’ rule for 1,000 years on earth in time
The eternal kingdom in heaven
Chapter 13 portrays the kingdom in the third sense, the period where Jesus was rejected as Messiah-King.
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.
On the same day Jesus healed the demon-possessed man in Capernaum, He sat down by the Sea of Galilee to give a change in His program. The purpose of this sentence is to link the parables of this chapter with the negative volition shown in the previous two chapters.
And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Large crowds gathered on shore with Jesus. He entered a boat and taught them by parables. A parable is a principle cast as a story. The seven stories that follow show what the kingdom will be like during the period between Jesus’ First and Second Advents. Jesus spoke the first four parables to the crowd and the last three to the disciples. Jesus interpreted the first two and seventh parables to the disciples.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables,
Jesus changed His teaching method once Israel formally rejected Him as Messiah. He began to speak in “parables.” Parables hid truth from those with negative volition. The word “parable” comes from two words: alongside and to cast. The idea is to cast a story alongside a principle.
One-third of Jesus’ teaching was in parables. It is very important to note that parables have one central idea. It is wrong to interpret all aspects of the parable as having significance.
Although Jesus gave seven parables in chapter 13, He interpreted only two of them: the parable of the sower and the parable of the wheat and tares. How He interpreted these two parables gives us a clue as to how to interpret the others.
When interpreting parables, we need to keep in mind:
the central issue surrounding the parable,
that the original setting gives the context for interpreting it, and
that there is only one point to each parable.
God hides revelation from those with negative volition.
Jesus taught in mystery parables to show the nature of the kingdom during the intercalation between the Old Testament economy and the New Testament economy. This teaching answers the question, “What happens to the kingdom of heaven after people reject the Messiah’s offer to establish the kingdom?” It is patently clear that Jesus would not establish the kingdom during His first coming. All seven parables in this chapter show what will happen to the kingdom of heaven during this interval.
The reason Jesus spoke in parables (13:10-23) was to hide His plan to unbelieving Israel during the intercalation period. A mystery is a secret not hitherto revealed until a certain point. That is the case with the church (Eph 3:1f). The Old Testament did not reveal the existence or the nature of the church to come. God gave Paul special revelation on this point. The kingdom of heaven is not identical with the church, but it shows what takes place between Christ’s rejection and His Second Coming (not the Rapture).