Matthew 13: 1-23
Intro: Verse 12: Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.
Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
That's a bit strong, even seemingly unfair or at least paradoxical .. isn't it?
It’s not the only place in the Bible where you'll find a paradox like this one.
“Paradox” means a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
The truth here is that unless you are rich in the things of God – the other things you thought were priorities will, on the judgment day, slip away as meaningless junk.
This rule even works in everyday life: “More character
is added to you during a time of financial or
reputational or physical loss than
at times of popularity and fame.”
Jesus knew how the spiritual kingdom works:
“The way up is down.”
Jesus is about to explain His use of parables and He does it from the reference point of “the more you know – the greater your responsibility.”
It’s also built on the idea that the greater your responsibility the more your effectiveness can be.
The more you are effective the greater will be your reward.
Sadly though the opposite is also true.
Whoever has will be given more,
and they will have an abundance.
Whoever does not have,
even what they have will be taken from them.
That kind of thinking only works when you know two main ideas in Scripture that are in constant tension:
The Sovereignty of God and
The Responsibility of Humanity.
Let's discuss each of them ….
A. The Sovereignty of God
- God has decided that knowing how the Kingdom of heaven works is only to be given to those who have decided to follow Jesus.
WHY? Because He said so.
Why? Because .... He said so.
Yes but WHY? Because.... HE... said so!
(11) the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of
heaven has been given to you, but not to them
Do you mean to tell me the wisest of the Greek philosophers didn't know how the kingdom of God works ...Yes.
Yuh wanna say that no shaman, no guru, no student of the stars ever knew how the kingdom of God works ... Yes.
See this is the down side of too much Democracy – it sort of places the individual in charge of their abilities.
Here's the bad news – there are some things God has decided to do a certain way
and there is nothing we can do about it
and no vote we can collectively take
and no council we can form can change that.
the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has
been given to you, but not to them.
That is Divine sovereignty.
- The kingdom of God stymies all the “I am the master of my own fate” kind of thinking. You cannot think your way into understanding the kingdom of God – that has to be given to you by God.
That's why it all appears as foolishness to those who haven't received insight from God's Holy Spirit living inside them. I'll use a stereogram, to show what I mean:
(hold up the dot pictures)
What is this? And this? can all of you see it – no – come
on try harder! (pass them out.)
- This – the “secrets of the kingdom” are more than a trick. This is a Divine revelation.
Let the verses come to your ears slowly: (10) The disciples...............
came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” ..............
(11) He replied, ........... “Because ...........
the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven
has been given to you, ............. but not to them.
I wonder if at that point each of the disciples looked at each other and wondered if the other disciples understood the meaning of every parable.
The “given” is God's part. There's an impartation that happens once grace is flowing in the redeemed heart. Even for some of those disciples, that grace wasn't in full flow at that point.
God gives wisdom ... but this passage says to me it’s not ALL God – there's a cooperative part expected of humanity. God gives secret knowledge about the kingdom – yet he gives it to those who diligently seek Him with all their heart. I turn now to:
B. The Responsibility of Humanity
- In Isaiah there's a very disturbing prophecy.
Lest we act as though God is stingy with the revelations He gives, lest we think that He chooses to reach out to only a tiny proportion of humanity, lest we foolishly charge God with creating most of the people for hell and only wanting a small number with Him in heaven, lest we think all that, we have to look carefully at verse 14: In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing
but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
Ever hearing.... ever seeing ....
Does that speak of a God who is constantly speaking
and constantly reaching out?
Ever hearing and never seeing ....
Does that mean that all around us, every day, there are messages from God?
All of nature (for example) is speaking to us... but I think it’s like the radio waves filling this room right at this moment:
(hold up radio set with ear phones)
Are any of you hearing them right now?
Why not? Because: You need to be “tuned” in.
So, for me the big question arises:
If Humanity isn't “tuned in,”
if humanity is ever hearing but never understanding;
and ever seeing but never perceiving,
who is to blame... God or us?
Verse 15 is the place where the clue is right at the start
of the verse: Notice carefully how the grammar is
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
Not born with a calloused heart “become calloused”
Other translators say: ...
The heart of this people has GROWN calloused.....
even literally: gotten fat or “become out of shape
was the heart of these people...”
The American Std Version says their hearts have
waxed gross... they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Did you get that: THEY have closed their eyes...
Who did that God or themselves?
If all that heart change hadn't happened the picture would have
been very different. See how the verse ends -
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn,
and I would heal them.’ ... and I would heal them:
To me those last words are a peek into God's
heart: He wants to heal the broken in soul.
He wants to heal the backslider
He wants to heal the sin scarred life.
He wants to heal the brokenness
caused by self-centered living.
So the next question that arises is this:
If God's kingdom can't be discovered with human study and research –
if it has to be spiritually revealed to you
And if God is constantly seeking to reveal it to those who will be
willing to receive it His way, His time, under His conditions....
and if despite all that effort on God's part there are people “closing their eyes”
The next question is: “Are there any consequences
for saying either yes or no to God? I take you now to:
C. The Inevitability of Judgment
1. Here's a rule for all spiritual life:
“When God's revelation has been received and
God's revelation has been accepted an opportunity for
obedience will arise that leads to spiritual progress.”
The opposite rule is just as true:
“When God's revelation has been received and
God's revelation has been rejected
the inescapable result will be spiritual backsliding.”
2. The illustration of Pharaoh and Moses: I'm going to
quote to you a progression of verses in the book of Exodus:
“But Pharaoh's heart became hardened and
He wouldn't listen to Moses” Ex 7:13
“Pharaoh hardened his heart and
would not listen” Ex.8vs 15
This time also Pharaoh
hardened his heart” Ex 8: 32
“ Pharaoh and his officials hardened their hearts
and would not do as the Lord said” Exodus 9: 34
“The Lord said go to Pharaoh for I have
hardened P's heart” Ex 10:1
“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart” Ex 11:10
What do you believe happened in this process?
3. Now this passage in Matthew 13 is specific because we have
just gotten through chapter 12 in which Jesus is presented as
Lord of the Sabbath,
Lord of healing,
Lord over demons and even
Lord over death
and now Jesus is saying to His disciples:
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your
ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many
prophets and righteous people longed to see what you
see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear
but did not hear it.
He's saying – you are living in the days that
Isaiah was seeing afar off in his prophecies.
What if ... THESE are the days of Elijah?
What if these are the days of Ezekiel?
They truly are – these are the days
when ordinary people like you
have had the secrets of the kingdom
of heaven revealed to them.
4. The judgment is all about what you did with the offer God made you –
He's made it to all humanity:
He's saying I WILL be found by those
who diligently seek Me.
Once you have been found by Him and
once you have found Him
(and, despite the language, there's a finding of the Lord when the grace of God
has been responded to that opens your eyes to see that He has in fact been seeking you instead.)
Once the finding happens the next step is the illuminating with the revelation
of the secrets of the Kingdom.
5. Have you seen the pictures in the stereogram yet?
6. What are they?
Conclusion These are the days to get your heart tuned in.
Has the sovereignty of God and
the response of your heart intersected?
If not there's no better time
than to seek Him now.