The kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s gospel, including most of the parables in Matthew 13. The chapter begins with the parable of the sower (or the four soils) and its explanation. All the other parables in the chapter compare the kingdom of heaven to something or someone. Four other chapters include parables that illustrate what the kingdom of heaven is like.
This post will examine the short parables at the end of Matthew 13. He spoke these parables to the disciples alone, not to a crowd.
The first time recorded in Scripture that John the Baptist ever saw Jesus, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, CSB). The next day, he said the same thing to two of his disciples, Andrew and John, when Jesus passed by them. The two left him to follow Jesus.
The scene has become so familiar that it’s easy to fail to notice how little John’s society was prepared to hear it. Not to mention ours.
Christians can probably quote some Bible verses about how Christ has redeemed us. Otherwise, we don’t use “redeem” much anymore these days. When we do use it, it has two basic meanings.
It used to be that we could take books of stamps to a redemption center and exchange them for a toaster. That is, we redeemed the toaster by presenting the stamps. We can still redeem something we’ve taken to a pawn shop. And we talk about redeeming a coupon, although we don’t say we redeem our discount by presenting the coupon.
Or second, when we fail somehow, we can do something to redeem ourselves.… Read the rest
Some people might be thinking, “No. The serpent tempted Eve.” Not quite. Adam and Eve in Genesis represent the entire human race. They started in a perfect place, the Garden of Eden. It took both the man and the woman to forfeit that position in what we know as the fall of man.
Genesis begins with three momentous events:
God created the heavens and the heavens and the earth, culminating with the creation of a man.
God planted the Garden of Eden, and while it grew, he gave the man the dignity of naming the beasts and looking for a suitable helper.
Many of us often feel invisible, as if no one notices our efforts. Many of us feel invisible to God, too. But as Hagar learned, no one is invisible to God. God’s grace and love extend even beyond his covenant relationships.
Hagar was Sarai’s servant. Or in the most recent English translations, slave. Slavery in ancient times wasn’t quite the unmitigated evil as chattel slavery in the US.
It was more humane among Hebrews than even other contemporary societies. And in modern English, slave and servant have different meanings, even though both words translate the same Hebrew word.
God cares nothing about human notions of social status.… Read the rest
Sunday school children always get to learn about Zacchaeus, a short man who had to climb a tree to see Jesus. We see that no one liked Zacchaeus much and found Jesus’ interest in Zacchaeus rather offensive. But Jesus proclaimed that salvation had come to him. It’s salvation, not the tree climbing, that makes Zacchaeus worth knowing about.
In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus is passing through Jericho. The people of the city knew he was coming and lined the road into town to welcome him. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, too. He was the chief tax collector, so nearly everyone hated him.… Read the rest
God is love. God loves his people. Those statements are among the axioms of Christianity. They are so familiar that we easily fail to notice how revolutionary they were in Jesus’ time.
After the Last Supper, after Judas departed, Jesus told his disciples, “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them . . . Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (John 14:21, 23 NIV).
A little later, he said, “In that day you will ask in my name.… Read the rest
At Christmas time, advertisers want us to concentrate on gift giving. But did you ever stop to think that it’s also the season of gift receiving? And that God gives the gifts that give the season its meaning?
People can very carefully choose gifts that reflect their understanding of the people they’re giving to. Or they can put minimal thought and effort into the task.
People can receive gifts with gratitude. Or with indifference, disappointment, or rejection.
If you have carefully chosen a gift and the person you give to doesn’t appreciate it, how do you feel? Have you ever thought about what God feels?… Read the rest