(Study Outline sourced from “The System Bible Study” – “The Book of Life” [Zondervan])
(4) The First Group Of Parables To The Crowds By The Sea Of Galilee
(a) The Parable of The Sower
“Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables”
Jesus begins to teach by the use of parables for specific reasons, the most significant one is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah because the people had hardened their hearts to God’s word, refusing to honour Him as their only true God. Other reasons may have included simplicity, since the message would be easily remembered since Jesus used familiar illustrations; and if the hearers were really interested they would seek further discussions on the subject . In response to their request, Jesus then explains the parable: “The seed is the word of God” and the seed falls on four types of soil creating four results. The seed that falls “along the path” represents those who hear the word and then the devil takes it away from them so that they do not believe and obtain their salvation. The seed that “falls on the rock” is symbolic of those who receive God’s word “with joy when they hear it” but since they have no foundation they fall away from their beliefs when they are tested . Some seed fell “among the thorns” depicting those who hear but are “choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures” – being immature in their spiritual development; due to their not practicing their faith – they are stunted by the cares and pleasures of life . The seed on good soil is representative of those that “hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” – to be mature in our spiritual lives, one needs to persevere in our beliefs, not allowing anyone to derail us in our walk with God . Jesus then ends the discussion with solemn words “Consider carefully what you hear” “Consider carefully how you listen” because hearing the word of God places a great responsibility upon us to act accordingly to the message we hear. The more that we learn of God today the more He will reveal of Himself to us in the future; if we do not respond to the truth that is revealed to us today, the less will be our chance to hear any more of God’s truth in the future .
(b) Parable Of The Seed Growing By Itself
“All by itself the soil produces grain– first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.”
This parable is recorded only by Mark, and unlike the parable of the Sower which stresses the quality of the soil, here we find that the growth and success of the harvest does not depend upon the soil; the power of the seed itself is emphasized, indicating that the Word of God is powerful in itself to produce the harvest. God reveals Himself in many and various ways , and to those who read the word of God on their own, God will reveal Himself .
(c) The Parable Of The Weeds (Tares)
“When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. Let both grow together until the harvest. .”
In this parable, Jesus is teaching that both good and evil are allowed to grow and live side by side in the world, but on the day of harvest (judgment) they will be separated, the evil will be destroyed and the good preserved (see vs. 36-43 where Jesus explains the parable to His disciples);
(d) The Parable Of The Mustard Seed
The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the farmers in Palestine, yet when planted it grew into a large tree with branches that could support various sizes of birds; Jesus is teaching that the although the kingdom of God had insignificant beginnings in an unknown carpenter from Nazareth and unlearned fishermen from the Galilee; yet in the future the whole world will see its greatness and power, and many will find refuge therein .
(e) The Parable Of The Yeast (Leaven)
Although many references to yeast in the Scriptures speaks of evil, in this context Jesus uses yeast to illustrate the work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in the lives of individuals and to the expansion of God’s kingdom; similar to the way that yeast “works all through the dough”, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit works in the life of an individual, bringing him/her into the kingdom and causes a person to grow in the grace of God, becoming yeast to influence the lives of others for the kingdom .
(f) The Many Parables
Jesus did not teach anything without the use of a parable, and Matthew’s account indicates that this was a fulfilment of a prophecy that is recorded in Psa. 78:2
(g) The Parable Of The Weeds Explained
“The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.”
The explanation of the parable can lead to the question regarding the sequence of events leading up to the end of the age, but one must understand that the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus does not reflect the Church Age. The Gospels and the teachings of Jesus generally reflect God’s last message to His earthly people – the Jews: therefore, the events as described by Jesus deals with the establishment of God’s kingdom and not the Church: and is supplementary to the prophetic message of the Old Testament. Jesus indicates in this parable that at the end of the age the “weeds” will first be harvested and God’s judgment will be handed out to them; then “the sons” will enter “the kingdom of their Father” . The righteous “will shine like the sun” as opposed to the fate of the “weeds”who will be thrown into the “fiery furnace” .
(h) The Parable Of The Hidden Treasure
(i) The Parable Of The Pearl Of Great Value
The lesson from these two parables is one and the same – meaning that citizenship in the kingdom is of such great value, each individual that wishes to become a citizen should be willing to give up everything so as to be able to enter the kingdom; there is no implication that Jesus is teaching that one can purchase entrance into the kingdom with good deeds or money, since each individual must appropriate Christ’s sacrifice as pardon for our sins and entrance into the kingdom.
(j) The Parable Of The Net
Jesus again illustrates what it will be like “at the end of the age” – the “good fish” representing the righteous, will be separated from the “bad fish” that signify the wicked ones, and the wicked ones will be thrown into the “fiery furnace”.
(k) The Parable Of The Householder
At the end of the teachings of the parables Jesus asked, “Have you understood all these things?” to which they replied in the affirmative. Jesus, however, did not challenge their response because He knew that they did not fully understand that there was an interval between the two ages (the OT and the NT) during which Christ would build His Church, He simply told them this final parable of the householder. If they truly understood the parables they would be able to bring out of their “storeroom of truth”, the truths that related to both the Old Testament and the New Testament – such a revelation was not yet available to them.