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The Chiastic Structure of the Kingdom Parables
In Matthew chapter thirteen Jesus teaches a series of eight parables which are known as the "Kingdom Parables". I have to admit that when reading through them, I couldn't see their unified theme and could only grasp an extremely superficial understanding of their possible meaning. I was a bit relieved to discover that many expert commenters apparently had similar struggles, evidenced by the many and varied interpretations of them.
This article will study this portion of Scripture in terms of its literary structure which, I hope will lead to a more unified approach to understanding them.
Let's Unroll the Scroll
There is more than meets the eye in just a casual reading of the Bible. A more intense, Holy Spirit assisted, seeking will reveal that there are infinite revelations tightly packed and miraculously rolled up into God's word. It is very much like a strand of DNA that contains volumes of information in its, unseen to the unaided eye, contents.
the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things...
— John 14:26
The spiral rolled DNA strand is referred to by scientists as the "book of life" by the way.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for revelation is galah meaning to uncover or expose. It is rooted in the word galal which includes the idea of opening through unrolling.
Biblical text was once written on scrolls also rooted in these same Hebrew words, and offers us a visual of something hidden being unrolled and revealed.
The Parables Concealed and Revealed
The Parables of Jesus were surprisingly used for both purposes of concealing and revealing.
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
— Matthew 13:10-11
We might wonder why this information was exclusive to His followers. But Jesus makes it clear that the problem is that the larger crowd does not want to hear or change, expressed as "turn" in the following verse. They have, therefore, dulled their ears and closed their eyes.
Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them
— Matthew 13:13-15
Mark uses the word forgiven in contrast with healing in the Matthew account.
Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them
— Mark 4:12
Healing and forgiveness are one in the same to Jesus as was displayed in the healing of the paralytic, when he the man is brought to Jesus by his four friends through the roof of another's house. Jesus is criticized by the religious leaders for declaring the man forgiven rather than healed. Jesus' reply to them was that there was no difference between healing and forgiveness as was revealed in in the following questions.
“Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?
— Mark 2:8-9
Notice that this explanation begins at the 13th verse of the 13th chapter, In Biblical numerics, the number 13 indicates a rebellion. E.W. Bullinger who studied numbers, exhaustively, in scripture observes this
every occurrence of the number thirteen, and likewise of every multiple of it, stamps that with which it stands in connection with rebellion, apostasy, defection, corruption, disintegration, revolution, or some kindred idea
The first occurrence of the number 13 occurs when Lot is taken captive.
Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled
— Genesis 14:4
A side note in reference to numbers in the Bible; there are no superstitious meanings attached to the numeric revelations. They are simply another way God has chosen to make His Word consistent in theme and pattern.
Back to the above quote by Jesus from the Old Testament book of Isaiah chapter six about their closed eyes and ears, in the prior chapters up to six, the Lord is confronting His rebellious people who will not listen to Him and change the way they are living. Rebellion prevents us from truly hearing and understanding the truth of God. Hearing and doing are one and the same in God's book.
No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lamp stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him
— Luke 8:16-18
The last sentence in this portion of Scripture is much like our modern saying "if you don't use it you will lose it".
In Luke, the hidden light is mentioned right after the Parable of the Sower having to do with the how hearing truth penetrates a heart and the things that might prevent that. In Matthew's account, the hidden light is mentioned just after the Beatitudes which showcase the behaviors and obediences of sincere believers. If we combine the two accounts it is evident that hearing and obeying is represented in both.
Jesus connects this idea of light revealing the motives of a heart that both hears and obeys, or not when He speaks to Nicodemus about the experience of being born again.
this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God
— John 3:19-20
Paul instructs and warns Timothy to resist the temptation to preach a people-pleasing message that will not shed any light on the problem nor challenge them to do anything but hear something interesting or new. Hearing without obedience is not hearing at all.
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables
— II Timothy 4:2-4
Paul also writes similarly to the Ephesians.
have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
— Ephesians 5:11-17
So the Parables were concealed to those who rebelliously didn't want to know them, or the God who taught them, but were revealed to those who would humbly follow and obey Him.
The Chiastic Structure of the Parables
The arrangement of these parables is in, what is known as, a chiasm, where the most important theme is the middle of the text, and it is surrounded by related parallel information on both sides, that further detail the main point.
Kenneth E. Bailey, who has made many fascinating chiastic discoveries in the Bible, suggests that we view chiasms like a sandwich, with the meat in the middle, The outer two parallels of the section would be two slices of bread and can include other parallel ingredients on both sides of the meat or main portion of the text.
Our vision is structured in this very same way and is called optic chiasm. We take in visual information from both left and right eyes which follow parallel paths to the center of our brain where it meets in the middle. If we were blind in one eye our depth perception would be greatly altered and limited, and so it is with the Word of God. In order to see and understand deeply it is valuable to understand how to recognize and read these structures.
The Bible isn't the only piece of literature that uses this literary technique, but it is one that is largely unfamiliar to most of us, and not being aware of it can sometimes make the read a bit disconnected, random, and repetitive.
The table below shows what this looks like based on the text in Matthew 13, as it concerns these particular parables. Much of the information in this table is borrowed from Kenneth E Bailey. My graph differs slightly, not in content but in arrangement due to formatting limitations. Some additional insights are added from a commentary on this topic by David Wenham, a British Theologian.
Matthew 13 Chiastic Arrangement of the Kingdom Parables
A ) Parable of the Sower - Farmer - Field (v. 1-9)
B) Question by the disciples - Answer by Jesus (v. 10-17)
C) Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower (v. 19-23)
(first four addressed to the crowds - those who were outside)
1. Tares-Wheat - "Another parable He put forth to them" (v. 24-30)
2. Mustard Seed "Another parable He put forth to them" (v. 31-32)
3. Leaven "Another parable He spoke to them" (v.33)
E.) Central Axis - Main Part
Fulfillment of Prophecy - Interpretation of the Wheat and Tares (v.34-43)
3. Hidden Treasure - "Again the kingdom of heaven is like" (v. 44)
2. Pearl of Great Price - "Again the kingdom of heaven is like" (v. 45-46)
(Second four addressed to the disciples)
1. Separation of Fish - "Again the kingdom of heaven is like" (v. 47-48)
C) Interpretation of the Fish (v. 49-50)
B) Question by Jesus - Answer by the disciples (v. 51)
A) The Householder - Merchant - Commerce (v. 52)
If space would allow I would arrange my chart just a little bit differently, in that, I would jut "E", the center text, one step out to the right of the page rather then indenting to the left side, between the two sections of parables. The text arrangement would then resemble an arrow.
That is what is fascinating about these structures. The Hebrew word Torah, meaning instruction and is also related to the word for teaching, is rooted in an archery term and comes with the idea of an arrow hitting the bullseye. That is what the entirety of scripture is trying to do.
Missing the bullseye might not seem like a big deal. But, it could be considered detrimental if, from a life perspective, we considered that the slightest error from the intended target, would send the trajectory of our lives in a direction that separates us eternally from God altogether.
The Audience of the Parables
A beginning observation is that the first four parables are addressed to those who are "outside" or not in close following with Jesus, according to the book of Mark.
To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables
— Mark 4:11
The second set of four parables is addressed to His followers. and we will address these contrasts and comparisons as we go along.
The introduction to the parables is significant and relative to this.
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 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
— Matthew 13:1-2
Some scholars have noted that the phrase "Jesus went out of the house" is in reference to leaving the Pharisees and Sadducees and their personally developed religious system. He instead went to the highways and bi-ways cued by their rejection. The prior chapter is consistent with this idea in that it contains mostly the contentions between Jesus and these who opposed Him. From this point on Jesus says nothing to them apart from a parable.
As it concerned the religious leaders, this may have revealed the intentions of their heart to not necessarily seek and know the truth, but to oppose that which threatened their status quo.
"By the sea" is significant as well, in that, the sea many times represents the masses of people.
Woe to the multitude of many people
Who make a noise like the roar of the seas,
And to the rushing of nations
That make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
— Isaiah 17:12
This imagery continues into the New Testament
“The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
— Revelation 17:15
Taken all together this shows us that Jesus left the house of the religious order of the day and was going out to address the multitudes. it is also reminiscent, to some extent, another parallel Jesus told, where a certain man hosts a great supper to which most of his invites turn up their noses to by deciding to do something else. The master of the house is offended and tells his servant to...
Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.
— Luke 14:22-24
A Fly in the Ointment
In reference to the chart, it is observed that in each of the first set of parables addressed to the "outside", referring to the ones before the central axis, there is something included that isn't good.
- The parable of the sower includes rocks and thorns
- The parable of the wheat includes the Tares
- The parable of the mustard seed includes the birds that roost in its branches
- The parable of the woman who hid three measures of meal includes leaven
This element is not included in the second set of Parables that follow after the central axis addressed to those who follow closely with Jesus. And to those who follow closely with Jesus all we need to do is ask.
Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?
— Luke 8:9
In the next section, we will begin the comparison and contrast of each side of Matthews presentation of these parables. We will be using all three accounts of the parable of the soil given in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 that should give us the all around view.
A Sower and Soil
Let's begin by comparing the two "A's" which include the parable of the sower and the parable of the householder. The first begins with...
Behold, a sower went out to sow
— Matthew 13:3
The seed is plainly revealed as the Word of God.
The seed is the word of God
— Mark 4:11
The Sower, being Jesus is not specifically noted with this particular parable but He is later identified as such in the parable of the wheat.
He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man
— Matthew 13:37
This is evidenced and illustrated throughout the Gospels through the ideas of preaching and teaching in the following.
Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand...Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom
— Matthew 4:17,23
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom
— Matthew 9:35
when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.
— Matthew 11:1
The Sower is the Messiah
Hidden within the parable of the soils is the necessity of acknowledging that Jesus the Sower is, in fact, the Messiah.
Brad Scott on the Hebrew Roots Network in part five of his series "Prophecy In The Field" makes an observation about the fourth soil. He notes that the only soil that produces is the fourth one and reveals a previously hidden meaning in reference to the amount that Jesus said would be produced.
"other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty"
— Matthew 13:8
Brad connects this statement with the four patriarchs Abraham, who birthed his chosen son at one hundred, Isaac who birthed his chosen son at sixty, Jacob, and Joseph a chosen son who began his ministry and service at age thirty just as Jesus the Messiah did. Jacob is not included in the numbers because he is the only one who is not a chosen son recalling that Esau was Isaac's favorite.
Three concerns spiritual realities represented in this case by three chosen sons, there were four in total and could, therefore, summarize that from four physical men would come through the seed of Abraham, "Jesus Christ", God's one and only chosen Son, the anointed with His Holy Spirit Messiah. Through faith in Him, we can be saved and produce a harvest of the souls of men. The parable proposes that faith in the promised seed of Abraham, that is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the secret of the good soil.
A Householder and Treasure Chest
The second "A" is parallel to the sower and is the householder or master of the house, again like the sower this parable discusses the word of God and how it is distributed. Only this time the message concerns His faithful followers.
every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old
A scribe, according to Blue Letter Bible, is a skilled examiner, teacher, and interpreter of sacred writings. Gesenius furthers this definition
"a teacher so instructed that from his learning and ability to teach, advantage may redound (contribute greatly) to the Kingdom of Heaven, and many interpret, make a disciple unto the Kingdom of Heaven"
Jesus is the householder and his disciples are the scribes who have thoughtfully studied and accurately received His message and Word.
The Word of God in this parable is described as the "old and new" brought forth from a treasure chest and representative of the treasured truth that has been stored in the heart of a believer who cherishes it.
My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding
— Proverbs 2:1-6
In the first parable, the seed/Word of God is cast indiscriminately across a wide variety of soil types. In this last parable, it is carefully and skillfully brought out of a heart that treasures it.
The "old and new" in the last is a beautiful picture of the usefulness of the entirety of Scripture both the Old and New Testaments.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness
— II Timothy 3:16
The Two Questions
Moving in towards the center of the chart, the next two parallels concern two sets of questions. When comparing the two "B's, it is an interesting cross over type of chiasm that occurs, much like it does in our vision system as was discussed before. This crossing over gives us the most balanced perspective of the teaching.
The first "B" of the parallel questions is a question asked by the disciples and answered by Jesus. His answer forms a chiasm as well.
A) I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
B) And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
C) ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
D) And seeing you will see and not perceive;
E) For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
F) Their ears are hard of hearing,
G) And their eyes they have closed,
G) Lest they should see with their eyes
F) and hear with their ears,
E) Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn So that I should heal/forgive them.
D) But blessed are your eyes for they see,
C) and your ears for they hear;
B) for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
A) desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
— Matthew 13:10-17
I will not compare the common themes in each parallel, as not to rabbit trail too far from the larger structure of this section, but they are very obvious and are like repetitive echoes in their declarations, and worth a look at.
The Second "B" of the question parallels, Jesus asks the question and this time the disciples answer.
Jesus said to them,“Have you understood all these things?”
They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”
— Matthew 13:51
Jesus is at the center of these questions. It is at this juncture that one must decide if they want to hear the truth and accept the Messiah and His Lordship.
It makes so much sense that the next two events moving in toward the center and represented by "C's" have to do with interpretations that were given exclusively to His faithful followers. These are they who have unashamedly sought to sincerely know and understand the truth and were willing to turn to Him as the Messiah who heals and saves from sin.
The next two parallel sections contain three parables each, numbered 1,2,3, and 3,2,1, that can be viewed as smaller chiasms within the larger one.
The two outer interpretations concern the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Dragnet both having to do with gathering the souls of men. The center interpretation, in the exact middle of this whole section of text, is the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and the tares that include a messianic fulfillment of prophecy revealing Jesus as the Messiah.
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“I will open My mouth in parables;
I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world
— Matthew 13:35
The first and middle interpretations are connected in the sense of agricultural themes (soil and seed - Wheat and Tares) both concern sown seed.
On this occasion, Jesus specifically reveals who the sower is in both of these parables.
He who sows the good seed is the Son of ManThe field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom
— Matthew 13:38
Another sower is revealed in the parable of the wheat and the tares.
but the tares are the sons of the wicked one The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels
— Matthew 13:39
The third and last interpretation of the separation of good and bad fish in the "Dragnet" is very similar in terms of a mixture of good and bad.
The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just...”
— Matthew 13:49-50
The last (interpretation of the dragnet) and middle (interpretation of the wheat and tares) are connected in terms of things that are separated in the end. The first it is wheat and tares and the last it is good and bad fish.
The two outer interpretations of the sower and dragnet have this in common.
The seed was cast on various types of soil
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom
— Matthew 13:18
The dragnet was cast to capture various kinds.
a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind
— Matthew 13:47
This reassures that God is not a respecter of persons
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
— Acts 10:34-35
God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God
— Romans 2:5-11
Tares and Wheat — Good and Bad Fish
We got a little bit ahead of ourselves with the next two parallels represented by the number one within the "D" sections because they both were included in the interpretations. We will, therefore, simply review their common theme of separating good and bad things.
Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.
— Matthew 13:30
The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away
— Matthew 13:47
Man is not allowed to separate in either case, and the gathering and separation both occur at the end.
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
— Matthew 13:41-43
at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
— Matthew 13:49-50
One takes place in the field and the other in the sea both metaphors for the world and it's inhabitants.
A difference is that in the wheat and tares it is distinguished between two kinds of things wheat or tares. in the dragnet, every kind is represented.
Collectively this reveals there are two kinds of people; the believing faithful and the unbelieving unfaithful. The separation will have nothing to do with types of people. Every kind of person will be represented. The only distinguishing feature will be between those who trusted in God's sent Messiah and those who did not.
Paul reiterates this in terms of how light will reveal obedience, or lack thereof, in the end, in his letter to the Corinthians. This was discussed earlier with the four soils concerning how people heard and obeyed, or let other things distract them.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God
— I Corinthians 4:5
In other words, we are to personally hear and obey and let God judge the motives of the world.
The Mustard Seed — The Pearl of Great Price
The mustard seed and the pearl of great price are represented by the number two in the "D" section of the chart and are similar in theme as it concerns small things. One grows into the something great the other becomes something of great value.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field (Mark says ground, Luke says garden), which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree (Mark says shoots out large branches), so that the birds of the air come and nested in its branches (Mark says shade)
— Matthew 13:31-32
the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it
— Matthew 13:45-46
The mustard seed, in Scripture, is associated with faith.
if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you
— Matthew 17:20 (reference to the epiletic whom the disciples were unable to deliver because of their lack of faith)
If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you
— Luke 17:6 (reference to forgiveness and not deterring others from the faith through offenses)
Birds come and nest in the branches of this tree. As was seen in the Sower, the birds were not a good thing, in that they come to steal the seed. Some commentaries think these birds are symbols of evil spirits, but if we look at the enemies of faith according to the above two verses, they appear to be unbelief, unforgiveness, and offense to such a degree that it deters others from the faith. In putting these two ideas together could it be understood that unbelief, unforgiveness, and offense are invitations to the harassment of darkness?
The pearl on the other side of this parallel is associated with trial and persecution and can be illustrated by how a pearl is actually formed. A type of persecution and trial occurs in the mollusk by the inclusion of a foreign object or substance that causes an irritation. The mollusk then begins to produce a beautiful iridescent lacquer to coat the object which the begins to form a beautiful gem.
“A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted.”
— John C. Maxwell
The merchant sought this rare variety of one who was willing to suffer for His name sake.
For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully
— I Peter 2:19
Jesus our example in all things gave us a perfect demonstration.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
— Romans 5:7-8
Another observation is that Mustard seed is planted and the pearl is purchased. One is in the field, the other is in the sea.
The tree rooted in the field has to with the faith we have in Jesus Christ as we live in this earthly realm
As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving
— Colossians 2:6-7
The pearl in the sea images the rare lives that faithfully lived out the redemption that was purchased for them through Christ.
...you were bought at a price
— I Corinthians 6:20
Hidden Leaven — Hidden Treasure
Our final pairings are represented by the number three in the "D" Section of the chart.
Here we have two hidden things. One is bad and one is good. Many debates abound about the meaning of leaven in the first parable of this comparison. Since I have come to truly trust the consistency of the patterns in Scripture I have to side with those who think the leaven is bad. Every place in scripture it symbolizes pride and hypocrisy. It was something Jesus warned his disciples about using the hypocritical and self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees as examples.
Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees
— Matthew 16:6
Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth
— I Corinthians 5:6-7
This once again is consistent also with the tares in the wheat field, and the birds in the branches of the mustard tree concerning the prior two parables.
But in terms of the Kingdom of Heaven on the Earth, leaven may concern these bodies of flesh that we still dwell in presently.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
— Galations 2:20
During the feast of Pentecost, otherwise known as the "Feast of Weeks" in the Old Testament, two loaves of leavened bread. It is the only time in all the feasts that the children of Israel are required to observe, that leaven is allowed in an offering. Both loaves are considered first fruits. One represents the Jew and the other the Gentile. When presented to the priest in the tabernacle. The priest waves them before the Lord and they are considered Holy to Him.
The Center Axis
As was previously looked at, Jesus the Messiah, the Word of God, is the fulfillment of prophecy that specifically mentions secrets from the foundation of the world. What things were kept secret from the foundation of the world that would be so central to the "Kingdom of Heaven"?
He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God
— I Peter 1:20
The parable of the tares, which actually follows this central portion, explains.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house
— Matthew 13:36
We began with Jesus going out of the house and talking to the multitudes. In true chiastic form He now sends the multitude away and goes into the house, and His disciples sought Him there.
It was considered earlier that Jesus had left the house in order to speak to the crowds. This could possibly display how Jesus left the house of His Father in Heaven to come reveal the Kingdom of God to the multitudes, and the way into it, through Himself. When He had fulfilled all that was prophesied concerning Himself, to both Jew and Gentile, He returned to or "went into" His Father's eternal house and "His disciples then seek Him there"
How can we pull this all together in light of this structure? As was noted Jesus the Messiah is the central theme of the Kingdom of Heaven. The message of the Gospel is broadcast into the field of this world with mixed results as seen in the first set.
The enemy plants tares, and his minions (birds) roost in the branches of faith (Mustard tree) waiting to steal and taint the message of the Gospel. He does this by adding something to the unadulterated truth, as seen in the leaven added to three measures of meal, much like the serpent sneaking around the garden and hiding in a tree.
This is followed by the second set of parables that express the results of those who would receive and follow Him purely with sincere hearts, and allegorically depict the Messiah who sold all that He had to purchase the field seeking those who would respond to that message reciprocally giving up their own lives even unto death (the goodly pearls) to share the treasure of Christ to the world as well.
As we can see the parables are not random nor are they disconnected. They tell one unified story that is presented in a million or more different ways throughout the entirety of scripture. This message is commonly understood as the Gospel. I hope that this study has given some a better more detailed view of that message through understanding the kingdom parables.
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
— Revelation 3:5
© 2016 Tamarajo