The Secrets of the Kingdom.
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” – Matthew 13:11-12 NLT
Jesus is sitting in a boat along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, teaching a crowd of people. He has just had a series of confrontations with the Pharisees, where they have confronted Him over healing on the Sabbath, and even accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. They even demanded that Jesus perform some kind of a sign to prove who He was – in spite of all the miracles and wonders He had already done right in front of them. It is important to keep all this in mind as you read the events of chapter 13. It contains a series of seemingly unrelated parables that deal with everything from seeds and soil to the Kingdom of God and judgment. Jesus uses all kinds of imagery and metaphors, and it can be easy to get bogged own by it all and lose the point of what He is trying to tell His disciples. While Jesus is speaking to a crowd of interested onlookers, He only explains the meaning of the parables to His closest disciples. And He tells them that He is sharing with them the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, He is letting them in on some previously hidden information regarding God’s Kingdom and how it functions. This is information not known to the Pharisees. In fact, they were operating under some serious false assumptions regarding God, the Messiah, and the Kingdom. Jesus accuses them of looking, but not really seeing. “They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand” (Matthew 23:13 NLT). Notice all the times Jesus uses words related to seeing and hearing in this passage. That is the real message behind what He is saying. As the Son of God, He came with a message about the Kingdom of God that was new. He was revealing a new way to have a right relationship with God. No longer would it be based on human effort and hard work. He came bringing a message of grace that was based on faith, not works. But the majority of the Jewish people, including the religious leadership, refused to hear it. They saw Jesus perform miracles, but couldn’t see who He really was. They heard Jesus speak, but could comprehend what He was saying. Why? “For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes – so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them” (Matthew 13:15 NLT).
That is the real point of Jesus’ message. And using a series of parables, Jesus reveals to His disciples what is taking place around them. There are those in the crowd who hear His message, but don’t get it. There are others who hear it with great joy, but the shallowness of their lives give it no place to root and the troubles and cares of the world cause them to fall away. Still others hear Jesus’ message about the Kingdom only to have the worries of life and the love of wealth crowd it out. But there are those few “who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:23 NLT). And these fruitful few would find themselves surrounded with all the others, attempting to live their new life among the shallow, ignorant, worldly and worriers.
Jesus was letting them know that His Kingdom was not going to be an earthly Kingdom where He would set up a throne and rule from Jerusalem. At least, not yet. No, His Kingdom was going to be made up of followers who lived as a faithful citizens in the midst of a hostile environment. And while His kingdom would start out relatively small, it would grow and spread, like yeast in dough. It would expand and flourish like a tree. And it will continue to grow until the judgment, when God will separate out the people of the Kingdom from those who belong to this world and to the prince of this world – Satan. Jesus is trying to help them understand the nature and importance of His Kingdom. It is valuable. It is worth giving up anything and everything for. Any sacrifice required to become a part of this new Kingdom will be well worth it in the long run. Any short-term sacrifice will have long-term benefits. This is not about a temporal, earthly kingdom, but an eternal, spiritual one. And membership in this Kingdom will not be based on nationality or bloodline, but on belief and faith in Jesus Christ. This was new information. Jesus described what He was sharing as “new gems of truth.” He was completing the redemption story begun by God in the Old Testament. He was fulfilling the law of God and completing the plan of God for the salvation of mankind. And it was important that they saw the difference and heard the truth of what He was saying. Their hearts had to be willing to accept this new news willingly, faithfully, and gladly. Even in spite of all those around them who refused to see and hear.
Father, I am glad You gave me the capacity to hear Your message of grace and forgiveness in Christ clearly. Only You could have given me the ability to truly hear and understand the message of salvation through Christ alone. The Good News was new news to the people in Jesus’ day and it made no sense to many of them. It went against their expectations. It sounded far-fetched and too good to be true. It was difficult to understand because it didn’t require human effort or reward good works. It was the goodness of God expressed through the gift of the Son of God, and based on faith, and nothing ore. Thank You. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men