Read This Week: Matthew 13
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables. – Matthew 13:1-3 NIV
Stories are the sound bites of life; they possess abilities. They can be humble yet boastful. They can attract or repel. They can build up and tear down. They can bring peace, preserve history, communicate truth, reunite friends, and harmonize families. They can sink ships, save lives, and close deals.
A good story. Every person, young or old, wants one. We want to hear one. We want to tell one to impress a stranger or entertain a large crowd. We want to read one in the pages of a novel or in a show we watch on Netflix. We want to watch one in a movie or acted out on a stage. We want to live a good story, a story that can get a reaction, incite laughter, and move one to tears. A story that motivates action and inspires life. No matter where we come from or where we’re going, we all love a good story.
Jesus understood this about us better than anyone. He knew how to communicate and harness the power of a story. He taught life-changing truths through stories to his followers and anyone who listened to Him. In the Gospels, these stories are called parables, or stories illustrating a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus was creative with his methods, and He made efforts to get down on the level of the people and relate to them. We see this play out in verses 2-3 of Matthew 13:
He sat in a boat while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables.
In this passage, Jesus teaches principles and truth from the seat of a boat using the context of five parables. He communicates to them through the parable of the sower, the parable of the weeds, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the yeast, and the parable of the net. Each one carried its message about the Kingdom of God, the gospel, and the responsibility of people. Here are the morals of the stories or the main takeaways from each parable in this chapter:
• Parable of the Sower – We are to be messengers of God and plant His seeds of truth wherever we go. We do not control the condition of the hearts that it falls. But we are to be obedient to share and make sure our hearts are receptive to the word of God. We can choose to respond when hard times come and not fall away from the truth and the gospel. When life gets difficult, we can choose to serve the Lord and His kingdom.
• Parable of the Weeds – Weeds can never produce fruit. But when it comes to the gospel and following Jesus, people can change. What was once a weed can begin to bear fruit in the power of the Holy Spirit. It depends on a person’s choice, and God gives us time to choose. We should receive and respond to the word and not be useless weeds among God’s people.
• Parable of the Mustard Seed – Jesus describes the kingdom as the smallest seed. He is communicating that it begins small and does not come with fanfare and celebrity and human notoriety. Even though this is not what people want, the gospel story is about faithful, gradual growth.
• Parable of the Yeast – Yeast is not very noticeable at first in bread dough, but a small amount produces a big result. The movement of God begins small and inconspicuous, but it grows large. Jesus says that we must start and continue to be faithful in small ways for the kingdom and the gospel. But the entire story of God will grow into something beyond what we can think or imagine if we are faithful.
• Parable of the Net – The gospel captivates both good and bad people. The message comes to both. They exist in a community together and have the opportunity to change and grow. But the time comes when the good separate from the bad. God loves the bad and pursues the bad, yet he wants them to repent and change. We must choose to walk with God and be in the right relationship with Him and in service to His kingdom.
May we all glean and grow from the teachings of Jesus and be receptive to His truth even if it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. May we all ask Him for wisdom to understand the moral of the story and what He wants us to know and apply in our lives. May we all communicate Jesus and the gospel through our stories to everyone who comes into our lives.