Unlearning to Learn

Today’s Reading: Matthew 13

The concept of unlearning everything in order to learn new or better things has been around for a long time.  The idea being that instead of continuing to build on a faulty foundation, one must tear down the building and correct the foundation first, so that the building can be solid, proper, lasting, and a thing of beauty.  I’ve heard people use it together with the catch phrase “stinking thinking”.  A good example would be like someone who was raised with the idea that it is okay to class people according to your own personal prejudice.  Or a brilliant child who has been told they were stupid their entire lives.  Before the one can look at another without ill thought, or before the child can understand the limitation placed on them was not real, they each share a need to unlearn in order to learn.

You might be wondering what that has to do with Matthew 13.  I will tell you, as this is a culminating experience I have had over this past week.  I sat down to study Matthew 13  to post about it within WTNT, as it was “next in line” to my previous postings.  I intended on getting some sweet nugget of truth that I could build a message around.  But the more I dug, the more I began to see things I wasn’t quite prepared to see.  On one hand it was incredibly fun and exciting!  In the end I felt devastated to understand just how little of scripture I really had been able to comprehend until now, and how faulty was my learned perception.  So for me, this past week plus has been a leveling and a rebuilding.

If we are “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), then we’re not just reading scripture, but studying it!  We are looking at words, the language they were written, and their meaning.  We are looking at repetitive text and phrases as well as placement.  We are reading scripture within context, trying to understand the setting and the audience, the history,  and culture.  We’re looking for ties to teachings in other parts of scripture.  We’re discovering how literal scripture really is, how hard one can press it and it continues to stand, and how fun it is to discover not just the style of each individual contributor, but the style of the Writer Himself, the Holy Spirit!  Why all that?  Because it is incredibly fascinating how you can zoom in and in and in, to the “nth” degree, and still discover one profound message after another after another!

I need to give credit where credit is due.  The first half of the week was spent putting together my own points, thoughts, and outline.  As I customarily do, in addition to the scripture I often look to devotionals, books, authors, commentaries and clips of sermons from my favorite pastors and teachers, and so on.  That is how I tripped across a YouTube recording of Matthew 13 by Chuck Missler.  If you are truly interested in doing a study on Matthew 13, I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Things to keep in mind (in other words, HINTS):

  • The audience at this point in history = The Jews
  • From this point forward in Matthew, whenever Jesus is teaching to crowds, it is in the form of parables.
  • 7 parables presented
  • Only 2 of the parables are explained
  • Each parable has a connection to the others
  • All except one begins with the phrase “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”
  • The Sower = The Son of Man (Jesus)
  • The seed is the Word
  • Reapers of the harvest are Angels
  • The bad is always taken out from the good, leaving the good behind
  • The field is the world.  This is consistent throughout all the parables that mention it.
  • Birds, in many places throughout scripture, represent something bad

Interesting observations about some of the parables:

  • Vs. 34 & 35: ‘All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. ‘ (emphasis mine)
  • Keep in mind that “things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” includes things that were not revealed to prophets or anyone else in times past (or the old testament).  So what things is Jesus about to reveal within these parables?  A better question might be, where else in scripture do we see this idea of things hidden until that present time?
  • ‘How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: ‘ Ephesians 3:4-6 (emphasis mine).
  • What does this tell us?  That these parables, although Jesus is speaking them to a Jewish audience at the time, are written about the Church, not about the Jews.  No wonder it was hard for them to understand!
  • The parable of the tares and the wheat (vs. 24-30).  Some translations of the bible use the word weed instead of tare, but I believe this is not accurate.  A tare is a real seed that is commonly found in the Israel/Palestine area, and looks just like wheat when it grows, but as it matures, reveals itself in two ways: 1. It grows taller; 2. The head turns black.  In fact, the head is poisonous.  If you were to mix it into the meal and make bread with it, it would make you sick.
  • The parable of the Leaven (vs 33). Leaven is always in Jewish culture presented as sin or bad, because it puffs up like pride.  Notice, too, that the leaven is hidden into 3 pecks (or measures) of meal.  Where else do we see a reference made to 3 measures of meal?  “And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. ‘ Genesis 18:6.  This later became known as “The Fellowship Offering”.  So the idea of hiding leaven in the Fellowship Offering would not have been seen as a good thing.
  • The parable of the mustard seed… (vs. 31) Did you know that a mustard seed does not typically grow into a tree, but is usually instead only about 3 to 4 feet tall at the most?  Also remember what I said about birds…
  • The parable of the Hidden Treasure (vs. 44). Can you purchase Jesus?  Of course not!  So who is it that does the purchasing?  Jesus Himself does the purchasing !  And the field?  Remember that is the world.  And the treasure?  That’s us!
  • The parable of the Pearl of Great Price (vs. 45).  A Jew in Jesus day would not have considered a pearl as anything of value.  Although they knew Gentiles did and often used it as a means of trade, for them personally, oysters were not kosher and so therefore pearls were not generally considered a treasure. Pearls are made from a living organism as a response to an irritation.  The Church is also a living organism, and also grows as a result of irritation, or persecution.

The SEVENS Challenge You might have been wondering why I chose the number 7 as a banner to this blog!  Chuck Missler points out some particularly fascinating things in his Matthew 13 sermon about this chapter in comparison to Revelation 2 & 3 as well as the letters that Paul wrote to the churches.  If you care to see it, they tie into one another!  The challenge he left us all with was to discover for ourselves how the 7 parables tied into the 7 churches, although he did note one of them.  Also note that this just barely scratches the surface of all the other “sevens” found throughout scripture!

  • 7 parables in Matthew 13
  • 7 churches in Revelation, representing the 7 lampstands
  • 7 churches that Paul wrote letters to included in the New Testament
Revelation Letters Paul’s Letters Matthew 13 Parables
Ehpesus Ephesians
Smyrna Philippians
Pergymus Corinth
Thyatyre Galatians The Leaven
Sardis Romans
Philadelphia Thesalonians
Laodecia Colassians

Thank you for reading through this all the way.  I don’t typically like to make these blogs this long in length, so I do appreciate that you took the time to read through it.  I pray this has been a blessing and a challenge for you as it was for me.

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