The Secrets of the Kingdom, Part 1 (Matthew 13:10-23)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | August 10, 2014


Text:

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 “For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 “And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15 For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes Lest they should see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I should heal them.’ 16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 “For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matt. 13:10-23)

Notes:

  • The secrets of the kingdom are another term for “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that the rule and reign of God has arrived on planet earth in the person of Jesus.”
  • It’s what Jesus has been proclaiming about himself since he began to say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14-15)
  • Please stand and listen as I read Matthew 13:10-23.

 Jesus here deals with the problems of both unbelief and unfaithfulness.

  • Today, we’ll deal with point 1 in your outline – unbelief.
  • And next time we’ll deal with point 2 – unfaithfulness
  • Now back to the problem of unbelief.
  • In the world, there are believers and unbelievers.
  • The fact is, not all people are the same.
  • And that’s the way God planned it.
  • Jesus here explains that’s why he teaches in parables.
  • Isaiah foretold that we should expect it to be this way.
  • Even in his day, Isaiah was told to expect that his words would fall on deaf ears, unseeing eyes and unbelieving hearts.
  • But the good news is that some do see and hear and understand.
  • Yet, And even disciples struggle with unbelief at times.
  • So Jesus says, in parable form, whether one receives the Word of God or not, is a matter of the condition of one’s heart.
  • The heart is like soil.
  • For a seed to grow and become fruitful, it must be planted in the right kind of soil.

Theme: Though people struggle with unbelief, we can courageously share the secrets of the kingdom with others since not all people are the same.

  • As I said, a major problem of the human condition is unbelief:
  • Some people don’t receive the seed of the gospel into the soil of their hearts.
  • To explain this, Jesus tells the disciples in so many words, that…
  1. Not all people are the same.
  • The Secrets of the Kingdom are revealed to some but not to others.
  • Jesus has just taught the parable of the sower in Mat. 10:3-9, so the disciples ask him in v. 10,
  • “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
  • And he replies, 11 “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
  • Not all people are the same.
  • God has granted to some to know the secrets of the KOH, but to others it has not been granted.
  • In God’s sovereign plan, some will understand and respond positively to the message of the gospel, and others will not understand and will respond negatively to the proclamation of the gospel.
  • And there is a spiritual principle here.
  • Those who have been given more will receive more.
  • Those who have been given less will lose even what they have.
  • 12 “For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
  • The point is that all have been given the blessings of this life. “God sends his rain on the just and the unjust.”
  • But to some, in spite of our utter depravity,
    • out of the loving grace and mercy of God,
    • for his glory and praise,
    • through the life, death and resurrection of his son Jesus,
    • God has granted to some the blessing not only of earthly life, but also the blessings of eternal life.
  • Once one has entered into the blessings of the kingdom, those blessings grow and multiply.
  • But if one refuses the opportunity to enter into the kingdom by repentance and faith,
    • even the earthly blessings s/he now enjoys will be lost for eternity.
  • So the point of Jesus’ message to the disciples is that…
  • The disciples are privileged to know the secrets of the kingdom. This is the sovereign plan of God.
  • The truth about the KOH, is “secret,” that is, it is revealed only to those “to whom it is has been given.”
  • It is a privilege, a blessing, in fact, a double blessing for NT believers.
  • All believers are blessed above those “to whom it has not been given.”
  • 16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.”
  • And NT believers are blessed above the prophets and righteous men of the old covenant who desired to see and hear what they are now hearing.
  • 17 “For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
  • So above all, we can be thankful for these doubly abundant, undeserved blessings.
  • We can see and hear and understand and respond in faith and trust and hope to the good news of the gospel of Christ.
  • “It has been granted” to us as it was to his first disciples.
  • And as NT believers, we can see and hear and understand more clearly than those who lived before X.
  • This is the sovereign plan of God for which we can be thankful.
  • Second,

1.2. This is the purpose of God, illustrated by Jesus’ teaching in parables.

  • Jesus goes on to explain why he uses parables.
  • 13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
  • 14 “And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
  • God’s sovereign plan not to save some may seem harsh at one level.
  • However, its harshness is modified in several ways.
  • One the one hand, we are to view God’s willingness to save some as a blessing.
  • Because man was given a will that could sin, and he freely chose to do so in spite of God’s provision for all his needs in the Garden of Eden, none deserve life, let alone eternal life.
  • “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Eph 2:8-9)
  • On another hand, the other side of the coin of God’s sovereignty is man’s responsibility.
  • According to Scripture, not only does God harden men’s hearts, men harden their own hearts, refuse to turn to God and receive the salvation he offers.
  • 15 For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes Lest they should see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I should heal them.’
  • On another hand, the pessimism of Isaiah in which none respond and the parable in which only one-fourth respond is offset by the fact that eventually huge growth will occur in the kingdom of God.
  • That’s the message of the tiny mustard seed which grows large enough for birds to nest in and the small amount of leaven that affects the whole lump of dough.
  • And one another hand, the Scriptures tell us that it is possible for an unbeliever to become a believer.
  • That’s why Jesus has been proclaiming the message of the kingdom until now – that men might turn from their sin to faith in him and receive the eternal life he offers.
  • That’s why parables are an appropriate means of proclamation, because people are so different and respond so differently to the gospel.
  • They challenge the hearer.
  • If he hears with openness and the right attitude, he will understand the truth.
  • But if he resists and dismisses it as a mere story, he will not understand.

In other words, third, in the metaphor of the parable…

    1.3. The condition of the soil determines why some seeds bear fruit and some do not.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower.

19a “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.

  • It’s the condition of the soil of our hearts that determines whether or not we receive God’s word by faith.
  • First is the…

          1.3.1. Hard soil

19b This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

  • The soil beside the road is hard and compacted much like the road itself because people and animals and cars don’t stay on the road.
  • We run off the side of the road.
  • Some people are like this dry and cracked dirt clod taken from beside Hufford Road outside our building.
  • The seed of the word can’t penetrate the hardness of their heart, and therefore can’t germinate and grow.
  • Thus, there is no understanding.
  • Then, there’s the…

          1.3.2. Rocky soil (rocks)

20 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy;

21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

  • Rocky soil (show rocks) may contain some moisture so seeds may spring up there temporarily.
  • But when the sun dries them out, the plant withers and dies because there is no root.
  • The initial enthusiasm is based on eternal circumstances, not inner conviction.
  • They have no root “in themselves.”
  • Their enthusiasm will fade when external stimuli take it away.
  • The scorching sun represents the fact that following Jesus is not always fun.
  • There is no guarantee against suffering.
  • Then there’s the…

         1.3.3. Thorny soil (thistles)

22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

  • When thistles (show thistle) grow up in the garden they choke out the life of the other plants.
  • This is illustrated by the young man who turned his back on Jesus’ offer because of his many possessions.
  • A person’s concern with possessions betrays his focus on the world instead of the KOG.
  • The heart is choked by money and what it can buy.
  • There’s no understanding.

Then finally, there’s the…

          1.3.4. Good soil (mulch)

23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

  • The good soil of the heart is capable of bearing a crop, bearing fruit.
  • It’s the heart composed of fertile topsoil, of mulch and compost.
  • It understands. But it’s not just intellectual assent to the gospel, it’s a lifestyle commitment in spite of difficulties.

So, though some seeds do not bear fruit, fourth, some do…

1.4. Unbelievers still may become believers because the secret is meant to be communicated (human responsibility).

  • This was the purpose of Jesus’ preaching of the coming kingdom, that men might repent.
  • This is the purpose of the disciples preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and of our preaching.
  • That men and women and children might return to the Lord, and receive the gift of salvation he offers.
  • Fifth,

1.5 Therefore take courage, the fault lies in the soil of the heart, not the message.

  • So when you are sharing the gospel, remember that some will respond negatively, but some will also respond positively.
  • We can’t know what kind of soil is in a person’s heart.
  • If there’s no response or only a temporary response, the fault is not in the gospel, but in the heart of the hearer.
  • So take courage, persist, don’t give up.
  • Keep broadcasting the seed of the gospel because God will cause some to grow and flourish.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s