Matthew 13:31-35, 41-46
AFTER the parables of the sower and the tares, our Lord gave several shorter parables about the kingdom. Much argument has raged about the interpretation. The mustard seed and leaven, for instance, are largely held to describe the outward and inward growth of the kingdom from small beginnings to tremendous magnitude, reaching over all the world.
Others believe, however, that the mustard seed represents the rapid but abnormal growth of Christendom, with false believers like the fowls finding refuge in its branches. The leaven is held to represent evil—working in and permeating the visible church with false doctrine. Some may hold this view of the leaven in order to obviate the other alternative—of its teaching “world conversion.” But it should not be necessary to draw universal conversion from the phrase “till the whole was leavened.” For the gospel has permeated the world with the influence of its Christ, although, certainly, the world will not be converted. Nor does the meal become entirely leaven. The statement, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven” makes it hard for some to believe, however, that it would have been so worded if leaven means “false doctrine.”
The parable of the treasure is held to represent Christ, for whom we give up and suffer the loss of all things that we may win Him. Others hold that Israel is the hid treasure and that our Lord buys or redeems it with His own blood. Israel is hidden or lost in the present age, scattered throughout the world. One day the nation is to be reclaimed and restored.
The pearl is also held to typify Christ, while men seek goodly pearls. He who seeks this pearl must give up all to possess it. Again, others hold that the Church is meant, Christ being the merchantman who gave Himself for the Church that He might present it to Himself (Eph. 5:25-27). It is held that the Church, like the pearl, is formed by secretion; not mechanically but vitally, through a living one, Christ, who adds to His Church.
The dragnet again sets forth the fact that good and evil will be collected into the professing Church, to be separated at the end of the age. The truth of a final separation has been obscured in these days but there is no room in these parables for the idea that “gradually all men will be won by the gospel” and the world will be Christianized. “The morning cometh and also the night”; the good grow better, the bad worse.
Our Lord concluded by saying, “Therefore, every scribe which is instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (v. 52). All who are instructed in the Scriptures should draw forth old truths and new applications, adaptations to meet every need. What a storehouse of treasure has he who is well stocked with the bounty of the Book!