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Sunday, December 09, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “Get It?”

“Get It?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 9, 2018 :: Matthew 13:1-23 

We’ve made it all the way to Matthew chapter 13!

We started this trek of “Following Jesus” through the Gospel of Matthew 365 days ago on December 10, 2017. But we’ve taken it kind of slow and taken a lot of breaks along the way, so that we’ve only had 33 messages so far in this series, and we’ve only made it up to the first verse of chapter 13, not quite half way. We’re picking up some steam, so I expect that sometime in 2019 we may finish the whole thing.

Chapter 13 marks a new section in the Gospel of Matthew.

Remember I said that there are 5 major blocks of teaching from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew? We’ve gone through two of them so far.

The first and arguably greatest is the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 5, 6, and 7 which we spent a lot of time on this Spring and Summer. Jesus taught about His upside-down, inside-out Kingdom.

The second major block of Jesus’ teaching was in Matthew chapter 10, often called the “Missions Discourse” or the major teaching on missions and the mission of making disciples for King Jesus through the gospel of the kingdom.

Chapter 13 contains the third major block of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. It is also about the kingdom.

But this teaching in chapter 13 is delivered primarily through parables. We could call this whole section the “Parabolic Discourse” or Jesus’ Parables of the Kingdom. That’s chapter 13.

Jesus used parables elsewhere (we saw one just last week), but here a whole bunch of them are concentrated all in one place: Parables of the Kingdom. And particularly parables about how the kingdom is coming now.

Which is in some ways secretly. Quietly. Hiddenly. Stealthily. Undercover. Progressively.

Has the Kingdom come?

Yes and No.

Yes, it has. The King has come. “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near!”

But the Kingdom has not yet come in its fullness.

In fact, it’s still coming. It’s coming right now.

This chapter is all about how that kingdom is sneaking in, showing up, taking root, growing.

How the kingdom is arriving even as we speak.

And what we can expect as it comes.

One thing you might not have expected about the Kingdom of Heaven is that many people would reject it.

You might think that everybody would love to welcome the Kingdom of God!

But that’s not what happened, is it?

The last several weeks we’ve seen how the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and many others of the Jewish people were rejecting Jesus and rejecting the Kingdom that He claimed to bring.

It started out as fairly minor opposition and then it just grew and grew and grew.

It’s reached the boiling point now where they are looking for a way to kill Him.

And they are publicly saying that Jesus is either the Prince of Demons or at least in league with him!

So last week, Jesus called them, “This Wicked Generation.”

He claimed that they had snake-hearts, that they were a part of a snake-family, and that they were going to end up in a worse condition than they had started because they would not receive King Jesus.

They were rejecting the kingdom of heaven!

And there many people who joined them.

And there were some people who were fairly undecided.

Jesus says that you are either in or out. Either with Him or against Him. But there are plenty of people who are on the outside looking in and trying to make up their minds.

In the very last few verses of chapter 12, even His mother Mary and Jesus’ brothers were briefly on the “outside.”

I think that one of the reasons the Lord gave us Matthew chapter 13 is to explain this phenomenon. How do you process this wide scale rejection of the Kingdom of Heaven and its King?

It’s in this context–Matthew says on the very same day–that Jesus begins teaching many things in parables.

“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, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed.”

Do you know what a parable is?

We learned about parables back in 2017 during Family Bible Week.

The adult class learned to say that parables are “stories with a shove.”

Parables are comparison narratives often told with familiar objects and aiming for application.

Stories with a shove.

Often Jesus’ parables end with a twist. An unexpected ending that catches the hearer off guard.

Things don’t turn out the way you expected, and the story ends up pointing the finger back at you.

I think this reflects the upside-down nature of Jesus’ kingdom. It’s not what you might expect.

Stories with a twist and stories with a shove.

Jesus was a master story-teller! And He loved using parables.

Another word for parable could be a “riddle.”

Parables often take some figuring out to understand, especially to understand how it relates to our lives.

There’s a puzzle-nature to many of the parables.

You have to chew on them for a while. Thinking about it until the riddle unlocks.

And then you–“Get It.”

I want to use those words (as a question) for the title of today’s message on verses 1 through 23.

Do you “Get it?”

A couple of days ago I told Heather what I thought was a very very funny joke.

And she just gave me this blank look.

I’m like, “Let me repeat the punch line!”

And she’s like “Oh, that was a joke? I don’t get it.”

And I’m like trying to explain the joke, and you know when you have to explain it, it probably wasn’t that funny in the first place?

And she’s like, “Yeah, let’s just drop it.”

Okay.

I think this passage is all about answering the question “Do you get it?” And that’s why it’s full of parables.

Jesus, teaching before a great crowd on from an aquatic amphitheater begins with a parable. It’s very familiar. You probably all know it.

What I want you to do right now is wipe your mind clean. And pretend that you’ve never heard this story before. Can you do that?

Pretend that you don’t know what anything in this story is or means. Can you do that?

Let me read it to you. Verses 3 through 9.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed.’ As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”

In other words, “Do you get it?”

“He who has ears, let him hear.”

“Get it?”

Now, you’re pretending that you’ve never heard this one before.

You never went to Family Bible Week, where they had little cups of soil with rocks and weeds and good stuff in there, and they checked the plants every day to see what came up.

All you know is that Jesus just told this story.

There is a farmer who is broadcast spreading his seed, as farmers in these days did.

And the seed landed on 4 different kinds of soil.

3 kinds that performed badly.

And 1 kind that performed way beyond expectation. A bumper crop in Israel would be 1 plant produced 10 or 15 more. Making 30, 60, or 100 is phenomenal!

So do you get it?

There’s kind of a riddle or puzzle kind of feel to it, isn’t there?

We don’t know what the point is yet.

We need more help.

And even if we did understand, we may not like it.

We may not receive it.

This is a parable about parables.

And the disciples pick up on that. Verse 10.

“The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’”

What do you think the answer to that is?

I might guess to make things easy for people to understand.

They are like sermon illustrations.

Like my story about that “great joke” that Heather did get.

Everybody knows that kind of experience, and Jesus used things that everybody knew.

Well, that’s part of it.

But there’s another part that you might not expect. V.11

“He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”

That’s quite a sentence!

The disciples have something that some other people do not have.

They have the “knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.”

They “get it.”

They are on the inside track.

They have entered into the mysteries and possess them.

They know the secret. The riddle is plain to them.

And specifically the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.

They “get it.”

Now, stay with me. Remember what question is answering. “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  Verse 12.

“Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Now that confuses me just about every time I read it.

But the idea is actually pretty simple.

Jesus says that He uses parables because they are the perfect genre to both reveal and conceal the kingdom.

Jesus says that He uses parables because they are the perfect kind of story to both reveal and conceal the kingdom.

I don’t think it’s actually because they are so hard to understand for some people that Jesus is hiding things that some people just can’t “get.”

I think it’s because they are like that that it’s appropriate or fitting to use them because that’s what the spiritual content of Jesus’ teaching is like for people.

Some people “get it” and some people don’t “get it.”

And that’s what it’s like with Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom, too.

Some people “get it,” and other people don’t “get it.”

Now, this is what Isaiah brings into it. Jesus quotes Isaiah chapter 6 here.

And the point he’s making by quoting Isaiah 6 is that some people don’t get the kingdom because THEY DON’T WANT TO GET THE KINGDOM.

They have rejected the kingdom.

They have rejected the King.

They would never say that. But that’s what they have done.

And here is the punishment for rejecting the kingdom: you don’t get the kingdom.

You don’t get it.

So it’s really perfect to use stories where someone might say, “I don’t get it.” to illustrate that very fact.

You with me?

What were the Pharisees saying when Jesus was saying that He was the King of Rest?

What were they saying when Jesus offered rest for their souls?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest?”

What were they saying–“La la la la la la la la. I can’t hear you! I can’t understand you! I don’t get it!”

And Jesus said, “Okay. Let me tell you a story.”

These parables were judgments for those who were rejecting King Jesus.

And yet, they were blessings for those who were receiving Him! Look at verse 16. Don’t miss verse 16.

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

How blessed you are!

Do you realize how blessed you are?

I have three points of application this morning, and here’s number one.

#1. REJOICE IF YOU ‘GET IT.’

I mean spiritually.

Rejoice if your eyes spiritually see the kingdom.

Rejoice if your spiritual ears have heard the kingdom.

Rejoice if you know and understand the kingdom of heaven in Jesus!

How blessed you are!

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

He’s talking about the Old Testament.

He’s talking about the prophets.

He’s talking about how the Old Testament predicted the kingdom, predicted the king, predicted the Messiah, predicted the Advent of Christ.

But they never saw it.

Isaiah never saw.
Jeremiah never saw.
Hosea never saw.
Malachi never saw it.

But you guys! You have seen it.

You know that His name is Jesus.

Rejoice that you “get” the kingdom because you have gotten the King.

Remember the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem?”

“The hopes and fears of all of the years are met in thee tonight.”

And the disciples have eyes to see and ears to hear.

They get it.

But the Pharisees looked at the same facts, the same Jesus, and they rejected it all.

They listened to the same parable, and they came up with a different interpretation.

Application point number two:

#2. REPENT IF YOU DON’T ‘GET IT.’

The Pharisees needed to get their fingers out of their ears.

They were in danger of the unforgivable sin–of completely rejecting the witness of the Spirit in the Person of Son–of completely rejecting Jesus.

They didn’t “get it,” because they didn’t want to.

And the punishment would be more not getting it.

And that is a warning to us today to repent you still can.

And that’s the application of Jesus’ parable of the sower.

In verse 18, He begins to explain it:

“‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”

Now stop there for a second.

Jesus tells us the meaning of the parable.

He doesn’t tell us who the sower is.

It could be Jesus Himself. I think that’s likely in this context.

It could be any gospel preacher. Anybody who shares the gospel of the kingdom with someone else.

It could even be applied to you and me as spreaders of the seed of the gospel.

It doesn’t say, so that’s probably not the point.

It does say what the seed is.

What is the seed?

Is it is the “message about (or the word of) the kingdom.”

That’s the seed.

Is the seed good or bad or mixed?

It’s all good.

Unlike my bad jokes, if you don’t get this seed, the problem is not with the seed.

The problem is with the soil.

And the soil is four different kinds of people.

Or two different major kinds of people:

Those who don’t “get it” (and there are at least three kinds of them).

And those who do “get it” (and they are the kinds people Jesus wants us to be).

The first kind of soil is the kind on the path. Where the birds ate it right up.

Jesus says that they “hear the message of the kingdom and ‘don’t get it’ and the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in” their hearts.

Don’t blame Satan for this one. He’s involved, but he’s not the main problem.

These folks are the folks from Isaiah 6. They don’t get it because they don’t want to get it. And that makes Satan so happy!

They are not just dumb, they are foolish in the Proverbial sense of the word.

A fool says in His heart, “There is no God.”

“There is no kingdom.”

“Jesus is not the Christ.”

“Jesus is not the Son of God.”

“I don’t believe. I don’t get it.”

If that’s you, I’m scared for you.

Jesus calls you to repent while you still can.

If you still can.

The second and third kind of person SEEMS like they get it, but then they show that they didn’t really get it. V.20

“The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root [remember the thin soil], he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.”

Don’t let this be you either.

I’ve seen people like this.

They say, “I like the sound of that!” when they hear the gospel.

Maybe they raise their hand or go forward at evangelistic meeting.

Maybe they begin to attend church regularly.

But then it becomes a little hard to follow Jesus, to live as a citizen in His kingdom?

And then they aren’t so sure.

When people begin to laugh at you.
When you start to get persecuted.
When your paycheck doesn’t come.
When they are trolling you on social media.
When your friends give up on you because you are getting serious about the kingdom.

Then you’re not so sure.

And before you know it, you’re no different than you were before.

This is a warning!

Jesus is asking us to check out the state of our hearts.

And make sure that we are real.

The third one is the one that we see the most in our affluent, comfortable American culture. V.22

“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

Again, at first, they seem like they are disciples of the kingdom.

But then life happens.

And stuff happens.

The weeds of worry and wealth choke the message of the kingdom.

Just making ends meet.
Just getting by.
Just making a buck.
Just making a living.
Just trying to get ahead.

And money becomes the replacement for Jesus.

Remember what Jesus said about worry and money in the Sermon on the Mount?

Go back this afternoon and read chapter 6.

Worry and greed can keep you out of kingdom of heaven.

Because in time you show that you don’t “get it.”

You can only have one master.

How do you know if you “get it?” How can you show it and prove it? V.23

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’”

#3. BEAR FRUIT TO SHOW YOU ‘GET IT.’

I almost made it “replicate.”

Rejoice, repent, replicate!

Because Jesus says that those who “get it” bear fruit and produce an abundant crop. A hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

If you “get it,” it will show in your life.

You can’t make it happen on your own.

And you can’t earn it!

But if you get it, it changes you.

From the inside out.

What does this fruit look like?

It looks like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

It looks like living out what we learned in the Sermon on the Mount. Upside-down and inside-out. The good life. The flourishing life of a disciple.

It looks like going on mission for Jesus. Taking the gospel of the kingdom to those who need it most.

It looks like resting and trusting in the King of Rest.

It looks like you “get it.”

Because your life has changed.

I’m excited that at our meeting today, we not only get to affirm a new set of officers and an operating budget for 2019. But we also get to affirm three new members whose lives have been changed by following Jesus.

They “get it,” and it shows.

And we all get to rejoice.


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