The Kingdom of God is like…
Five Parables from Matthew’s Gospel (1)
[Mt. 13: 34-52]
Imagine you are attending a Bible study led by the Evangelist Matthew himself. It is about 85 A.D. Your classmates are Jewish Christian converts from Palestine and Syria. Since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple 15 years earlier, there have been tensions and tumult among sects and parties about the way forward for Zion without its central symbol. Some, like the Pharisees, are calling for closer adherence to the Torah, or Law of Moses. But Matthew’s newly fledged followers look to Jesus as the New Moses and definitive word of God.
Meanwhile, the massive upheavals and the resultant suffering have sparked an increased interest in whether the present age with all its evils would soon be replaced with the ‘age to come.’ How would such an age be ushered in? What will be the fate of the ‘righteous,’ and the ‘doers of inequity’?
These issues are furiously debated in the textbook for our class, the Gospel according to Matthew, as Jesus confronts his opponents over these many religious controversies. What is particular interest to us here is the impact on our understanding of the seven parables Jesus presents in Chapter 13, Matthew.
Matthew reports the parables of the Sower in the Field and the mustard seed, both of which we found in Chapter 4 of the Gospel of Mark. There are a few significant changes in Matthew’s account of the sower, and you may want to challenge yourself by comparing the two accounts. This exercise will help you to understand that the Gospel writers were not only faithful stewards of the oral teachings of the Church about Jesus. They were also theologians in their own right, shaping their presentations to present the aspects of Jesus’s ministry of greatest significance to their communities, as we have just seen in the case of Matthew.
In our next reflection, we will examine the other five parables in Chapter 13, beginning with the Weeds among the Wheat, which offers important lessons about our understanding the proper way to discern good and evil.