7. The gospel, 13:1-52
vi] Three parables of the kingdomSynopsis
In private, away from the crowds, Jesus has just explained the parable of the Weeds to his disciples. In the same setting Matthew records the kingdom parables of the hidden treasure, the expensive pearl and the dragnet with its interpretive comment. The passage concludes with Jesus reminding the disciples that they are now fully trained to make known the gospel.
The kingdom of God is at hand, the end of the age is upon us, blessing for "the righteous", "weeping and gnashing of teeth" for "the evil." God's reign in Christ has begun, so repent and believe.
i] Context: See 13:1-9.
ii] Structure: Three parables of the kingdom:
The parable of the hidden treasure, v44;
The parable of the expensive pearl, v45-46;
The parable of the drag net, v47-50:
"the kingdom of heaven is like the situation where ..."
when full the fish are separated, the good from the bad.
"at the end of the age ....."
the scribe and his treasure.
Although these three kingdom parables are in the form of a riddle, their message is simple enough: the kingdom of God is at hand, the end of the age is upon us, blessing for "the righteous", "weeping and gnashing of teeth" for "the evil." God's reign in Christ has begun, so repent and believe.
The introductory phrase, "the kingdom of heaven/God may be compared to the situation where .....", indicates that these three parables are kingdom parables / gospel sermons, and are not teaching parables. Kingdom parables, as opposed to teaching parables (illustrations), serve as examples of realized eschatology; they proclaim the nowness of the kingdom. Kingdom parables are nothing more than gospel presentations: "the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand (is upon us)." Although they enshrine the gospel message, they do so in the form of a riddle, so that "seeing they do not perceive", Matt.13:10-17. The purpose of the riddle relates to their original setting; the gospel presented as a riddle serves as an instrument of judgment upon a people who have rejected a clear word from God. For a crowd with deaf ears, the message is muffled. It goes without saying that preaching the gospel in riddles within a modern context is probably not applicable, although given the increasingly deaf ears of Western civilization, maybe riddles are appropriate.
The interesting feature of these three parables is their setting; Jesus has left the crowd and gone back (to his??) home with his disciples. It seems incongruous for Jesus / Matthew to present three kingdom parables to his disciples; they do not need to be evangelized. The reason is simple enough, the situation is a training exercise with the parables presented as model gospel sermons. So, what we have before us is three model gospel presentations / kingdom parables to further equip the church for mission. Whereas the previous kingdom parables were presented in the context of Jesus preaching to crowds, the context for these kingdom parables is a teaching episode with his disciples - a how to preach the gospel exercise covering the explanation of the parable of the Weeds, the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price, and the parable of the Drag Net and its explanation. If the disciples can understand how these kingdom parables serve as gospel presentations, then they will be "scribes who have been trained for the kingdom of heaven" - disciples trained for mission, cf., v51-53.
The Treasure Hidden in a Field and the Pearl of Great Price - A Good News gospel presentation: The kingdom is at hand, the long promised blessings of the covenant are ours for the asking, so it's time to sacrifice everything for a reality of eternal worth.
Most commentators interpret the parable along the following lines: "The parable of the Treasure and the Pearl concern the inestimable worth of the kingdom and imply the need for urgency and even sacrifice in entering it", Hill; "Finding the kingdom of heaven is like finding a treasure hidden in a field, for the sake of which one will sell everything", D&A. God's eternal grace and kindness is ours for the asking, so now is the day to grab the hand of the man from Galilee.
The Drag Net and its interpretation - A Bad News gospel presentation (it's important to have balance!!!): The kingdom is at hand, the day of judgment is upon us, so it's time for sinners to escape the horror of eternal loss.
In the history of interpretation, this parable has suffered from allegorical interpretations. A widely accepted interpretation is that the church represents the kingdom and that its membership is made up of true and false believers who will be separated at the last judgment, but not before; see Carson. Most commentators today are less specific, but run with much the same theme; "the wicked, in the end, will be separated from the righteous and suffer due punishment", D&A; "In the present era, the evil persons are allowed to live together with the righteous - in their midst - even within that manifestation of the kingdom known as the Church", Hagner, so also Nolland, Morris, Hill, France, .... Even Dodd, who sees in this parable the realization of the kingdom, still draws in extraneous ideas, namely, that the fishing scene images gospel proclamation in which "appeal is made to all indiscriminately, and yet in the nature of things it is selective" - true, of course, but can the parable take the weight of such an interpretation? We are on safer ground if, like its partner, the Parable of the Weeds, we hold that it proclaims the imminence of the kingdom of God. The day of judgment is upon us and the fires are stoked ready for corrupt and broken humanity, so now is the day to grab the hand of the man from Galilee.
The explanation of the parable found in v49-50 is probably down to Jesus, but Matthew may be drawing on the model explanation provided by Jesus in v37-43 to make a comment on v48 and so frame the parable within a judgment theme.
When I was a young lad my grandmother would often take me fishing on St.George's basin, south of Sydney. As we pulled in the fish she would separate the poisonous Puffer fish from the Flathead and Brim. She would carefully place the good fish into a hessian bag which hung from the side of the boat and rested in the water. As for the Puffer fish, she would belt them to a pulp with the tiller handle. "Everyone sticks a knife in them and thinks that kills them", she would say. "This is what kills them!" She didn't like Puffer fish; they stole her bait and you couldn't eat them.
I guess I should warn you that the Day of the Puffa Fish is close at hand!
The only appropriate setting for this sermonette [gospelette!!] would be the local fishing club (all anglers hate Puffa fish!), but none-the-less it does illustrate how Jesus' kingdom parables serve as models for a gospel message. Here we have the Bad News version based on the parable of the Drag Net. It is somewhat in the form of a riddle, but this may well be appropriate given that Western civilization is tending to replace Jesus with Marx these days - deaf ears deserve riddles.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 13:44
Parables of the kingdom, v44-52. i] The Parable of the Hidden Treasure, v44-46. The parables of the hidden treasure and expensive pearl both proclaim the immediacy of the kingdom of Heaven / God; the kingdom is a present reality bursting in upon us and worth everything to obtain. In the parable of the hidden treasure, some people balk at the deceitfulness involved in hiding the discovery of a treasure until its hiding place can be purchased. In Jewish law, what is found in a field belongs to the owner of the field. Jesus is not passing a comment on the morality of the situation, but is rather illustrating the immediacy of the kingdom and the worth of obtaining it. A person will go to great lengths to get the treasure.
twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" - [the kingdom] of the heavens. God's eschatological rule, a rule which is even now being realized on earth through Christ; see 3:2.
oJmoia adj. "like" - like, similar to. Predicate adjective serving as a comparative; "may be compared to the situation where ..."
qhsaurw/ (oV) dat. "treasure" - Dative complement of the adjective oJmoia / dative of the thing compared.
kekrummenw/ (kruptw) perf. pas. part. "hidden" - having been hidden. The participle is attributive limiting "treasure"; "a treasure which was hidden." The sense may just be "buried". Seeing there were no safes, what else would we do with our spare cash? Here probably "money box, treasure chest."
en + dat. "in [a field]" - Locative, expressing space.
euJrwn (euJriskw) aor. part. "when [a man] found" - [which a man] having found. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV.
ekruyen (kruptw) aor. "he hid" - covered up, hid. He covered it up rather than lifted it up which would be the normal action for claiming ownership. Finders keepers!!!!.
apo "in" - from. [and] from Expressing source / origin, but leaning toward causal; in response to his joy / out of his joy, he went off and purchased the field.
thV caraV (a) "[his] joy" - the joy [of him, goes and sells everything and buys that field]. The emphatic position of "joy" in the Greek text serves to underline this response. The joyous nature of the discovery is central to the parable, "he became very, very happy", TH.
ii] The parable of the expensive pearl, v45-46: An expert pearl merchant has come across a perfect pearl and sells everything to obtain it. In this parable, Jesus is not suggesting that entry into the kingdom of heaven can be purchased, in the sense of giving up all to gain the prize; salvation is not by works. The parable simply proclaims the immediacy of the kingdom and the worth of gaining it.
emporw/ (oV) dat. "merchant" - [again the kingdom of the heavens is like a man] a wholesale trader, traveller. Standing in apposition to anqrwpw/, "man", which takes a dative of the thing compared after oJmoia, "similar to." The word can be generalized, so "traveller", or even "collector." "Again, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to the situation where a merchant is searching for fine pearls."
zhtounti (zhtew) dat. pres. part. "looking for" - seeking. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "merchant", "a trader who was looking for ...", dative in agreement; "in search of / looking for pearls he could buy", TH. Davies & Allison see the "seeking" as the key to the parable - "he who seeks finds." Is the key to this parable found in the way it differs from its partner, the lost pearl, or is the key found in its similarity? In both, a person found something of great worth and sold all to obtain it.
kalouV adj. "fine" - good, fine [pearls]. Possibly "beautiful".
eurwn (euJriskw) aor. part. "when he found" - having found. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.
polutimon adj. "of great value" - [one] very precious [pearl]. Attributive modifier of the noun "peal".
apelqwn (apercomai) aor. part. "he went away and [sold]" - having gone away. Attendant circumstance participle, expressing action accompanying the verb "sold"; "he went and sold."
pepraken (pipraskw) perf. "sold" - Although the perfect tense is employed, its aspect is perfective / punctiliar, since the word probably didn't have an aorist form. "Sells", where the TEV employs a present sense.
panta adj. "everything" - everything [which he had and bought it]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to sell." McNeile makes the point that the Greek here underlines the fact that he sold everything he had, not just all his pearls.
iii] The Parable of the Dragnet, v47-50. a) Title and parable, v47-48. The parable of the dragnet reveals that the kingdom of heaven is like the situation where a net is dragged between two boats, catching "all kinds of fish", both good and bad, which are then sorted, with the bad thrown into the rubbish bin. With the kingdom at hand, that situation is now upon us - the day of judgment, the day of sorting.
saghnh/ (h) dat. "a net" - [again the kingdom of the heavens is like] a dragnet, casting net. Dative complement of oJmoia, as above. A very long net with floats on one edge and weights on the other, that encircles the fish and gathers them all in. Often operated from a shore line. "Again, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to the situation where a net is cast into the sea and gathers in every kind of fish which, when it is full, is sorted ...."
blhqeish/ (ballw) pas. part. dat. "that was let down" - having been cast [into the lake]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "net", dative in agreement with "net"; "A net which was thrown into", or given an active sense, "some fishermen throw their net out", TEV.
ek + gen. "[all kinds of fish]" - [and] from [it gathered every kind, sort, species]. Expressing source / origin, or probably better partitive, "some of every kind", Olmstead. Probably in the sense of fish that were good to eat and others that were not, cf. v48.
oJte "when" - [which] when. This temporal conjunction serves to introduce a temporal clause, as NIV.
eplhrwqh (plhrow) aor. pas. "it was full" - it was filled.
anabibasanteV (anabibazw) aor. part. "pulled it up" - having been pulled up, brought up [on the shore and having sat down they collected]. As with "having sat down", attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they collected"; "pulled up, sat down and collected." The prefix to the verb serves to localize the action. "Pulling up the fish onto the shore and sitting down, they sorted them."
ta kala adj. "the good fish" - the good [into]. Accusative direct object of the participle "having been pulled up." Possibly "edible", or even "salable".
aggh (oV) "baskets" - a container. Accusative direct object of the verb "to throw out." The word refers to many types of containers, even "bags".
ta sapra adj. "the bad" - [and] the rotten, worthless, unsuitable for eating [they threw out]. "Fish unsuitable for market", Morris.
b) The interpretation of the parable of the Drag Net, v49-50. Kingdom parables don't usually come with a covering explanation, but as with the weeds and the wheat, the parable of the dragnet comes with an interpretive comment. The interpretation may have been crafted by Matthew, having been drawn from Jesus' model interpretation of the parable of the weeds and the wheat, which interpretation Jesus gave to his disciples - those with eyes to see, cf. 13:34-43. None-the-less, there is no reason why Jesus wouldn't have explained this parable to his disciples. The explanation is simple enough: the kingdom of God is at hand, the day of judgment is upon us. Even now the angels are preparing to sift humanity, the righteous from the unrighteous, with the fires of hell stoked for the unrighteous. So, repent and believe.
ouJtwV "this is how [it will be]" - thus [it will be]. Here drawing a conclusion from what precedes / anaphoric.
en + dat. "at [the end]" - Temporal use of the preposition serving to introduce a temporal clause.
tou aiwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "of the age" - The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Meaning, "the end of this wicked age."
exeleusontai (exercomai) fut. "will come" - [the angels] will go out. God will send his angels.
aforiousin (aforizw) aor. "separate" - [and] they will separate, mark off by boundaries. Take out from, gather away from; taking the wicked away from the righteous.
touV ponhrouV adj. "the wicked" - The articular adjective serves as a substantive; "the wicked ones."
ek + gen. "from" - Expressing separation, "away from", but possibly source / origin, "from among."
twn dikaiwn gen. adj. "the righteous" - the just. The articular adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, partitive. The word is used both of the self-righteous and the righteous by divine grace. Here, the second is intended.
balousin (ballw) fut. "throw" - [and] they will throw [them into]. Textual variant, so either active or passive. A very physical word. "Will be driven out", NEB. "God will have his angels throw them", TH.
puroV (oV) gen. "fiery / blazing [furnace]" - [the furnace] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "furnace". A common image of the last day, reflecting the constant burning of rubbish in the Jerusalem rubbish tip outside the wall. Although we are dealing with symbolism here, the language indicates a horrific doom awaiting those without Christ. Such images probably can't be used to support a theology of everlasting damnation. Eternal annihilation is the likely end for those without Christ, although this conclusion is open to debate.
twn adontwn (ouV ontoV) gen. "[weeping and gnashing] of teeth" - [in that place there will be the weeping and gnashing] of the teeth. The genitive is usually treated as adjectival, verbal, objective.
iv] The scribe and his treasure, v51-52. Jesus questions the disciples, asking them whether they understand the hidden meaning of the kingdom parables, namely that the kingdom of heaven / God is at hand. If they have understood them then they are well trained to preach the gospel.
sunhkate (sunihmi) aor. "have you understood" - do you understand.
tauta panta "these things" - all these things. Accusative direct object of the verb "to understand." The teachings of the parables = the mystery of the coming kingdom.
autoiV dat. pro. "[Jesus asked]" - [jesus says] to them. Dative of indirect object. Variant reading, "they said to him. Yes", autw/.
"Jesus responds to the disciples' affirmation by declaring them to be scribes (teachers) discipled for the kingdom of heaven", D&A. They are well trained in the mysteries of the kingdom / gospel, so much so that they are "like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything he needs, old or new, exactly when he needs it", Peterson (adjusted). So, in the mission of the church the disciples are now equipped to communicate the gospel.
autoiV dat. pro. "[he said] to them" - Dative of indirect object.
dia touto "therefore" - because of, on account of this. Runge in Discourse Grammar in the Greek New Testament notes that this causal construction is often used to introduce an important proposition. On such occasions "therefore" is a better translation than "because of this." Possibly drawing a general conclusion from the chapter as a whole.
grammateuV "teacher" - [every] scribe. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Obviously, Jesus has in mind a teaching disciple, not a scribe who is a member of the Pharisee party.
maqhteuqeiV (maqhteuw) aor. pas. part. "who has been instructed" - having become a disciple, been trained for. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "teacher", as NIV. "Has become a learner in", NEB, adopts the active voice and so bypasses the question, "who has done the instructing?"
th/ basileia/ (a) dat. "about the kingdom [of heaven]" - to the kingdom [of the heavens]. The dative is adverbial, either reference / respect, the teacher has learnt about / with respect to the kingdom, or is locative, sphere, the teacher has submitted to, is in the sphere of the kingdom.
oikodespoth/ (hV) dat. "the owner of the house" - [is like a man] a householder. Standing in apposition to "man", dative in agreement with "man", the dative complement of oJmoioV, "similar to." "The head of the home."
ekballei (ekballw) pres. "brings out" - [who] casts out from. A strong physical word, so a bit stronger than just taking things out.
ek + gen. "of [his storeroom]" - from. Expressing source / origin; "from." Typical stylistic repetition of the prefix of ekballw, "cast out from."
kaina kai palaia "new [treasures] as well as old" - [the treasure of him] new and old. Accusative direct object of the verb "to cast out from." The word order may imply that the new is better than the old, but the sense seems more of the two being of value. The old and new is possibly the revelation in the Old Testament and the revelation in the teachings of Jesus, which teachings interpret the old. We love to allegorize don't we? See Davies & Allison, p447-8. The point is simple enough, a disciple should know the gospel in and out, back to front, and be able to communicate it with ease.