Secrets of the kingdom of heaven: They are hidden in the parables
Each parable acts like a pointer towards the kingdom of heaven and imparts a moral related to the kingdom.
By K. L. Joseph
Nowhere in the Gospels or in the Epistles the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been revealed. However the parables Jesus narrated reflect those secrets as morals or spiritual revelations.
Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as the great teacher, who has the authority to interpret the Law of God and to preach about the Kingdom of Heaven. Chapter 13 contains various parables about the Kingdom of heaven. This Chapter has the parables of the sower, the weeds, the mustard seed, the yeast, the hidden treasure, the pearl and of the net. Each parable acts like a pointer towards the kingdom of heaven and imparts a moral related to the kingdom. Some parables used by Jesus give explanations about its meaning as may be seen from the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds. These two parables have different messages.
Through the first parable, Jesus refers to a man who sets out to sow the seeds in his field. While scattering the seeds, some of it fell along the path which the birds came and ate it up. Those who hear the message of the Kingdom of God but do not understand its meaning are like the seeds that fell along the path. Here the birds which came to eat it up refer to the evil one. The Evil one, being the enemy of God and men snatched away the message of God that was sown in them. The seeds that fell on the rocky ground denote those people who hear the message of God but do not take it seriously into their heart. Hence these people deprive themselves of the grace of God and meet with their own downfall. The seeds that fell among the thorn bushes when scattered, signify those people who, although showed willingness to receive the message of God, failed to obey it. They having no insight to perceive God’s glory severed from faith and distanced from Him on being confronted with temporary worries and hardships that befall on everybody’s life.
The seeds that fell on good soil denote those people who receive the message of God and assimilate it viz. they understand and absorb the words of God into their system and commit to live a good life by worshipping God and staying away from sins. Such people always stand to gain the blessings and the benefits from God. Here the yield shown in the parable viz. hundred fold, sixty fold or thirty fold does not pertain to the corn produced; but refer to the varying measure of the heavenly reward such good people receive from God for honouring him and worshipping him.
The second parable relates to the Parable of the weeds. In this parable, the field where the weeds were sighted among the wheat plants represents the world. The person who sowed the good seeds is the Son of Man and the plants grown out of the good seeds represent God’s people. The weeds seen among the plants are the people belonging to the evil one. The enemy who sowed the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest season means the end of the age and the harvest workers are the Angels of God, who were sent down by God to earth to take the harvest. The weeds that were gathered up and tied into bundle for burning in the fire are the people who sinned, did evil things in their life time thus missing their chances to claim the Kingdom of God on the day of the Final Judgement (Matt. 25. 31-46). The fire represents the hell of eternal punishment, where such people belonging to the devil will be sent. However, the grains of wheat which were found good and segregated from the weeds and taken to be put it in the barn are the people who qualified for the eternal life. The ‘barn’ stands for the house of God.
When the disciples asked Jesus about the reason for teaching the people through parables, Jesus answered them (Matt. 13.11-15): “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him even the little he has. The reason why I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. This Jesus said in order to make what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied come true:
“This people will listen and listen but not understand;
they will look and look, but not see,
because their minds are dull,
and they have stopped up their ears
and have closed their eyes,
Otherwise, their eyes would see,
the ears would hear,
their minds would understand,
and they would turn to me , says God,
and I would heal them “.
Though the disciples are said to have received the knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven, only Simon Peter could answer that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of the living God (Matt. 16.16). The remaining eleven disciples failed to know that Jesus is the Son of the living God, although they remained in Jesus’ discipleship like Simon Peter and had witnessed countless miracles performed by him from time to time, including the miracle of the dead being brought back to life. So the prophecy of Isaiah seems to apply to the disciples also. Otherwise, the remaining eleven disciples would have perceived the identity of Jesus as the Son of the living God. This means, their minds too remained dull; their ears deaf; and their eyes closed as Isaiah had prophesied. Otherwise they would have come to know who Jesus was. This condition can also be termed as spiritual deafness and blindness.
In view of what Jesus said to the Pharisees (Luke 17.21), we need not sail the seas and cross the countries to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, because the Kingdom of God is within each of us (Luke 17.21). This plain disclosure was made by Jesus to the Pharisees when the latter wanted to know, when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus said: “The Kingdom of God does not come in such a way as to be seen. No one will say, ‘Look, here it is! or ‘There it is’ ; because the kingdom of God is within you”. Even a small philanthropic gesture on the part of a person to the poor and hungry will pave his way to the Kingdom of God. This truth is evident in the last judgement (Matthew 25: 31 – 40):
When the Son of Man comes as King and will say to the people on his right, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the World. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me ; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.’ When the righteous ask him in surprise when they saw him in this way, then he will tell them: ‘I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!’
Thus the righteous on the right side of the Son of Man become entitled for the Kingdom of God .The refusal on the part of the people on the left to help their brethren in their hardships and miseries actually meant their own refusal to help God. This is the secret of the Kingdom of God that God is present in the suffering and despised people. The people on the left lost the Kingdom of God, because they failed to know this secret as they thought God was present only in the temple. The parables reflect those secrets in various ways.
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