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The Literary Structure of the Kingdom Parables

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Tamarajo is an avid Bible Studier who loves nothing more than to seek out the treasures in God's Word and share them with others.

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Introduction

In Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus teaches a series of eight parables, which are known as the "Kingdom Parables." After reading through them, I have to admit that I couldn't see their unified theme and could only grasp an extremely superficial understanding of their possible meaning. I was a bit relieved to discover that many expert commenters, apparently, had similar struggles, evidenced by the many and varied interpretations of them.

This article will study this portion of Scripture in terms of its literary structure, which will lead to a more unified approach to understanding them.

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Let's Unroll the Scroll

There is more than meets the eye than in just a casual reading of the Bible. A more intense, Holy Spirit assisted seeking will reveal that there are infinite revelations tightly packed and miraculously rolled up into God's word. It is like a strand of DNA containing volumes of information in its unseen to the unaided eye contents. The spiral rolled DNA strand is actually referred to by scientists as the "book of life."

. . . the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things . . .

— John 14:26

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for revelation is "galah," meaning "to uncover" or "expose." It is rooted in the word "galal," which includes the idea of opening through unrolling.

The biblical text was once written on scrolls, rooted in these same Hebrew words, and offers us a visual of something hidden or unrolled and revealed.

The Parables Concealed and Revealed

The Parables of Jesus were surprisingly used for both purposes of concealing and revealing.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

— Matthew 13:10-11

We might wonder why this information was exclusive to His followers. But Jesus makes it clear that the problem is that the larger crowd does not want to hear or change, expressed as "turn" in the following verse. They have, therefore, dulled their ears and closed their eyes.

Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.

— Matthew 13:13-15

Mark uses the word forgiven in contrast with healing in the Matthew account.

Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.

— Mark 4:12

Healing and forgiveness are the same to Jesus, as was displayed in the healing of the paralytic man brought to Him by his four friends through the roof of someone's house. The religious leaders criticize Jesus for declaring the man forgiven rather than healed. Jesus' reply to them was that there was no difference between healing and forgiveness, as was revealed in the following questions.

“Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?

— Mark 2:8-9

Notice that this explanation begins at the 13th verse of the 13th chapter. In Biblical numerics, the number 13 indicates a rebellion. E.W. Bullinger, who studied numbers exhaustively, in Scripture observes the following;

"every occurrence of the number thirteen, and likewise of every multiple of it, stamps that with which it stands in connection with rebellion, apostasy, defection, corruption, disintegration, revolution, or some kindred idea."

The first occurrence of the number 13 occurs when Lot is taken captive.

Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.

— Genesis 14:4

A side note about numbers in the Bible; there are no superstitious meanings attached to the numeric revelations. They are simply another way God has chosen to make His Word consistent in theme and pattern.

Back to the above quote by Jesus from the Old Testament book of Isaiah chapter six, about their closed eyes and ears—in the previous chapters up to chapter six, the Lord is confronting His rebellious people. They will not listen to Him and change the way that they are living. Rebellion prevents us from truly hearing and understanding the truth of God. Hearing and doing are the same in God's book.

Idolatry and Adultery

There are a couple of other places in Scripture that deafness and blindness are mentioned and are pointing to adultery with competing idols.

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them.

— Psalm 115

The blindness and deafness are not something God precipitates. It is a rebellious decision on man's part to turn away to something else.

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.

— Proverbs 28:9

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Light Reveals

No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lamp stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.

— Luke 8:16-18

The last sentence in this portion of Scripture is much like our modern saying, "if you don't use it, you will lose it."

In Luke, the hidden light is mentioned right after the Parable of the Sower, having to do with how hearing truth penetrates a heart and the things that might prevent that. In Matthew's account, the hidden light is mentioned just after the Beatitudes, which showcases sincere believers' behaviors and obedience. If we combine the two accounts, it is evident that hearing and obeying are represented in both.

Jesus connects this idea of light and reveals the motives of a heart, as it relates to both hearing and obeying, in a conversation with Nicodemus.

. . . this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

— John 3:19-20

Paul instructs and warns Timothy to resist the temptation to preach a people-pleasing message that will not shed any light on the problem nor challenge them to do anything but hear something interesting or new. Hearing without obedience is not hearing at all.

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

— II Timothy 4:2-4

Paul also writes similarly to the Ephesians.

have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

— Ephesians 5:11-17

The Parables were concealed to those who rebelliously didn't want to know them or the God who taught them. But they were revealed to those who would humbly follow and obey Him.

The Chiastic Structure of the Parables

The arrangement of these parables is in, what is known as a chiasm, where the most important theme is in the middle of the text, and it is surrounded by related parallel information on both sides that further detail the main point.

Kenneth E. Bailey, a Bible scholar, has made many fascinating chiastic discoveries in the Bible. He suggests that we view chiasms like a sandwich. The main idea is like the meat in the middle. And The outer two parallel surrounding details of the section would be the two slices of bread.

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Optic Chiasm

Our vision is structured in this very same way and is called "optic chiasm." We take in visual information from both left and right eyes, which follow parallel paths to our brain's center, where it meets in the middle. If we were blind in one eye, our depth perception would be significantly altered and limited, and so it is with the Word of God. To see and understand the more in-depth lessons, it is valuable to know how to recognize and read these structures.

The Bible isn't the only piece of literature that uses this literary technique, but it is one that is largely unfamiliar to most of us, and not being aware of it can sometimes make the read a bit disconnected, random, and repetitive.

The table below shows what this looks like based on Matthew 13, as it concerns these particular parables. Much of the information in this table is borrowed from Kenneth E Bailey. My graph differs slightly, not in content but its arrangement. Some additional insights are added from a commentary on this topic by David Wenham, a British Theologian.

Matthew Chapter 13: The Chiastic Arrangement of the Kingdom Parables

A ) Parable of the Sower - Farmer - Field (v. 1-9)

 

 

 

 

 

B) Question by the disciples - Answer by Jesus (v. 10-17)

 

 

 

 

 

C) Interpretation of the Parable of the Sower (v. 19-23)

 

 

(first four addressed to the crowds - those who were outside)

 

D)

1. Tares-Wheat - "Another parable He put forth to them" (v. 24-30)

 

 

 

 

2. Mustard Seed "Another parable He put forth to them" (v. 31-32)

 

 

 

 

3. Leaven "Another parable He spoke to them" (v.33)

 

 

 

 

 

E.) Central Axis - Main PartFulfillment of Prophecy - Interpretation of the Wheat and Tares (v.34-43)

 

 

 

3. Hidden Treasure - "Again the kingdom of heaven is like" (v. 44)

 

 

 

 

2. Pearl of Great Price - "Again the kingdom of heaven is like" (v. 45-46)

 

(Second four addressed to the disciples or inner circle)

 

D)

1. Separation of Fish - "Again the kingdom of heaven is like" (v. 47-48)

 

 

 

C) Interpretation of the Fish (v. 49-50)

 

 

 

B) Question by Jesus - Answer by the disciples (v. 51)

 

 

 

A) The Householder - Merchant - Commerce (v. 52)

 

 

 

 

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The Bullseye

The text arrangement resembles an arrow aimed at a target. "E" is the tip of the arrow aimed at the bullseye of the topic.

That is what is fascinating about these structures. The Hebrew word Torah, meaning instruction, is also related to the term for teaching and is rooted in an archery term that comes with the idea of an arrow hitting the bullseye. That is what the entirety of scripture is trying to do.

Missing the bullseye might not seem like a big deal. But, it is detrimental if, from a life perspective, we considered that the slightest error from the intended target would send the trajectory of our lives in a direction that separates us eternally from God altogether.

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The Audience of the Parables

The first four parables address those who are "outside" or not in close following with Jesus, according to the book of Mark.

To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables.

— Mark 4:11

The second set of four parables addresses His followers, who were "inside" is the inner circle of fellowship. We will discuss these contrasts and comparisons as we go along.

The introduction to the parables is significant and relative to this.

On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

— Matthew 13:1-2

Some scholars have noted that the phrase "Jesus went out of the house" is about leaving the Pharisees and Sadducees and their personally developed religious system. He, instead, went to the highways and bi-ways as cued by their rejection. The previous chapter is consistent with this idea in that it contains mostly the contentions between Jesus and those who opposed Him. From this point on, Jesus says nothing to them apart from a parable.

As it concerned the religious leaders, this may have revealed their heart's intentions not necessarily to seek and know the truth, but to oppose that which threatened their status quo.

"By the sea" is significant as well, in that the sea many times represents the masses of people.

Woe to the multitude of many people
Who make a noise like the roar of the seas,
And to the rushing of nations
That make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!

— Isaiah 17:12

This imagery continues into the New Testament.

“The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

— Revelation 17:15

Taken all together, this shows us that Jesus left the house of the religious order of the day and was going out to address the multitudes.

This scene is also reminiscent, to some extent, of another parable Jesus told, where a certain man hosts a great supper to which most of his invites turn up their noses. They each had something more important to do. The master of the house is offended and tells his servant to invite guests more interested in attending.

Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.

— Luke 14:22-24

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A Fly in the Ointment

As it refers to the chart, it is observed that in each of the first set of parables addressed to the "outside," before the central axis, there is something included that isn't good.

  • The parable of the sower includes rocks and thorns.
  • The parable of the wheat includes the Tares.
  • The parable of the mustard seed includes the birds that roost in its branches.
  • The parable of the woman who hid three measures of meal includes leaven.

This element is not included in the second set of Parables that follow after the central axis addressed to those who closely follow Jesus.

Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?

— Luke 8:9

In the next section, we will begin comparing and contrasting each side of Matthew's presentation of these parables. We will be using all three accounts of the parable of the soil given in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 that should provide us with an all-around view.

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A Sower and Soil

Let's begin by comparing the two "A's" from the literary chart above. The "A's" include the parable of the sower and the parable of the householder. The first begins with

Behold, a sower went out to sow.

— Matthew 13:3

The seed is revealed as the Word of God.

The seed is the word of God.

— Mark 4:11

The sower, being Jesus, is not explicitly noted with this particular parable, but He is later identified as such in the parable of the wheat.

He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.

— Matthew 13:37

This motif is evidenced and illustrated throughout the Gospels through the ideas of preaching and teaching in the following.

Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

— Matthew 4:17,23

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom.

— Matthew 9:35

. . . when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.

— Matthew 11:1

The Sower is the Messiah

Hidden within the parable of the soils is the knowledge that Jesus the Sower is, in fact, the Messiah.

In his series "Prophecy In The Field," Brad Scott observes that the fourth soil is the only one that produces. This detail reveals a previously hidden meaning in terms of the amounts produced by the fourth soil.

". . . other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty"

— Matthew 13:8

Brad connects this statement with the four patriarchs and three chosen sons. Beginning with Abraham, he had a chosen son at one hundred. Isaac had a chosen son at sixty. Jacob is not included in the numbers because he is the only one who is not a chosen son recalling that Esau was Isaac's favorite. Lastly, follows Joseph, a chosen son who began his ministry and service at thirty, just as Jesus the Messiah did.

The number three concerns spiritual realities represented, in this case, by three chosen sons. "Jesus Christ," God's only chosen Son, was anointed with God's Holy Spirit and is the Messiah.

There were four patriarchs in total and could, therefore, summarize that from four (number of created things) physical men would come through the seed of Abraham. Through faith in Him, we can be saved and produce a harvest of the souls of men. The parable proposes that faith in Abraham's promised seed that is the Lord Jesus Christ the Messiah is the secret of the good soil.

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A Householder and Treasure Chest

The second "A" is parallel to the sower. However, instead of a sower of seed, the main character is a householder or master of the house. Again like the sower, this parable discusses the word of God and how it gets distributed. Only this time, the message concerns His faithful followers.

. . . every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.

—Matthew 13:52

A "scribe," according to "Blue Letter Bible," is a skilled examiner, teacher, and interpreter of sacred writings. Gesenius furthers this definition.

"a teacher so instructed that from his learning and ability to teach, advantage may redound (contribute greatly) to the Kingdom of Heaven, and many interpret, make a disciple unto the Kingdom of Heaven."

Jesus is the householder, and his disciples are the scribes who have thoughtfully studied and accurately received His message and Word.

In this parable, the Word of God is described as the "old and new" brought forth from a treasure chest. And it represents the treasured truth that has been stored in the heart of a believer who cherishes it.

My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

— Proverbs 2:1-6

In the first parable, God's seed/Word is cast indiscriminately across a wide variety of soil types. In this last parable, it is carefully and skillfully brought out of a heart that treasures it.

The "old and new" in the last is a beautiful picture of the usefulness of the entirety of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

— II Timothy 3:16

The Two Questions

Moving in towards the center of the chart above, the next two parallels concern two sets of questions. When comparing the two "B's, it is an interesting cross-over type of chiasm that occurs, much like it does in our vision system, as was discussed before. This crossing over gives us the most balanced perspective of the teaching.

The first "B" of the parallel questions is a question asked by the disciples and answered by Jesus.

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?

— Matthew 13:10

His answer forms a chiasm as well.

A) I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

B) And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:

C) ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,

D) And seeing you will see and not perceive;

E) For the hearts of this people have grown dull.

F) Their ears are hard of hearing,

G) And their eyes they have closed,
G) Lest they should see with their eyes

F) and hear with their ears,

E) Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn So that I should heal/forgive them.

D) But blessed are your eyes for they see,

C) and your ears for they hear;

B) for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men

A) desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

— Matthew 13:10-17

I will not compare the common themes in each parallel, as not to rabbit trail too far from the larger structure of this section, but they are very obvious and are like repetitive echoes in their declarations, and worth a look. The central axis explains that they have closed their eyes because they did not want to see.

The Second "B" of the question parallels; Jesus asks the question, and this time the disciples answer.

Jesus said to them,“Have you understood all these things?”

They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

— Matthew 13:51

Jesus is at the center of these questions. At this juncture, one must decide if they want to hear the truth and accept the Messiah and His Lordship.

Left image by James Tissot. Right image By Andrey Mironov - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29917801

Left image by James Tissot. Right image By Andrey Mironov - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29917801

The Interpretations

It makes so much sense that the next two events, moving in toward the center and represented by "C's," have to do with interpretations that were given exclusively to His faithful followers. These are they who have unashamedly sought to know and understand the truth sincerely and were willing to turn to Him as the Messiah who heals and saves from sin.

The next two parallel sections contain three parables each, numbered 1,2,3 and 3,2,1. These can be viewed as smaller chiasms within the larger one.

The two outer interpretations concerning the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Dragnet both have to do with gathering the souls of men. In the exact middle of this whole section of the text, the center interpretation is the interpretation of the parable of the wheat and the tares that include a messianic fulfillment of prophecy, revealing Jesus as the Messiah.

. . . that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

“I will open My mouth in parables;
I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.

— Matthew 13:35

The first and middle interpretations are connected in the sense of agricultural themes (soil and seed - Wheat and Tares) both concern sown seed.

On this occasion, Jesus specifically reveals who the sower is in both of these parables.

He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.

— Matthew 13:38

Another sower gets revealed in the parable of the wheat and the tares.

. . . but the tares are the sons of the wicked one The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.

— Matthew 13:39

The third and last interpretation of the separation of good and bad fish in the "Dragnet" is very similar in terms of a mixture of "good and bad."

The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just . . . ”

— Matthew 13:49-50

The last (interpretation of the dragnet) and middle (interpretation of the wheat and tares) connect with things that get separated in the end. The first is wheat and tares, and the last is good and bad fish.

The two outer interpretations of the sower and dragnet have this in common.

The seed was cast on various types of soil.

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom.

— Matthew 13:18

The dragnet was cast to capture various kinds.

. . . a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind.

— Matthew 13:47

The collection of "various kinds" reassures us that God is not a respecter of persons

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

— Acts 10:34-35

God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.

— Romans 2:5-11

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Tares and Wheat—Good and Bad Fish

We got a little bit ahead of ourselves with the next two parallels represented by the number one within the "D" sections because they both were included in the interpretations. We will, therefore, review their shared theme of separating good and bad things.

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.

— Matthew 13:30

The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.

— Matthew 13:47

Man is not allowed to separate in either case, and the gathering and separation both occur at the end.

The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

— Matthew 13:41-43

. . . at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

— Matthew 13:49-50

One takes place in the field and the other in the sea, both metaphors for the world and it's inhabitants.

The difference is that in the wheat and tares, it is distinguished between two kinds of things wheat or tares. In the dragnet, every type is represented.

Collectively, this reveals that there are two kinds of people the believing faithful and the unbelieving unfaithful. The separation will have nothing to do with types of people. Every kind of person will be represented. The only distinguishing feature will be between those who trusted in God's sent Messiah and those who did not.

Paul reiterates this thought in terms of how the light will reveal obedience or lack thereof. This topic was discussed earlier with the four soils concerning how people heard and obeyed or let other things distract them.

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

— I Corinthians 4:5

In other words, we are to personally hear and obey and let God judge the motives of the world.

The Mustard Seed—The Pearl of Great Price

The mustard seed and the pearl of great price are represented by the number two in the "D" section of the chart and are similar in theme as it concerns small things. One grows into something great the other becomes something of great value.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field (Mark says ground, Luke says garden), which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree (Mark says shoots out large branches), so that the birds of the air come and nested in its branches (Mark says shade).

— Matthew 13:31-32

. . . the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

— Matthew 13:45-46

The mustard seed, in Scripture, is associated with faith.

. . . if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

— Matthew 17:20 (reference to the epileptic whom the disciples were unable to deliver because of their lack of faith)

If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

— Luke 17:6 (reference to forgiveness and not deterring others from the faith through offenses)

Birds come and nest in the branches of this tree. As was seen in the Sower, the birds were not a good thing, in that they come to steal the seed. Some commentaries think these birds are symbols of evil spirits. Still, if we look at the enemies of faith according to the above two verses, they appear to be unbelief, unforgiveness, and offense to such a degree that it deters others from faith. Placing these two ideas together, unbelief, unforgiveness, and offense are invitations to the harassment of darkness.

The pearl on the other side of this parallel is associated with trial and persecution and illustrated by how a pearl forms. A type of persecution occurs in the mollusk by the inclusion of a foreign object or substance that irritates. The mollusk, then, begins to produce a beautiful iridescent lacquer to coat the object, which begins to form a beautiful gem.

“A faith that has not been tested cannot be trusted.”

— John C. Maxwell

The merchant sought this rare variety of one who was willing to suffer for His name's sake.

For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.

— I Peter 2:19

Jesus, our example in all things, gave us a perfect demonstration.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us

— Romans 5:7-8

Another observation is that Mustard seed is planted, and the pearl is purchased. One is in the field, and the other is in the sea.

The tree rooted in the field has to with the faith we have in Jesus Christ as we live in this earthly realm.

As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

— Colossians 2:6-7

The pearl in the sea illustrates the extraordinary lives that faithfully lived out the redemption purchased for them through Christ.

. . . you were bought at a price.

— I Corinthians 6:20

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Hidden Leaven—Hidden Treasure

Our final pairings are represented by the number three in the "D" Section of the chart.

Here we have two hidden things. One is bad, and one is good. Many debates abound about the meaning of leaven in the first parable of this comparison. Since I have come to trust the consistency of the Scripture patterns, honestly, I have to side with those who think the leaven is bad. Every place in Scripture leaven symbolizes pride and hypocrisy. It was something Jesus warned his disciples about using the hypocritical and self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees as examples.

Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

— Matthew 16:6

Paul also comments.

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

— I Corinthians 5:6-7

This pattern is consistent with the tares in the wheat field and the birds in the branches of the mustard tree concerning the prior two parables.

But in terms of the Kingdom of Heaven on the Earth, leaven may concern these bodies of flesh that we still dwell in presently.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

— Galations 2:20

During the feast of Pentecost, otherwise known as the "Feast of Weeks" in the Old Testament, two loaves of leavened bread were presented. It was the only time in all of the feasts that leaven was allowed in an offering. Both loaves were considered first fruits. One represents the Jew and the other the Gentile. When presented to the priest in the tabernacle, the priest waved them before the Lord, and they are considered Holy to Him.

The Center Axis

As was previously looked at, Jesus the Messiah, the Word of God, is the fulfillment of prophecy that explicitly mentions secrets from the foundation of the world.

He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

— I Peter 1:20

The parable of the tares, which follows this central portion, explains.

Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house.

— Matthew 13:36

We began with Jesus going out of the house and talking to the multitudes. In pure chiastic form. He now sends the multitude away and goes into the house, and His disciples sought Him there.

Earlier, Jesus had left the house to speak to the crowds. This scene could display how Jesus left the house of His Father in Heaven to come to reveal the Kingdom of God to the multitudes, and the way into it, through Himself. When He had fulfilled all that was prophesied concerning Himself, to both Jew and Gentile, He returned to or "went into" His Father's eternal house and "His disciples then seek Him there."

Conclusion

How can we pull this all together in light of this structure? As was noted, Jesus, the Messiah, is the central theme of the Kingdom of Heaven. The message of the Gospel is broadcast into the field of this world with mixed results, as seen in the first set.

The enemy plants tares, and his minions (birds) roost in the branches of faith (Mustard tree), waiting to steal and taint the Gospel's message. He does this by adding something to the unadulterated truth, as seen in the leaven added to three measures of meal, much like the serpent sneaking around the garden and hiding in a tree.

This scene is followed by the second set of parables that express the results of those who would receive and follow Him purely with sincere hearts. They would allegorically depict the Messiah, who sold all that He had to purchase the field. He sought those who would respond to that message reciprocally and give up their own lives "even unto death" (the goodly pearls) to share the treasure of Christ to the world.

As we can see, the parables are not random, nor are they disconnected. They tell one unified story presented in a million or more different ways throughout the entirety of Scripture. This message is commonly understood as the Gospel. I hope this study has given some a better, more detailed view of that message by understanding the kingdom parables.

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

— Revelation 3:5

© 2016 Tamarajo

Comments

Tamarajo (author) on February 18, 2018:

Hi Chase,

I'm finding that this literary pattern is found frequently throughout all of Scripture and God uses it many times to point to something specific. Chiasms are most easily spotted by connecting words, phrases, or themes. When I see a phrase repeated I'm learning to look at what is in the middle and many times discover a main point I would have otherwise glossed over.

The largest structure of all is the Genesis creation in the beginning and the new creation in the Book of Revelation. Between those two bookends are all the details of God's goodness and salvation.

And I agree numbers are not for anything other than confirming the themes. I believe God used this technique because we can't argue with it. Language and associations change. Numbers don't. It was a way to keep the meaning consistent.

Thank you much for stopping by and commenting.

God bless

Chase Chartier from Northern California on February 18, 2018:

It will be so interesting to read these passages with the chiastic structure in mind. I didn't realize that was part of its composition. I like how you mentioned that the numbers weren't superstitious in themselves but instead are a way God worked out human events with that added significance. A lot of people build ministries around these supposed hidden messages. I'm glad I came across this post:)

Tamarajo (author) on September 15, 2016:

Thank you Bill. His infinite Heights and Depths never cease to amaze me. God bless and thank you for stopping by.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on September 13, 2016:

Just what I've come to expect from you, Tammy. In depth and researched well. Thank you!

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