Growth Group

Kingdom Lives - An Invasive Empire

Session 2

Matthew 13:31 - 32

February 25 - March 3, 2004

Study Strategies:

1. Read Framing

2. Open with prayer

3. Read Matthew 13:31-32 in various translations. Several are provided, but the use of other translations is encouraged.

4. An Invasive An Empire by Stanley P. Saunders The Gospel of Matthew: Proclaiming God’s Presence

5. Chose three of the questions for discussion

6. Close with prayer.

Framing

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like parables, leave the reader and hear wondering what Jesus means to say about the Empire of Heaven. The ambiguity and multivalence of these parables lend themselves to diverse readings. Are the Kingdom of Heaven is Like parables about the surprising nature and power of God or about invasion and contamination? Is the contamination/invasion good or bad? Does the growth represent promise or threat? Turns out, where you stand in relationship with God, through Jesus Christ determines how and what you see, hear, and understand concerning what the Kingdom of Heaven is Like. ~ Stanley P. Saunders

Various Translations

Matthew 13:31-32 Amplified Bible

31 He gave them another parable [to consider], saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and of all the seeds [planted in the region] it is the smallest, but when it has grown it is the largest of the garden herbs and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR FIND SHELTER IN ITS BRANCHES.”

Matthew 13:31-32 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition 31

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

Matthew 13:31-32 Living Bible

31-32 Here is another of his illustrations: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds but becomes the largest of plants, and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter.”

An Invasive Empire - by Stanley P. Saunders The Gospel of Matthew: Proclaiming God’s Presence

The parable of the mustard seed is ambiguous. Does the mustard seed represent something positive, such as faith (Matthew 17:20), or is it an invasive contaminating force? Mustard is a useful shrub, growing two to six feet tall, that was common along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, it was also regarded as a tenacious plant that could take over a garden. And here it is completely out of control, becoming as big as a tree an image that would have sounded out of preposterous to ancient audiences. A mustard shrub large enough that birds could nest in its branches would be unimaginable. Here again, Jesus is improving on prophetic traditions in a way that creates ambivalence. The image of birds nesting in the branches of a tree recalls the three passages from the prophets. In Ezekiel 17:22-24, God takes a spring from the top of a lofty cedar (mostly a symbol for Babylon) and plants it on Zion (Ezekiel17:23), where it becomes a symbol for God’s humbling of the nations. In Ezekiel 31 the cedar tree represents Assyria, another of Israel’s enemies, which God cuts down so that the birds nest on its fallen trunk (Ezekiel 31:13) rather than its branches (Ezekiel 31:6). Finally, in Daniel 4 the great tree represents Nebuchadnezzar. Again it is cut down so that the animals and birds flee from its branches (Dan. 4:12, 14). In two of these passages (Ezekiel 31 and Dan 4), the great tree in which the birds make a home is associated with the judgment of arrogant powers that enslave and oppress the people of God, and once (Ezekiel 17:22-24) with God’s restoration of Israel itself. Why does Jesus replace the mighty cedar tree, a symbol of power arrogance, and empire, with the invasive mustard plant, a weed? Would the crowds have understood God’s mustard seed empire to be like Jack’s beanstalk, reaching, against all expectations, up to heaven and bringing the nations low? Or is it Israel’s own leaders who would be bought low? Would the Pharisees or the landowners scatted among the crowds see the mustard as a weed, completely out of control and needing to be rooted out? Is the Kingdom of Hevan like a surprise that brings redemption or a threat that must be eradicated or both?

Prayer

May God grant us the persistence to do our work, the patience not to try to do God’s, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Questions

Choose Three

• How does the parable in verses Matthew 13:31-32 encourage disciples discouraged by the parable of Tangled Growth verses Matthew 13:24-30?

• Mustard plants spread quickly, covering entire hillsides with plants between four and fifteen feet tall. How have you seen evidence of the inevitable growth and pervasive infiltration of the kingdom of God in the systems of the world?

• What does this parable tell us about the kingdom of God/heaven?

• What qualities and choices is this parable calling disciples to make?

• What is the response of St. Mark to this parable?

• How is this parable calling you to respond?

Sons of Allen Growth Group

Session 1 - Tangled Growth: - February 19-24, 2024

Matthew 13:24-30

Study Strategies

1. Read Framing

2. Open with prayer

3. Read Matthew 13:24-30 in various translations. Two are provided,

but the use of other translations is encouraged.

4. Tangled Growth by John Proctor which is included in this handout.

5. Chose three of the questions for discussion

6. Close with prayer.

Framing

The Nature of the kingdom of God/Heaven and its inhabitants is central to the growth of the follower of Christ. John the Baptist and Jesus have announced the kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2; 4:17), and Jesus has commissioned his disciples to preach the same (Matthew 10:7), even as they continue praying for its coming (Mathew 6:10). But what does the kingdom look like? How will the people of God recognize the arrival of the kingdom? These are the concerns of the Gospel According to Matthew, particularly Matthew 13:1-16:12.

Matthew 13:24-30 The Message

24-26 He told another story. “God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. That night, while his hired men were asleep, his enemy sowed thistles all through the wheat and slipped away before dawn. When the first green shoots appeared and the grain began to form, the thistles showed up, too. 27 “The farmhands came to the farmer and said, ‘Master, that was clean seed you planted, wasn’t it? Where did these thistles come from?’ 28 “He answered, ‘Some enemy did this.’ “The farmhands asked, ‘Should we weed out the thistles?’ 29-30 “He said, ‘No, if you weed the thistles, you’ll pull up the wheat, too. Let them grow together until harvest time. Then I’ll instruct the harvesters to pull up the thistles and tie them in bundles for the fire, then gather the wheat and put it in the barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition 24 He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while everybody was asleep an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he replied, ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

Tangled Growth

by John Proctor, Daily Bible Commentary, A guide for Reflection and Prayer:

Matthew 13:24-30 is the first of six parables beginning, “The Kingdom is like…”

(vv. 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47). They expand on the story of the sower, to give a fuller insight into how God’s rule grows. Like the parable of the sower, this story has an explanation attached. But the explanation is not given straight away there is a pause before the meaning is unveiled.

Creative Suspense

The interval between parable(vv. 24-30) and interpretation (vv.36-43)achieves two purposes. First, it reminds Matthew’s readers that Jesus did not give instant answers, nor explained his material to everyone. Parables were intended to stimulate thought and to lead response. Because of their cryptic style, the parables were always potentially divisive, sharpening the interest of those who wanted to follow Jesus, puzzling any who did not. Second, the gap creates room and time for us as readers to think about the meaning of this parable for ourselves. It draws us into the story, and into the crowd who were themselves trying to understand what Jesus intended.

Weeding Between The Lines?

Tares are a mongrel form of wheat, with smaller leaves, suitable for chicken feed but quite unfit for human consumption. A few tares would almost be inevitable in a field of sown corn. But when a disconcertingly large quantity is discovered, the first thought is to weed them out immediately (v. 28). However, that would be risky if the roots were tangled, for then the corn would be uprooted too(v.29). So the farmer follows another plan. He lets both crops grow together and will separate them when they are fully grown (v.30).

Putting Evil In Its Place

Following the parable of the sower, which showed a very mixed response to Jesus’ kingdom preaching, this parable of wheat and tares has offered a broader understanding of the complex mystery of good and evil. There is an enemy whose malicious work is spread wide in the world. But evil has a limited span of life: in God’s good time it will be finally and fully destroyed. The kingdom may seem hampered and blocked by much opposition and ungodliness, but God’s eventual victory is certain and sure.

There is no call here for panic measures to separate good from evil, for there is no easy and practical way of drawing a line between them. The Church must wait. Jesus may have deliberately taken a different approach from some Jewish groups of his time. Groups such as Pharisees and Esenes were keen to form pure religious community, where all the members would be godly and righteous, and where contact with outsiders might be rather limited. Jesus was more open. He was in no hurry to put a firm and permanent boundary around his own group of followers. God knows who is serving the cause of God, and in due time God will judge truly and rightly.

In the meantime, Christians are called to be the “salt of the earth”(Mathew 5:13), influencing its life, attracting others to Christ, and playing our part in the energetic and certain growth of the gospel.

Prayer

May God grant us the persistence to do our work, the patience not to try to do God’s, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Questions:

Choose Three

• Why does the property owner want the weeds to remain in the fields?

• By leaving the weeds, will the wheat be adversely affected?

• What does this parable tell us about the kingdom of God/heaven?

• What does this parable tell us about discipleship in the kingdom of God?

• What is the response of St. Mark to this parable?

• How is this parable calling you to respond?