Family Bible Study lesson for April 8: Living under God's rule
March 22 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , Matthew 13:31-35, 44-52

Family Bible Study lesson for April 8: Living under God's rule | Friday, March 23, 2001

Friday, March 23, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for April 8: Living under God's rule

By William (Mac) McElrath Matthew 13:31-35, 44-52 When Betty and I arrived in Indonesia in 1965, missionary colleagues were discussing emergency evacuation procedures. Yet when we met with colleagues from all across the country, we heard of plans for Sunday School enlargement in 1966 to be followed by a nationwide evangelistic campaign in 1967. Such plans seemed unrealistic; that was "The Year of Living Dangerously," when Indonesia was veering perilously close to the communist camp. Because of the threat of a hostile takeover, a former missionary predicted that Betty and I might not be able to stay in Indonesia for more than six months.

But God is in control, even in perilous places.

Six months after we arrived, the communists did try to take over and utterly failed. Because our missionary colleagues had planned for kingdom growth even when everything looked hopeless, we were ready to reap the evangelistic harvest that came to fruition after the failed coup d'etat.

Kingdom growth (Matthew 13:31-35) Some of Jesus' parables are long and involved. Others are short and simple. Our lesson passage today consists of five such parables.

In His teaching Jesus knew how to match His stories to His listeners. Matthew 13:31-32 speaks to farmers in the crowd, predominantly men. Matthew 13:33 speaks to women who bake bread. In each case, Jesus says that God's rule in human life may start out very small - like a tiny seed, like yeast - and yet will grow into something very great.

In verses 34-35 the gospel writer takes a moment to explain why Jesus taught by using parables. Matthew relates this explanation to a verse in Psalm 78.

Kingdom worth (Matthew 13:44-46) When Jesus told the stories found in Matthew 13:31-35, He was speaking to great crowds of His followers. The parables later in the chapter, however, were intended only for Jesus' disciples.

The kingdom of heaven! What does that really mean? It means that God is at work in the world, extending His rule and accomplishing His purposes.

How much is it worth to you to know that this is so? Is it worth more than any earthly wealth? Are you willing to give up anything and everything else so that you can take your proper place as a citizen in the kingdom of heaven?

Kingdom judgment (Matthew 13:47-50) When Jesus started talking about fishing with a dragnet, at least four of His disciples knew exactly what He was talking about. A net (like a crab-pot in Carolina coastal waters) is supposed to have big enough openings in it so that the young can escape. But there's no way to keep from netting undesirable species along with the fish you're really angling for. Betty and I have seen Javanese fishers dumping out the contents of their nets on the sand, then casting aside everything that was of no use to them. Net fishers all over the world have been doing the same thing from ancient times till now.

This brief parable has a sharp edge. Jesus doesn't say that "the wicked" will merely be dumped out on the beach. No, He said something much harsher about those not included among "the righteous." (Remember, by "the righteous" He meant not those who always do the right thing but those who live in right relationship to God as their King.)

Jesus said that the undesirable fish swept into the kingdom net will be sorted out by angels "at the end of the age" and will be thrown "into the fiery furnace."

Kingdom treasures (Matthew 13:51-52) In verse 51 Jesus asks His disciples a pointed question: "Have you understood all these things?"

Can you and I answer "yes" as they did? If we can, then we can also claim the promise implied in verse 52: Having been "instructed about the kingdom of heaven," we can bring our treasures to share with others.

After "The Year of Living Dangerously," many former communist sympathizers in Indonesia felt empty inside. They had believed promises that had proved to be false. Thank God, there were people who had been "instructed about the kingdom of heaven" standing ready to share with them the good news!

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3/22/2001 11:00:00 PM by William (Mac) McElrath , Matthew 13:31-35, 44-52 | with 0 comments
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