Book Reflection // August 27, 2022
The Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice
Chapter 4 // Matthew 13:47-52
These parables that we have been looking at for the past few weeks have not only the common theme of describing the kingdom of God, but they also share repetitive points. Jesus uses repetition in a lot of his teaching and it is no different in this set of parables found in Matthew 13. There are very few points mentioned in any of the previous parables that are not also mentioned in one of the others. The parable before us today is focused on the new imagery of fishing but is making the same points as that of the wheat and tares growing together.
It is important to first remember that the presupposition of these parables is that God has already brought about the regeneration of the two people we are looking at. The man who finds the treasure and the merchant who finds the pearl are like the soil where the gospel has been planted and is beginning to bear fruit. There is an interesting difference between the two people in these parables. First, the one who found the treasure wasn’t looking for it. He is like the person who has no apparent interest in Christ, until one day his eyes are opened and he sees the irresistible love of Jesus. This is an illustration of Isaiah 65:1, “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.” The second person seems to be searching intentionally for God and salvation and when he finds Jesus presented as the only means of salivation, he is overjoyed.
A Final Separation
The word we see here for judgment is speaking to the essential and necessary step of separation. In Hebrew, the meaning can include making a distinction or to discriminate. In Greek, this is the word from which we derive “crisis”. As Boice says, “A crisis is something that confronts you with a choice; you must respond by going in one direction or the other.” This is how Jesus often spoke about judgment. Presenting us with a crisis point to bring us to a decision. There are several important points to remember from this parable.
- First, it is absolute. At the time of judgment, there will be only two results. Each person will either be with the blessed in heaven or separated from Christ in hell. There is no middle state and no compromise. There is only this discriminate separation of choices.
- Second, this coming separation will be “previously determined in the sense that the grounds of the distinction will already have been laid on earth.” The choice we now make in this crisis of being confronted with the gospel of Christ determines the distinctive judgment that is brought upon us in that time. What we do now in this life matters and how we choose to respond to Christ in this life is essential.
- Third, the separation is permanent. The lies of the enemy speak pleasant and comforting words into our ears. “In that way he has lulled millions to sleep, and they drift on, oblivious to their danger.” Jesus is shaking us awake with this parable. The coming judgment is real and it is permanent. We need to ready ourselves now and choose life in Christ.
Gnashing of Teeth
There is another point that is brought out in this parable and that is the terrible fate of the unrighteous. Jesus confronts our sensibilities and desire to think lightly of judgment. Jesus wants us to awaken to the reality of hell and what separation from Christ for all eternity truly means. He uses the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” to describe the fate of those in hell. There are three points to consider when thinking about the torment and suffering of hell.
- First, there will be suffering. There will be intense and unbearable suffering. Elsewhere, Jesus uses the imagery of burning fire in hell. As I try to think through the suffering that goes along with not only being around the heat and smoke of the always burning fires but with the actual burning of a body, I can see an uncontrollable weeping from the intense suffering and pain. A continual weeping in agony and suffering.
- Second, there will be memories of all the blessings in a person’s previous life. Along with their weeping, people will gnash their teeth against God. The memories of the blessings of God during their life will be ever before them in that state of misery. They will have deep and vivid memories of how many blessings they received and the multiple times they continued to rebel against their holy God.
- Third, there will be “guilt over the role the wicked have played in bringing others to their end.” In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man wanted God to send Lazarus to warn his children. There will be not only guilt for the state of the person himself but guilt for the people he led along the same wicked path. As they are all shut together in hell, they will continually remind each other of their condemnation and how they led each other to this same doom.
A Final Question
This question at the end of the parables is the essential question we should all be asking ourselves. We should ask this question each and every day. This is not just a one-and-done question. This is a daily introspective, be honest with yourself, question. This is the only question that really matters.
Have you understood all these things?Matthew 13:51