More Than the Eye Can See

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

The faculty of sight is one of the greatest gifts from the Creator. The eyes provide the ability to see a beautiful sunset, the splendor of a red rose, or the face of a loved one. The world would be complete darkness without the faculty of sight, resulting in an unseen world; and yet, there is far more to the world than can be seen with the human eye.

There are realities that are invisible to the human eye, and yet these forces control every aspect of human existence. Much of life depends upon vital realities that are imperceptible. Air, for instance, is essential for human life; it is invisible, yet one could only survive briefly without it. Gravity holds the Earth in orbit around the Sun, yet it cannot be seen with the human eye. Electricity has resulted in a myriad of modern conveniences, yet it is unseen. The brain, of course, is physical, yet the thoughts emanating from it are not.

Consider the Bible. The paper and ink is made entirely of atoms. Strictly speaking, a perfect vacuum (empty space) exists between the atoms, which is really nothing whatsoever. Atoms are primarily empty spaces that combine with weightless electrons, so the Bible being held is essentially nothingness. Anything that is seen with the human eye is composed of rapidly whirling electrons that are unbreakable. The Bible declares, “what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Heb 11:3b).

Scripture teaches the reality of an unseen world (2 Cor 4:16-18). The foolish person lives solely by sight, while those who are trusting in God live by faith in Him, who is unseen. And yet, that reality is so authentic that one can live with confidence knowing the Creator exists. By contrast, Psalm 14:1a declares, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Belief in the unseen can be more tangible than the visible. While physical sight is extraordinary, spiritual sight allows one to perceive God even with closed eyes.

Matthew 13 introduces the reader to Jesus’ parables, which are more than mere stories. He communicated vital spiritual truths for those with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.” Those with physical sight alone heard a memorable story, while those with spiritual sight also were able to understand “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” Spiritual sight makes visible the complete spectrum of truth. The question that Matthew 13 provokes is whether a person is viewing the world by means of physical, temporal sight or with spiritual, eternal sight.

(Matt 13:1-23) Once again, Jesus taught “by the sea” (v. 1), which was beneficial because crowds could sit on the sloping hillside in a natural amphitheater. On this occasion, Jesus found it necessary to use “a boat” because the crowds were so considerable. As is the customary practice of Jewish teachers, He “was sitting” and spoke to the crowd on the shore. Jesus acclimated Himself to whatever circumstances allowed Him to accomplish His purposes.

To those gathered, “He spoke many things to them in parables” (v. 3). The term “parable” literally means “to throw alongside.” Biblically, parables are spiritual truths that are told in a story, the two being laid side-by-side. A parable is a story illustrating a specific doctrine or application. Parables are written to bring attention to everyday life situations, for the purpose of illustrating a doctrine or application of biblical truth. Matthew 13 begins with Jesus’ parable of the sower. Following the story (vv. 3-9), the disciples asked Jesus to explain the meaning, and the Lord gave a detailed analysis of it.

The “many things” Jesus spoke in parables include verses 3-52. The parable of the sower (vv. 3-23) is the standard by which to understand the others, since Jesus explained it for His disciples. Using agricultural customs of His day, Jesus indicated four responses to the proclamation of God’s Word.

The wayside was the path where people walked, and thus nothing would grow there due to the hardness of the ground. The wayside represents a heart hardened to the truth of God (vv. 4, 19). The rocky places (vv. 5-6, 20-21) refer to a thin layer of soil where plants appear healthy for a brief time, but then shrivel and die. The picture is that of a person initially enthusiastic, but superficial regarding spiritual truths; thus, eventually wanting nothing to do with God. The thorny ground (vv. 7, 22) represents soil that is perhaps too fertile, because thorns eventually choked the good plants. Some hear the Word of God yet quickly forget what it says, not allowing it to affect their lives.

The good soil (vv. 8, 23) is deep enough and soft enough to support healthy plants. The good soil welcomes the seed, encourages its germination, nurtures the seed for the future, and perseveres through the complexities, temptations, and trials associated with the present life. Those who were spiritually sensitive were to pay attention (v. 9), because next, Jesus explained the purpose for speaking in parables (vv. 10-17, 34-35). His teaching had a twofold aim: (1) to conceal truth from those who will not see, hear, or believe (as the prophet Isaiah predicted); and, (2) to bless those whose desire is to see and hear the truth.

Of course, the notion that one can apostatize from God’s Word (v. 21; Heb 2:1-4; 6:1-8; 10:1-10) provokes questions with regard to such apostasy. In other words, could one “believe” in God and yet not be a disciple? Are belief and discipleship mutually inclusive? Discipleship is a call to faith/trust in Jesus Christ as Lord God and Savior. Such a call is evident in devotion to the Word of God, far beyond all other priorities. Maturity is not immediate; that is, it does not occur in days or weeks. Mature disciples devote their lives to listening to God’s Word, retain that Word to live by it, and continue to heed the Bible throughout life, so that it progressively becomes more and more the primary component of one’s life.

Those who are enthusiastic for a time and then “fall away” into the world’s occupations and pleasures, demonstrate a lack of discipleship. Moments of enthusiasm and good feelings dominate, until something “better” arises. Following what is seemingly better reveals one’s true nature: They were never devoted to God’s Word nor were they disciples, and were merely testing God (cf. Deut 6:16).

The one who believes in Jesus Christ—by grace through faith—is a disciple. Discipleship is not one good feeling or one event in the past, in which you felt positive toward Jesus and desired salvation. The focal point of Christ’s words in Mark 4 is not to become secure in one’s salvation too quickly. Salvation is a life-changing experience that remains for a lifetime. Therefore, believers are those who seek maturity in discipleship for life, as opposed to good feelings for a brief time. God’s Word brings change! Do you have ears to hear? Only one type of soil that is attuned to God (as He reveals Himself in the Holy Bible) produces maturity in salvation.

(Matt 13:24-58) In the second parable (vv. 24-30, 36-43), the devil is presented as sowing tares (darnel) among good seed. In the early stages, the tares are virtually indistinguishable from the wheat, at least in outward appearance. Only when the wheat ripens is it possible to distinguish the good seed from the tares with any kind of certainty. One of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven is that for the present time, Christendom (sc., people identified as a group) will contain those whose confession is true and those whose profession of faith is false. Jesus gave this parable so the Messiah’s people would understand why they must tolerate evil for a time, and yet He provided hope for ultimate justice and reward.

The next parable (vv. 31-32) indicates a delay in separating the wheat from the tares until the harvest. The growth of the kingdom of heaven like a mustard seed is prophetic, and is intended to communicate the phenomenal growth and spread of the gospel message. The great number of those who should be heirs of the kingdom is indicated by the tree becoming larger “so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR COME AND NEST IN ITS BRANCHES” (cf. Ps 104:12; Dan 4:12, 21; Ezek 17:23; 31:6), though some understand the birds as symbolizing evil and thus corruption (cf. Rev 18:2). The parable of the leaven (Matt 13:33) does represent evil and indicates the proliferation of wickedness among those who profess to inherit the kingdom (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-5; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 2 Pet 3:3-7; Jude; Rev 6—19).

Jesus’ teaching in parables was to fulfill yet another prophecy (Matt 13:34-35; cf. Ps 78:2). He made known eternal realities that had long since been hidden. His fifth of the parables portrays the Lord’s kingdom as concealed from view (Matt 13:44). The finding of treasure signifies that the prophesied kingdom of the Old Testament had come near in the person of Messiah. Redemption of the treasure has been accomplished, but the kingdom will remain veiled until Christ’s second coming.

The interpretation of the next parable (vv. 45-46) depends upon identifying the “fine pearls,” which appear to be in reference to the redemption of the church by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. The mystery revealed is the formation of a new body, who are “fellow heirs and fellow members . . . and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph 3:3-6). The pearl is a product of the sea and may suggest the nations of the earth (Matt 28:19-20).

The final parable (vv. 47-50) indicates the two kinds of people who make professions of faith as part of Christendom. The world will remain divided between the wicked and righteous until the end of the age (a truth also revealed in the parable of the wheat and tares). One wonders if the disciples truly did understand Jesus’ parables (v. 51), yet He did not deny their claim. Those who understand the new truths of the kingdom are responsible to make them known (v. 52).

Jesus departed for His hometown when He completed His teaching session. The unbelief of the people meant Jesus “did not do many miracles there.” God will not work providentially in the lives of people who consciously disbelieve (vv. 53-58). Even though the kingdom is essentially hidden today, it is still worth seeking (6:33).

Midnight Call - 05/2024

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