This begins with a repeat of the parable of the seed from Mark 4, so there’s no need to repeat my comments. V 24 begins a new parable, about wheat and weeds. It took some thinking to figure out the point of it, and when I did, it’s nasty. A saboteur sows tares (a weed known as darnel) in a field of wheat. The field hands want to try to pick it out, but it cannot be easily distinguished from the wheat until the ears form. So the farmer tells them to leave it alone, to avoid harming the real wheat. At harvest, they can separate out the good from the bad…. Which of course is the point. Jesus will explain later in this chapter. Wait for it.
At verse 31 is the parable of the mustard seed again, but more exaggerated than in Mark (ch 4); now the claim is that the mustard seed will become a tree, and birds will nest in its branches. There are no trees in the mustard plant family. Next, another reference to yeast (see Mark 8), this time with a little misquote of Psalm 78:2 thrown in. Now we know why Jesus deliberately speaks in parables – he’s intent on fulfilling any prophesy or citing any OT reference that he possibly can.
In v 36-43, Jesus gets back to the wheat and the weeds – and sure enough, it’s all about hell. And it’s every bit as bad – in fact, worse – as I feared it would be. As we read the NT, note the developing concept of hell – this is only the second mention, and it introduces the ‘fiery furnace’ and ‘gnashing of teeth’. Where’s the ‘Gentle Jesus meek and mild’ that I learned about as a child?
In v 44 we arrive at the hidden treasure in the field. I couldn’t make head nor tail of it, so I found some apologist explanations – Try “Jesus is the man who gave all that He had to buy the field” (the field represents the world); or “The treasure so wonderful that Jesus would give all to purchase the individual believer. This powerfully shows how Jesus gave everything to redeem the whole world to preserve a treasure in it”. I’m still puzzling. The chapter ends with a repetition of Jesus being dishonored in his home town (Mark 6). I think that’s revealing – those who knew him personally didn’t fall for his schlock.
The author repeats the story of the death of John the Baptist from Mark 6. And we read that Herod believes Jesus could be John the Baptist raised from the dead. It seems that there is a lot of confusion about exactly who Jesus really was. If no one knew back then, how can anyone know for sure now?
Next in v 13, Jesus feeds a multitude – for the third time. He should be getting good at it. And lastly, the walking on water episode again. Note that it’s embellished from the previous version in Mark 6. The bit about Peter trying to walk on water, too, and being unable because he lacked sufficient faith, is added. I remember as a child pondering the plausibility of this. (Around the same time I pondered Santa Claus, I think – and I reached the same conclusion for both.)
V 31 gives us the expression ‘Ye of little faith’. So why doesn’t the pope have more faith?