Lesson 8

The Great Controversy in the Parables of Jesus

(Matthew 13, Luke 15)
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Introduction: Jesus used parables, what I call "word-pictures," to teach the lessons of the Kingdom of Heaven. This week we turn our study to a few of these parables that better help us to understand the controversy between good and evil. Let's dive in!

  1. Sower


    1. Read Matthew 13:1-2. Jesus sat in the boat while people stood on the shore to hear Him. Think about the last time you were at an "event." Were you ever standing up? (You stand up when things get exciting and you want to be able to see. The people must have been very interested in seeing and hearing Jesus.)


    2. Read Matthew 13:3-6. Is Jesus giving a farming lesson? (No. Verse 3 tells us that Jesus "told them many things in parables." Jesus was teaching them lessons about the Kingdom of Heaven through every-day illustrations.)


    3. Read Matthew 13:7-9 to finish up the rest of Jesus' parable. What is necessary to understand the meaning of this story? (In verse 9 Jesus suggests that just having ears will do it. But, in the verses that follow Jesus also says the people "hardly hear with their ears." (v.15).)


    4. You all have ears (in the case of the Internet readers, eyes), who do you think is the sower? What is the seed? (The sower is you when you share the gospel message with others. Jesus, of course, is the chief "sower." The seed are truths about the gospel or the word of God.)


      1. The lesson suggests (Sunday) that the seed is "Christ's righteousness." Do you agree?


    5. Is this a smart farmer? Why not save seed and only sling it on the good soil?


      1. Any gardeners here? Anyone know about "amending" soil? Would this farmer, if he were smarter, have worked on amending the soil?


      2. What do these aspects of this parable teach us? Should we only sow in "fertile" soil? Should we work to "amend" bad soil? Or, is this an element of the story that is not intended to teach us anything about sowing techniques?


    6. Let's read on to see what Jesus says we should be learning from this parable. Read Matthew 13:18-19. In the conflict between good and evil, what lesson do we learn here? (When we are out spreading the gospel, Satan is actively working to thwart our efforts.)


      1. Is there anything we can do about the problem of the seed falling on the path?


        1. Should we just not sow on the path? (How would you know a "path" person from a "fertile soil" person?)


        2. Can we change the path soil?


          1. If you said, "yes, we can change it," what does the Bible say makes path soil? What would you do to change it?("Path" soil represents (v.19) people who do not understand the gospel message. In my experience, most people do not read well. When "King James only" people insist that new converts read only the King James version of the Bible, they are directly contributing to the "hard path" problem and giving Satan an opportunity to steal away new converts. Another problem area is that believers have a special Bible vocabulary. The average person does not know, for example, what "sanctified" means. We need to be sure that we make the gospel clear and simple to understand.)


    7. Read Matthew 13:20-21. What problem in these verses can we work on and what problem is beyond us? (We probably cannot do much about trouble or persecution. But we might be able to throw more dirt on the convert to help the root problem.)


      1. What would you do to throw more dirt on a new believer? (Verse 21 says that trouble comes to this person "because of the word." This kind of new convert decides the gospel is not worth the trouble. The solution seems to be to instill in new believers a sense of the worth of following God. These new people (v.20) are inclined towards God, they feel the joy of God, they just need to realize the worth of being in a right relationship with God.)


    8. Read Matthew 13:22. The problems that kill the seed in verse 22 seem much like the problems that killed the seed in verse 21. Are they the same? Or, do you see a difference? (The problems of verse 21 come from a direct attack by Satan on your religious beliefs. The important phrase is "because of the word." The problems of verse 22, on the other hand, are the difficulties of everyday life.)


      1. Does the person who grows from the seed planted in the weedy soil leave the faith? (No. These are the people sitting in the pews each week who never do anything to promote the gospel. They never have the time to be involved because they are dealing with problems or making money. As a result, they are sitting there, but are "unfruitful.")


        1. Is that you?


        2. What can we do to help those in this situation? How do we "amend" this weedy soil? (These people need a real heart conversion. They either believe God's work is of secondary importance, or they do not trust God with the "worries of this life." A heart conversion is required to change this attitude.)


    1. Read Matthew 13:23. What is the key to being a productive believer? (Hearing and understanding. Just telling people is not enough. We must do our best to make the gospel understandable.)


      1. For those of you who want to dig deeper, read Matthew 13:10-17. Think about why Jesus, on one hand, emphasizes the importance of understanding the gospel, and, on the other hand, suggests He teaches by parables to keep secret the principles of the kingdom of heaven. (I think Jesus is saying just the opposite of what He appears to be saying. Speaking in parables helped (v. 15) the calloused heart, hard of hearing, barely seeing people to understand the gospel.)


    2. As you review this parable in your mind, what are Satan's chief weapons against your spiritual health? (Not understanding God's word and not caring enough about God's word when Satan attacks us directly or through everyday life problems.)


  1. Lost Coin


    1. Read Luke 15:8-10. Tell me who you think each character in this story represents?


      1. The woman?


      2. The coin? (The woman is God and the coin is us.)


      3. To whom does God consider that you rightfully belong? (Jesus starts out with the assumption that we belong to Him.)


      4. Are these valuable coins? What does this say about God's view of you? Imagine if the parable said, "and a woman dropped her gum on the floor?"


      5. If God is like this woman, what is His attitude towards our salvation? (This is such a beautiful picture of a loving, caring God. Instead of being harsh and judgmental, God is doing His best to save us. He doesn't say, "Well, I've got most of them, the one that fell down is not worth the trouble.")


      6. What do you think the light represents in this parable? What do you think the sweeping represents? What does the careful search represent? (The light represents God's truth. He makes His truth available to each one of us. His sweeping represents His attempt to clear away the debris in our life so that we can more clearly understand His will. The careful search represents His individual concern and efforts for each one of us. When we are in the gospel light, when the debris of life is pushed aside, it is easier for us to respond to God's rescue efforts.)


      7. What lesson does this parable of the coin teach us about the conflict between good and evil? (That God has not left us on our own. He not only has the desire to save us, but He is working as hard as possible to save us. Praise God!)


    2. Let's go back and pick up the introduction to this series of parables. Read Luke 15:1-2. How does Jesus' attitude compare with that of the religious leaders of the day?


      1. How about you? How do you view sinners?


    3. Friend, these parables show that God cares for us. He pursues sinners. We are to be co-laborers with Him in spreading the gospel message that saves humans. Will you join in?


  2. Next Week: The Great Controversy and Miracles of Jesus.

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