Today’s reading is drawn from Matthew 14:13-21.
As Jesus continues to show the world what his kingdom looks like, he encounters opposition. The Pharisees seek to trap him.
When Jesus heals a demon-possessed man who can’t see or speak, the Pharisees accuse him of using dark forces to do it. He logically argues that Satan, the prince of darkness, wouldn’t cast out darkness. He explains there’s a conflict going on, and anyone who isn’t on his side is against him.
Jesus uses parables to teach about God’s kingdom — parables about a farmer, weeds, a mustard seed, yeast, a hidden treasure, a pearl and a fishing net. He teaches in parables so that those who want to hear can more easily absorb the truths of God’s kingdom and those who aren’t ready won’t be able to understand.
Sadly, King Herod has John the Baptist beheaded. Jesus withdraws for some time alone. But the crowds follow him, and he can’t help but take care of their needs. He heals them, and when they get hungry he multiplies food. The only alone time he is able to get is late at night. In the wee hours of the morning, he catches up with his disciples out on the lake by walking on the water to their boat.
The Pharisees consistently oppose him with man-made religious rules. And Jesus consistently rebukes them — he is after pure hearts, not just outwardly pure lives.
The King’s Heart
God’s kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed, but his enemy came overnight and planted weeds. And now the wheat and weeds grow up together.
God has chosen for things to be that way. For now, the people of the kingdom and the people of the evil one grow up alongside each other. It’s messy. God’s kingdom exists, but it’s not here fully. The kingdom of darkness — with its disease, death, and sin — still infects. While we might want to rip out the weeds once and for all, God says to wait. One day he will rid the world of darkness, but he knows that people who don’t believe in him will be casualties. And he doesn’t want that to happen. So he continues to allow “the field” to grow, giving more people an opportunity to know him.
After God’s people returned from exile, their religious teachers began to set up meticulous rules to prevent them from breaking the law that God had given Moses. These rules were passed down orally, and God’s people were weighed down by the burden of keeping them. These rules are the “tradition of the elders” (Matthew 15:2) that the Pharisees consistently accused Jesus of breaking.