Jesus’ ABF Group
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
I’ve learned a new word that perfectly describes what Jesus was: raconteur. It means master storyteller. Matthew, our author, was decades later still enthralled with Parable Day, the day when Jesus used only stories to emphasize His points.
Matthew 13:34-35 (Holman) Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables, and He would not speak anything to them without a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: I will open my mouth in parables; I will declare things kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Matthew saw in Jesus’ teaching style this day a fulfillment of two Messianic predictions found in one Old Testament verse. The Psalmist (78:2) predicted Messiah would speak to people in parables, and divulge truths hitherto kept secret.
Jesus, down to the most minute detail, fulfilled every prediction of Messiah. He was the Expected One, the One to come. In Jesus the foretold became the told.
Jesus for sure fulfilled the expectation that Messiah’s method would include parables. Jesus also met the criteria that Messiah’s message would reveal secrets.
On Parable Day, Jesus stressed a truth never taught before. The details had been there; Jesus had to bring them together for us. Placing puzzle pieces of Holy Writ into new perspective, Jesus illuminated a truth God had revealed in the past via distinct, separate segments, but whose composite meaning He had kept secret.
God kept a huge mystery unsolved till Messiah explained it. This was to be one way we could be sure Messiah had come. The secret expounded on Parable Day was the current age in which we now live, the interim time between Messiah’s two comings, an era when Gentiles would enter the kingdom in large numbers.
The parable of the sower includes time for wheat to sprout. The parable of wheat and weeds allows time for harvest to come. The parable of the mustard seed grants a tree time to grow. The parable of yeast gives dough time to be infiltrated.
Learning of a time period, an era, between the beginning and end of Christ’s kingdom produced a huge aha moment for believers. This one fact made sense of many Old Testament predictions about Messiah that had seemed irreconcilable.
How could Messiah be a suffering servant, yet also a king? No one knew, till Jesus explained it. How could Christ be lowly, yet also conquer? Only Jesus understood. He alone explained the way both streams would merge in one person.
The miscalculation was similar to one that marked pre-Columbus days. Everyone thought only Ocean Sea separated Europe from the Far East. A huge land-mass lay in-between, but no one knew it. America had to be discovered.
The age we live in also had to be unveiled. No one figured on two comings by Messiah, one lowly, one lordly, with a long time period between the two. All students of the Old Testament were oblivious to the age we live in. Only One sent from God could have predicted it, and His doing so helped prove He was Messiah.
Matthew 13:36 Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, “Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.”
The Twelve were struggling with what John the Baptist had said about impending judgment, coupled with what Jesus had said about the kingdom of God being at hand. These comments, to the disciples, seemed to contradict the likelihood of a long delay till the consummation. Baffled at the prospect of being stuck in a drama whose last act had not yet begun, they asked for an explanation.
The Twelve received the information they were looking for. They ended up knowing much more than the crowd, not because they were smarter than others, but because they were willing to ask. They were persistent in wanting to know.
One key to the disciples’ spiritual success was their determination to stay close to Jesus in a small group setting. When Jesus sent away the crowd, no one in the throng protested. None asked for permission to stay near to hear more from Him. On Parable Day, the crowd stayed glib and shallow, the Twelve improved.
With regard to Jesus’ teachings, the multitude is always leaving. Few draw close. The vast majority hear Jesus casually, and then fade back into mediocrity.
The faithful few stay close by. They linger and tarry. The spiritual winners in God’s kingdom are the few who are determined to draw near to Him always.
Huge spiritual growth rarely happens in a huge crowd. If you are hearing of Jesus only in the public place, your understanding will be shallow, always stunted.
Preaching is general, a shotgun approach. Deep spiritual growth requires specific instruction. Private application blesses. Delving in truly does profit most.
Large groups help. Jesus used them. We need to worship together and to hear exhortation. Our gatherings bless us all, but can take us only so far. To grow as we should requires two more disciplines Jesus modeled for us. Our Master was part of a small group, and regularly spent time alone with God. Both are essential.
First, a small group. This is why we say if you join Second, you don’t join a worship service, you join a family expressing its body life through small groups. In small group, ministry and mission get done, and accountability limits our lives.
Second, time alone with God. Quiet and unhurried are the main keys here. Let me digress a moment. I have always done my personal devotion time in private. The other day, Ruth helped me see something I’ve been missing. She says our private time should sometimes be seen by our spouses, children, and grandchildren, etc. This makes us examples, role models. Her point is well made. Be a role model, yet remember the bulk of our dealing with God has to be private.
Second believes holiness matters most. We feel people best accomplish this goal via three disciplines Jesus used: large group, small group, private devotions.