I've only gone through four of the parables so far, but there is already too much to share! So I thought I'd give some brief thoughts.
To me it seems these parables give some encouraging truth to believers in understanding what Jesus' kingdom will be like. Jesus is a king, but his kingdom is unique, and for fear that we misunderstand him or "miss" the kingdom somehow, he teaches us through these parables.
- The Parable of the Sower
- Here we see why not everyone responds appropriately to the Kingdom so as to be saved. There are many dangers and pitfalls along the way.
- Why would someone not believe in Christ if the word has been "sown in their heart?" Because they are dead to spiritual things; and when the word is left lying dormant on the hard surface of the road it is easy for the devil to snatch up the seed so to remove the possibility of the word bearing fruit in the future.
- Why do some fall away quickly? Insincere faith that buckles under pressure.
- Why do some fall away gradually? They begin well but their spiritual growth is choked out by worldliness and even neutral distractions.
- How can you tell if someone is securely established in the Kingdom of God? They bear fruit.
- This has been helpful for me as I've seen many of my friends begin to fall away in the past year. This is new for me, and grievous, but God remains true.
- The Parable of the Tares
- Here we see an explanation for the many forms of false Christianity that abound in our day. It seems Jesus is more or less preparing his disciples for the onslaught of heresy and ungodliness that will mix itself with true Christianity. The disciples are not to despair in this. Jesus isn't the one responsible, the devil is; and they don't have to do anything about it. God will clear everything up on judgment day.
- Some see the admonition to leave the tares alone as some kind of negation of church discipline. To view it this way in effect means "in your local church there are going to be false professors" and then "but don't try to exercise church discipline as you might do more harm than good." I agree with the first statement, but disagree with the second. And yes, church discipline should always be exercised with caution, but that's not what Jesus is saying. He is saying don't bother with pulling up the tares period. So what does he mean? I think he means what I said above. The reason why I take this parable the way I do is because Jesus, in unpacking the parable, says that the field is the world, i.e. not the local church. I think this is important to notice. Thus, in effect he is saying you may run into people that say at some health/wealth/prosperity telethon:
"Now, get up and go to the phone! When God begins to speak to you dial that number on your screen. Don’t you miss this moment! If you miss your moment you miss your miracle! ... He’s [God’s] giving you a Rhema Word right now ... The God that I serve is speaking to you right now!"
“You will die! You will die unless you go to the phone and do what God says to do.”
In case you're curious, I found this here, somewhat on accident.
- The point is, Jesus is saying that we shouldn't be surprised about these things happening. They may seem to stain the name of Christ, and cause the gentiles to blaspheme, but you don't have to go on a world crusade to eliminate those kinds of stumbling blocks. He'll do that on the last day (Matt. 13:41). You just be faithful in following God and effecting the sphere around you for good. He'll take care of the rest.
- The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven
- Simply put, God's kingdom starts small then expands. This would serve to encourage the relatively small group of disciples at the time of Christ's death, but it also encourages those who today are involved with smaller stewardships and ministries. There is unseen growth promised for the man sowing seed, or the woman kneading dough.