A Moment With The Bible
Matthew 13 Introduction
This chapter records the third in five major discourses uttered by Jesus in Matthew’s account. The discourse is unique in that it is wholly given in parables. When we compare all the accounts, we discover that Jesus gave nine parables on this day. The first five parables were given to the multitudes; the last four were given to the disciples privately. There is a unique pattern to these parables. The five given to the multitude all had some picture of growth, and therefore are often called “growth parables.” These parables include, the Sower, the Tares, the Seed Growing Secretly (Mark 4:26-29), the Mustard Seed, and the Leaven. Each of these parables was intended to teach something about the coming kingdom. But why the emphasis on the kingdom? There are at least two reasons. First, Jesus had come to establish His kingdom. It is what all the prophets had foretold and it is what the Jewish people had been waiting for. Second, the Jews had a misunderstanding of the nature of the kingdom. They had interpreted the prophecies to mean that the Messiah would bring an earthly kingdom that would establish Israel as dominate over all the Gentile nations. They looked for a Messiah who would break the power of Rome and give them world rule. Through these parables Jesus taught that the His kingdom would not be earthly and would not have the characteristics of an earthly rule.
In the parable of the Sower, Jesus showed that the kingdom would be received in varying ways, and that the determination of how it was received would be seen in whether or not fruit was born. Further, this kingdom would be received in the hearts of men, not by a conquering by force. In the parable of the Tares, Jesus showed that in the realm of the kingdom both good and bad would be side by side and the good would not root out the bad. In the Seed Growing Secretly, Jesus taught the power of the growth of the kingdom was not in the power of men. In the Mustard Seed, we see that the kingdom would start very small and grow to fill the earth. And in the Leaven, we learn that the kingdom would grow quietly and at times imperceptibly until it spread to all the earth. None of these pictures tell of an earthly kingdom. Those who still look for an earthly kingdom today, miss the point of these parables.
A Moment With The Bible
Even though this text gives us some interesting information about demon possession, Jesus’ main point has to do with the condition of the Israel nation. But it is not just the condition of the nation, it is the condition of all who follow the same path as Israel.
First, a few things about unclean spirits. What made it possible for a demon to possess a person, we cannot know for certain. We would assume that an individual practicing wickedness opened the door for the possession. However, since there were also children that were possessed (Mark 14:17-21), there may be other factors involved.
It is also apparent that demons did not have “rest” when they were unable to inhabit a living being. Many of the demons pleaded with Jesus not to “torment them before the time” (Mt. 8:29). Others pleaded with Jesus to allow them to inhabit swine (Luke 8:31-33).
The key to this text is that when this demon could not find rest he went back to the person he had formerly inhabited and found it “empty, swept, and put in order.” Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? The key word is “empty.” This man had not filled his house with spiritual things, which left him vulnerable to return to his sin. Paul repeatedly speaks of the importance of “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new man (Col. 3:5-16). The primary reason we often have trouble ridding ourselves of a particular sin is because we are only trying to stop the sin without replacing the activity with godly works. The result is that when this man is re-inhabited, that is, goes back to his sin, he becomes seven times worse than before, just as this evil spirit returned with seven spirits worse than himself. Peter also speaks of this principle (2 Pet. 2:20-22).
This was the condition of Israel. God had made them a great nation. But they rejected Him and turned to idolatry. When He cleansed them of this “evil spirit” and brought them out of captivity, they left themselves “empty” with a ritualistic worship void of spirituality. And now, seven demons worse than the first had inhabited them so that they would actually murder their own Messiah, the Son of God.