Matthew’s account of the death of John the Baptism might seem unexpected, and even jarring. Why does Matthew 14:1–12, and why does the Holy Spirit who inspired him, include this in the gospel?
Understand who Jesus really is. Recognize the true identity of Jesus. As the parallel passage in Mark 6 tells you, there were various theories in circulation as to who Jesus was. Both Matthew and Mark record one of the more bizarre speculations, that of Herod the tetrarch, that Jesus was John the Baptist, returned from the dead. Matthew introduced you to Herod the Great in the second chapter of his Gospel. That king had 10 wives and tracing the family tree is complicated. This Herod, known as Herod Antipas, was a minor ruler, a tetrarch. Having executed John, Herod had a guilty conscience. When some suggested that Jesus was John come back to life, Herod bought the idea. Against the background of Herod’s terrible misunderstanding of who Jesus is, Matthew is revealing the Savior, the true King, to you.
Finding buried treasure fires the imagination of young children—and some adults. Last September a British birdwatcher stepped into a farmer’s plowed field to watch a buzzard and couple of magpies. He noticed a glint of yellow, picked up a coin, and then spotted another. He went home for his metal detector and soon uncovered a trove of 1,300 hundred coins dated around 40 to 50 A.D., probably related to the Celtic queen, Boudicca’s rebellion against the occupying Roman legions. The coins are valued at over $1,000,000 US. In Matthew 13:52 after talking about valuable buried treasure, Jesus speaks of someone bringing new and old treasures out of his storage place.
Be a disciple of the kingdom of heaven. Grasp the value of the kingdom. The earthly stories with heavenly meanings in Matthew 13 focus on the kingdom of God. A man discovers treasure buried in a field, and sells everything in order to purchase the field, with the re-buried treasure, for himself. That’s a picutre of how valuable the kingdom of God is. A merchant, dealing in pearls, locates the finest he has ever seen—the perfect pearl. He has to have it, so he liquidates his stock and gets that one matchless pearl. If people behave that way towards valuable treasures on earth, how much more should those who hear the good news of the kingdom value it? Not only is the kingdom of eternal value to those who enter it, but it is purchased by the sacrifice of the King.
We live in tumultuous times. I never expected that in my lifetime I would see video of the Capitol being overrun by a mob. Furthermore, if anyone had suggested to me that, regardless of which party won the election, our nation would be in for four years of peace, harmony, and joy, I would have suggested that they were naive. The parable that Jesus told, recorded in Matthew 13:24–43, gives you hope as you face the future.
A parable has been described as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. A parable can illustrate or it can overcome initial resistance. But it can also, ironically, conceal the truth. In Matthew 13:1–23 Jesus tells you that his parable of the sower does both.
See the sower working in his field. Listen to the parable of the sower. Matthew introduces a series of Jesus’ parables. The setting is beside the lake, with Jesus sitting in a boat with the crowds standing on the shore. The chapter contains a number of parables. The theme of the kingdom runs through them. The farmer sows his seed by broadcasting it (as is still done in the Middle East). Seed that falls on various kinds of poor soil is non-productive. However, some grows and produces an abundant harvest.