The first parable does not present the kingdom, but the means and mode of forming the kingdom of heaven. In the second parable, Jesus is speaking before the multitude. It is in this we get the hidden thing connected with that kingdom -- the Tares. It will be seen that Jesus adds, in interpreting, something beyond the outline of the parable itself; for the Lord would give His disciples warning how that men would come in and mar His work, leaving a ruin. We have a similar warning to Israel in Deuteronomy, chapters 28 to 31. The third parable presents the first great features of departure into Apostacy. The fourth parable points to leaven -- connected with unsound doctrine. The first four parables were uttered before the multitude, and privately interpreted to the disciples: significant this of the intimacy and confidence into which the Lord's disciples were to be admitted.
The remaining parables are in quite a different connection -- have a different aspect, and are spoken to the disciples privately, the multitude being outside. You will at once see, that to interpret these latter would require one with "the mind of Christ." There is more of comfort and consolation than warning. Accordingly, Jesus seems to say, "You are not to look simply at the thing set up -- that would only be to deject you the more, -- when you find, as you will find, that evil has come in, and tumbled it all into ruin." The object of our Lord in these parables was to convey comfort and strength to His disciples.
The common idea is, that these parables refer to the individual case of believers. This is a mistake; a great principle of interpretation being involved in this mistake. Now, I may gather the meaning of any portion of God's word, according to God's mind, or according to the natural bias of my own judgment. In the latter case, I shall be led to bring everything home to myself. The Holy Ghost thinks directly of Jesus, of Him who is the centre of all God's purpose. The 17th of Exodus is an instance of misapplication to ourselves of what more properly belongs to Jesus. The truth there is deeper than is commonly supposed. JESUS was and is the unceasing Intercessor. Moreover, the application to the individual case of the believer is not so blessed. Nor is it so blessed in the parable before us, as it is to see that JESUS counted the Church so precious, as to be willing to give up all for her.
The parable of the treasure hid in the field cannot be truly interpreted of a disciple -- he does not give up all that he has. Take, for instance, Paul, an eminent example. God gave him all first, and then he was willing to give up all beside. He got the portion first in grace. Not so Jesus. To get to the treasure, to secure the treasure to himself, we see Him giving up all, selling all, leaving all, as He is described in Heb. 2: 9-18. Yes, HE indeed laid aside all, and became subjected to God's judgment, and afflicted of God. See also Phil. 2: "He made himself of no reputation," etc. He laid aside all, that He might get the kingdom. It was because the Son of God left all His glory, "therefore hath God highly exalted Him," etc.
If we have the quick discerning eye of Jesus, we shall discern in the midst of this corrupt thing, which devils and men have joined in defilings, something so precious as to induce Jesus, the anointed Son of the Highest, to give up all, that He might possess himself of it. Oh, dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, how the knowledge of this, and the remembrance of this, if borne in mind, is calculated to strengthen our hearts in endurance for His sake. The Lord could so love His little flock, that He could leave His Father's glory that He might call this little flock His own. Yes, spite of the dross, Jesus sees here a bit of pure ore, and there a bit. Oh, Jesus has magnificent thoughts of His Church. Your names, dear brethren and sisters in the Lord, are entwined in His affections. (Ex. 28: 29.) In the midst of deep trial, how full of strength and comfort the thought -- I am part of that treasure for which the Son of God thought it worth His while to leave all His glory, and to endure scorn and contumely, and the cross itself. What practical power in this truth -- "He gave up all!"
In the next parable, the beauty of the Church is brought out, -- described as a "pearl of great price." Now a pearl is an exceedingly beautiful object. In tint and delicacy of colour it is unrivalled. The beauty the Church has in the eye of Jesus is presented in the pearl of this parable. I ask, What beauty could Jesus see in the tree -- the abode of wicked spirits; or, again, in the leaven -- emblem of corruption, -- a thing of evil omen? Jesus seems to say, I would have you taught of me, to see through that outward form."
The Church is, in the eye of Jesus, what Eve was to Adam, -- the beauty of the garden of Eden. Can it be otherwise, knowing, as Jesus does, that the Church is to be conformed to His own image, and not think her beautiful, very beautiful? Behold, again, the glory of the Lord's beauty: Is He not altogether lovely? "Thou art fairer than the children of men." (Ps. 45) And it is by the mighty power of this One that we shall be fashioned like unto His glorious body." He knew that the Church was predestinated to be conformed to His own image and likeness.
Here, then, in these parables, was a store of comfort and consolation for His disciples. Jesus was desirous of leading them to discern, and fix their thoughts upon the pearl hidden within, which would yet shine forth in the day of glory, and be crowned together with Him. Be it ours to realize the crown, and to see it on the Church now by faith.
The last of the parables is that of the net. When full, the good were deposited in vessels; -- when the net was full. Observe, not all the fish of the sea: nothing like a gathering into universal blessing intimated by means of the preached Gospel. The 49th verse raises the great question as to the angels, the instruments employed here. Angels are connected with Providence in the book of Revelation. That book fills up the gap until Jesus comes. If this separation is accomplished by Providential agency, it would seem to have already begun, and to be going on now. In many countries on the Continent, as well as in England, it is observable that God has raised up men who have come forth preaching a more simple Gospel, and a separating process is going on.
In all these three parables, the object is to comfort disciples in their distress. In each there is that which would not strike the eye of a casual observer: -- the discerning mind of Christ is required. Jesus was, as it were, digging a trench between the true and the false.
It is as being no longer under the power of the devil, that we are enjoined to stand against his wiles. (Eph. 6: 11.) What sweet encouragement is here!