NOTE: From this point forward I will see a one sentence description of the overall message for that particular chapter. This is from the NRSV Access Bible. I like it.
Isaiah 16: More lamentations concerning Moab. This is pretty much a continuation of Isaiah 15. It’s still more about the destruction of Moab at the hands of God.
Isaiah 17: Prophecies concerning Syria and Ephraim. This one focuses on the destruction of Syria and Ephraim. Interesting series of chapters. They are all about how God will destroy various places. According to the notes (CEB) version, “Assyria conquered Damascus in 732 BCE and Samaria in 722 BCE” (p. 1119 OT). When was this part written again? Before or after these events? Oh well, I’ll figure it out another time.
Isaiah 18: A prophecy concerning Lush (Ethiopia). Yet again, another place will be destroyed by God. A ton of violence in this book.
Matthew 13: This chapter is full of parables. Here’s a explanation of the purpose of parables from the Access study bible (p. 1687):
Now, on to my thoughts on this chapter. As I said, a bunch of parables. The first parable is the parable of the soils. This is the one about the farmer dropping seeds in different types of soil (also found in Luke ch. 8). The seeds that fell on a variety of less than ideal settings didn’t grow or only grew for a short amount of time. The seeds that fell in the good soil produced much fruit.
Before Jesus explains the meaning of this parable he explains why he speaks in parables in the first place.
He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. ¹² For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. ¹³ The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ ¹⁴ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. ¹⁵ For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’ ¹⁶ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. ¹⁷ Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it” (NRSV p. 1766).
He tells them that he speaks in parables because the people won’t truly understand without the necessary insight from God. The notes in the NRSV state: “Matthew indicates that Jesus speaks in parables as a consequence of incomprehension by Jesus’ audience” (p. 1766).
Jesus now explains the meaning of the parable of the soils. The seeds represent the message from Heaven and the different outcome of growth represent people’s responses to this message. Everyone gets the same message but it entirely depends on how we respond. The seed that didn’t grow at all represent those who hear the message but don’t understand it. The seed that grew on rocks with little root represent those who accept the message immediately but question it during tough times. The seed spread among the thorny bushes represent those who hear the word but worry about this life and their problems. Finally, the seed planted in good soil represent those who heard, understood, and accept the message in their lives.
Up next, the parable of the weeds. A farmer plants wheat in a field and at night an enemy came and planted weeds without anyone knowing. Once the crop started sprouting they noticed both the wheat and the weeds. The farmer’s servants asked him what to do. He said to let everything grow until it is time for harvest. Then take the weeds and burn them. Jesus later explains that this represents the current world. The wheat is his message and the weeds represent the devil. At the end of time angels will separate those who followed Jesus from those who didn’t. The tough part here for me is what happens next. Jesus explains that those who don’t follow him are burned and destroyed similar to what a farmer does to weeds. That’s troubling for me.
A few shorter parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. First, the parable of the mustard seed. The message starts as small as the mustard seed but grows to an enormous size. Next is the parable of the yeast. He speaks of a woman who hides the yeast in a bag of flour which then grows similar to the Kingdom of Heaven.
The next two parables emphasize the overwhelming value of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first talks about a person who hid a treasure (Heaven) in a field. Another person found it, then sold all of their possessions to buy this field. The second focuses on a person who is looking for nice pearls, but instead finds a rare one (heaven) and purchases it instead.
The last parable is the parable of the fishing net. What will happen at the end is similar to what happens when fishermen bring their catch to shore. They sort the fish, keeping the good ones and tossing back the bad ones. This is what the angels will do: keep the good ones and toss the evil ones into a fire (outcome is the same as what Jesus said in the parable of the weeds).
This chapter ends with Jesus returning to his hometown. He tries to preach to the people in their synagogue, but they refuse to listen, remembering him as the carpenter’s son and his family in general. The notes remind me that at this time in history, one’s success depended more on their lineage than anything else. Because of this, he proclaims that he is unable to do what he needs to do in his hometown due to their disbelief.
Matthew 14: John the Baptist dies in this chapter. Herod had initially decided to NOT kill John the Baptist because the people believed him to be a prophet. However, at his birthday party, his niece danced for the people which made them all happy. He said he would give her anything. Her mother encourages her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herod agrees and beheads John the Baptist.
This news upsets Jesus and he goes to a place of solitude. The people follow him, upwards of 5000 men, women, and children. At night his disciples urged Jesus to send the people away to the villages so they can get food. He says they should stay and they can feed them. They inform him they only have 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus blesses the food. This action made it possible for the food to be plentiful enough for everyone to be full and there to be many leftovers.
Next Jesus walks on water for his disciples. Jesus did this to rescue them from the boat in the middle of the lake when it was stormy. They thought he was a ghost and Peter said if it were really Jesus, then order him to come out there. Jesus does this and Peter walks on the water to him. He becomes scared when wind comes, starts to sink, and Jesus saves him. Jesus admonishes him for his weak faith.
This chapter ends with Jesus healing everyone in the next town when they touch his clothes.
Many miracles in this chapter. I need to read the Thomas Jefferson Bible.