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How many people does Matthew say gathered to Jesus to hear Him teach?  See Mat 13:2.  What statement in Mat 13:2 indicates how large the crowds were that were seeking to hear Jesus?  How does Matthew say that Jesus spoke to them?  See Mat 13:3.  What is a parable, and in what way do parables instruct in the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 13:11)?  Note: a parable has been described by many as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  Is the nature of a “mystery” plain and obvious for all to see, or hidden and unexpected so that only those who make an earnest effort will understand?  Cf. Pro 2:1-5.  What then does “mysteries” in Mat 13:11 indicate about the nature of God’s wisdom and the knowledge of the truth that leads to eternal life?  See 1Co 2:6-8.  What are some examples of the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” mentioned throughout scripture?  See Rom 11:25, 16:25, 1Co 15:51, Eph 3:3-6, 5:32, Col 1:26-27, 2:2, 2Th 2:7, 1Ti 3:16.

Would speaking cryptically in parables be considered an effective strategy for ministering to the large crowds sought after by many teachers and churches today?  Did Jesus’ own disciples seem to question its effectiveness for reaching the multitudes?  See Mat 13:10.  Was Jesus’ purpose for teaching in parables to more effectively reach the large number of people who were attracted to His ministry?  Why does He say that he spoke to the multitudes in parables?  See Mat 13:11-15.  How was Jesus’ purpose and use of parables very different from the entertaining stories often used by preachers today?  In what way would Jesus’ use of parables serve to filter out those who sought after the truth of God with a good and honest heart from those who in their form of godliness sought after it only in pretense?  Think: is the meaning of a parable immediately obvious, or must one ruminate and muse about it in order to understand it?  Consequently, will those whose ultimate love is for the world and who a-muse themselves with the things of the world take the time necessary to think deeply about a parable’s meaning and its implication for their lives?  Once again, what does this teach us about the central importance in our walk with God of having a sincere love for the truth?  Cf. 2Th 2:10-12, 1Pe 2:2 and think: what is the evidence that one has been born again and as a newborn babe is alive in Christ?

When speaking to the multitudes, how often did Jesus use parables?  See Mat 13:3 and cf. Mat 13:34, Mar 4:33-34.  Again, how was Jesus’ approach to dealing with the large number of people who were attracted to His ministry very different from the approach of today’s mega-churches?  What does this teach us about what Jesus sought in followers: quantity, or quality?  Cf. Joh 6:11-15.  What do most churches today seek, and why?  What do we seek?

On what day does Matthew say that Jesus went out of the house to sit by the sea?  See Mat 13:1 and the context of chapter 12.  What is the significance of that context that it was at this time that Matthew says Jesus spoke many things to them in parables?  See especially Mat 12:2,10,14,24,38.

Read Mat 19:27 and cf. Luk 5:11,27-28.  What dichotomy does Jesus draw in Mat 13:11-17 between His disciples who had “left everything” to follow Him and the multitudes who were attracted to His ministry but did not have the same depth of personal relationship they had because of their daily communion with Him?  How is the depth of our own personal relationship and daily communion with Jesus?  Are we most like His disciples who left everything to follow Him and spent considerable time in His presence to be able to discern the “mysteries” of the kingdom of heaven, or most like the multitudes who were attracted to His ministry but only came on certain occasions when the timing was convenient and they were unhindered by their other responsibilities and pursuits?  The disciples “left everything” to follow Jesus because they knew that He had the words of eternal life (Joh 6:66-68) and that they needed to spend time with Him on a daily basis in order to understand them; what will we forsake to make time in our lives to spend with Jesus on a daily basis to understand His words of eternal life?  The TV? The news? The e-mail or internet? The social network? The extra sleep? The sales catalogs? The serving and cleaning (Luk 10:38-42)? The vacation? The hunting or fishing trip? The boat? The A in a class? The hobby? The addition to the house? The overtime at work? The lucrative career? The promotion at work with its added responsibilities and time commitment?  Will we forsake anything?  See 1Co 6:19-20.

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