Matthew 13

Setting for the parables

1 That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake.
2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore.

Parable of the soils

3 He said many things to them in parables: " A farmer went out to scatter seed.
4 As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it.
5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn't deep.
6 But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots.
7 Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them.
8 Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.
9 Everyone who has ears should pay attention."

Why Jesus speaks in parables

10 Jesus' disciples came and said to him, "Why do you use parables when you speak to the crowds?"
11 Jesus replied, “Because they haven't received the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but you have.
12 For those who have will receive more and they will have more than enough. But as for those who don't have, even the little they have will be taken away from them.
13 This is why I speak to the crowds in parables: although they see, they don't really see; and although they hear, they don't really hear or understand.
14 What Isaiah prophesied has become completely true for them: You will hear, to be sure, but never understand; and you will certainly see but never recognize what you are seeing.
15 For this people's senses have become calloused, and they've become hard of hearing, and they've shut their eyes so that they won't see with their eyes or hear with their ears or understand with their minds, and change their hearts and lives that I may heal them.
16 “Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear.
17 I assure you that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see what you see and hear what you hear, but they didn't.

Explanation of the parable of the farmer

18 " Consider then the parable of the farmer.
19 Whenever people hear the word about the kingdom and don't understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what was planted in their hearts. This is the seed that was sown on the path.
20 As for the seed that was spread on rocky ground, this refers to people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully.
21 Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away.
22 As for the seed that was spread among thorny plants, this refers to those who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the false appeal of wealth choke the word, and it bears no fruit.
23 As for what was planted on good soil, this refers to those who hear and understand, and bear fruit and produce—in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one."

Parable of the weeds

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like someone who planted good seed in his field.
25 While people were sleeping, an enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat and went away.
26 When the stalks sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The servants of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Master, didn't you plant good seed in your field? Then how is it that it has weeds?'
28 “‘An enemy has done this,' he answered. “The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather them?'
29 " But the landowner said, ‘No, because if you gather the weeds, you'll pull up the wheat along with them.
30 Let both grow side by side until the harvest. And at harvesttime I'll say to the harvesters, First gather the weeds and tie them together in bundles to be burned. But bring the wheat into my barn. '"

Parable of the mustard seed

31 He told another parable to them: " The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field.
32 It's the smallest of all seeds. But when it's grown, it's the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches."

Parable of the yeast

33 He told them another parable: " The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough."

Purpose of parables to the crowds

34 Jesus said all these things to the crowds in parables, and he spoke to them only in parables.
35 This was to fulfill what the prophet spoke: I'll speak in parables; I'll declare what has been hidden since the beginning of the world.

Explanation of the parable of the weeds

36 Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
37 Jesus replied, " The one who plants the good seed is the Human One.
38 The field is the world. And the good seeds are the followers of the kingdom. But the weeds are the followers of the evil one.
39 The enemy who planted them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the present age. The harvesters are the angels.
40 Just as people gather weeds and burn them in the fire, so it will be at the end of the present age.
41 The Human One will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that cause people to fall away and all people who sin.
42 He will throw them into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father's kingdom. Those who have ears should hear."

Parable of the treasure

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.

Parable of the merchant

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls.
46 When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.

Parable of the net

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish.
48 When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away.
49 That's the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people,
50 and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.

Treasures new and old

51 " Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked. They said to him, "Yes."
52 Then he said to them, " Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest."

Jesus in his hometown

53 When Jesus finished these parables, he departed.
54 When he came to his hometown, he taught the people in their synagogue. They were surprised and said, "Where did he get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to work miracles?
55 Isn't he the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother named Mary? Aren't James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers?
56 And his sisters, aren't they here with us? Where did this man get all this?"
57 They were repulsed by him and fell into sin. But Jesus said to them, " Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns and in their own households."
58 He was unable to do many miracles there because of their disbelief.

Matthew 13 Commentary

Chapter 13

The parable of the sower. (1-23) The parable of the tares. (24-30; 36-43) The parables of the mustard-seed and the leaven. (31-35) The parables of the hidden treasure, the pearl of great price, the net cast into the sea, and the householder. (44-52) Jesus is again rejected at Nazareth. (53-58)

Verses 1-23 Jesus entered into a boat that he might be the less pressed, and be the better heard by the people. By this he teaches us in the outward circumstances of worship not to covet that which is stately, but to make the best of the conveniences God in his providence allots to us. Christ taught in parables. Thereby the things of God were made more plain and easy to those willing to be taught, and at the same time more difficult and obscure to those who were willingly ignorant. The parable of the sower is plain. The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers. Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully. So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it. They are told of free salvation, of the believer's privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance. But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, ( Hebrews 6:8 ) . Worldly cares are great hinderances to our profiting by the word of God. The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites. Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God's word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are.

24-30, 36-43 This parable represents the present and future state of the gospel church; Christ's care of it, the devil's enmity against it, the mixture there is in it of good and bad in this world, and the separation between them in the other world. So prone is fallen man to sin, that if the enemy sow the tares, he may go his way, they will spring up, and do hurt; whereas, when good seed is sown, it must be tended, watered, and fenced. The servants complained to their master; Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? No doubt he did; whatever is amiss in the church, we are sure it is not from Christ. Though gross transgressors, and such as openly oppose the gospel, ought to be separated from the society of the faithful, yet no human skill can make an exact separation. Those who oppose must not be cut off, but instructed, and that with meekness. And though good and bad are together in this world, yet at the great day they shall be parted; then the righteous and the wicked shall be plainly known; here sometimes it is hard to distinguish between them. Let us, knowing the terrors of the Lord, not do iniquity. At death, believers shall shine forth to themselves; at the great day they shall shine forth before all the world. They shall shine by reflection, with light borrowed from the Fountain of light. Their sanctification will be made perfect, and their justification published. May we be found of that happy number.

Verses 31-35 The scope of the parable of the seed sown, is to show that the beginnings of the gospel would be small, but its latter end would greatly increase; in this way the work of grace in the heart, the kingdom of God within us, would be carried on. In the soul where grace truly is, it will grow really; though perhaps at first not to be discerned, it will at last come to great strength and usefulness. The preaching of the gospel works like leaven in the hearts of those who receive it. The leaven works certainly, so does the word, yet gradually. It works silently, and without being seen, ( Mark 4:26-29 ) , yet strongly; without noise, for so is the way of the Spirit, but without fail. Thus it was in the world. The apostles, by preaching the gospel, hid a handful of leaven in the great mass of mankind. It was made powerful by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, who works, and none can hinder. Thus it is in the heart. When the gospel comes into the soul, it works a thorough change; it spreads itself into all the powers and faculties of the soul, and alters the property even of the members of the body, ( Romans 6:13 ) . From these parables we are taught to expect a gradual progress; therefore let us inquire, Are we growing in grace? and in holy principles and habits?

Verses 44-52 Here are four parables. 1. That of the treasure hid in the field. Many slight the gospel, because they look only upon the surface of the field. But all who search the Scriptures, so as in them to find Christ and eternal life, ( John 5:39 ) , will discover such treasure in this field as makes it unspeakably valuable; they make it their own upon any terms. Though nothing can be given as a price for this salvation, yet much must be given up for the sake of it. 2. All the children of men are busy; one would be rich, another would be honourable, another would be learned; but most are deceived, and take up with counterfeits for pearls. Jesus Christ is a Pearl of great price; in having him, we have enough to make us happy here and for ever. A man may buy gold too dear, but not this Pearl of great price. When the convinced sinner sees Christ as the gracious Saviour, all things else become worthless to his thoughts. 3. The world is a vast sea, and men, in their natural state, are like the fishes. Preaching the gospel is casting a net into this sea, to catch something out of it, for His glory who has the sovereignty of this sea. Hypocrites and true Christians shall be parted: miserable is the condition of those that shall then be cast away. 4. A skilful, faithful minister of the gospel, is a scribe, well versed in the things of the gospel, and able to teach them. Christ compares him to a good householder, who brings forth fruits of last year's growth and this year's gathering, abundance and variety, to entertain his friends. Old experiences and new observations, all have their use. Our place is at Christ's feet, and we must daily learn old lessons over again, and new ones also.

Verses 53-58 Christ repeats his offer to those who have repulsed them. They upbraid him, Is not this the carpenter's son? Yes, it is true he was reputed to be so; and no disgrace to be the son of an honest tradesman; they should have respected him the more because he was one of themselves, but therefore they despised him. He did not many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Unbelief is the great hinderance to Christ's favours. Let us keep faithful to him as the Saviour who has made our peace with God.

Footnotes 4

Matthew 13 Commentaries