Matthew 13



The Parable of the Sower (13:1-23)

(Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15)

1-23 See Mark 4:1-20 and comment.

The Parable of the Weeds (13:24-30)

24-30 This is the first of five parables in this chapter about the kingdom of heaven. In the parable of the weeds, the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field (verse 24). But an enemy sowed weeds in the same field, and the wheat and the weeds grew up together (verses 25-26). The servants of the man wanted to pull up the weeds at once, but their master told them to wait until the harvest, lest the wheat also be destroyed (verses 29-30). The meaning of the parable is given in verses 36-43.


The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (13:31-35)

(Mark 4:30-34; Luke 13:20-21)

31-32 See Mark 4:30-32 and comment.

33 The kingdom of heaven is like yeast. Its influence spreads throughout the whole world like yeast spreads through dough. The kingdom of heaven changes the world. It is like salt. It is like light in the darkness.

34-35 When Jesus spoke to the crowds, He spoke in parables. Usually the crowds did not understand the meaning of the parables, and sometimes Jesus’ own disciples didn’t either (verse 36). The purpose of the parables was not to give simple examples that ordinary people could easily understand. Rather, the parables were revelations of things hidden, which only those with spiritual insight could understand56 (see Mark 4:10-12,33-34 and comment).


The Parable of the Weeds Explained (13:36-43)

36-39 The meaning of the parable of the weeds is this: Christ sows good seed in the world. The good seed are believers. But at the same time, Christ’s enemy, Satan, also sows evil seed, the weeds. The kind of weed mentioned in this parable looks like wheat. Therefore, when the wheat and the weeds begin to grow, it is difficult to tell them apart.

In the same way, among believers in the church there are also “weeds,” that is, false believers. These are the sons of the evil one (verse 38), that is, servants of Satan. They say, “I believe.” They in some ways act like other Christians. They receive the same blessings of rain and sunshine as the good seed (Matthew 5:45). But, in fact, they are weeds.

In this parable, the servants ask their master, “Do you want us to go and pull [the weeds] up?” (verse 28). Many of us are like those servants. We are quick to judge, quick to condemn. We want to get rid of the weeds at once.

But Christ says: “No … because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat (verse 29). You cannot be certain which are the weeds. Let both grow together until the harvest” (verse 30).

40-43 Christ teaches in this parable that until the last judgment, there will be evil in the world. Only then will Satan be finally overcome. Only then will the weeds be pulled up and burned. It is not for us to pull up the weeds, that is, to judge and condemn others. That work is only for the Son of Man and His angels (verse 41).

There will also be weeds in the church. Just as among the twelve disciples there was one, Judas, who betrayed Christ, so in the church there are weeds, false Christians, wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). We must beware of them. We must examine their teaching. We must rebuke wrongdoing and discipline brothers who fall into error (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 and comment). But we must not judge them (see Matthew 7:1; 1 Corinthians 4:5 and comments).

There are two great dangers that every church confronts. One is weeds. The weeds make the church weak. They weaken the faith of other Christians. They bring dishonor on the church.

But the second danger is equally great. It comes from zealous Christians who are quick to pull up weeds. They desire to purify the church and this is good. But they also have ajudging spirit, and this is wrong. Yes, they pull up many weeds. They expose false Christians. But at the same time, they judge true Christians. They split the church. And in the end they do more harm than if they had left the weeds alone. This is the deepest meaning of the parable of the weeds.

Only God, the Son of Man, can truly judge. At the right time, He will separate the wheat and the weeds. There will be a new heaven and a new earth … the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-2). Nothing impure will ever enter it (Revelation 21:27). At that time the weeds will be removed and destroyed. And then Christ will send his angels and gather his elect (Mark 13:26-27). Then the righteous will shine like the sun (verse 43). Those who are lights in this world will shine even more brightly in the next (Matthew 5:14).


Three Other Parables of the Kingdom of Heaven (13:44-52)

44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. The treasure is so valuable that a wise man will sell all he has in order to obtain it. To obtain the kingdom of heaven means to obtain salvation, eternal life with God in heaven.

45-46 In this parable of the pearls, Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven is more valuable than anything else a man can obtain. There are many kinds of religion in the world, but only one leads to heaven. There are many teachers in the world, but only one—namely, Jesus—leads to the full truth. There are many blessings in the world, but only Jesus leads a man to the highest blessing of all—salvation, eternal life. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There are many pearls in the world, but only from Jesus can we receive this pearl of great value, the greatest pearl of all. Indeed, the pearl is Christ Himself. The wise man will sell everything he has, he will give up whatever is necessary, in order to obtain this pearl (see Philippians 3:7-8 and comment).

47-50 The parable of the net gives the same teaching as the parable of the weeds (verses 37-43). Christ and His disciples cast out the net into the sea (the world), and both good and bad fish are caught. As long as the net is in the sea, the fisherman cannot tell what is in it. Only in the final judgment at the end of the age (verse 49) when the net is dragged to shore, will the bad fish be taken out and thrown away.

51-52 The disciples at first did not understand all of the parables (verse 36). But soon they were able to understand them. They were learning to become teachers themselves. All twelve disciples were Jews, and thus each was, in a way, a teacher of the law, the Jewish law, or the Old Testament. But now they were becoming instructed about the kingdom of heaven (verse 52). Thus they possessed old treasure, the law, and new treasures, that is, the Gospel of Christ.

A Prophet Without Honor (13:53-58)

(Mark 6:1-6)

53-58 See Mark 6:1-6 and comment.