VII. Parables about the Kingdom (Matthew 13:1-58)


VII. Parables about the Kingdom (13:1-58)

13:1-9 Jesus began using parables to teach about the kingdom. A parable is a story used as an analogy to explain a spiritual truth. The first parable describes a sower who scattered seed on various kinds of soils (13:3). Each piece of ground produced a different result (13:4-8). As Jesus explains in 13:18-23, this story illustrates the different ways people respond when they hear the word of God. It’s crucial that you not only hear Jesus, but have a heart that’s willing to receive his words in order to benefit from them.

13:10-17 Why did Jesus speak in parables (13:10)? The disciples had been granted understanding of the secrets of the kingdom, but those who rejected him were not given such understanding (13:11). The “secrets,” or “mysteries,” of the kingdom refer to those things that were hidden in the Old Testament and are revealed in the New, with the coming of Christ. When you respond to the spiritual light you’ve been given, you’ll receive more light—more understanding. But when you reject the light, the opposite happens (13:12).

Jesus spoke in parables to give understanding to the disciples while also confounding those who refused to believe (13:13). This fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (see Isa 6:9-10), which spoke of those who would listen and not understand spiritual truth because of their callous hearts (13:14-15). Disciples, by contrast, are blessed because they see and hear (with understanding) the very Messiah (13:16) whom many prophets and righteous people longed for (13:17).

13:18-23 Jesus interpreted the parable of the sower (13:2-9), which has to do with one’s response to the word of God—that is, living under the rule of God’s kingdom. For some, the evil one snatches away the word before it can penetrate the heart so that they can be converted to faith in Christ (13:19). Others receive the word with joy (i.e., get converted), but they fail to grow in Christ because of the cares and pressures of the world (13:20-21). Still other believers aren’t able to bear fruit because the word becomes choked out by worldliness and wealth (13:22). But the good soil represents the kingdom disciple who hears the word, understands it, and produces fruit (13:23). Fruit that results from faithful discipleship is always visible and benefits others. The parable’s point is clear: It is the condition of the heart in its openness to receive and respond to God’s word that will determine the word’s effectiveness in a person’s life.

13:24-30 In Jesus’s parable about weeds and wheat, the kingdom is compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, while his enemy snuck in and sowed weeds among the wheat (13:24-25). The farmer refuses to let his servants uproot the weeds since the wheat might also be ripped out in the process (13:27-29). Therefore, he tells the servants to let both grow together. The reapers will separate them at harvest time (13:30). Matthew includes Jesus’s explanation of the parable in 13:36-43.

13:31-33 The kingdom is also like a mustard seed (13:31). Though it’s smaller than other seeds, it grows to become taller than other plants (13:32). Though God’s kingdom rule began in a seemingly insignificant way with a few Galilean fishermen and a tax collector, it would grow tremendously with the blessings of God. Christianity would become a significant worldwide movement in spite of its humble beginnings. Similarly, Jesus’s parable of the leaven (13:33) reminds us that though the kingdom started out small, it will continue to expand and spread throughout the world by the power of the Holy Spirit.

13:34-35 Matthew frequently observes how Jesus’s life, words, and deeds fulfilled the Old Testament (e.g., 2:15; 4:14-16; 8:17; 12:17-21). Even his ministry of teaching in parables was a fulfillment of Scripture (see Ps 78:2).

13:36-43 When the crowds left, the disciples asked Jesus privately to explain the meaning of the parable of the weeds to them (13:36; see 13:24-30). Jesus identified all the characters in the story (13:37-39), revealing that it’s about the battle between the Son of Man and the devil. Both Christ and Satan sow their children in the world—those who do their will. But such won’t go on forever. The Lord will send his angels to reap the harvest at the end of the age (13:39-41). Those who follow Satan will be cast into the blazing furnace to be punished. Here weeping and gnashing of teeth (13:42) refers to the profound regret of unbelievers who are cast into hell since they enter eternity without imputed righteousness (see 2 Cor 5:21). Those who follow the Son will shine in their Father’s kingdom (13:43).

Self-righteous religion will grow in the world alongside true Christianity. There will be those who appear to be saved. They use spiritual-sounding language and get involved in church programs, but their Christianity is only an imitation. They may camouflage themselves among true believers, but God can’t be deceived.

13:44-46 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field (13:44) and like a priceless pearl (13:46). Discoverers are willing to give up everything they possess in order to gain their prizes because they recognize their incalculable value (13:44, 46). Similarly, men and women who discover and recognize the worth of living life under the rule of God will sacrifice anything of earthly value for participation in his kingdom. Life holds no greater treasure.

13:47-50 The kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea that collected every kind of fish (13:47). What do good fishermen do? They gather the good fish and throw out the worthless ones (13:48). So also, at the end of the age, God’s angels will separate the evil people from the righteous, throwing the evil into the blazing furnace (13:49-50). Like the parable of the weeds and wheat (13:24-30, 36-43), this illustration of fish in a net describes the final judgment when those who persist in unrepentance and unbelief will be cast into hell. Here again weeping and gnashing of teeth (13:50) refers to the profound regret of unbelievers who have rejected salvation.

Hell is an uncomfortable topic. But when you’re dying of cancer and need drastic medical treatment, the doctor isn’t concerned about making you comfortable. He tells you about the plan that might save your life. Sin is worse than cancer. Christians need to share the truth about Jesus, so that unbelievers have a chance to undergo gospel surgery and avoid the blazing furnace of God’s judgment.

13:51-53 Jesus concluded his parables (13:53) by comparing every teacher of the law who has become a disciple to an owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom treasures new and old (13:52). He wasn’t talking about a special class of Christians. All believers are called to be disciples of Jesus and students of the Word. As you grow in understanding the Bible—both the new (the teachings of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament) and the old (the law and the prophets of the Old Testament)—you are to help the world know the King and follow his kingdom rule.

13:54-58 After this, Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth and taught in their synagogue. But he didn’t exactly receive a warm homecoming there. Though they were astonished at his wisdom and miraculous powers (11:54), they were offended when they realized he was one of them: “We know his family. How could this common man have this uncommon wisdom and power? He’s no better than us!” (11:54-57). And as a result of their unbelief, he did not do many miracles there (11:58).

Unbelief can stop the miraculous. God will choose not to do things that he wants to do when you don’t take seriously what he has to say. Don’t be a hindrance to God’s work in your life. Believe his word. Trust his promises. Follow in obedience.