Matthew chapter 13

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1The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. 10And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. 12For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 17For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. 18Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
24Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 31Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: 32Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. 33Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. 34All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. 36Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

What does Matthew chapter 13 mean?

A huge group of people follow Jesus from the overcrowded house He was teaching in at the end of the previous chapter to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. So many people gather around Him that they cannot all see and hear Him. To solve this, Jesus gets in a boat and sits just a bit offshore. The crowd stands on the beach and listens as He begins to teach them in parables (Matthew 13:1–3).

Parables are usually short stories designed to emphasize a greater truth. The main purpose of a parable is to make large or abstract ideas easier to grasp. By relating something to more common experiences, parables make those deeper concepts more accessible. At the same time, because they rely on symbolism and metaphor, parables can be somewhat obscure. They certainly blur minute details, but those are not their primary purpose. The disciples ask Jesus to explain at least one to them, which He does during this chapter.

Jesus intentionally avoids explaining the meaning of the parables to the larger crowd, however. He tells the disciples that it has been given to them to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. Israel at large, however, especially her religious leaders, was rejecting Jesus' role as the Messiah and the truth His miracles were powered by God. Because of that, Jesus says the people would fulfill Isiah's prophecies about those with dull hearts who will not see or hear or understand. The idea is that the people were resistant first, and in response, God amplified their misunderstanding as a form of judgment. Christ's disciples, though, are blessed to be able to see and hear what so many prophets and righteous people longed to see and hear down through Israel's history (Matthew 13:10–17).

Matthew notes that Jesus now teaches the crowds in parables partly to fulfill a prophetic statement in Psalm 78 (Matthew 13:34–35). These specific teachings are in the context of Israel's response to Jesus' ministry. While there are useful parallels to how the gospel is received, or rejected, the main purpose of these teachings is not to present a litmus test for salvation. The parable of the sower, in particular, has been picked apart in an effort to create a sort of "salvation spectrum," but this is not the intent of the message.

The first parable taught to the crowd is that of the sower who was planting a field. To get the maximum harvest, farmers would scatter seeds right over the border of the prepared soil. So, some seeds fall on hard-packed paths which are not ready for planting; birds eat those. Other seeds land on thin soil and begin to grow, but underlying rocks prevent growth; those sprouts die in a heatwave. Other seeds fell among thorns that choked the plants as they grew, preventing them from being abundant. Finally, some seeds landed on good soil and grew to have enormous yields (Matthew 3:3–9).

Jesus explains—only to His disciples—that the seeds represent the word of the kingdom. Those who do not understand it are the hard soil of the path. Such persons are hardened or resistant, and the message never even penetrates the surface. Satan snatches away that truth like a bird grabbing a seed. Rocky soil represents those who seem to accept the truth, but without any depth. As soon as difficulty comes, they wither and fail. Thorns represent competing interests from the world, like money. Lives choked with those distractions have no room to allow truth to flourish. The good soil is those who receive the word and are productive with it (Matthew 13:18–23).

The kingdom of heaven is described by Jesus using yet another parable. This one involves a man who sows grain in a field. His enemy comes by night and scatters weeds among the good wheat seeds. This is a known tactic used to sabotage another person's crops. The plant in question is likely darnel, also called tares: inedible grasses that look almost exactly like wheat until they produce seeds. Rather than uproot the good wheat, the farmer wisely waits until the harvest. At that time, all the plants will be harvested, but the weeds will be separated out, bundled up, and burned (Matthew 13:24–30).

In a later moment, Jesus explains to His disciples that He is the farmer, and the field is the entire world. The children of God's kingdom are the good wheat, and the children of the Devil are the weeds. For now, both will be allowed to live and grow. In the end judgment, however, they will be separated, and the evil ones will be thrown into a furnace (Matthew 13:36–43).

In a similar teaching, Jesus depicts the use of nets to catch fish. As the net is pulled through the water, it collects many different things. Once everything has been caught, fishermen sort what's valuable from what's not. In the same way, God's final judgment will distinguish between those who are His children and those who are not (Matthew 13:47–50).

The kingdom of heaven is also compared to a grain of mustard seed that grows to a large plant. This represents how the kingdom will be great and glorious, just as the Old Testament predicted—but not immediately. Rather, it will grow into that state (Matthew 13:31–32).

Christ also symbolizes the kingdom of heaven is like leaven in flour. What appears to be a tiny thing—small amounts of yeast—hidden among something large—a huge batch of flour. Likewise, the kingdom's apparently small, obscure beginning will come to affect the entire earth (Matthew 13:33).

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, or a costly pearl. Wise people recognize the value of these items and give up everything else to acquire them. The point of these parables is not that one must sacrifice everything to obtain salvation, but that there is a clear difference in value between earthly things and heavenly things. Giving up all we have only seems radical when we don't realize how valuable the rewards of the kingdom really are (Matthew 13:44–46).

When Jesus asks the disciples if they comprehend all He has told them, they answer "yes." They certainly grasp more about how the kingdom of God will be, compared to what they knew before. Jesus relates this to a wealthy person who shows others his treasures—both what is old and what is new. This represents the disciples being trained to teach others how lessons of the Old Testament fit with revelations from the New Testament. Despite the disciples insisting they know exactly what Jesus is saying, later incidents in Matthew's gospel show they still lack complete understanding (Matthew 13:51–52; 16:21–23; 26:6–13).

The chapter concludes with a trip to Jesus' hometown of Nazareth, where the people reject Him despite His wisdom and the mighty works He performs. Since they know Him—or, rather, think they do—they refuse to even consider new information. In fact, they're insulted at the suggestion that someone they think little of could be so important. Since the people are insincere and disinterested (Matthew 7:6), Jesus does little supernatural work there (Matthew 13:53–58).
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