A parable is a story that helps to illustrate a truth or teaching. There is a helpful principle we can learn and apply from parables; The response of the teaching is partially dependent on the character and response of those who hear. In our portion of Scripture before us the teacher is the Messiah. The message is the Good News of the long awaited and promised kingdom.
The best teacher and the best and most desired subject, and yet the results or harvest is not consistent. This parable teaches that though the seed and the sower might be good the results depend upon the soil in which it is placed.
The interpretation is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 13:18-23; The Bad Soil is represented by three characters:
Disinterest – Instead of being receptive to the seeds of truth, the heart of a person filled with the concerns of life is hard. When the seed of truth comes in the form of a personal letter from heaven, it is discarded like just one more piece of junk mail in the hearts mailbox.
Emotional – The rocky ground is warm and moist and when the hits it sprouts quickly. However an emotional responder lacks depth of commitment and in the face of trials or testing the seed will wither and die.
Worldliness – In this case the seed takes hold and grows but in the face of competition with the cares and affairs of the world the seed dies from lack of nourishment; The opposite of a tree planted by streams of living waters.
The Good soil – First of all this soil brings not only sprouts and growth but eventually it brings forth fruit. While the seed had the ability to bring an “abundant” harvest the results are largely determined by the cultivation of the soil and if the plant is pruned to add growth and if it is well fed and watered.
Jesus concludes the parable with the word he who has ears, let him hear; In other words, if you can understand it then receive it. Perhaps this was a challenge to those who were open to become one of his followers, for shortly he was going to give his disciples the interpretation, as well as explain why he was now speaking to the multitudes in parables.
Matthew 13:10-17 The Disciples wanted to know why he taught in parables that were impossible to understand. Jesus responds by telling them that he taught in parables to reveal truths to those who receive Him and to conceal meaning from those who will not. When Jesus speaks of mysteries, he is speaking of heavenly truths not before understood by God’s people. They have to do with the Kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:24, 31).
Remember the theme of Matthew is the King bringing the Kingdom of heaven to His people. Heaven is not some far away place that we are hoping to enter; it is attainable here and now. It begins with the decision to allow the King to reign in your heart and it becomes more real as we allow the King to have more control of our kingdom. That is why losing our life is essential to finding abundant life.
(Matthew 16:25). When we surrender and allow the King to rule in our lives we are then used by Him to advance His kingdom of Love and Grace in the world. We in ourselves can never bring the Kingdom to others, this has been proven over and over again. Man has tried Communism, Socialism, Religious Theocracy, Democracy, Imperialism, benevolent dictatorship, all these worldly systems of government have failed and will continue to fail. The only thing that will work is allowing the King freely to rule in our hearts.
One of the reasons that anarchy and chaos, the tragedies of Rwanda, Biafra, the Holocaust and tragic events like those occur is that man continually says to God, we will not let you rule over us. Each one of us in some way, some more than others, will not allow the King to rule in our hearts and lives. This is one of the great mysteries of faith, will we allow Yeshua to rule in our hearts and from there in every area of our lives. This takes faith. It is not merely the work of the adversary that has brought the world to its present unhappy state, it has been the unwitting failure of man to recognize the real source of peace and life. “Thy will be done” and that will is summed up in two commands; to love the Lord our God with all our heart soul, might, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The mysteries of the kingdom related in parables is for those who respond to the King. Jesus then adds that whoever has, to him shall more be given…but those who don’t have even what they do have will be taken away. This means that those who do not allow the King to reign in their heart the little light that they have been given will be removed at the judgment seat of Christ, when they will be placed in darkness for eternity. These people, while hearing and seeing did not understand or perceive and this was a direct result of the hardness of their hearts. But believers have been truly blessed to have their eyes and their hearts opened by God so that they could respond to Him.
Matthew 13:18-23 – The sower of the seed here is not identified but in the next parable he the sower is identified as “the Son of Man” Matthew 13:37. Matthew assumes that his audience understands the identity of the seed. The seed is identified in the Luke account as the “Word of God” Luke 8:11. The written Word is the Scriptures and the Living Word is the Messiah – Both are necessary for spiritual life John 5:39.
In the parable there is no difference in the soils, what makes the difference is the preparation of the soil. The hard packed soil is one who hears but does not understand because of the hardness of his heart. Remorse, conviction concerning sin, and an openness to wisdom and truth are not present and so his heart is hard.
The rocky soil is the shallow man who’s feelings are on the surface. When hearing the Good News he rejoices over what it can do for him but is not willing to surrender his life, confessing his sins, and having a broken spirit. He remains independent of God’s will in his life. The result is that when affliction and persecution come because of his faith, he falls away. The Greek word that is translated “falls away”, is skandalizo, which means “to cause to stumble or fall”.
The word scandalize comes from this word. A superficial Christian is scandalized, or stumbles when his faith is put to the test. The seed planted among thorns is too involved in the world and its way of doing things (deceitfulness) for the seed to take root and grow in his heart. The love of money continues to make it difficult if not impossible to accomplish the will go God.
The seed sown in good soil is no different from the other soil it just has been tilled and will receive the seed in an ideal environment. This kind of soil has been prepared through the prayers of others and the work of the Holy Spirit. This kind of person is now teachable and open. The result is an abundant harvest of fruit. When storms come this person will grow and not wither like the seed planted among thorns.
Matthew 13:24-30 This parable uses the sowing of seed in his field; but the emphasis is not on what happens to the good seed as in previous parable but the bad seed that and enemy has sown among the good seed. This was done while the farmer and his help were sleeping in the night. Roman law prohibited this as a crime. When the wheat sprouted so too did the tares or weeds. When asked by the servants if the weeds should be pulled up the farmer said no. The reason why is for fear of hurting the wheat along with the weeds. Instead he instructs them to allow them to both grow together until the harvest. When the wheat could clearly be seen as well as the weeds. Then the weeds were to be cut and bound and then burned. While the wheat then could be gathered and stored.
Matthew 13:31-32 the parable of the Mustard seed – the mustard seed was the smallest plant utilized regularly in planting regularly in Judea. While Yeshua never explains this parable its meaning is evident. It is an allusion to the smallness of the response to the Kingdom, which will one day grow way behind its apparent seed.
The picture of birds coming to nest, I believe, has been fulfilled in all the peoples of the world who have found rest and shade in the Kingdom of God thru faith in Yeshua. Daniel was given a picture of large tree, where beasts found shade Daniel 4:10-12. This was a picture of the King Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom.
Matthew 13:33 – The parable of the leaven – Leaven was used in the baking of bread; A piece of dough was removed from a batch of leavened dough, and place in side a new batch so it would rise. The point of this parable is that small things can have a great deal of influence. The kingdom even though it appears small and insignificant can have a major impact because it contains the power of God.
A second point is that this influence is positive. People prefer leavened bread to unleavened. Just as the leaven of this parable must be placed inside the meal, so too must Believers be in the world but not of the world, if we are going to have a permeating influence. The disciples did not ask for an explanation of this parable indicating that they understood its meaning.
Matt 13:34-43 The explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares. The one sowing the seed is the Son of Man, this is Yeshua in His humble state. The field is the world though many have seen this parable as an illustration of the church with unbelievers and believers growing together. While it is acceptable to use as an illustration, the interpretation is that this parable is talking about Believers in the world. The tares or weeds are sons of the evil one, or Satan, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom and the separation of the wheat from the tares will take place at the end of the age.
That we are not to pull out the weeds, is a call to believers to not try to pull out those that appear to be children of the devil. Every time that the church has attempted to do this there invariably has been a bloodbath. The Crusades, the Inquisitions and the pogroms of Eastern Europe were all religiously motivated purges of so-called unbelievers or weeds. The church is called to proclaim the Gospel, not to try and pull weeds. The final judgment at the harvest at the end of days will determine that.
The angels are described as the ones qualified to separate wheat from chaff. The chaff will be thrown into the fire where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Revelation 20:10 Hell will not be a place of fellowship and joviality with fellow sinners it will be a place of endless sorrow and misery. Once the tares are removed then the wheat, the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
Matthew 13:44 – Because Judea had been a battleground for years, at first between the Selucid Empire and the Ptolemaic, then Rome, people usually hid anything of great value in the ground to keep it from the invading armies looking for spoil to finance their war. When an owner died or was brought into captivity that treasure would be lost until someone by accident came across it.
In this parable a man comes across such hidden treasure and then reburies it. The field does not belong to him so he sells all that he has in order to buy the field. Now some might question the ethics of this action by the man but that really isn’t the point of the parable. The point has to do with selling all that he has to buy the land. However, what he did was not unethical, the present owner had not hidden it or he would have retrieved it before selling him the land. Rabbinic law also said that money or possessions found that had been lost and whose owner was dead or unknown, belonged to the finder. The man in this parable is so honest that rather than keep the found property, he first sells all that he has so that he can buy the field, then claims the treasure that he discovered on the land.
Matthew 13:45-46 – This merchant was a serious buyer of pearls. He knew the real thing when it came along and the value of this priceless pearl. In ancient times pearls were prized and valued like our diamonds today. Like diamonds it was a way to keep a large sum secure against inflation and reduce the space that it took. The Talmud spoke of pearls as being beyond price.
In Matthew 7:6 Jesus warned his disciples not to cast their pearl before swine. This was understood as relating to something very valuable. The central truth about these two last parables has to do with the need to personally appropriate the kingdom of heaven for oneself. You cannot be born into it or inherit it. There is a cost involved and it must be paid by each individual who desires to be a citizen. It is a free gift but its value is priceless. It is not seen easily with the naked eye. The eye must be opened in order to stumble upon it. Read Luke 17:20-21, These parables tell us further that the Kingdom is the source of real joy.
Matthew 13:47-50 – Jesus uses an illustration familiar to fishermen to illustrate God’s judgment on unbelievers. There were several ways that fishing was conducted, hook and line as well as net casting. There were a few different kinds of net casting consisting of individual and commercial type casting. Jesus is describing the commercial type in which large nets are set out by more than one boat and then dragged through 50he water. Because the net permitted nothing to escape, all sorts of things besides the desirable fish were caught.
It swept everything in its path, weeds, objects dropped overboard from boats, all manner of sea life, and fish of every kind. When the net was filled, it would take many men several hours just to drag it up on the beach. Then they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. The separation of the good and bad fish represents God’s judgment at the end of the age.
The parable of the wheat and tares illustrates the coexistence of believers and unbelievers in the present form of the kingdom, and this parable illustrates their separation as the form of the kingdom changes. During the present era, which is the church age, God permits unbelief and unrighteousness. But the time is coming when His toleration will end and His judgment will begin.
The first phase of judgment will be the separation of the wicked from among the righteous, the tares from among the wheat. The dragnet of God’s judgment will bring all men to the shores of eternity for final separation to their ultimate destiny, believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation.
Over and over Jesus warns about the horrors of hell and pleads with men to avoid it by coming to Him for salvation. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33) and does not desire that anyone perish (2 Peter 3:9). The Lord wept over Jerusalem because His people would not come to Him (Luke 19:41).
The Biblical teaching of hell cannot be avoided even though it is so difficult to discuss and accept. Jesus spoke more of hell than any of the prophets or apostles. He said more about hell than about love. The Lord gives several specific and direct warnings about hell: “Whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matthew 5:22), and, “It is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 13:29).
Hell is not merely the fate of forever reliving bad memories or of going out into nothingness, as many people believe and teach. Nor is it a place where sinners will continue their sinning, unrestrained and un-rebuked, there will be no pleasure at all in hell. Scripture teaches us that hell is a place of constant torment, misery, pain. The torment is often described as darkness (Matthew 22:13).
Hell’s torment is also described as fire that will never go out and cannot be extinguished (Mark 9:43) and from which the damned will never find relief. Hell will involve the torment of both body and soul. Neither the soul nor the body is annihilated at death. When an unsaved person dies, his soul goes out from the presence of God into everlasting torment. At the resurrection of all the dead, the bodies of the unsaved will be raised, and those resurrected bodies will join the soul in hell’s torment (Matthew 10:28; John 5:29; Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:11-15).
Just as believers will be fitted with resurrected bodies so they can enjoy the glories of heaven forever, unbelievers will be fitted with resurrected bodies so they can endure the torments of hell without being destroyed. The torments of hell will be experienced in varying degrees, some will experience greater torment than others (Hebrews 10:28-29; Matthew 11:22-23). The torment of hell will be everlasting. Nothing will be so horrible about hell as its endlessness. People in hell will experience the total absence of hope.
Matthew 13: 51-52 – When Jesus asked His disciples if they understood Him, they responded that they did. But we find later that they didn’t fully understand. Based on their response he alludes to scribes who have become disciples. A scribe was one who not only could write but was thought of as a teacher of the Law. They were part of the elite of Jewish religious life. Jesus was saying that His disciples were now in that class of men.
They now were like the scribes without going through the intense studies. Their school consisted of walking and talking with the master. They are now described as heads of the household. These are people responsible for the well-being of the family. The disciples were responsible for the propagation of the Good News of the Kingdom given to Israel and through them to the world. They were given the keys to the kingdom. They would explain and interpret the New Covenant in the light of the Old.
Matthew 13:51-52 – When Jesus asked His disciples if they understood Him. That the kingdom which is now but not yet will continue to have good and evil in it? That believers Would grow in numbers, and like leaven in bread diffuse and influence the world? That the kingdom involves recognizing apart from faith and life in Yeshua that the world is dead? That a time of separation from the children of God and the devil is immanent and that their fates are eternal, one to everlasting life and the other to everlasting death? They responded that they did. But we find later that they didn’t fully understand. Based on their response he alludes to scribes who have become disciples. A scribe was one who not only could write but was thought of as a teacher of the Law, the way that leads to life. They were now part of the elite of Jewish religious life. Jesus was saying that His disciples were in that kind of role.
They now were like scribes going through intense studies which consisted of their walking and talking with the master both now and with the tutor who was to come for their entire life. They are described as heads of the household, responsible for the well-being of the family of God. The disciples were responsible for the leadership and propagation of the Good News of the Kingdom given to Israel and through them to the world. They were given the keys to the kingdom. They would explain and interpret the New Covenant in the light of the Old.
They were like a head of a household, who brings forth out of his treasure things new and old. they would distribute items as they were needed. Explaining both Old and New Covenants entrusted with the divine Talmud, the New Testament. From the parables of the sower, the wheat and tares, and the dragnet, their message that kingdom had come and the call to warn of impending judgment. We too have this commission and called to be lifelong learners.
Matthew 13:53-58 – The eight parables of Matthew 13 mark the end of the disciples’ basic instruction. Jesus used parables in response to His rejection by the Jewish leadership and those hardened to both Yeshua and the Holy Spirit. He left Capernaum and then headed to the home of His youth, Nazareth. He began teaching in the Synagogue. He had spoken there earlier when He began His ministry, Luke describes that time in Luke 4:17-22. Now Jesus had returned, and His reputation was greater now. They were astonished at His wisdom and knowledge, and miraculous powers. They were confounded because He had not been a part of the Rabbinical Schools for training in Judea, nor did He speak and teach in the traditional way. That He could be different than them even though His sisters and brothers appeared normal, totally frustrated them. This is one of the key verses that demonstrate that while Mary was a godly woman, she did not remain a virgin after the birth of Jesus. She gave birth to sons and daughters, James the author of the Book in the New Testament was his half-brother.
His adopted father Joseph is described as a carpenter, this was one who worked with wood in a minimal way to support the main construction resource, stone. Jesus took over the business for His father (Mark 6:3) so for Him to become this great man of God all of a sudden was a great shock to the local people of Nazareth. Because of His humble background they were offended (scandalized from the Greek skandalizo, lit. causing to stumble or trip) by His behavior. Jesus saw this as indicative of the common proverb “a prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown”. Even His own family did not believe in Him until after His death and resurrection. Because of their lack of faith, Jesus did not do many miracles there. It was not that He couldn’t because they lacked faith but, He chose not to because of the hardness of their hearts.
Beginning with v 53 through the first part of chapter 16, Matthew records eight incidents that demonstrate the truths presented in the two parables just mentioned. The first involved the offense taken in Nazareth (vv 54–58) illustrating the soil of their hard hearts. The second involved Herod (14:1–12), whose heart was also hard who rejected Yeshua being removed from a covenantal relationship. The third had two parts first on the multitude whom Jesus miraculously fed and then concerning the people of Gennesaret on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (14:13–21, 34–36). Both demonstrated initial awe but their soil was shallow. The first because they were fed and the second because they were healed. The fourth involved the twelve disciples, whose “good soil” was evidenced by their worshiping Jesus after He walked on the water and calmed the storm (14:22–33). The fifth involved the scribes and Pharisees who sought to find a way to discredit and condemn Yeshua (15:1–20) illustrating again the hard stony ground of their hearts. The sixth focused the Canaanite woman who confessed Yeshua as Lord and begged Him to deliver her demon-possessed daughter (15:21–28). The soil of her heart was soft, and God’s Word took root.
The seventh incident involved the Galileans who brought the sick and afflicted to Jesus for healing but made no commitment (Luke 15:29–32). Here we see both shallow and thorny soils, in which the gospel was partially received. The eighth involved the Pharisees and Sadducees who tried to test and trap Jesus by asking for a sign (16:1–4). Their actions displayed their hard hearts.
It is faith that is consistent with all of God’s children throughout the ages. Having hearts cultivated is the work of God’s Spirit but involves also our openness to God who is able to do what man cannot do. We see this kind of faith displayed in the examples given in Hebrews 11.
Jesus had been ministering in and around Capernaum for about a year, it was His home base. But most of the people in that region rejected Him. This is why he then began teaching in parables, so that, “seeing they would not see, and while hearing they would not hear, or … understand” (13:13).
Because the Lord had spent more time there than anywhere else thus far in His ministry, Capernaum was especially guilty for rejecting Him. “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” (11:23). Jesus never went there again except as He passed through. Today it is in ruins without houses or people but a testimony of His prophetic word. The possible home of Peter and a synagogue likely erected over the floor of the one where Jesus taught.