The Parables of Jesus
1Later that day, Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeshore to teach the people. 2Soon, there were so many people surrounding him that he had to teach sitting in a boat while the large crowd stood on the shore. 3He taught them many things by using stories, parables to illustrate spiritual truths, # 13:3 The Aramaic and Greek use a word for “parable” that means “a metaphor, allegory, simile, illustration, comparison, figure of speech, riddle, or enigmatic saying that is meant to stimulate intense thought.” Throughout Hebrew history wise men, prophets, and teachers used parables and allegories as a preferred method of teaching spiritual truths. Poets would write their riddles and musicians would sing their proverbs with verbal imagery. Jesus never taught the people without using allegory and parables (Matt. 13:34). As a true prophet, one of Jesus’ preferred methods of teaching was allegory. To deny the validity of allegorical teaching is to ignore the teaching methods of Jesus, the Living Word. This chapter contains seven parables of Jesus: (1) the parable of the sower, (2) the parable of the wheat and weeds, (3) the parable of the net, (4) the parable of the tiny mustard seed, (5) the parable of yeast, (6) the parable of the hidden treasure, and (7) the parable of the costly pearl. saying:
“Consider this: There was a farmer who went out to sow seeds. # 13:3 The word seeds does not even appear in this parable or in the interpretation Jesus gave his disciples (vv. 18–23). What the farmer is sowing is the “children of the kingdom” (v. 38). We who believe the message of the kingdom of God are the seeds that this farmer is spreading throughout the earth. The seed is the reality of Christ and his kingdom realm living inside of us. 4As he cast his seeds, some fell along the beaten path and the birds came and ate them. 5Others fell onto gravel that had no topsoil. They quickly shot up, 6but when the days grew hot, they were scorched and withered because they had insufficient roots. 7Others fell among the thorns, so when they sprouted, the thorns choked them. 8But other seeds fell on good, rich soil that kept producing a good harvest. Some yielded thirty, some sixty, and some even one hundred times as much as he planted! 9If you’re able to understand this, then you need to respond.” # 13:9 Or “The one with ears to hear should use them.” See also v. 43.
10Then his disciples approached Jesus and asked, “Why do you always speak to people in these hard-to-understand parables?”
11He explained, “You’ve been given the intimate experience of insight into the hidden mysteries # 13:11 The Greek word musterion is found twenty-seven times in the New Testament and means “secrets” or “mysteries.” The mysteries of heaven’s kingdom realm are spiritual insights into the nature and ways of God. Jesus Christ can only be fully understood by the spirit, not merely by the intellect of man. Jesus taught his disciples using the cryptic language of parables to move them beyond intellectual abilities and engage the spirit. If the listener had a hunger to learn with an open, teachable heart, then Jesus’ words brought life and understanding. We must always be those who push aside our opinions and traditions to glean the deepest meaning of all that Jesus did and taught. See also Job 15:8; Prov. 3:32; 1 Cor. 2:14; Col. 2:2; 4:3. of the realm of heaven’s kingdom, but they have not. 12For everyone who listens with an open heart will receive progressively more revelation # 13:12 Or “To he who has, more will be given.” This is an obvious ellipsis that, in the context, refers to having an open heart to receive the understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. until he has more than enough. # 13:12 Or “until they habitually superabound” (with understanding). But those who don’t listen with an open, teachable heart, even the understanding that they think they have will be taken from them. # 13:12 As translated from Hebrew Matthew. 13That’s why I teach the people using parables, because they think they’re looking for truth, yet because their hearts are unteachable, they never discover it. Although they will listen to me, they never fully perceive the message I speak. 14The prophecy of Isaiah describes them perfectly:
Although they listen carefully to everything I speak,
they don’t understand a thing I say.
They look and pretend to see,
but the eyes of their hearts are closed.
15Their minds are dull and slow to perceive, # 13:15 The Aramaic is “waterlogged.”
their ears are plugged and are hard of hearing,
and they have deliberately shut their eyes to the truth.
Otherwise they would open their eyes to see,
and open their ears to hear,
and open their minds to understand.
Then they would turn to me
and I would instantly heal them. # 13:15 See Isa. 6:9–10.
16“But blissful are your eyes, for they see. Delighted are your ears, for they are open to hear all these things. # 13:16 As translated from the Aramaic. Or “Your eyes have a blessing resting upon them because they see, and your ears because they hear.” 17Many prophets and godly people yearned to see these days of miracles that you’ve been favored to see. They would have given everything to hear the revelation you’ve been favored to hear.
18“Now you are ready to hear the explanation of the parable of the sower:
19“What was sown along the path represents the one who listens to the message of the kingdom # 13:19 The Aramaic can be translated “He hears of the manifestation of the kingdom.” It is found also in vv. 20, 21, 22, and 23. but doesn’t understand it. The Adversary then comes and snatches away what was sown into his heart.
20“The one sown on gravel represents the person who gladly hears the kingdom message, # 13:20 Hebrew Matthew is “the word of the Mighty One.” but his experience remains shallow. # 13:20 Implied by the “shallow” soil, representing a shallow interest that doesn’t sink spiritual roots into the truth of God. 21Shortly after he hears it, troubles and persecutions come because of the kingdom message he received. Then he quickly falls away, # 13:21 Or “gets offended” or “is made to stumble.” for the truth didn’t sink deeply into his heart.
22“The one sown among thorns represents one who receives the message, but all of life’s busy distractions, his divided heart, and his ambition for wealth # 13:22 Or “deceptive riches.” See Prov. 23:4–5. result in suffocating the kingdom message and it becomes fruitless. # 13:22 Hebrew Matthew adds a phrase here: “and the Adversary causes him to forget the word of God.”
23“But what was sown on good, rich soil represents the one who hears and fully embraces the message of the kingdom. Their lives bear good fruit—some yield a harvest of thirty, sixty, even one hundred times as much as was sown.”
The Parable of the Weeds
24Then Jesus taught them # 13:24 Or “set before them.” See also vv. 31 and 33. another parable:
“Heaven’s kingdom can be compared to a farmer who planted good seed in his field. 25But when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and planted weeds # 13:25 Or “darnel” or “rye grass.” The Greek word zizanion is a noxious weed (Lolium temelentum) that appears from a distance to look like wheat, but has poisonous black seeds. See Fauna and Flora of the Bible (London: United Bible Societies, 1980), 194. among the wheat and ran away. 26When the wheat sprouted and bore grain, the weeds also appeared. 27So the farmer’s hired hands came to him and said, ‘Sir, wasn’t that good seed that you sowed in the field? Where did all these weeds come from?’
28“He answered, ‘This has to be the work of an enemy!’
“They replied, ‘Do you want us to go and gather up all the weeds?’
29“ ‘No,’ he said. ‘If you pull out the weeds you might uproot the wheat at the same time. 30Let them both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I’ll tell my harvesters to gather the weeds first and tie them all in bundles to be burned. Then they will harvest the wheat and put it into my barn.’ ”
The Parable of the Tiny Mustard Seed
31Then Jesus taught them another parable:
“Heaven’s kingdom can be compared to the tiny mustard seed that a man takes and plants in his field. 32Although the smallest of all the seeds, it eventually grows into the greatest of garden plants, becoming a tree for birds to come and build their nests in its branches.”
The Parable of the Yeast
33Then he taught them another parable:
“Heaven’s kingdom can be compared to yeast that a woman takes and blends into three measures of flour and then waits until all the dough rises.” # 13:33 These two parables, about the tiny mustard seed and the yeast, both teach of God’s kingdom having a small beginning but growing until its influence permeates and prevails into all the earth. The “three measures [Hb. seahs] of flour” was nearly twenty-two kilos, enough to feed three hundred people. What once looked unimpressive rises to impact and feed many. The number three always points to resurrection life.
Prophecy and Parables
34Whenever Jesus addressed the crowds, he always spoke in allegories. He never spoke without using parables. 35He did this to fulfill the prophecy:
I will speak to you in allegories.
I will reveal secrets that have been concealed
since before the foundation of the world. # 13:35 As translated from the Aramaic. The Hebrew Matthew is “I will speak with riddles from ancient times.” See Ps. 78:2; Prov. 25:2. A parable has hidden meaning. Everything stands for something else. Jesus interprets and unlocks the meaning of the Word to us.
Jesus Explains the Parables
36Jesus left the crowds and went inside the house where he was staying. # 13:36 This was likely in Capernaum. Then his disciples approached him and asked, “Please explain the deeper meaning of the parable of the weeds growing in the field of wheat.”
37He answered, “The man who sowed his field with good seed is the Son of Man. 38And the field is the world. The good seeds I sow are the children of the kingdom realm. The weeds are the children of the Evil One, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest points to the end of this age, and the harvesters are God’s messengers. # 13:39 Or “[God’s] angels.” In both Greek and Hebrew the word angels can also refer to human messengers. 40As the weeds are bundled up and thrown into the fire, so it will be at the close of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his messengers, and they will uproot everything out of his kingdom. All the lawless ones and everything that causes sin will be removed. 42And they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will experience great sorrow and anguish. # 13:42 Or “gnashing of teeth,” a metaphor for despair and torment. The Aramaic can be translated “thrown into the essence of fire.” The Aramaic word athuna can mean either “furnace” or “essence.” See also v. 50. 43Then the righteous will shine like the brightness of the sun # 13:43 See Judg. 5:31; Song. 6:10; Isa. 60:1; Dan. 12:3. in their Father’s kingdom realm. If you’re able to understand this, then you’d better respond!”
Parables of Hidden Treasure and an Extraordinary Pearl
44“Heaven’s kingdom realm can be illustrated like this:
“A person discovered that there was hidden treasure in a field. Upon finding it, he hid it again. Because of uncovering such treasure, he was overjoyed and sold all that he possessed to buy the entire field just so he could have the treasure. # 13:44 See also Prov. 2:4. The most accepted interpretation of this parable is that Jesus is the treasure, but Jesus taught that the field is the world (v. 38). The allegory breaks down, for a believer doesn’t sell all he has (works) and then buy the world to find Jesus (the treasure). It is more plausible to view the hidden treasure as a symbol of you and me. Jesus is the man who sold all that he owned, leaving his exalted place of glory to come and pay for the sin of the whole world with his own blood just so he could have you, his treasure. Heaven’s kingdom realm is experienced when we realize what a great price Jesus places on our souls, for he gave his sacred blood for us. The re-hiding of the treasure is a hint of our new life, hidden in God. See Eph. 1:4; Col. 3:1–5.
45“Heaven’s kingdom realm is also like a jewel merchant in search of rare pearls. 46When he discovered one very precious # 13:46 The Aramaic is “unique.” Jesus is the merchant. (See Song. 3:6.) You are the exquisite and unique pearl, as his beloved follower, that came from the wounded side of Jesus Christ. You prompted him to give up all, including his sacred blood, in exchange for having you as his very own. See also Heb. 12:2. and exquisite pearl, he immediately gave up all he had in exchange for it.” # 13:46 See Isa. 43:4.
The Parable of the Fishing Net
47“Again, heaven’s kingdom realm is like a fisherman who casts his large net into the lake, catching an assortment of fish. 48When the net was filled, the fishermen hauled it up on the shore, and they all sat down to sort out their catch. They collected the good in baskets and threw the bad away. 49And so it will be at the close of the age. The messengers # 13:49 Or “angels.” will come and separate the evil from among the godly 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will experience great sorrow and anguish. 51Now do you understand all this?”
“Yes,” they replied.
52He responded, “Every scholar of the Scriptures, # 13:52 Or “scribe.” who is instructed in the ways of heaven’s kingdom realm, is like a wealthy home owner with his house filled with treasures both new and old.” # 13:52 These “new treasures” speak of new insights and understandings that are revealed at the proper time. The “old treasures” speak of truths that have been established, founded upon what God has already revealed. Teachers are to bring forth the revelation of God and his word as treasures to the people. We need both new and old insights.
53Right after Jesus taught this series of parables, he left # 13:53 The Greek word for “left” is metairo and means “to depart” or “to be lifted up and taken from one place to another.” from there.
Jesus Rejected in His Hometown
54When Jesus arrived in his hometown of Nazareth, he began teaching the people in the synagogue. Everyone was dazed, overwhelmed with astonishment # 13:54 The Greek word used here is a compound word that means “to have the breath knocked out of you.” This was a common reaction to the teaching ministry of Jesus. over the depth of revelation they were hearing. They said to one another, “Where did this man get such great wisdom and miraculous powers? 55Isn’t he just the craftsman’s son? # 13:55 The Hebrew Matthew is “blacksmith’s son.” The Greek word tekton can be translated “carpenter,” “metal worker,” “sculptor,” “artisan,” “stone worker,” or “builder.” The people of Jesus’ hometown presumed that Joseph was his father, but Jesus had no earthly father, because he was “born of a woman.” Isn’t his mother named Mary, and his four brothers Jacob, Joseph, Simon, and Judah? 56And don’t his sisters all live here in Nazareth? From where then did he get all this revelation and power?” # 13:56 Implied in the context. See v. 54. 57And the people became offended and began to turn against him. # 13:57 The Aramaic is “They were suspicious of him.” The Hebrew Matthew is “They were confused about him.”
Jesus said, “There’s only one place a prophet isn’t honored—his own hometown!” 58And their unbelief kept him from doing many mighty miracles in Nazareth.