The Parable of the Sower. 1#The discourse in parables is the third great discourse of Jesus in Matthew and constitutes the second part of the third book of the gospel. Matthew follows the Marcan outline (Mk 4:1–35) but has only two of Mark’s parables, the five others being from Q and M. In addition to the seven parables, the discourse gives the reason why Jesus uses this type of speech (Mt 13:10–15), declares the blessedness of those who understand his teaching (Mt 13:16–17), explains the parable of the sower (Mt 13:18–23) and of the weeds (Mt 13:36–43), and ends with a concluding statement to the disciples (Mt 13:51–52). On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.#Mk 4:1–12; Lk 8:4–10. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. 3#In parables: the word “parable” (Greek parabolē) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew māshāl, a designation covering a wide variety of literary forms such as axioms, proverbs, similitudes, and allegories. In the New Testament the same breadth of meaning of the word is found, but there it primarily designates stories that are illustrative comparisons between Christian truths and events of everyday life. Sometimes the event has a strange element that is quite different from usual experience (e.g., in Mt 13:33 the enormous amount of dough in the parable of the yeast); this is meant to sharpen the curiosity of the hearer. If each detail of such a story is given a figurative meaning, the story is an allegory. Those who maintain a sharp distinction between parable and allegory insist that a parable has only one point of comparison, and that while parables were characteristic of Jesus’ teaching, to see allegorical details in them is to introduce meanings that go beyond their original intention and even falsify it. However, to exclude any allegorical elements from a parable is an excessively rigid mode of interpretation, now abandoned by many scholars. And he spoke to them at length in parables,#Since in Palestine sowing often preceded plowing, much of the seed is scattered on ground that is unsuitable. Yet while much is wasted, the seed that falls on good ground bears fruit in extraordinarily large measure. The point of the parable is that, in spite of some failure because of opposition and indifference, the message of Jesus about the coming of the kingdom will have enormous success. saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, 6and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. 7Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. 8But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. 9Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The Purpose of Parables. 10The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11#Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples’ understanding and the crowd’s obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with, although it is asserted in Mt 13:13. The mysteries: as in Lk 8:10; Mk 4:11 has “the mystery.” The word is used in Dn 2:18, 19, 27 and in the Qumran literature (1QpHab 7:8; 1QS 3:23; 1QM 3:9) to designate a divine plan or decree affecting the course of history that can be known only when revealed. Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven means recognition that the kingdom has become present in the ministry of Jesus. He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. 12#25:29; Mk 4:25; Lk 8:18; 19:26. To anyone who has, more will be given#In the New Testament use of this axiom of practical “wisdom” (see Mt 25:29; Mk 4:25; Lk 8:18; 19:26), the reference transcends the original level. God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it away (note the “theological passive,” more will be given, what he has will be taken away). and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13#Because ‘they look
or understand’: Matthew softens his Marcan source, which states that Jesus speaks in parables so that the crowds may not understand (Mk 4:12), and makes such speaking a punishment given because they have not accepted his previous clear teaching. However, his citation of Is 6:9–10 in Mt 13:14 supports the harsher Marcan view. #Jn 9:39. This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ 14#Is 6:9–10; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:26–27; Rom 11:8. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
‘You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
15Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart and be converted,
and I heal them.’
The Privilege of Discipleship.#Unlike the unbelieving crowds, the disciples have seen that which the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament longed to see without having their longing fulfilled. 16#Lk 10:23–24; 1 Pt 1:10–12. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. 17Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Sower.#See Mk 4:14–20; Lk 8:11–15. In this explanation of the parable the emphasis is on the various types of soil on which the seed falls, i.e., on the dispositions with which the preaching of Jesus is received. The second and third types particularly are explained in such a way as to support the view held by many scholars that the explanation derives not from Jesus but from early Christian reflection upon apostasy from the faith that was the consequence of persecution and worldliness, respectively. Others, however, hold that the explanation may come basically from Jesus even though it was developed in the light of later Christian experience. The four types of persons envisaged are (1) those who never accept the word of the kingdom (Mt 13:19); (2) those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (Mt 13:20–21); (3) those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (Mt 13:22); (4) those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (Mt 13:23). 18#Mk 4:13–20; Lk 8:11–15. “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. 20The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. 21But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. 22The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. 23But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat. 24He proposed another parable to them.#This parable is peculiar to Matthew. The comparison in Mt 13:24 does not mean that the kingdom of heaven may be likened simply to the person in question but to the situation narrated in the whole story. The refusal of the householder to allow his slaves to separate the wheat from the weeds while they are still growing is a warning to the disciples not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God by a definitive exclusion of sinners from the kingdom. In its present stage it is composed of the good and the bad. The judgment of God alone will eliminate the sinful. Until then there must be patience and the preaching of repentance. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds#Weeds: darnel, a poisonous weed that in its first stage of growth resembles wheat. all through the wheat, and then went off. 26When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. 27The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let them grow together until harvest;#Harvest: a common biblical metaphor for the time of God’s judgment; cf. Jer 51:33; Jl 4:13; Hos 6:11. then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”#3:12.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed.#See Mk 4:30–32; Lk 13:18–21. The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast illustrate the same point: the amazing contrast between the small beginnings of the kingdom and its marvelous expansion. 31#Mk 4:30–32; Lk 13:18–19. He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. 32#See Dn 4:7–9, 17–19 where the birds nesting in the tree represent the people of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. See also Ez 17:23; 31:6. #Ez 17:23; 31:6; Dn 4:7–9, 17–19. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
The Parable of the Yeast. 33He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast#Except in this Q parable and in Mt 16:12, yeast (or “leaven”) is, in New Testament usage, a symbol of corruption (see Mt 16:6, 11–12; Mk 8:15; Lk 12:1; 1 Cor 5:6–8; Gal 5:9). Three measures: an enormous amount, enough to feed a hundred people. The exaggeration of this element of the parable points to the greatness of the kingdom’s effect. that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”#Lk 13:20–21.
The Use of Parables. 34#Only in parables: see Mt 13:10–15. #Mk 4:33–34. All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, 35to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:#The prophet: some textual witnesses read “Isaiah the prophet.” The quotation is actually from Ps 78:2; the first line corresponds to the LXX text of the psalm. The psalm’s title ascribes it to Asaph, the founder of one of the guilds of temple musicians. He is called “the prophet” (NAB “the seer”) in 2 Chr 29:30, but it is doubtful that Matthew averted to that; for him, any Old Testament text that could be seen as fulfilled in Jesus was prophetic.
“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation [of the world].”#Ps 78:2.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds. 36Then, dismissing the crowds,#Dismissing the crowds: the return of Jesus to the house marks a break with the crowds, who represent unbelieving Israel. From now on his attention is directed more and more to his disciples and to their instruction. The rest of the discourse is addressed to them alone. he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37#In the explanation of the parable of the weeds emphasis lies on the fearful end of the wicked, whereas the parable itself concentrates on patience with them until judgment time. He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, 38the field is the world,#The field is the world: this presupposes the resurrection of Jesus and the granting to him of “all power in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age,#The end of the age: this phrase is found only in Matthew (13:40, 49; 24:3; 28:20). and the harvesters are angels. 40Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom#His kingdom: the kingdom of the Son of Man is distinguished from that of the Father (Mt 13:43); see 1 Cor 15:24–25. The church is the place where Jesus’ kingdom is manifested, but his royal authority embraces the entire world; see note on Mt 13:38. all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. 42#8:12; Rev 21:8. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. 43#See Dn 12:3. #Dn 12:3. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.
More Parables.#The first two of the last three parables of the discourse have the same point. The person who finds a buried treasure and the merchant who finds a pearl of great price sell all that they have to acquire these finds; similarly, the one who understands the supreme value of the kingdom gives up whatever he must to obtain it. The joy with which this is done is made explicit in the first parable, but it may be presumed in the second also. The concluding parable of the fishnet resembles the explanation of the parable of the weeds with its stress upon the final exclusion of evil persons from the kingdom. 44#Prv 2:4; 4:7. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,#In the unsettled conditions of Palestine in Jesus’ time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground. which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 47Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. 48When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. 49Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Treasures New and Old. 51“Do you understand#Matthew typically speaks of the understanding of the disciples. all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” 52#Since Matthew tends to identify the disciples and the Twelve (see note on Mt 10:1), this saying about the Christian scribe cannot be taken as applicable to all who accept the message of Jesus. While the Twelve are in many ways representative of all who believe in him, they are also distinguished from them in certain respects. The church of Matthew has leaders among whom are a group designated as “scribes” (Mt 23:34). Like the scribes of Israel, they are teachers. It is the Twelve and these their later counterparts to whom this verse applies. The scribe
instructed in the kingdom of heaven knows both the teaching of Jesus (the new) and the law and prophets (the old) and provides in his own teaching both the new and the old as interpreted and fulfilled by the new. On the translation head of a household (for the same Greek word translated householder in Mt 13:27), see note on Mt 24:45–51. And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” 53When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.
V. JESUS, THE KINGDOM, AND THE CHURCH
The Rejection at Nazareth. 54#13:54–17:27] This section is the narrative part of the fourth book of the gospel. He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.#Mk 6:1–6; Lk 4:16–30. They were astonished#After the Sermon on the Mount the crowds are in admiring astonishment at Jesus’ teaching (Mt 7:28); here the astonishment is of those who take offense at him. Familiarity with his background and family leads them to regard him as pretentious. Matthew modifies his Marcan source (Mk 6:1–6). Jesus is not the carpenter but the carpenter’s son (Mt 13:55), “and among his own kin” is omitted (Mt 13:57), he did not work many mighty deeds in face of such unbelief (Mt 13:58) rather than the Marcan “
he was not able to perform any mighty deed there” (Mt 6:5), and there is no mention of his amazement at his townspeople’s lack of faith. and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?#2:23; Jn 1:46; 7:15. 55Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?#12:46; 27:56; Jn 6:42. 56Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?” 57And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.”#Jn 4:44. 58And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.