Saint Matthew – Chapter 13

The Bible – New Testament

Saint Matthew

Chapter 13


1 On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.


Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.


And he spoke to them at length in parables, 2 saying: «A sower went out to sow. 3


And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.


Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,


and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.


Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.


But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.


Whoever has ears ought to hear.»


The disciples approached him and said, «Why do you speak to them in parables?»


4 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.


To anyone who has, more will be given 5 and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.


6 This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’


Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see.


Gross 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.’


7 «But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.


Amen, 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.


8 «Hear then the parable of the sower.


The 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.


The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.


But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.


The 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.


But 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.»


He proposed another parable to them. 9 «The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.


While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds 10 all through the wheat, and then went off.


When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.


The 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?’


He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’


He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.


Let them grow together until harvest; 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.»‘»


12 He proposed another parable to them. «The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.


13 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.'»


He spoke to them another parable. «The kingdom of heaven is like yeast 14 that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.»


15 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables,


to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: 16 «I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation (of the world).»


Then, dismissing the crowds, 17 he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, «Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.»


18 He said in reply, «He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,


the field is the world, 19 the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one,


and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, 20 and the harvesters are angels.


Just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.


The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom 21 all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.


They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.


22 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.


23 «The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, 24 which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.


When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.


Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.


When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away.


Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous


and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.


«Do you understand 25 all these things?» They answered, «Yes.»


26 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.»


When Jesus finished these parables, he went away from there.


27 He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished 28 and said, «Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?


Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?


Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?»


And 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.»


And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.

1 [1-53] 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 (⇒ Mark 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 (Matthew 10-15), declares the blessedness of those who understand his teaching (Matthew 16-17), explains the parable of the sower (Matthew 18-23) and of the weeds (Matthew 36-43), and ends with a concluding statement to the disciples (Matthew 51-52).
2 [3-8] Since in Palestine sowing often preceded ploughing, 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.
3 [3] In parables: the word «parable» (Greek parabole) is used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew mashal, 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 ⇒ Matthew 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.
4 [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 ⇒ Matthew 13:13. The mysteries: as in ⇒ Luke 8:10; ⇒ Mark 4:11 has «the mystery.» The word is used in ⇒ Daniel 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.
5 [12] In the New Testament use of this axiom of practical «wisdom» (see ⇒ Matthew 25:29; ⇒ Mark 4:25; ⇒ Luke 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).
6 [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 (⇒ Mark 4:12), and makes such speaking a punishment given because they have not accepted his previous clear teaching. However, his citation of ⇒ Isaiah 6:9-10 in ⇒ Matthew 13:14 supports the harsher Marcan view.
7 [16-17] 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.
8 [18-23] See ⇒ Mark 4:14-20; ⇒ Luke 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 (⇒ Matthew 13:19); (2) those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (⇒ Matthew 13:20-21); (3) those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly anxiety and the seduction of riches (⇒ Matthew 13:22); (4) those who respond to the word and produce fruit abundantly (⇒ Matthew 13:23).
9 [24-30] This parable is peculiar to Matthew. The comparison in ⇒ Matthew 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.
10 [25] Weeds: darnel, a poisonous weed that in its first stage of growth resembles wheat.
11 [30] Harvest: a common biblical metaphor for the time of God’s judgment; cf ⇒ Jeremiah 51:33; Joel 3:13; ⇒ Hosea 6:11.
12 [31-33] See ⇒ Mark 4:30-32; ⇒ Luke 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.
13 [32] See ⇒ Daniel 4:7-9, ⇒ 17-19 where the birds nesting in the tree represent the people of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. See also ⇒ Ezekiel 17:23; ⇒ 31:6.
14 [33] Except in this Q parable and in ⇒ Matthew 16:12, yeast (or «leaven») is, in New Testament usage, a symbol of corruption (see ⇒ Matthew 16:6, ⇒ 11-12; ⇒ Mark 8:15; ⇒ Luke 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.
15 [34] Only in parables: see ⇒ Matthew 13:10-15.
16 [35] The prophet: some textual witnesses read «Isaiah the prophet.» The quotation is actually from ⇒ Psalm 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 Chron 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.
17 [36] 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.
18 [37-43] 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.
19 [38] The field is the world: this presupposes the resurrection of Jesus and the granting to him of «all power in heaven and on earth» (⇒ Matthew 28:18).
20 [39] The end of the age: this phrase is found only in Matthew (⇒ 13:40, ⇒ 49; ⇒ 24:3; ⇒ 28:20).
21 [41] His kingdom: the kingdom of the Son of Man is distinguished from that of the Father (⇒ Matthew 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 the note on ⇒ Matthew 13:38.
22 [43] See ⇒ Daniel 12:3.
23 [44-50] 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.
24 [44] In the unsettled conditions of Palestine in Jesus’ time, it was not unusual to guard valuables by burying them in the ground.
25 [51] Matthew typically speaks of the understanding of the disciples.
26 [52] Since Matthew tends to identify the disciples and the Twelve (see the note on ⇒ Matthew 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» (⇒ Matthew 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 ⇒ Matthew 13:27), see the note on ⇒ Matthew 24:45-51.
27 [⇒ 13:54-⇒ 17:27] This section is the narrative part of the fourth book of the gospel.
28 [54] After the Sermon on the Mount the crowds are in admiring astonishment at Jesus’ teaching (⇒ Matthew 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 (⇒ Matthew 6:1-6). Jesus is not the carpenter but the carpenter’s son (⇒ Matthew 13:55), «and among his own kin» is omitted (⇒ Matthew 13:57), he did not work many mighty deeds in face of such unbelief (⇒ Matthew 13:58) rather than the Marcan «… he was not able to perform any mighty deed there» (⇒ Matthew 6:5), and there is no mention of his amazement at his townspeople’s lack of faith.