Matthew 13 consists of 7 parables that Jesus tells that illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven. A “parable” is a figure of speech in which a moral or spiritual truth is illustrated. Typically, Jesus would tell a story about something that his listeners were familiar with. A truth, or truths inherent in the story would have a corresponding truth in spiritual matters. Jesus was teaching the disciples matters about Heaven (spiritual) that they did not understand…by comparing them to matters about earth that they did understand.
Matt. 13:1-8-Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower
This parable teaches about the Response to the Kingdom of Heaven…Jesus called this the “Parable of the Sower”, :18. As the sower throws out his seed it lands in several different places. Notice the places the seed landed and what happened to it...
- the seeds that landed beside the road (:4)-eaten by the birds...the evil one (those who reject the Gospel);
- the seeds that landed on the rock places (:5-6)-no soil, grew up & not down, no root, withered by the sun...affliction and persecution because of the word...he falls away;
- the seeds that landed in the thorns-choked by the thorns (:7)...worry of the world & deceitfulness of riches (other priorities choke it out) choke it out (those who only want the Gospel for what it will do for them);
- the seeds that landed in the good soil (:8)-multiplied a crop....hears, understands, bears much fruit (those who truly accept the Gospel).
Matt. 13:9-Jesus says that it is important that we listen closely to what He has to say…everything depends on what we decide to do about it.
Matt. 13:10-17-The disciples of Jesus ask Him why He teaches in parables…because many people do not understand what he means…at times, even themselves. The response of Jesus can be difficult to understand until we realize that there are two different groups of people that He is speaking about in His answer. Group 1 is referred to as “you” (:11), “whoever has” (:12), “your eyes…ears” (:16). Group 2 is referred to as “them” (:11), “whoever does not have” (:12), “their…You…they” (:14-15). Group 1 are those that have received Jesus as Savior (this is what is meant by “For whoever has…” in verse 12…whoever has Jesus as Savior). They are blessed because they have been given the ability to understand the “mysteries” (:11-the meaning of the parables of Jesus). Their eyes and ears are blessed because since they have accepted Jesus as their Savior…God has now given them the ability to understand even deeper spiritual truths, such as those contained in the parables that Jesus teaches (:16). Group 2 are those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior (that is what is meant by “For whoever does not have…” in verse 12…whoever does not have Jesus as their Savior). Jesus says that not only will those in Group 2 not be able to understand new spiritual truth…but they will lose whatever understanding they already may have. How does that happen? Jesus explains how by quoting a passage from Isaiah (6:9-10). He says that even though they may hear the truth of the Gospel over and over, they will not understand it…because they don’t want to understand it. Notice carefully that the word “lest” in verse 15 says that they have intentionally refused to see or hear (meaning to listen with acceptance) to the message “lest” (meaning “for fear that”) they should actually realize that it is the truth and repent of their sins and Jesus would save them. The bottom line is…they are unwilling to repent of their sins and they know that is a requirement to be a follower of Jesus. Since they are unwilling to respond to this most basic revelation of spiritual truth that God gives them (that being to accept Jesus as their Savior)…He will not give them the ability to understand the deeper spiritual truths of the Christian faith and life. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was speaking of when he wrote, “14. But people who aren’t spiritual (don’t have God’s Spirit in them through salvation) can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, the whole chapter pertains to this matter).
Matt. 13:18-23-Jesus now explains the Parable of the Sower. The seed represents the “word of the kingdom”…the message of Jesus and salvation. The ground, or place where the seed lands, represents four different types of people (and how they each respond to the message). These four different types of people are those who have…
- No Understanding: Hard Heart…the seeds that landed beside the road…(:4,19)-just like the ground here is hard, so are their hearts. The seed (message) does not penetrate into the soil (heart)…because they do not “understand” it (“understand” means “to set or join together in the mind”), If a person does not respond to the message of Christ, it isn’t long before “the evil one” (Satan) does something to keep the person from giving it any further consideration. Satan may do this by distracting the person with other things, causing them to doubt what they have heard, or offering something that promises pleasure.
- No Permanence: Hard Times…the seeds planted on the rocky places (:5-6,20-21)-this is the person who likes the idea of salvation, eternal life, Heaven…but only accepts it for its intellectual or emotional provisions. He doesn’t actually accept Jesus as Savior…just the idea of the benefits of being saved. Then, when difficulty arises because of “the word” (their affiliation with Jesus)…they quickly change their mind…because the message had not truly taken root in their heart.
- No Commitment: Hard Decisions…the seeds that were sown among the thorns (:7,22)-this is the person who hears about Jesus, but is so distracted and consumed by all that is going on in his life that there is not room for Jesus. There is no room for Jesus in their life…because if He comes in, something else will have to go out. Jesus does not allow there to be anything in our lives that is in competition with our commitment to Him.
- No Reservations: Hard Proof…the seeds that land on the good soil (:8,23)-this is the person who hears the message and responds in faith to it…the integrity of this faith is proven by the “fruit” (lifestyle, works) that are seen in his life.
Matt. 13:24-30-Jesus tells the parable of the Wheat and the Tares
This parable teaches about the Culmination of the Kingdom of Heaven...it follows the previous and explains that the proof of which person was what kind of seed in the first parable may not be known until the day of judgment.
Matt. 13:31-32-Jesus tells the parable of the Mustard Seed
This parable teaches about the Growth of the Kingdom of Heaven...again, it follows the first parable...and tells that while the ministry of Jesus may appear to be small at the time...there will be many people who are truly in the kingdom.
Prayer: Lord, I need for Your Holy Spirit to give me understanding. There are things that You teach that only make sense when You explain them. So, I pray that as I read and study that the Holy Spirit would be my Teacher.