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Chapter 13


Sowing the Word of God


13:1-2 On that day after Jesus went out of the house, he sat by the lake. And such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat to sit while the whole crowd stood on the shore.


On the same day that Jesus had been preaching and working miracles he left the house and went to sit by the lake of Galilee. A great multitude of people gathered together so he got into Simon Peter's boat (Luke 5:3) while the crowd stood on the shore.


The Parable of the Sower

13:3 He told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow.


He began to tell them many truths concerning the kingdom of heaven using parables. The simple definition of a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.  It would be more correct however to say that it is using an everyday activity or item to illustrate a spiritual truth. Jesus begins with the parable of the sower. He makes it clear that he wants the full attention of his listeners as he uses the imperative "listen". Before anything can be accomplished the sower has to put his hand to plough and then go out to the field to sow the seed.


13:4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.


The method of sowing was to scatter the seed by hand over the ground. Using this method it was inevitable that some seed would fall where it would not find sufficient soil to grow. The good thing about it was that every inch would be covered with seed. Some of the seed fell on the hard path and became food for the birds.


13:5-6 Other seeds fell on rocky ground where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly because the soil was not deep. But when the sun came up, they were scorched, and because they did not have sufficient root, they withered.


Other seeds fell on rocky ground where there was hardly any soil. These began to sprout but because the soil was very thin they could not take root; so when the sun came up they were scorched and died.


13:7 Other seeds fell among the thorns, and they grew up and choked them.


Other seed fell among thorns and grew up together with them until the weeds became too strong and suffocated them.


13:8 But other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty.


As the sower was planting his seed in a field that he had already prepared then it follows that most of the seed should have fallen on fertile soil. The result was that some plants produced an abundant crop; some a hundred times as much.  


13:9 The one who has ears had better listen!"


Anyone who hears this parable had better pay attention.


An Explanation why Jesus speaks in Parables

13:10 Then the disciples came to him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"


As soon as they had opportunity, the disciples came to Jesus to ask why he spoke to the people in parables.


13:11 He replied, "You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but they have not.


He replied that he had chosen them so that he could make known to them those things concerning the kingdom of heaven which are hidden from other people.


13:12 For whoever has will be given more, and will have an abundance. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.


To those who respond to the spiritual truths they hear, more will be given so that they will have an abundant knowledge of these things. Those who will not listen to Christ cannot receive knowledge of spiritual truth, and so the little they have will be taken away from them. A progressive hardening of heart against the truth is implied.


13:13 For this reason I speak to them in parables: Although they see they do not see, and although they hear they do not hear nor do they understand.


The reason why Jesus spoke to the people in parables was because although they saw him and his miracles, and heard him speak the things of God, they could only come to understand these things through faith in him. Without faith, they could neither see nor hear the truth.


13:14 And concerning them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: You will listen carefully yet will never understand, you will look closely yet will never comprehend.


Jesus’ use of parables was in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah, that although the people would listen carefully to what the Christ said and see the mighty things that he did they would not understand or recognise the meaning of it.


13:15 For the heart of this people has become dull; they are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'


This is because their hearts had become hardened to God and therefore they could not hear his word.  They had shut their eyes to the truth and put their hands over their ears so that they could not hear. They did not want to understand and believe in their hearts and turn to the Lord; if they did he would forgive their sins (Mark 4:12).


13:16 "But your eyes are blessed because they see, and your ears because they hear.


Blessed are the disciples whose eyes and ears had been opened to see and hear the spiritual truths Christ taught and believe them.


13:17 For I tell you the truth, 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.


There were many prophets and righteous people who longed to see and hear what the disciples saw and heard; but they did not, even though they prophesied concerning these things (1 Pet. 1:10-12; Heb. 11:39-40).


The Meaning of the Parable

13:18 "So listen to the parable of the sower:


Jesus now explains to his disciples the meaning of the parable of the sower.


13:19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path.


The seed is the word of God and the sower is, in the first instance, the Lord Jesus Christ; and is later followed by those whom he has commissioned (Mark 16:15). The seed that falls on the hard path are those who hear the word but have no understanding; so the word goes no further than their ears. Like the bird that comes and snatches the seed away so the devil comes and takes the word away from their hearts.


13:20-21 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.


The seed that falls on rocky ground represents those emotional hearers who receive the word with great joy and they seem to flourish for a while; but since they have not taken the word deep into their hearts, when trouble comes and they are persecuted for Christ's sake they fall away and follow him no more.


13:22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.


The seed that falls among thorns represent the worldly hearers. They receive the word of God but are so tied up with the world that they never become separate from it. They continue to walk in the ways of the world and desire to fill themselves with it until the word of God is crowded out and there is no room for spiritual fruit to grow in them  (1 John 2:15, Rom. 12:2).


13:23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown."


The seed that falls on good ground stands for those with a prepared and receptive heart. Such people receive the word in the very depths of their soul where it abides and matures. They grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and the fruit of the Spirit abounds in them. This parable is generally applied to the sowing of the gospel message and to the unsaved but it is equally applicable to believers and how deeply they respond to the word of God. Jesus required the attention of his hearers, in verse three he said "listen" and having heard the explanation of the parable we are now responsible for how receive and respond to it.  


The Parable of the Fishing Net

13:47-50 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good fish into containers and threw the bad away. It will be this way at the end of the age. Angels will come and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


This parable is almost a repeat of the parable of the weeds in the field. The gospel is proclaimed to all men; yet only those who believe and receive Christ will obtain eternal life. These are the good fish. Those who reject Christ as Saviour are the bad fish that are thrown into the lake of fire. The fact that it is the angels who do the separation is significant because it shows that the final judgment takes place outside of the sphere of this world. It will be at the end of time, when earth and heaven have passed away, that this judgment will take place. One might imagine the angels as heaven’s police officers, ensuring the inevitable, that none will get away or escape (Heb. 2:3).


13:51-52 Have you understood all these things?" They replied, "Yes." Then he said to them, "Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old."


The disciples, simple though they were, as a result of Jesus' teaching and explanation, understood these parables perfectly.

Jesus declared that if people understand the word of God in the Old Testament, and in the new, then they would be able to draw lessons about God's truth from each. The lessons of the Old Testament still stand: the lessons of the new have not replaced them, but revealed them much more fully.


13:53-58 Now when Jesus finished these parables, he moved on from there. Then he came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, "Where did this man get such wisdom and miraculous powers? Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother named Mary? And aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? And aren't all his sisters here with us? Where did he get all this?" And so they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own house." And he did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.


The crowds on the other hand, although deeply challenged (astonished) by his words, refused to submit to Jesus’ authority, choosing instead to focus on the lowly origins from which he came. Jesus recognised this, and was unable to perform many great works among them as a consequence of their unbelief.


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Copyright (2009-2015) Sharon Full Gospel Church, UK. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk


This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew


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