Matthew 13

Thursday Evening Bible Study

December 14, 2006


Jesus’ ministry has been growing with large crowds following Him, but so has the criticism against Him.

Jesus has even been accused of using Satanic powers to perform miracles like casting out demons.

Jesus’ teaching is going to begin to deal with the different types of responses He gets from His ministry.

Matthew 13

:1-9 The Sower and the seed

:1 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.

:2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

:3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying:

parablesparabole – a placing of one thing by the side of another, juxtaposition, as of ships in battle; a comparing, comparison of one thing with another, likeness, similitude

Parables are allegorical stories, based on real life things, meant to teach a lesson.

:3 "Behold, a sower went out to sow.

In Jesus’ day, a farmer planted seed in his field by walking through the field with a bag of seed around his shoulder, tossing seed left and right.

:4 "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.

:5 "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.

:6 "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.

:7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.

:8 "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

The basic idea is this:

The type of harvest, the results, depends upon which type of soil the seed lands in.

:9 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

If you have ears, Jesus invites you to pay attention to what He’s saying.

The phrase that Jesus uses is not a new one. The concept is found sprinkled throughout the Old Testament. I found over two dozen references like:

An invitation from God:

(Isa 55:3 NKJV) Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you; The sure mercies of David.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel were to speak to rebellious people …

(Ezek 12:2 NKJV) "Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, which has eyes to see but does not see, and ears to hear but does not hear; for they are a rebellious house.
Just like some of the people in Jesus’ day.

In the New Testament the phrase is found 10 times in the Gospels, once in Acts, once in Romans, and 8 times in Revelation.

What’s the point here?

It’s all about willingness to learn from Jesus.

If a person doesn’t have a desire to learn from Jesus, they won’t.
If a person wants to learn about Jesus, they will.
This is a really important concept to comprehend if you’re going to understand the next section …

:10-17 For the hearing impaired

:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"

:11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

The disciples are in a wonderful place of being able to find out what the parables mean.

:12 "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

The one who is trusting in God will receive more. The one who shuts his heart against God won’t receive a thing.

:13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

The crowd hears what Jesus is saying, but they don’t understand it. For the most part they don’t want to understand.

:14 "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;

Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 6:9-10

:15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'

Don’t misunderstand this. God is not saying that He doesn’t want people to understand.

In fact, Jesus teaching in parables is actually a demonstration of good teaching. People love stories. One of the keys to being a good teacher is knowing when to tell a story. Sometimes you can see people’s eyes rolling back into their head and you know you’re losing them. You can get up and walk around. You can raise your voice. But you’d be better off telling a story.


A story from July 2006 Reader's Digest.
Recently, a pastor fell asleep at the wheel and awoke just as he sideswiped a guardrail. When he got home, his wife peppered him with questions, trying to figure out what had happened. “Were you sleepy when you started to drive?” she asked. “No” he answered. “Then how did you fall asleep?” “I’m not sure,” he said. “There I was, going over my sermon...”
There you go – it’s not uncommon for a sermon to put someone to sleep. But a story will often grab their attention.
Even though I consider myself quite a profound teacher (choke, choke), I have to be honest that usually what people remember about my teaching is the dumb jokes and stories I tell.

But parables will also address another issue – man’s free will. Man doesn’t understand because he chooses not to, he doesn’t want God to heal him.

The people who don’t really want to learn about God are going to listen to the nice stories and leave it at that.

The ones who want to learn will stop and ask questions.

:16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;

:17 "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The Old Testament prophets longed for the day when the Messiah would come. And for the disciples, He’s standing right in front of them.

:18-23 Sower parable explained

:18 "Therefore hear the parable of the sower:

Jesus is going to interpret the parable for His disciples.

:19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

The seed represents the “word of the kingdom”. The birds represent Satan. The “roadside” would probably be the hardest ground, having been compacted by people walking on it.

There are some people who will hear things about God, but their hearts are hard and nothing penetrates their heart.

Satan will come and steal what they’ve heard.

Sometimes you see it in people who have their excuses why they can’t believe the Bible. Some people give pseudo “intellectual” arguments. Others are bitter against God because of some difficult circumstance in their life that they didn’t understand. Others have hard hearts because a lot of people have “trampled” on them.
I wonder sometimes if something doesn’t need to happen to break up the tough soil. Perhaps breaking, perhaps softening.

:20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

:21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

The seed that lands on the stony soil represents the person who is “shallow”. There’s enough loose soil to allow the seed to germinate and sprout, but it’s not very deep.

The “sun” (verse 6) represented the difficulties (tribulation or persecution).

tribulationthlipsis – pressing together, pressure. Difficult times in general.
persecutiondiogmos – persecution; from dioko – to make to run or flee. This is when your difficult time comes because someone doesn’t like you following the Lord.

Because the soil isn’t very deep, the plant doesn’t last under a hot sun.

They don’t go very deep with the Lord. Difficulties came and they walked away from the Lord.

Notice that “depth” isn’t equated with emotional responses. In fact the “shallow” soil was an emotional one, receiving the seed “with joy”.

It’s not wrong to have an emotional response to the Lord, but our response to the Lord better go further than our emotions.

Everyone is going to go through difficult times. No one escapes tribulation. It’s only by going “deep” that we are able to survive trials.

What does it mean to “go deep” with the Lord?

I think it means that we allow God to affect more and more of our lives. We aren’t to be just a “surface” Christian. We allow God to change our desires, our thought life, the things we do in secret.

It seems to me that tribulation and persecution are even some of the very things that God uses to make us “deeper”.

Not too many people have gone through the difficulties that Job went through.  And Job was known as a godly man.  Even God was proud of Job.  But at the end of all his difficulties, Job realized,
(Job 42:5 NKJV)  "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.
Paul had something difficult in his life, a “thorn” in the flesh.  He asked God to take it away and God said “No”.
(2 Cor 12:9-10 NKJV)  And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. {10} Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What do difficult times do in your life?  Do they make you bitter or better?

Do they blow you away, or do they force you to go deeper with God.
Let the plow go deep and break up the fallow ground.

:22 "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

The thorny soil represents the person who is too in love with the world. Just as weeds choke out the plants in your garden, the desire for the things of the world will choke out the work of God in our lives.

caresmerimna – care, anxiety; from merizo – to divide

Your own anxiety and worry keep you from receiving the benefit of God’s Word in your life.

deceitfulness of riches – from apatao – to cheat, beguile, deceive

Money can be deceptive. We are deceived to think that we don’t have enough of it. If someone asks us how much more we need, we’d have to reply, “Just a little more”.

chokesumpnigo – to choke utterly


Choking the word.

Could it be that I’m not as fruitful as I could be?
The deception of wealth.

The Rich Young Ruler left Jesus saddened because he couldn’t imagine living without his money.

:23 "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

Good soil represents the person who hears the word, understands it, and who bears fruit.

What does it mean to “bear fruit”?

I think it means that we let God do what He wants in our lives.
Sometimes it involves leading people to Christ.

I think that’s the main idea here – wheat growing up will be seen later as believers.

Sometimes it involves a change of attitude (like the “fruit of the Spirit”)
Sometimes it means that we learn to do good things for others.
Sometimes it means that we learn to pray and see God answer our prayers.

(John 15:7-8 NKJV) "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. {8} "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

How do we bear fruit?

Be good soil.
Hear the Word.
Understand it.

Is it possible to change soil? Is it possible to prepare the field so that the seed lands on good soil?

Watch out for a hard heart.
Let God make you deeper. Let God remove the hard parts of your heart.
Pull the weeds. Turn away from worldliness.

:24-30 Wheat and Tares

:24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;

:25 "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.

tares – common in Palestine. In its earlier stages it is indistinguishable from the wheat stalks and has to remain until harvest. By the time of the harvest, the grains of wheat turn black.

:26 "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.

:27 "So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'

:28 "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'

:29 "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.

:30 'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."' "

Jesus will interpret the parable when we get to verse 36.

I find it interesting that in the previous parable the enemy can take away the seeds. Here the enemy can sow fake seeds.

:31-32 Mustard Seed

:31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field,

:32 "which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

On parables like this one, where Jesus doesn’t directly interpret it, you’re going to find lots of opinions as to the meaning.

becomes a tree - Some commentators point to the fact that ordinary mustard doesn’t become as tall as a tree; and that this must be some kind of unnatural growth.

the birds of the air - Has Jesus already interpreted this?

In Matt.13:4,19, Jesus interpreted the birds as Satan, devouring the seed.


Here are two possible interpretations:

1. In the kingdom of God, it doesn’t take much to make something big.

This seems to be what Jesus will mean later when He says,
(Mat 17:20 NKJV) …if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

2. Others see the plant growing abnormally big. The idea would be that in the kingdom of God, though it starts out small, it will grow big, big enough that there may be some evil hiding in it as well.

As the “church” grows, there are going to be some “unbelievers” in the midst of things. Sometimes we get surprised to find that there are bad people in church.
When you see how Jesus interprets the “wheat and tares”, it seems this is the preferable view.

:33 Leaven

:33 Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened."

What does it mean?

On the outset, this parable might seem to say that it doesn't take much to spread the kingdom around the world.

But leaven is often used symbolically in Scripture, with a clear reference to sin and evil (1Cor. 5:6-8)


Two possible, but different interpretations:

1. The kingdom has an expanding power like leaven.

It can spread rapidly throughout a community as in a revival.
It can invade your life and take you over (Praise the Lord!)

2. If someone hides sin in the church, it can spread and take it over.

When you look at how Jesus will interpret the parable of the wheat and tares (which came before this parable), and how there will be bad people mixed in with good, it seems like this is the correct view.
When Paul writes to the Corinthian church about dealing with a person in their church who was openly rebelling against God, he uses the image of leaven:
(1 Cor 5:6-13 NKJV) Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? {7} Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. {8} Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. {9} I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. {10} Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. {11} But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; not even to eat with such a person. {12} For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? {13} But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."
We need to be careful about what we allow in the church and in our personal lives. I believe the parable of the wheat and tares will warn us about being overly judgmental. But here we see a warning of not tolerating clearly immoral behavior among people who are claiming to be our brothers and to walk with God.

:34-35 Prophecy and Parables

:34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them,

:35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world."

It seems that Matthew is quoting from Ps. 78:2-3.

:36-43 Tares explained

:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field."

The disciples want to know what Jesus meant back in verses 24-30.

:37 He answered and said to them: "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.

:38 "The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.

:39 "The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.

:40 "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.

:41 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,

:42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

:43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

(Prov 4:18 NKJV) But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

Interpretation: (from Jesus)

Sower = Jesus

Field = World

Good seed = believers, the “sons of the kingdom”

Tares = unbelievers, “sons of the wicked one”

Enemy = devil

Harvest = End of world

Reapers = Angels


Judging the world

The devil mixes bad seed with the believers. (vs. 25)
The two types of seed are mixed in the field, which represented the world.
It sounds to me like it’s not our place to be expecting unbelievers to be acting like believers.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
(1 Cor 5:12 NKJV) For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?
We need to be reaching unbelievers, not judging them.
What seems scary to me is that some people may appear to be believers, but really end up being “tares”. What seems even more scary is that there might be “tares” in the church – people who pretend to be Christians but they’re not. They may say all the right things, they may even do good things, but they’ve never turned their heart over to Jesus.
Don’t be playing games with God. You may be fooling the people around you, but you’re not fooling God.

:44 Hidden Treasure

:44 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.


One idea is that the kingdom of heaven is the treasure, and you must give up everything to follow Jesus.

I prefer to see it this way:

The field is the world. You are the treasure.
God loved you so much that He gave everything, His only Son, to buy the world.
You are of great value to the Lord. You are His treasure.

:45-46 Pearl of Great Price

:45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,

:46 "who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

I think this parable has a similar meaning to the last parable.

You are the pearl of great price. God has given all He has for you.

:47-52 Dragnet

:47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,

:48 "which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.

:49 "So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just,

:50 "and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Now I don’t know about you, but what do you think of when you hear the word “Dragnet”? I think of Joe Friday (Jack Webb) (play Johnny Carson “Dragnet” clip)

Jesus interprets this one for us. It is similar to the wheat and the tares.

The angels will gather people just like fishermen catch fish in their nets.
The good people are separated from the bad people. The bad people will be cast into hell.

wailing and gnashing of teeth

Jesus spoke about hell more than any other person in the Bible. Why? Because He doesn’t want you to go there. He is so serious about keeping you from hell that He died in your place, paying the price for you to go to heaven.

:51-52 Understanding

:51 Jesus said to them, "Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord."

I wonder if they really understood. I wonder if this is just like how you used to respond to your Algebra teacher in high school, “Sure, I understand…” J


A Great Cup of Tea

Dr. Dobson wrote in his February 1997 newsletter:

Have you noticed that children sometimes try to be helpful, but it only makes your life more complicated? I heard a story about a mother who was sick in bed with the flu. Her darling daughter wanted so much to be a good nurse. She fluffed the pillows and brought a magazine for her mother to read. And then she even showed up with a surprise cup of tea. “Why, you’re such a sweetheart,” the mother said as she drank the tea. “I didn’t know you even knew how to make tea.” “Oh, yes,” the little girl replied. “I learned by watching you. I put the tea leaves in the pan and then I put in the water, and I boiled it, and then I strained it into a cup. But I couldn’t find a strainer, so I used the flyswatter instead.” “You what?” the mother screamed. And the little girl said, “Oh, don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t use the new flyswatter. I used the old one.”

I wonder sometimes if we really do understand as much as we think about walking with the Lord.  Like the little girl making tea, we think we’re doing the right things but really end up messing things up.

:52 Then He said to them, "Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old."


The disciples were like a “scribe”, an expert in the Law, because they’ve been learning from Jesus.

Because the disciples have “understood” what Jesus said, they have added treasure to their treasure chest.

A householder was the owner or master of a house.

When you take care of others in your house, sometimes you’re going to get things out of the storehouse that have been there a while, sometimes you’re going to bring out new things.
Now that these disciples understand Jesus’ teachings, they are going to be like householders taking care of their household, sometimes with old things (Like O.T. treasures), and sometimes with new things (N.T. treasures, Jesus’ teachings).


For Teachers

If you’re a teacher, you ought to be familiar both with Old and New Testaments and teaching from both.
Sometimes there’s going to be new things in your teaching, sometimes there’s going to be old things.
We can’t always have something “new” to teach. Otherwise we’ll start looking for things that aren’t there.

:53-58 Rejection at Nazareth

:53 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.

:54 And when He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?

Jesus has gone back to Nazareth, where He grew up. The people are amazed that the carpenter’s Son knows so many things.

:55 "Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?

:56 "And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"

Apparently Mary and Joseph had other kids.

:57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house."

The hometown folks had a hard time seeing Jesus as something other than “the carpenter’s son”.

Sometimes the people closest to us have a hard time letting God work through us because they just see us like we used to be.

:58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Jesus was affected by their unbelief.

Mark tells us that Jesus “could not” do very many miracles because of their unbelief (Mark 6:5)

(Mark 6:6 NKJV) And He marveled because of their unbelief.