Matthew 13

Chapter 13

Jesus Teaches in Parables[a]

The Day of Parables. 1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the side of the lake. 2 However, such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables.[b]

The Parable of the Sower.[c] He said: “A sower went out to sow. 4 As he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. They sprouted quickly, since the soil had very little depth, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched, and since they lacked roots, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 But some seeds fell on rich soil and produced a crop—some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear!”

10 The Reason for Parables.[d] Then his disciples approached and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He replied, “To you has been granted knowledge of the mysteries[e] of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 To the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance. As for the one who does not have, even what little he has will be taken away. 13 The reason I speak to them in parables is that they see but do not perceive and they listen but do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed hear but not understand,
you will indeed look but never see.
15 For this people’s heart has become hardened;
they have stopped up their ears
and they have shut their eyes,
so that they might not see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and then turn to me,
and I would heal them.’

16 The Privilege of Discipleship.[f]“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 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.

18 The Explanation of the Parable of the Sower.[g]“Therefore listen to the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart; that is the seed sown on the path. 20 As for the seed sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But such a person has no deep root, and he endures for only a short time. When some trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, he immediately falls away.

22 “The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but worldly cares and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. 23 However, the seed sown in rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

24 The Parable of the Weeds.[h] He then proposed another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 While everyone was asleep, his enemy came, sowed weeds[i] among the wheat, and then went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and ripened, the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and asked, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where then did these weeds come from?’ 28 He answered, ‘One of my enemies has done this.’ The servants then asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’

29 “He replied, ‘No, because in gathering the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let them both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time, I will tell the reapers, “Collect the weeds first and tie them in bundles to be burned. Then gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”

31 The Parable of the Mustard Seed.[j] He proposed still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of plants and becomes a tree large enough for the birds to come and make nests in its branches.”[k]

33 The Parable of the Yeast.[l] And he offered them yet another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until it was completely leavened.”

34 The Use of Parables.[m] Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables. Indeed he never spoke to them except in parables. 35 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
I will proclaim what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

36 Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds.[n] Then he dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are angels.

40 “Just as the weeds are collected and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of the world. 41 The Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all who cause sin and all whose deeds are evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

44 The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl.[o]“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure buried in a field, which a man found and buried again. Then in his joy he went off and sold everything he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went off and sold everything he had and bought it.

47 The Parable of the Net.[p]“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net cast into the sea where it caught fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, they hauled it ashore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish into baskets but discarded those that were worthless. 49 Thus will it be at the end of the world. The angels will go forth and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 Conclusion.[q]“Have you understood all this?” he asked. They answered, “Yes.” 52 Then he said to them, “Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings forth from his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

The Authentic Faith of Those Converted[r]

Jesus Encounters Mixed Receptions[s]

53 Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth.[t] When Jesus had finished these parables, he departed from that district.

54 He came to his hometown, and he began to teach the people in the synagogue. They were astonished and wondered, “Where did this man get such wisdom and these mighty deeds? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? Are not James and Joseph and Simon and Judas his brethren? 56 And are not all his sisters here with us? Where then did this man get all this?” 57 And so they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is always treated with honor except in his hometown and in his own house.” 58 And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 13:1 This is the beginning of the Third Discourse in Matthew’s Gospel, which includes seven parables of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven, a plan hidden in God and only incompletely manifested to us (13:10-17, 34f; see Eph 3:4ff). Each parable presents a different aspect of the kingdom and helps us to perceive the multifaceted reality that is growing among us throughout history. However, there is no point in looking for a meaning in every detail of a parable; it is more profitable to look for the essential message.
  2. Matthew 13:3 Parables: stories that are illustrative comparisons between religious truths and events of everyday life. Those told by Jesus are so living, direct, and natural as to be unforgettable. They bear witness to a true poetic and pedagogical genius. The Synoptic Gospels contain some 30 parables. John’s Gospel contains no parables but makes good use of other figures of speech.
  3. Matthew 13:3 At this period, seed was scattered everywhere on as yet uncultivated ground, before any plowing was done and without the sower having a clear idea of whether it would take root. Some seed was wasted, but the sower was not discouraged, knowing that the harvest would come and this was all that counted. In the Old Testament, the harvest was a symbol of the Messianic age (see Ps 126:5-6; Am 9:13).
  4. Matthew 13:10 The parables make use of a language that is clear and rich for those whose heart is open but obscure and deceptive for those whose heart is closed. Already Jesus sees the new community, where his message is richness of life, separating itself from official Judaism, which will lose even that which it has, i.e., its role as custodian of God’s Covenant. The Word of Christ always works in a twofold way; it fills those who accept it but leads to the hardening up of those who refuse it.
  5. Matthew 13:11 Mysteries: also translated as “secrets.” The word is used in Dan 2:18, 19, 27 and in the Dead Sea Scrolls to designate a divine plan or decree affecting the course of history that can be known only when revealed. In this case, the secret or mystery is that the kingdom is already present in the ministry of Jesus.
  6. Matthew 13:16 The disciples, unlike the unbelieving crowds, have seen and heard what many prophets and righteous people of the Old Testament longed to see . . . and to hear without having their longing filled.
  7. Matthew 13:18 It is not enough for us to hear the word; we must accept it with all its demands so that it may transform our existence. The four types of persons described in the parable are: (1) those who never accept the word of the kingdom (v. 19); (2) those who believe for a while but fall away because of persecution (vv. 20-21); (3) those who believe, but in whom the word is choked by worldly cares and the lure of riches (v. 22); and (4) those who hear the word and produce an abundant crop (v. 23).
  8. Matthew 13:24 The parable of the weeds is proper to Matthew. Through it Jesus teaches that the Last Judgment (of which the “harvest” is a common metaphor), i.e., the separation of the good from the wicked, is to be awaited with patience. The explanation is given in Mt 13:37-43.
  9. Matthew 13:25 Weeds: probably darnel, which looks very much like wheat while it is young, but can later be distinguished.
  10. Matthew 13:31 The mustard seed is the smallest one used by the Palestinian farmers and gardeners of that day, but it could reach a height of some ten or twelve feet. Thus, the kingdom of heaven, notwithstanding the humble ministry of Jesus, is already dawning and in the end will be shown in all its magnificence.
  11. Matthew 13:32 Tree . . . its branches: an allusion to Dan 4:21, indicating that the kingdom of heaven will become worldwide and people from all nations will find refuge therein (see also Ezek 17:23; 31:6; Dan 2:35, 44f; 7:27; Rev 11:15).
  12. Matthew 13:33 The parable of the yeast is an invitation to faith in the efficacy of the ministry of Jesus. Despite its modest and unspectacular character, it constitutes a stage in the eschatological coming of the kingdom of God. The greatness of the kingdom is shown by the enormous amount of flour, enough to feed well over a hundred people.
  13. Matthew 13:34 Matthew stresses that Jesus speaks in parables to reveal God and his kingdom; in this way he shows that the Messiah fulfills the Scriptures. The “prophet” is, in this case, the psalmist (see Ps 78:2).
  14. Matthew 13:36 The explanation of the parable of the weeds stresses the Last Judgment in which Christ and those who have believed in him will triumph over the forces of evil. It thus teaches one to be converted without delay and to remain steadfast in faith till the end.
  15. Matthew 13:44 The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl reveal the hidden character of the kingdom of heaven and its great worth. It represents the supreme value to which human beings must aspire.
  16. Matthew 13:47 The parable of the net repeats the teaching of the parable of the weeds, with its emphasis upon the final exclusion of the wicked from the kingdom. It thus calls for an authentic conversion on the part of the listeners.
  17. Matthew 13:51 To those who believe, the parables reveal God’s mysterious plan for human beings. Thus, the teacher of the law, the scribe, once he has become a disciple, knows how to see the link between the Old and the New Testaments and is enriched by their basic harmony.
  18. Matthew 13:53 A new and tragic phase in the life of Jesus, and therefore also in the life of the kingdom, begins here and illustrates the accounts and words of this fourth part of the Gospel. The drama is infused with a growing intensity. Christ hides himself from the enthusiasm of the crowds who want him to embrace their hope for national freedom. This stirs up hostility and leads to defection. The kingdom that he proclaims is suspect in the eyes of the defenders of legalism and traditions; not even his disciples have a good understanding of the life that he teaches. Powerless, they live under this tension, which prepares for the Passion, and their incredulity will even contribute to it; but they still remain the core of the new community of believers.
  19. Matthew 13:53 The main purpose of this section is to place the Person of Jesus at the center of the mystery of the kingdom of God. The evangelist shows Jesus receiving a mixed reception, beginning with his rejection at Nazareth and the execution of the Baptist (Mt 13:53—14:12). He then alludes to the Eucharistic mystery in the accounts of the multiplication of the loaves (Mt 14:19; 15:36), and the walking on the water (Mt 14:22-33). Finally, he reports the doctrinal conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities (Mt 15:1-20) and raises anew the question of the sign of Jonah (Mt 16:1-4; see note on Mt 12:38ff). This sign will later be explained as referring to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus (Mt 16:21ff), which must occur before the kingdom of God reaches a new stage (Mt 16:28). This is the message of the Scriptures (Mt 17:5).
  20. Matthew 13:53 At Nazareth, everyone knows the mother of Jesus and his brothers and sisters, i.e., his closest relatives, as it was customary to say in those days (see note on Mt 12:46). He thus has his place in this little village. But how can the villagers be expected to acknowledge the Messiah in one of their compatriots? God’s action and word manifested among men is the mystery of the Incarnation; this seems too human. Even the believer might hesitate in believing in the Lord present among us, in the places and times in which daily life unfolds.

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