Matthew 13 – The Parables

Before understanding the parable of the sower, it is important to understand why Jesus used parables in the first place. Parables were also used in the old testament, something that the prophets used to explain their visions. In 2 Samuel 12 Nathan used a parable to deliver God’s message to David on the grave sin that the king had committed.

This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Matthew 13:13

Jesus used parables to fulfill Isaiah’s prophesy saying that many people have chosen to close their eyes, ears and dull their minds that they may not understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.

A person who has chosen not to maintain a healthy relationship with his family will always find excuses, prioritizing other things over his family. Similarly, these people chose to close their ears to God’s word and were not willing to understand his message.

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

Matthew 13:16-17

God chose to reveal his message to those who are willing to know, understand and follow God’s word. Jesus himself calls such people blessed! Many prophets and righteous people in the past waited to see the Messiah and hear his message but they could not. How blessed are we who have the privilege to know Him, yet many of us still miss out on knowing Him.

The Parable of The Sower

The parable of the sower divides people into four different categories on the basis of their reaction to the word of God. Though this parable was told by Jesus to a large crowd, only a few along with Jesus’s disciples came to Jesus to understand the parable (Mark 4:10). In this parable, God is the sower, the seed is the message of the kingdom and the soil represents us humans.

The first category represents people in whom the word of God was sown but the bird, the enemy, came and ate it up, and there was no sign of the seeds.

“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. This is what was sown along the path.”

Matthew 13:19

The second category represents people in whom the seed which was sown, initially sprout but because the soil was not deep enough, its roots could not penetrate through the rocky path for the plant to grow.

When we do not let God reside in our hearts, even small troubles which come our way on account of His Name, will cause us to let go of God.

“As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”

Matthew 13:20-21

The third category represents people in whom the word was sown and well accepted too but the involvement of worldly affairs choked the seeds. We should not let our love for this life, along with its worries and riches, act like the thorns that choke God’s word.

God calls us to lay our burdens on him (Matthew 11:28) and not allow our burdens to take over and eventually choke His word out of our lives.

“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

Matthew 13:22

The last category represents the people in whom the word was sown, where the word was accepted and understood. We are called to be the good soil that bears fruit.

The fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). When we are deep-rooted and dependent on God, we will be able to bear these fruits through His guidance.

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Matthew 13:23

The Parable of the Weeds

Jesus told them another parable where He spoke about the kingdom of heaven, which is like a man who sowed good seeds in His field but the enemy sowed weeds among the good seeds. After a while, the servants of the owner realized there were weeds and asked if they should remove it but the owner asked them to wait till the harvest to pull them out and then burn them.

God gives equal chance to the good and the evil doers and allows the evil doers to be among the good. He just wants us to end up in the good bundle at the end. If we are doing evil, He wants us to turn from our evil ways and look to Him. And if we are not evil, we should be sure that we do not get influenced by the evil doers and move away from God but even in the midst of evil, stay righteous to God till the end.

He doesn’t predestine us to be evil, It is we who choose to become evil, just like God did not choose Judas (Psalm 41:9) to betray Jesus but Judas chose himself (Matthew 26:14-15). God just knows what our end decisions would be and we mistake that to be our destiny or fortune.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

Jesus told them another parable where He compared the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed and yeast. The mustard seed is the smallest known seed that grows into a tree which works as a shelter for the birds, and yeast, once activated, spreads across the container uncontrollably.

Just like a tiny mustard seed, the gospel (Jesus came into this world and sacrificed himself for us and rose again defeating the grave), which is just the beginning, is sown in us, keeps growing big and we understand His love and grow closer to Him. And then, just like the yeast, the joy in us is uncontrollable to contain within us and the gospel reaches others around us.

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl

Jesus then spoke about the kingdom of heaven which is like a hidden treasure that a man found and in his joy, sold everything else to buy that field. And in another parable, He spoke about a merchant who was looking for fine pearls and once he found them, he sold everything else he had to buy that.

Both the parables are quite similar, except that, in the first one, he just found it, and in the second one, he was searching for it. We could lie in either category, we might have just found Jesus (the treasure) or might have diligently searched for Him and found Him but what matters is that what do we do after we find Him.

The joy of finding the Good News or the Gospel is unfathomable and we end up forgetting about our lives on this earth and focus on being more with God.

This does not mean we have to leave everything and be with Him, but it is just that, the joy will be so much that we would forget our worries in this world and automatically cut back on everything that draws us father from Him. Are we like these men from the above two parables, that we can leave everything behind to accept the Good News after finding this treasure?

The Parable of the Net

Jesus gave another parable, similar to the parable of the weeds, where He said, the kingdom of heaven is like a net which caught all kinds of fish. When the net was full, the fishermen would keep the good fish and throw away the bad ones, just like the weeds would be burned.

Like all kinds of fishes which were there in the net, this world also has different types of people who will be categorized as righteous and wicked by the angels at the end times, and the evil ones will be thrown into the everlasting blazing furnace.

Let us examine ourselves and see which category do we fall in and since we do not know the end time (Matthew 24:36), lets be always ready, rather than thinking that “I’ll turn from my evil ways later when I get the time”.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

Matthew 13:51-52

Jesus specifically went on to ask His disciples, if they had understood what He meant, maybe because they didn’t ask Him to explain or to emphasize how important it was for them to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus tried to tell them that whatever they knew from before about God, they needed to take that and the new things they had learnt from Jesus, and go out into the world and tell them both.

A Prophet Without Honor

After telling these parables, Jesus went to His hometown and taught in their synagogues. People were amazed at His teachings but did not want to believe Him and questioned the source of His knowledge among themselves.

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

Matthew 13:57

They looked at him outwardly, His family, His profession and failed to look at the message He was delivering. Not only that, they took offense at Him. Why would they do that? Because they had hardened their hearts so much that they had no faith and no matter what He did, they wouldn’t believe Him.

In Luke 4: 24-29 Jesus mentions how even Elijah was sent to a widow who did belong to his hometown during a famine though there were many other widows in his native place. Or how a leper from another country was sent to Elisha though there were lepers in his own hometown. Even in the old testament, the prophets were not honored in their hometowns.

Jesus could not perform any miracles there due to the lack of faith of the people. These people never accepted Jesus neither did they have the desire to know what He was saying before rejecting Him. Are we also like these people to reject God without even tasting His love?

Lets us think about ourselves and how each of these parables relate to our lives. Do we have the faith to draw near to Him or do we just reject Him without even trying to find Him?

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