Matthew 13, Part 2
Last week we studied the parable of the sower, and Jesus gave reasons for using parables. A parable is a short moral story that was often expressed with imagery and metaphor. It illustrates a truth using examples from life and can show similarity of things we are familiar with. But even when things may seem familiar, have you ever still had a hard time understanding the true meaning? Jesus goes on to explain the parable so there is no misinterpretation fo what He has said. We start in verses 18-23 of Matthew 13.
18 “Hear then 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. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.”
First, there were seeds that fell on the roadside and were eaten by the birds; the birds represent the evil one who snatches the word from those who refuse to believe. (Evil one here is ponēros, or Satan, the Devil). They hear the Word, but either do not understand it or refuse to believe it, and he snatches it away before it can take root.
The POSB makes this observation: There are at least four reasons why people become hardened to the gospel.
1. They rebel and rebel. They react because of some tragedy or some circumstance, and they blame God.
2. They do not stay awake or alert; they do not pay attention. They do not consider the gospel important enough to merit their attention. In their minds, other things need their attention more than the gospel.
3. They are careless in handling the gospel. They treat the gospel as an item, an additive, a part of life instead of life itself. When needed and when time is available, the gospel is acceptable. Their attitude is that the gospel has its place, but it is not the permeating factor of life that so many make it.
4. They are deceived. What matters to them is attendance, being present in worship services and associating with other Christians. A change of heart and life is meaningless. Religion to them is a matter of form and ceremony, not life.
The reality of spiritual battle is clear here. The image of the sower is often used for God in Jewish writings, but in this Gospel, the task of sowing is partly delegated to the disciples also.
Second, there were seeds that fell on shallow ground and did not live long but were scorched by the sun. These refer to hearers who received the word, but did not remain faithful after being scorched by persecution. New Testament writers often speak of spiritual maturity in terms of growth like that of a plant:
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
The seed planted in this second type of soil only grew in one direction—there is upward growth without being rooted downward. That is why it is SOOOOOO important to “take root below and bear fruit above”. This is the ideal process of growth.
30 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.
Without taking root, there is nothing that grounds them. They do not receive nourishment from God through the Word and prayer. As a result, there is little spiritual strength when “life” hits and it causes them to morally and spiritually fail.
Third, there were seeds that fell among thorns and produce shoots that did not live long because they were choked; and these refer to those who received the word also, but did not remain faithful because they are choked by the worries of life and the “deceitfulness of wealth”. The proverb used by Matthew, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”, illustrates the use of thorns and thistles as metaphors for evil. In the OT, they are unwanted elements that can hamper worship ; they are part of the consequences of sin Gen 3:18;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.
and a symbol for hardship. In this parable, thorns refer to anything that draws a person’s attention away from God’s word and in the process, prevents a person from truly benefitting from it. If we think of a briar, what does it do when we get close to one? Doesn’t it seem as though it grabs us, hooks into us, and holds on? There are many things in life that act the same way and they can entangle us into the things of the world instead of focusing our mind on God. Once there, they irritate, aggravate, fester, and cause pain…just like a thorn in our flesh.
Fourth, there were seeds that fell in good soil that produced crops; and these are the ideal listeners. The image of fruit-bearing may relate to a person living according to God’s purposes as shown in various forms of good deeds; and Matthew consistently used this image to refer to one’s actions that show a person’s internal disposition.
Jesus concludes the parable with the statement, “Whoever has ears, let him hear”, addressing ANYONE who may be listening in the crowd, allowing them a chance to respond positively to the Gospel message. The statement echoes Ezekiel’s words to the audience that he knew would not heed his message.
27 But when I speak with you, I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ He who will hear, let him hear; and he who will refuse to hear, let him refuse, for they are a rebellious house.
Jesus calls for a decision to be made. The choice is placed back to the individual hearing the Word.
Seeds and Weeds (Not Weed and Feed)
Seeds and Weeds (Not Weed and Feed)
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Why does evil exist?
Simply, to attempt to overthrow good.
It is forces of good against evil. Of the villain and the victor.
The parable of the wheat and tares can also be called the parable of the two sowers, the man who sows good seed and the enemy who sows bad seeds. This parable is only found in Matthew, which hints that one of the issues the early believers were facing was the presence of non-believers within the believing community. Like the previous parable, this one was addressed to the disciples and related to their evangelistic efforts. The parable underscores not only Jesus’ teaching that God’s rule is already present, and therefore it must be proclaimed, but also the reality that the believing community could also be a mixture of good and evil, and the ultimate separation of the two groups will take place only in the future. This means that the gospel must not only be preached outside the believing community, but even within the churches.
Jesus’ interpretation that the “field is the world” where the “people of the kingdom” and the “people of the evil one” exist together implies that the world is the battleground of God and Satan; and because the “enemy” is a trespasser, he is neither the owner of the field nor someone who belongs to or is related to the owner. Theologically, this implies that the world belongs to God, and the kingdom of God is already universal in its extent, except that God is not universally acknowledged as king. The delay in the collection of tares is not seen as the delay of judgment, but as a prolonged protection for the wheat, lest it be damaged together with the tares. Nonetheless, the sower of good seeds made sure that the separation will happen during the harvest.
Weeds are sometimes used as fuel, and so are thorns. However, the burning of the weeds does not imply its usefulness as fuel, but the judgment against those who cause others to sin and those who break the law. Farming analogies, such as the separation of the wheat and chaff, are also used in John the Baptist’s preaching and points to God’s judgment in the end. Fire, on both occasions, is the medium of judgment.
This is a scary concept, to me. To have some church attenders, who say they are saved, and to not turn their lives completely over to Christ. Never making that submissive gesture, and not knowing just how far they missed the mark until they enter eternity and are told “I never knew you”. Where is their destiny? Into the fires of hell for eternal judgment.
The interpretation of the parable was given only to the disciples. This may imply that the proclamation of God’s reign is not about scaring people with the reality of divine judgment, as real as it may be, but simply inviting people to acknowledge the kingship of God. The reality of judgment, nonetheless, should be the motivation of the disciples to proclaim God’s rule.
Uytanlet, S. L., & Kwa, K.-K. (2017). Matthew: A Pastoral and Contextual Commentary (F. G. Villanueva, S. Chang, A. Spurgeon, & B. Wintle, Eds.; pp. 142–143). Langham Global Library; Asia Theological Association.