Matthew 13: The Sower & Other Parables

How might the crowd have understood Jesus’ parable of the sower? Why did he encourage people to listen carefully?

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Matthew 13:1–9 Later that day, Jesus left the house and sat by the seashore. A large crowd gathered, so many that he boarded a boat, sat down, and from there taught the people who stood on the shore. He taught them with illustrations, saying, “A farmer went to sow his seeds in the field. As he scattered the seeds, some fell on the road, where they were eaten by the birds. Some fell on rocky ground, where the soil had little depth. The plants sprang up but had shallow roots, so they soon wilted under the scorching sun. Some seeds fell among thorny weeds that grew more quickly and choked out the tender plants. Other seeds fell on fertile soil and became healthy plants, producing a hundred, sixty, or thirty times the amount of seed sown. If you have ears, pay attention to what I am saying.”
King James
Matthew 13:1–9 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Did Jesus’ disciples have difficulty understanding his parables? Why?

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Matthew 13:10 His disciples came to him and said, “Why do you teach with illustrations that are difficult to understand?”
King James
Matthew 13:10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

Why didn’t Jesus speak more plainly, more forcefully so everyone would understand?

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Matthew 13:11–16 Jesus said, “I have given you insights into the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others have only the stories. Those who have a desire to hear will be given an abundance of knowledge, but those who dislike the truth will lose what little understanding they have. I teach with stories because some people with open eyes choose to see nothing. They hear with their ears but do not want to understand. In them, the prophet Isaiah’s words are fulfilled: You hear but do not understand. You see but have no recognition. Harden the hearts of these people and close their ears and cover their eyes so they will not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts and be forced to turn to me and be healed. How fortunate you are to have eyes that see and ears that hear.
King James
Matthew 13:11–16 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

What were the disciples seeing and hearing that prophets and righteous people wanted but did not have?

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Matthew 13:17 “I assure you, many prophets and righteous people have wanted to see what you are seeing. They wanted to hear what you are hearing, but they could not.”
King James
Matthew 13:17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

What conclusions can be made from Jesus’ explanation of the sower?

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Matthew 13:18–23 “Hear the meaning of the farmer sowing seeds. The seeds that fell on the road are people who hear the Kingdom message but do not understand. The evil one takes away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seeds that fell on rocky ground are those who hear the message and eagerly accept it, but their roots are shallow. As soon as the message causes them to experience trouble or persecution, they forsake their faith. The seeds that fell among thorny weeds are people who allow the worries of this life and the enticement of wealth to choke the message, so no fruit is produced. The seeds that fell on fertile soil are the people who hear, understand, and act on God’s word, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”
King James
Matthew 13:18–23 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Why do seeds in fertile soil not all have the same yield?

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Matthew 13:23 “The seeds that fell on fertile soil are the people who hear, understand, and act on God’s word, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”
King James
Matthew 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

What might we understand from Jesus’ story of good seeds and weeds?

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Matthew 13:24–30 Jesus gave this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who sowed good wheat in his field. While everyone slept, his adversary sowed weeds among the wheat and slipped away, unseen. As the wheat grew and developed its heads of grain, the weeds also grew. The workers said to the farmer, ‘Didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this.’ ‘Do you want us to pull the weeds?’ they said.  ‘No. While you are pulling the weeds you might uproot some of the wheat. Let them both grow until harvest time. Then I will tell the reapers to bundle the weeds, burn them, and bring the wheat into my barn.'”
13:37–43 Jesus said, “The farmer who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seeds are the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age. And the reapers are the angels. Just as the weeds are bundled and burned, so will it be with people at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send his angels to separate from his Kingdom those who do evil and draw others into sin. The angels will throw the evildoers into a fiery furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, pay attention to what I am saying.”
King James
Matthew 13:24–30 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
13:37–43 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

How might we interpret the “enemy” responsible for the weeds?

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Matthew 13:28 ” ‘An enemy has done this.’ ‘Do you want us to pull the weeds?’ they said.”
13:39 “The enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age. And the reapers are the angels.”
King James
Matthew 13:28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
13:39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

What does a mustard seed have in common with the Kingdom of Heaven?

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Matthew 13:31–32 In another illustration, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a farmer planted in his field. Although it is the tiniest of all seeds, it became the largest plant in the field, a tree where birds can perch in its branches.”
King James
Matthew 13:31–32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Why did Jesus say the Kingdom of Heaven was like yeast?

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Matthew 13:33 Jesus added this analogy: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a little yeast that a woman kneaded into three measures of flour. The yeast made the whole batch of dough rise.”
King James
Matthew 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

What makes storytelling an effective means to communicate truth?

Author’s Thoughts
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Matthew 13:34–35 When speaking to the crowd, Jesus always used illustrations like these. No one heard him speak without some kind of story. This fulfilled what the psalmist prophesied: I will open my mouth with a parable and explain mysteries kept secret from the beginning.
King James
Matthew 13:34–35 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.

How will the righteous “shine like the sun”?

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Matthew 13:43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, pay attention to what I am saying.”
King James
Matthew 13:43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

What treasure did the man find that would justify purchase of the entire field? Who might the “man” represent?

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Matthew 13:44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like hidden treasure buried in a field. When a man found the treasure, he was overcome with joy. He buried the treasure, sold everything he owned, and bought the field.”
King James
Matthew 13:44 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

How valuable was the pearl that was found? Who might the “merchant” represent?

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Matthew 13:45–46 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking costly pearls. When he found one pearl of exceptional value, he sold everything he owned and bought it.”
King James
Matthew 13:45–46 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

What can we understand from Jesus’ story of a net catching all kinds of fish?

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Matthew 13:47–50 “Also, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea and caught all kinds of fish. Men dragged the full net onto the shore, sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers. They threw the bad fish away. That is how it will be at the end of this age. The angels will come and separate the evil people from the righteous and will throw the evil ones into a fiery furnace, where they will cry and grit their teeth in pain.”
King James
Matthew 13:47–50 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

How well do you think the disciples understood what Jesus was saying?

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Matthew 13:51 “Have you understood what I have said?”
“Yes,” they said. “We understand.”
King James
Matthew 13:51 Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.

What is the difference between a “teacher of the Law” and a “disciple in the Kingdom”?

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Matthew 13:52 “Every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings both old and new things from his storehouse of treasures.”
King James
Matthew 13:52 Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.

Why were the people of Nazareth amazed at Jesus’ teaching?

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Matthew 13:54–56 Jesus went to his home town, Nazareth, and taught in the synagogue there. People were amazed at his teaching, saying, “Where did he get such wisdom and the power to do miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? We know his mother, Mary, and his brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. His sisters, don’t they live here in town? How did this man become so different that he can do these things?”
King James
Matthew 13:54–56 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?

Why is a prophet not respected in his own country?

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Matthew 13:57 They did not trust his actions or what he said. Jesus said to them, “A prophet has honor everywhere except in his own country and in his own household.”
King James
Matthew 13:57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.

Why did unbelief keep Jesus from doing many miracles in Nazareth?

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Matthew 13:58 Because of their unbelief, he did very few miracles there.
King James
Matthew 13:58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.