In the face of growing opposition, the Lord Jesus gave His third discourse, which served as both revelation and warning. Unlike the other major discourses, Jesus here spoke in parables. While the meaning of these parables was hidden from the people in general, it was revealed to the followers of Christ. In fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Lord here spoke of what God has kept secret since the beginning— the advancement and final consummation of the kingdom of heaven.
Did You Know...?
- Parables (13:3): Our word “parable” comes from the Greekparabole, which means “a placing beside”—and thus a comparison or an illustration. Its most common use in the NT is for the illustrative stories that Jesus drew from nature and human life. [ref]
- Stony places (13:5): Not ground covered with small stones, but shallow soil on top of solid rock. [ref]
- The Setting (13:1-2)
- Four Kinds of Soil (13:3-9)
- Understanding Parables (13:10-17)
- Explanation of the Parable of Soils (13:18-23)
What were the two settings where Jesus spoke these parables? Who were the two groups of audience?Hide Answer
Jesus spoke the first four parables to the multitudes by the sea (1,2). He then sent the multitudes away, went into the house, and spoke the remaining four parables to the disciples (36).
2. Do you see a symmetry in the two groups of parables?Hide Answer
The 1st (soils) and 8th (scribe) parables, unlike the other six, did not begin with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like….” Whereas the first parable is followed by an interlude (10-17), the last parable is preceded by one (51). Both parables are about hearing, understanding and acting on the word. The 2nd (wheat and tares) and the 7th (dragnet) parables are similar in that they both have to do with the final separation of good and evil. The 3rd (mustard seed) and 4th (leaven) parables can be considered as one unit because they parallel each other in their message, and the same is true for the 5th (treasure) and 6th (pearl) parables.
Think of a modern scenario (example) for each of the four kinds of soil: a. Seeds that fell by the wayside; b. Seeds that fell on stony places; c. Seeds that fell among thorns; d. Seeds that fell on good soil:Hide Answer
a. Seeds that fell by the wayside:
b. Seeds that fell on stony places:
c. Seeds that fell among thorns:
d. Seeds that fell on good soil:
What is the point of this parable?Hide Answer
The gospel of the kingdom meets with various kinds of responses. The same message has no effect on some for one reason or another, while it bears fruit in others. The condition of a person’s heart determines whether God’s word will have effect on him and whether he is worthy of God’s kingdom.
How can you be a good soil and let God’s word take root in you?Hide Answer
Just as a seed takes root in a good soil, God’s word takes root in a receptive heart. We need to eagerly receive God’s word (1Pet 2:2), meditate on it (Ps 119:97), keep it in our hearts (Ps 119:11), and put it into practice (Heb 5:14) so that it becomes an integral part of us.
What are “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches”? How do they “choke” the word (22)?Hide Answer
When a person sets his mind on the desires of the flesh and the accumulation of riches, he easily wanders from the faith. Love for the world robs us of our love for God (1Tim 6:9,10; cf. 1Jn 2:15,16; Mt 6:19- 24).
What fruit does the Lord want us to yield (23)?Hide Answer
The fruit that God expects us to yield is having Christ-like characters. When we receive God’s word and put it into practice, our conduct and lifestyle will naturally reflect God’s divine qualities for the glory of God (Php 1:11; Col 1:6; Gal 5:22,23; Jn 15:8,16,17).
What is the teaching behind “he who has ears to hear, let him hear” (9)?Hide Answer
Everyone who hears of the message of the gospel must open his hearts to accept it. The Lord’s solemn declaration beckons us to pay careful attention and accept the message of the gospel (Heb 2:1-3). We have been blessed with the opportunity to understand the gospel of salvation (Mt 13:16). So we must humbly receive it and act upon it. But those who do not respond to the Lord’s beckoning will have no part in God’s kingdom (11,13).
What are the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven”?Hide Answer
The mystery is the gospel of salvation of Christ through which Gentiles and Israelites alike become heirs of God’s kingdom (1Cor 2:7; Eph 3:6; Col 1:26,27). This message is a mystery because it was hidden for ages and is still hidden from the unbelievers.
Who are the ones who have been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (11)? What does it take for us to “understand” the word of the kingdom (19,23)?Hide Answer
The mysteries are made known to believers (Col 1:26,27). In order for us to understand the word of the kingdom, we need God’s choosing and revelation (Jn 6:65; 1Cor 2:10-11). But on our part, we need to have a sincere and humble heart in order to understand (Mt 11:25,26).
Why did Jesus use parables instead of just teaching the people plainly?Hide Answer
Parables can illustrate spiritual things in a way that plain language cannot. Besides, the Lord Jesus used parables because some people chose to reject His message. The parables will mean nothing to them because of their calloused hearts. But for the believers, the parables served to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom (35). This is what it means when Jesus said, “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” (12). The use of parables does just that.
Does verse 15 teach that God does not want certain people to understand the mysteries?Hide Answer
God does not intend to exclude anyone from understanding the truth (1Tim 2:4). God’s action of hardening is a result, not the cause, of people’s rejection (Rom 1:18-28; Mt 11:20-26).
What are the symptoms of “hearts grown dull and ears hard of hearing”? Do you sometimes see these symptoms in yourself?Hide Answer
Understanding and agreeing with God’s word on a superficial level without changing our hearts and our ways (Isa 29:13; Jer 32:33; Mt 21:28- 30). Arrogance and self-conceit (Rev 3:17).
How are we as blessed as the disciples (16,17)?Hide Answer
The prophets and righteous men of the past spoke about and tried to understand this message of salvation, and even angels longed to look into these things (1Pet 1:10-12). But today we have understood and received this salvation, and it is indeed a great blessing (Eph 1:3-10).