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Matthew 13:1-23 – The Parable of the Sower and Its Interpretationand the Purpose of the Parables

Summary

The parable of the sower, like the other parables, represents secrets of the kingdom given to those whose eyes are blessed to see. The kingdom of heaven is like a sower who sows seed on various kinds of soil. That which falls on good soil represents those who hear the word of the kingdom, understand it, and produce fruit for the harvest.

Analysis

Though Jesus' teaching in parables is addressed to the crowds, it is clearly meant especially for those righteous members of the community who respond to Jesus' teaching in faithful obedience. Jesus' parable of the sower and its interpretation are clearly joined together and centered around Jesus' teaching to the disciples about the reason for the parable teaching in general. The parables comprise "secrets" about the kingdom of God, the understanding of which is a sign of blessing for those that have ears to hear. That Jesus' teaching further marks a division between those who take offense and the disciples who hear and understand is carefully and explicitly described as the fulfillment of prophecy in themes typical of Matthew's narrative (13:14-17).

Matthew 13:1-23

The Parable of the Sower

13That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears* listen!’

The Purpose of the Parables

10 Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ 11He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets* of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” 14With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:
“You will indeed listen, but never understand,
   and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
   and their ears are hard of hearing,
     and they have shut their eyes;
     so that they might not look with their eyes,
   and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
   and I would heal them.”
16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17Truly I tell 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.

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 ‘Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.* 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’

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10 February 2011

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