For the text of Matthew 13, click here.
I had no idea that the parables were explained in the same chapters that they were told! Not that the explanations were always easy to understand. First of all. What’s a parable?
Here is the definition from dictionary.com
a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.
a statement or comment that conveys a meaning indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or thelike.
The first one is the Parable of the Sower. I also didn’t really know what a sower (someone who scatters seeds over the land) was, despite having read Octavia Butler’s book of the same name. I looked it up just for this, to be absolutely sure. It made a lot of sense out of her book, but also helped understand the parable itself. Of course, there’s an explanation not too far down that helped too. The explanation starts in verse 18 after Jesus explains why He even used parables in the first place.
The explanations for using parables fell along the lines of that sometimes people don’t understand things when you just tell them, especially when they aren’t ready for it. This is also why poetry and fiction have continued to be so successful in allowing us to see our truths that we try not to, why some of our greatest artists are controversial. The discussion about it refers back to Isaiah 6:9-10. It’s not written exactly the same, but at this point Jesus seems to be deliberately using the first person where Isaiah used the third person to express that thought. He also allows for the advancement of time while quoting it and making what had been said about future times about the time that they were in.
What I found interesting about the explanation of this parable is the way it reminds me of people and the reasons we give for not having faith. I don’t understand what’s going on with God and Jesus in any way and I’ve struggled with faith over the years too. I’ve known plenty of people who have had the exact reactions that Jesus gives in the explanation. He covers the major reactions that people have to their religious experiences.
- people who hear about religion but are preoccupied by everything else, good or bad, that “should” be fixed by religion
- people who believe at first but fall away when life doesn’t turn out the way they think it should
- people who are so confused from the outset that they are quickly and easily misled
- people who understand what’s going on with faith and not only stick around but help others to understand.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea where I sit in those but it’s a little disconcerting. I know I’ve definitely had my struggles, and some days are still hard, but…. I don’t know. I think we should be able to say that though, even at church. We should be able to say that we don’t understand and not get a bunch of grief for it. I appreciate deliberation in church where we can acknowledge that we’re all just trying to figure it out and learn from what people know. I know some things, not a lot, but a few things that I help people with and other people help me out too. Does that put us with the mislead, though?
I guess I’ll find out one day.
Next is the parable of the weeds which is also explained a little later in the chapter. This one has more to do with the way that people still ask why there are allowed to be bad people in the midst of good people, not that I really know what they mean by that. Everyone has their thing makes them not perfect, but it can be really out of balance for some. Like those people who are only really nice to this or that set of people but discriminate and abuse another set of people. It is impossible to be a really “good guy” who is also racist or sexist and feels free to act it out around the people he is against. That is not a “good guy” or girl or insert whatever other descriptor you like for “guy” there. But there will be good people among them…. though it may never feel that way to the discriminated group. Anyway, the point is for those people to have to deal with each other while they grow and Jesus will deal with the “weeds” when it won’t be just as likely to hurt the “wheat”.
Then He put up two more parable that amounted to describing “the kingdom of Heaven” as something that is small but will grow to be huge. Like Christianity and the way it seems to have taken over the world. Except that not all things that call itself Christianity actually abides by the laws or ideals of Christ.
Then there’s a mention that Jesus spoke in so many parable because of a prophecy that said that He would but I looked it up and it’s actually a psalm. It’s from Psalm 78, which is titled “Tell the Coming Generation” and about passing on the stories and lessons learned of the ancestors. It’s about the struggle they had to reach the point where David made them prosperous through his faith and relationship with God.
This is followed by two parables suggesting that Heaven is the sort of thing that people recognize the value of once they’ve found it. Then one about things caught in nets and how we only keep the things that are valuable to us in the net, which is what the angels will do with us.
Afterward, Jesus went back home where He was questioned by the people when He tried to share the same knowledge. They didn’t believe that this person who had grown up around them and whose family they knew would be in possession of such knowledge. What Jesus says about it is pretty interesting. It’s become a trope used in a lot of coming home stories where we are somehow never seen as more than the person we were when we left, no matter what we accomplished while gone.
A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.
Links to verses and sites used to understand this chapter are provided in text.