Matthew 13:1-2 "The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. 2 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."
The sea-side - This was the Sea of Tiberias. The multitude stood on the shore near to him, so that he could be easily heard. He went into a ship - that is, a boat; and sat down to address them. Few spectacles could be more interesting than a vast crowd on the hanks of a smooth and tranquil sea - an emblem of his instructions - and the Son of God addressing them on the great interests of eternity.
Matthew 13:3-9 "And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
In parables - The word "parable" is derived from a Greek word signifying "to compare together," and denotes a similitude taken from a natural object to illustrate a spiritual or moral subject. It is a narrative of some fictitious or real event, in order to illustrate more clearly some truth that the speaker wished to communicate. In early ages it was much used. Pagan writers, as Aesop, often employed it. In the time of Christ it was in common use. The prophets had used it, and Christ employed it often in teaching his disciples. It is not necessary to suppose that the narratives were strictly true. The main thing - "the inculcation of spiritual truth" - was gained equally, whether it was true or was only a supposed case. Nor was there any dishonesty in this. It was well understood no person was deceived. The speaker was not "understood" to affirm the thing "literally narrated," but only to fix the attention more firmly on the moral truth that he presented. The "design" of speaking in parables was the following:
1. To convey truth in a more interesting manner to the mind, adding to the truth conveyed the beauty of a lovely image or narrative.
2. To teach spiritual truth so as to arrest the attention of ignorant people, making an appeal to them through the "senses."
3. To convey some offensive truth, some pointed personal rebuke. in such a way as to bring it "home" to the conscience. Of this kind was the parable which Nathan delivered to David (2 Samuel 12:1-7), and many of our Saviour's parables addressed to the Jews.
4. To "conceal" from one part of his audience truths which he intended others should understand. Thus Christ often, by this means, delivered truths to his disciples in the presence of the Jews, which he well knew the Jews would not understand; truths pertaining to them particularly, and which he was under no obligations to explain to the Jews. See Mark 4:33; Matthew 13:13-16.
Our Saviour's parables are distinguished above all others for clearness, purity, chasteness, importance of instruction, and simplicity. They are taken mostly from the affairs of common life, and intelligible, therefore, to all people. They contain much of "himself" - his doctrine, life, design in coming, and claims, and are therefore of importance to all people; and they are told in a style of simplicity intelligible to the child, yet instructive to people of every rank and age. In his parables, as in all his instructions, he excelled all people in the purity, importance, and sublimity of his doctrine.
Matthew 13:3 "And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;"
A sower went forth to sow - The image here is taken from an employment known to all people, and therefore intelligible to all.
Nor can there be a more striking illustration of preaching the gospel than placing the seed in the ground, to spring up hereafter and bear fruit.
Sower - One who sows or scatters seed - a farmer. It is not improbable that one was near the Saviour when he spoke this parable.
Matthew 13:4 "And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:"
Some seeds fell by the way-side - That is, the hard "path" or headland, which the plow had not touched, and where there was no opportunity for it to sink into the earth.
Matthew 13:5 "Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:"
Stony places - Where there was little earth, but where it was hard and rocky, so that the roots could not strike down into the earth for sufficient moisture to support the plant.
When the sun became hot they of course withered away. They sprang up the sooner because there was little earth to cover them.
Forthwith - Immediately. Not that they sprouted and grew any quicker or faster than the others, but they were not so long in reaching the surface. Having little root, they soon withered away.
Matthew 13:7 "And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:"
Among thorns - That is, in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been imperfectly cleared away and not destroyed.
They grew with the grain, crowded it, shaded it, exhausted the earth, and thus choked it.
Matthew 13:8 "But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold."
Into good ground - The fertile and rich soil.
In sowing, by far the largest proportion of seed will fall into the good soil; but Christ did not intend to teach that these proportions would be exactly the same among those who heard the gospel. Parables are designed to teach some "general" truth, and the circumstances should not be pressed too much in explaining them.
An hundred-fold ... - That is, a hundred, sixty, or thirty "grains" for each one that was sowed an increase by no means uncommon. Some grains of wheat will produce twelve or fifteen hundred grains. The usual proportion on a field sown, however, is not more than twenty, fifty, or sixty bushels for one.
Matthew 13:9 "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Who hath ears ... - This is a proverbial expression, implying that it was every man's duty to pay attention to what was spoken, (Matthew 11:15).
Matthew 13:10-17 "And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? 11 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. 12 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. 13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14 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: 15 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. 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. 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."
Christ, in these verses, gives a "reason" why he used this manner of instruction. See also Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10.
Matthew 13:11 "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."
The mysteries of the kingdom - The word "mystery," in the Bible, properly means a thing that is "concealed," or that "has been concealed." It does not mean that the thing was "incomprehensible," or even difficult to be understood.
The thing might be "plain" enough if revealed, but it means simply that it "had" not been before made known. Thus the "mysteries of the kingdom" do not mean any doctrines incomprehensible in themselves considered, but simply doctrines about the preaching of the gospel and the establishment of the new kingdom of the Messiah, which "had not" been understood, and which were as yet concealed from the great body of the Jews. See Romans 16:25; Romans 11:25; Ephesians 3:3-4, Ephesians 3:9. Of this nature was the truth that the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles; that the Jewish polity was to cease; that the Messiah was to die, etc. To the disciples it was given to know these truths. This was important for them, as they were to carry the gospel around the globe. To the others it was not "then" given. They were too gross, too earthly; they had too, grovelling conceptions of the Messiah's kingdom to understand these truths, even if communicated to them. They were not to preach the gospel, and hence our Saviour was at particular pains to instruct his apostles in the system which they were to preach. The Pharisees, and Jews generally, were not prepared to receive the system, and would not have believed it, and therefore he purposely employed a kind of teaching which was intended for his apostles only.
Matthew 13:12 "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."
Whosoever hath ... - This is a proverbial method of speaking.
It means that a man who improves what light, grace, and opportunities he has, shall have them increased. From him that improves them not, it is proper that they should be taken away. The Jews had many opportunities of learning the truth, and some light still lingered among them; but they were gross and sensual, and misimproved them, and it was a just judgment that they should be deprived of them. Superior knowledge was given to the disciples of Christ: they improved it, however slowly, and the promise was that it should be greatly increased.
Matthew 13:13 "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."
Because they seeing, see not - Mark (Mark 4:12) and Luke (Luke 8:10) say, "That seeing, they may not see etc.;" but there is no difference.
Matthew simply states the "fact," that though they saw the "natural" meaning of the story - though they literally understood the parable - yet they did not understand its "spiritual" signification. Mark and Luke do not state the "fact," but affirm that he spoke with this "intention" - implying that such "was" the result. Nor was there any dishonesty in this, or any unfair disguise. He had truths to state which he wished his "disciples particularly" to understand. They were of great importance to their ministry. Had he clearly and fully stated them to the Jews, they would have taken his life long before they did. He therefore chose to state the doctrines so that if their hearts had been right, and if they had not been malignant and blind, "they might have understood them." His doctrines he stated in the best possible way, and it was not his fault if they did not understand him. By little and little, in this way, he prepared many even of the Jews to receive the truth; by the only possible way of ever gaining access to their minds. It was, moreover, entirely proper and right to impart instruction to his disciples which he did not "intend" for others.
Matthew 13:14 "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:"
And in them is fulfilled ... - This place is quoted substantially from Isaiah 6:9-10. It was literally fulfilled in the time of Isaiah. In the time of Christ the people had the same character. Like them, they closed their eyes upon the truth, and rejected the divine teaching. The words of Isaiah were therefore "as well fitted" to express the character of the people in the time of Christ as in that of the prophet. In this sense they were "fulfilled," or "filled up;" that is, "a case occurred that corresponded to their meaning." See the notes at Matthew 1:22. It is not by any means intended that Isaiah, when he spoke these words, had any reference to the time of Christ. The meaning in both places is, that the people were so gross, sensual, and prejudiced, that they "would" not see the truth, or understand anything that was contrary to their grovelling opinions and sensual desires; a case by no means uncommon in the world. See the passage more fully explained in my notes at Isa. 6.
Waxed gross - Literally, "has become fat." This language is commonly applied to "the body," but is also used to denote one who is stupid and foolish in mind. Here it means that the people were so sensual and corrupt that they did not see or understand the pure spiritual principles of the gospel.
Lest they should see ... - Lest they should see their lost condition as sinners, and turn and live. The reason given here why they did not hear and understand the gospel is, that their "heart" was "wrong." They "would" not attend to the things that belonged to their peace.
I should heal them - Should pardon, sanctify, and save them. Sin is often represented as a disease, and the pardon and recovery of the soul from sin as "healing."
Matthew 13:16 "But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."
Blessed are your eyes ... - That is, you are happy that you are permitted to see truth which they will not see.
You are permitted to understand the spiritual meaning of the parables, and in some degree the plan of salvation.
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."
Many prophets and righteous men ... - They wished to see the times of the Messiah.
They looked to it as a time when the hopes of the world would be fulfilled, and when the righteous would be happy, (John 8:56). "Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad." Compare also 1 Peter 1:10-12; Hebrews 11:13. So Isaiah and the prophets looked forward to the coming of the Messiah as the consummation of their wishes and the end of the prophecies, (Revelation 19:10). The object always dearest to the hearts of all righteous people is to witness the coming and advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Compare Revelation 22:20.
Matthew 13:18-23 "Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 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. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 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. 22 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. 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."
See also Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15. "Hear ye, therefore, the parable of the sower." That is, hear the "explanation" or the "spiritual meaning" of the narrative given before. Mark adds (Mark 4:13), "Know ye not this parable? And how, then, shall ye know all parables?" By which it seems that the Saviour regarded this as one of the simplest and plainest of the parables, and gave an explanation of it that they might understand the general principles of interpreting others.
Matthew 13:19 "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."
When any one heareth ... - The seed represents the word of God communicated in any manner to the minds of people - by the Scriptures, by preaching, by acts of Providence, or by the direct influences of the Holy Spirit.
Then cometh the wicked one - That is, Satan (Mark 4:15), or the devil (Luke 8:12) - the one eminently "wicked," the accuser, the tempter.
He is represented by the fowls that came and picked up the seed by the way-side. The gospel is preached to people hardened in sin. It makes no impression. It lies like seed on the "hard path;" it is easily taken away, and never suffered to take root.
Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:21 "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. 22 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 the seed into stony places - Jesus explains this as denoting those who hear the gospel; who are caught with it as something new or pleasing; who profess to be greatly delighted with it, and who are full of zeal for it.
Yet they have no root in themselves. They are not true Christians. Their hearts are not changed. They have not seen their guilt and danger, and the true excellency of Christ. They are not "really" attached to the gospel; and when they are tried and persecution comes, they fall - as the rootless grain withers before the scorching rays of the noonday sun.
Anon - "Quickly," or "readily."
With joy receiveth it - They are under deep distress for sin; they are apprehensive of danger; they hear the offer of mercy, and they seem to themselves to embrace the gospel. It offers them peace, pardon, salvation, and religion assumes for a time a lovely aspect. They imagine that they are pardoned, and they have a temporary peace and joy. Their anxieties subside. Their fears are gone. They are for a time happy. "The mere subsiding of anxious feeling from any cause will make the mind for a time happy." They have only to imagine, therefore, that their sins are forgiven, to produce a certain kind of peace and joy. But there is no ground of permanent joy, as there is in true pardon, and soon their joy subsides, and all evidence of piety disappears. There is no strength of principle to resist temptation; there is no real love of the Saviour; and in times of trial and persecution they show that they have no true religion, and fall away.
By and by - Mark, "Immediately." That is, it soon occurs, or this is an effect which may be expected soon to follow.
Is offended - Stumbles or falls, for this is the meaning of the word "offend" in the New Testament. See the notes at Matthew 5:29. Persecution and trial are placed in his path, and he falls as he would over a "stumbling-block." He has no strength of principle - no real confidence in God - no true religion. Mere excited animal feeling is all that he ever had, and that is not sufficient to sustain him when the trial comes.
Matthew 13:22 "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."
He also that received seed among the thorns - These represent the cares, the anxieties, and the deceitful lure of riches, or the way in which a desire to be rich deceives people.
They take the time and attention. They do not leave opportunity to examine the state of the soul. Besides, riches allure, and promise what they do not yield. They promise to make us happy; but, when gained, they do not do it. The soul is not satisfied. There is the same desire to possess more wealth. And to this there is no end "but death." In doing it there is every temptation to be dishonest, to cheat, to take advantage of others, to oppress others, and to wring their hard earnings from the poor. Every evil passion is therefore cherished by the love of gain; and it is no wonder that the word is choked, and every good feeling destroyed, by this "execrable love of gold." See the notes at 1 Timothy 6:7-11. How many, O how many, thus foolishly drown themselves in destruction and perdition! How many more might reach heaven, if it were not for this deep-seated love of that which fills the mind with care, deceives the soul, and finally leaves it naked, and guilty, and lost!
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."
Into good ground - Those whose hearts are prepared by grace to receive it honestly, and to give it full opportunity to grow.
In a rich and mellow soil - in a heart that submits itself to the full influence of truth, unchecked by cares and anxieties; under the showers and summer suns of divine grace; with the heart spread open, like a broad, luxuriant field, to the rays of the morning and to evening dews, the gospel takes deep root and grows; it has full room, and then and there only shows "what it is."
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: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 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? 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? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 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."
The kingdom of heaven is likened ... - That is, the "gospel resembles." The kingdom of heaven (see the notes at Matthew 3:2) means here the effect of the gospel by its being preached. The meaning of this parable is plain. The field represents the "world," in which the gospel is preached. The "good seed," the truths preached by Christ and his apostles.
Matthew 13:25 "But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way."
While men slept, his enemy came ... - That is, "in the night," when it could be done without being seen, an enemy came and scattered bad seed on the new-plowed field, perhaps before the good seed had been harrowed in.
Satan thus sows false doctrine in darkness. In the very place where the truth is preached, and while the hearts of people are open to receive it, by false but plausible teachers he takes care to inculcate false sentiments. Often it is one of his arts, in a revival of religion, to spread secretly dangerous notions of piety. Multitudes are persuaded that they are Christians who are deceived. They are awakened, convicted, and alarmed. They take this for conversion. Or they find their burden gone; they fancy that they hear a voice; or a text of Scripture is "brought" to them, saying that their sins are forgiven; or they see Christ hanging on the cross in a vision; or they dream that their sins are pardoned, and they suppose they are Christians. But they are deceived. None of these things are any conclusive evidence of piety. All these may exist, and still there be no true love to God or Christ, and no real hatred of sin and change of heart. An enemy may do it to deceive them, and to bring dishonor on religion.
Sowed tares - By "tares" is probably meant a degenerate kind of wheat, or the darnel-grass growing in Palestine. In its growth and form it has a strong resemblance to genuine wheat; but it either produces no grain, or that of a very inferior and hurtful kind. Probably it comes near to what we mean by "chess." It was extremely difficult to separate it from the genuine wheat, on account of its similarity while growing.
"The tare abounds all over the East, and is a great nuisance to the farmer. It resembles the American "cheat (chess)," but the "head" does not droop like cheat, nor does it branch out like oats. The grain, also, is smaller, and is arranged along the upper part of the stalk, which stands perfectly erect. The "taste" is bitter, and when eaten separately, or even when diffused in ordinary bread, it causes dizziness, and often acts as a violent emetic. Barn-door fowls also become dizzy from eating it. In short, it is a strong soporific poison, and must be carefully winnowed, and picked out of the wheat grain by grain, before grinding, or the flour is not healthy. Even the farmers, who in this country generally "weed" their fields, do not attempt to separate the one from the other. They would not only mistake good grain for them, but very commonly the roots of the two are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them without plucking up both. Both, therefore, must be left to "grow together" until the time of harvest." - (Thomson) "The Land and the Book," vol. ii. pp. 111, 112. Thus, "tares" aptly represented hypocrites in the church. Strongly resembling Christians in their experience, and, in some respects, their lives it is impossible to distinguish them from genuine Christians, nor can they be separated until it is done by the Great Searcher of hearts at the day of judgment. An enemy the devil hath done it. And nowhere has he shown profounder cunning, or done more to adulterate the purity of the gospel.
And went his way - There is something very expressive in this. He knew the soil; he knew how the seed would take root and grow. He had only to sow the seed and let it alone. So Satan knows the soil in which he sows his doctrine. He knows that in the human heart it will take deep and rapid root. It needs but little culture. Grace needs constant attendance and care. Error, and sin, and hypocrisy are the native products of the human heart, and, when left alone, start up with deadly luxuriancy.
Matthew 13:26 "But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also."
Then appeared the tares also - That is, then the tares were "first discovered." They had grown with the wheat, but were so much like it as not to be noticed until the wheat began to ripen.
So true piety and false hopes are not known by professions, by "blades," and leaves, and flowers, but by the fruit.
Matthew 13:29 "But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them."
Ye root up also the wheat - They so much resembled the true wheat that even then it would be difficult to separate them.
By gathering them, they would tread down the wheat, loosen and disturb the earth, and greatly injure the crop. In the harvest it could be done without injury.
Matthew 13:30 "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."
Let both grow together - They would not spoil the true wheat, and in time of harvest it would be easy to separate them.
Our Saviour teaches us here:
1. That hypocrites and deceived persons must be expected in the church.
2. That this is the work of the enemy of man. They are not the work of Christianity any more than traitors are of patriotism, or counterfeiters are of the proper effect of legislating about money. They belong to the world, and hypocrisy is only one form of sin. The Christian religion never "made" a hypocrite, nor is there a hypocrite on the earth whose principles and practice it does not condemn.
3. That all hope of removing them entirely would be vain.
4. That an "attempt" to remove them altogether would injure real Christianity, by causing excitements, discord, and hard feelings even among Christians.
5. That Christ will himself separate them at the proper time. There is no doubt that it is the duty of the church to keep itself pure, and to cut off gross and manifest offenders, (1 Corinthians 5:4-5); but the Saviour refers here to those who may be "suspected" of hypocrisy, but against whom it cannot be proved; to those who so successfully imitate Christians as to make it difficult or impossible for man to distinguish them.
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: 32 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."
See also Mark 4:30-32. The kingdom of heavens See the notes at Matthew 3:2. It means here either piety in a renewed heart or the church. In either case the commencement is small. In the heart it is at first feeble, easily injured, and much exposed. In the church there were few at first, ignorant, unknown, and unhonored; yet soon it was to spread through the world.
Grain of mustard-seed - The plant here described was very different from that which is known among us. It was several years before it bore fruit and became properly a tree. Mustard, with us, is an annual plant: it is always small, and is properly an herb. The Hebrew writers speak of the mustard-tree as one on which they could "climb," as on a fig-tree. Its size was much owing to the climate. All plants of that nature grow much larger in a warm climate, like that of Palestine, than in colder regions. The seeds of this tree were remarkably small, so that they, with the great size of the plant, were an apt illustration of the progress of the church and of the nature of faith, (Matthew 17:20).
"I have seen," says Dr. Thomson,this plant on the rich plain of Akkar as tall as the horse and his rider. It has occurred to me on former visits that the mustard-tree of the parable probably grew at this spot, or possibly at Tabiga, near Capernaum, for the water in both is somewhat similar, and so are the vegetable productions. To furnish an adequate basis for the proverb, it is necessary to suppose that a variety of it was cultivated in the time of our Saviour, which grew to an enormous size, and shot forth large branches, so that the fowls of the air could lodge in the branches of it. It may have been perennial, and have grown to a considerable tree; and there are traditions in the country of such so large that a man could climb into them; and after having seen "red pepper" bushes grow on year after year, into tall shrubs, and the "castor-bean" line the brooks about Damascus like the willows and the poplars, I can readily credit the existence of mustard-trees large enough to meet all the demands of our Lord's parable. - "The Land and the Book," vol. ii. p. 101.
Young converts often suppose they have much religion. It is not so. They are, indeed, in a new world. Their hearts glow with new affections. They have an elevation, an ecstasy of emotion, which they may not have afterward like a blind man suddenly restored to sight. The sensation is new and especially vivid, yet little is seen distinctly. His impressions are indeed more vivid and cheering than those of him who has long seen and to whom objects are familiar. In a little time, too, the young convert will see more distinctly, will judge more intelligently, will love more strongly, though not with so much "new emotion," and will be prepared to make more sacrifices for the cause of Christ.
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."
The kingdom of heaven - The meaning here is the same as in the last parable; perhaps, however, intending to denote more properly the secret and hidden nature of piety in the soul. The other parable declared the "fact" that the gospel would greatly spread, and that piety in the heart would greatly increase. This states the "way" or "mode" in which it would be done. It is secret, silent, steady; pervading all the faculties of the soul and all the kingdoms of the world, as leaven, or yeast, though hidden in the flour, and though deposited only in one place, works silently until all the mass is brought under its influence.
Three measures - These were small measures (see the margin); but the particular amount is of no consequence to the story; nor is anything to be inferred from the fact that three are mentioned. That number is mentioned as a circumstance giving interest to the parable, but designed to convey no spiritual instruction. The measure mentioned here probably contained about a peck and a half.
Matthew 13:34-35 "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: 35 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."
That it might be fulfilled - This is taken from Psalm 78:2-3. The sense, and not the very words of the Psalm, are given. Christ taught, as did that prophet - Asaph - in parables. The words of Asaph described the manner in which Christ taught, and in this sense it could be said that they were fulfilled. See the notes at Matthew 1:22-23.
Matthew 13:36-43 "Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 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; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Declare unto us - That is, explain the meaning of the parable. This was done in so plain a manner as to render comment unnecessary. The Son of man, the Lord Jesus, sows the good seed - that is, preaches the gospel. This he did personally, and does now by his ministers, his providence, and his Spirit, by all the means of conveying "truth" to the mind. This seed was, by various means, to be carried over all the world. It was to be confined to no particular nation or people. The good seed was the children of the kingdom; that is, of the kingdom of God, or Christians. For these the Saviour toiled and died. They are the fruit of his labors. Yet amid them were wicked people; and all hypocrites and unbelievers in the church are the work of Satan. Yet they must remain together until the end, when they shall be separated, and the righteous saved and the wicked lost. The one shall shine clear as the sun, the other be cast into a furnace of fire - a most expressive image of suffering.
We have no idea of more acute suffering than to be thrown into the fire, and to have our bodies made capable of bearing the burning heat, and living on m this burning heat forever and forever. It is not certain that our Saviour meant to teach here that hell is made up of "material" fire; but it is certain that he meant to teach that this would be a proper "representation" of the sufferings of the lost. We may be further assured that the Redeemer would not deceive us, or use words to torment and tantalize us. He would not talk of hell-fire which had no existence, nor would the Saviour of people hold out frightful images merely to terrify mankind. If he has spoken of hell, then there is a hell. If he meant to say that the wicked shall suffer, then they will suffer. If he did not mean to deceive mankind, then there is a hell, and then the wicked will be punished. The impenitent, therefore, should be alarmed. And the righteous, however much wickedness they may see, and however many hypocrites there may be in the church, should be cheered with the prospect that soon the just will be separated from the unjust, and that they shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
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."
The kingdom of heaven - The gospel. The new dispensation. The offer of eternal life. See the notes at Matthew 3:2. The Saviour in this parable compares that kingdom to treasure hid in a field; that is, to money concealed; or more likely to a mine of silver or gold that was unknown to the owner of the field.
He hideth - That is, he conceals the fact that he has found it; he does not tell of it. With a view of obtaining this, Jesus says that a man would go and sell his property and buy the field. The conduct of the man would be dishonest. It would be his duty to inform the owner of the field of the discovery. He would be really endeavoring to gain property belonging to another at far less than its real value, and the principle of real integrity would require him to inform the owner of the discovery. But Christ does not intend to vindicate his conduct. He merely states the way in which people do "actually" manage to obtain wealth. He states a case where a man would actually "sacrifice his property," and practice diligence and watchfulness to obtain the wealth which he had discovered. The point of the parable lies in his "earnestness," his anxiety, his care, and his actually obtaining it. The gospel is more valuable than such a treasure, (Psalm 19:10; Proverbs 3:13-15). It is hidden from most people. When a person sees it and hears it, it is his duty to sacrifice all that hinders his obtaining it, and to seek it with the earnestness with which other people seek for gold. The truth often lies buried: it is like rich veins of ore in the sacred Scriptures; it must be searched out with diligence, and its discovery will repay a man for all his sacrifices, (Luke 14:33; Philemon 3:8).
Matthew 13:45-46 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman - The meaning is, that the proper seeking for salvation, or the proper conduct in reference to religion, is like the conduct of a "merchantman." In his searches he found one pearl of great value, and sold all his possessions to obtain it. So, says the Saviour, people seeking for happiness and finding the gospel - the pearl of great price - should be willing to sacrifice all other things for this. Pearls are precious stones found in the shells of oysters, chiefly in the East Indies. See the notes at Matthew 7:6. They are valuable on account of their beauty and because they are rare. The value of them is greatly increased by their size. The meaning of this parable is nearly the same as the other. It is designed to represent the gospel as of more value than all other things, and to impress on us the duty of sacrificing all that we possess in order to obtain it.
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: 48 Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. 49 So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, 50 And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net ... - This parable does not differ in meaning from that of the tares. The gospel is compared to a net dragging along on the bottom of a lake, and collecting all - good and bad. The gospel may be expected to do the same; but in the end of the world, when the net "is drawn in," the bad will be separated from the good; the one will be cast away, and the other saved. Our Saviour never fails to keep before our minds the great truth that there is to be a day of judgment, and that there will be a separation of the good and the evil. He came to preach salvation; and it is a remarkable fact, also, that the most fearful accounts of hell and of the sufferings of the damned, in the Scriptures, are from his lips. How does this agree with the representations of those who say that all will be saved?
Matthew 13:51-53 "Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord. 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. 53 And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence."
Jesus kindly asked them whether they had understood these things. If not, he was still willing to teach them. He enjoined on them their duty to make a proper use of this knowledge by speaking another parable.
Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven - That is, every man that is acquainted with the gospel or with the truth. As the disciples had said that they had understood the truth, he says that it should not be unemployed. They should bring it forth in due time, like a householder bringing out of his treasury, or place of deposit, what had been laid up there at any time, as it was needed.
Bringeth forth - As occasion demands; as sickness, or calamity, or the wants of his family, or the poor require.
Treasure - The word "treasure" here means a place of deposit, not for money merely, but for anything necessary for the comfort of a family. It is the same as "treasury" or a place of "deposit."
New and old - Things lately acquired, or things that had been laid up for a long time. So, said Christ, you, my disciples, are to be. The truth, new or old, which you have gained, keep it not laid up and hid, but bring it forth, in due season and on proper occasions, to benefit others. Every preacher should be properly instructed. Christ for three years gave instructions to the apostles; and they who preach should be able to understand the gospel, to defend it, and to communicate it to others. Human learning alone is indeed of no value to a minister; but all learning that will enable a man better to understand the Bible and communicate its truths is valuable, and should, if possible, be gained. A minister should be like the father of a family - distributing to the church as it needs; and out of his treasures bringing forth truth to confirm the feeble, to enlighten the ignorant, and to recover and guide those who are in danger of straying away.
Matthew 13:54 "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?"
Into his own country - That is, into Nazareth. Mark, who has also recorded this (Mark 6:1-6), says that it took place on the Sabbath. It was common for our Saviour to speak in the synagogues. Any Jew had a fight to address the people, if called on by the minister; and our Saviour often availed himself of the right to instruct the people and declare his doctrines. See Matthew 4:23.
Matthew 13:55-56 "Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?"
Is not this the carpenter's son? - Mark says, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" Both these expressions would probably be used in the course of the conversation, and Matthew has recorded one and Mark the other. The expression recorded by Mark is a strong, perhaps decisive proof that he had himself worked at the business until he was 30 years of age. The people in the neighborhood would understand well the nature of his early employments. It is therefore almost certain that this had been his manner of life. A useful employment is always honorable. Idleness is the parent of mischief. Our Saviour, therefore, spent the greatest part of his life in honest, useful industry. Until the age of 30 he did not choose to enter on his great work; and it was proper before that time that he should set an example to the world of honorable though humble industry. Life is not wasted in such employments. They are appointed as the lot of man; and in the faithful discharge of duties in the relations of life, though obscure; in honest industry, however humble; in patient labor, if connected with a life of religion, we may be sure that God will approve our conduct. It was, moreover, the custom of the Jews - even those of wealth and learning - to train all their children to some "trade" or manual occupation. Thus Paul was a tent-maker. Compare Acts 18:3.
This was, on the part of the Saviour, an example of great condescension and humility. It staggers the faith of many that the Son of God should labour in an occupation so obscure and lowly. The infidel sneers at the idea that "He that made the worlds" should live thirty years in humble life as a poor and unknown mechanic. Yet the same infidel will loudly praise Peter the Great of Russia because he laid aside his imperial dignity and entered the British service as a "ship-carpenter," that he might learn the art of building a navy. Was the purpose of "Peter" of more importance than that of the Son of God? If Peter, the heir to the throne of the Czars, might leave his elevated rank and descend to a humble employment, and secure by it the applause of the world, why might not the King of kings evince a similar character for an infinitely higher object?
His brethren, James ... - The fair interpretation of this passage is, that these were the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary. The people in the neighborhood thought so, and spoke of them as such.
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."
And they were offended in him - That is, they took offence at his humble birth, and at the indigent circumstances of his family. They were too proud to be taught by one who, in family connections, they took to be their equal or inferior. People always look with envy on those of their own rank who advance pretensions to uncommon wisdom or superior power.
A prophet is not without honour ... - This seems to be a proverbial expression. Jesus advances it as a general truth. There might be some exceptions to it, but He was not an exception. Everywhere else he had been more honored than at home. There they knew his family. They had seen his humble life. They had been his companions. They were envious of his wisdom, and were too proud to be taught by him. A case remarkably similar to this occurs in the history of the discovery of America. Columbus, a native of Genoa, had by patient study conceived the idea that there was a vast continent which might be reached by sailing to the west. Of this his countrymen had no belief. Learned people had long studied the science of geography, and they had never imagined that such a continent could exist; and they were indignant that He, an obscure man, should suppose that he "possessed wisdom superior to all the rest of mankind united." It was accordingly a fact that he was obliged to seek for patrons of his undertaking out of his own country; that there he received his first honors; and to other kingdoms the discoveries of the obscure Genoese gave their chief wealth and highest splendor.
Matthew 13:58 "And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief."
Did not many mighty works - Miracles. This implies that he performed some miracles. Mark tells us what they were: "He laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them," (Mark 6:5).
Because of their unbelief - That is, it would have been useless to the great purposes of his mission to have worked miracles there. We are not to suppose that his power was limited by the belief or unbelief of people; but they were so "prejudiced," so set against him, that they were not in a condition to "judge of evidence" and to be convinced. They would have charged it to derangement, or sorcery, or the agency of the devil. Compare John 10:20. It would have been of no use, therefore, in proving to them that he was from God, to have worked miracles. He did, therefore, only those things which were the proper work of benevolence, and which could not easily be charged on the devil. He gave "sufficient" proof of his mission, and left them in their chosen unbelief without excuse. It is also true, in spiritual things, that the unbelief of a people prevents the influences of the Holy Spirit from being sent down to bless them. God requires faith. He hears only the prayers of faith. And when there is little true belief, and prayer is cold and formal, there the people sleep in spiritual death and are unblessed.
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