Matthew 13:1-23 Parables, Seed Sown, And Bearing Fruit.
This was a busy day. Matthew continues on from the previous activities, including the visit from his blood relatives, and notes that Jesus “went out of the house and sat by the sea” (v. 1). Sitting at water’s edge can be a restful experience, but on this occasion it seems that it didn’t last long, for the multitudes soon followed (v. 2). Matthew then records a long set of discourses by Jesus on parables, beginning with the parable of the sower (v. 3). However, in the middle of this parable, between the parable itself and its explanation, Matthew records Jesus words on the purpose of parables, beginning at verse 10. Parables are given to both reveal truth to the true children of the Father, and to hide it from those who are not (v. 11).
The old covenant apostate leadership had a lot in Jesus’ day. They had a spiritual and physical deposit of truth, as Paul also pointed out. Of prime importance was being entrusted with the very oracles of God, and living in a community covenanted to the LORD (Cf. Rom. 3:2 with Dt. 4:5-8). This is what they had, but this would be taken from them, and the revelation of new covenant truth would come through those sent by the triune God to his true children, and as they received that word they were given more (v. 12). In order to understand the truth one must receive it. The apostates chose not to receive the word given through the Son. It is not enough to hear or see the word, it must also be received in order to understand and perceive the truth (vv. 13-14).
Here Matthew records Jesus’ citation of Isaiah 6:9-10 as being fulfilled concerning this most fundamental truth. The heart is the core of a person, and because the apostates had dull hearts they could not hear nor see the truth (v. 15). Having eyes to see and ears to hear are blessings, for it is not up to human beings and their ability or lack thereof, but it is totally of God’s mercy (v. 16). The full extent of this blessing can be seen even in relation to those under the old covenant administration, who did hear and see the revelation as was given, even prophets and righteous men who desired more. All who now receive the full canonical revelation are blessed beyond measure, for we have now everything that the prophets of old longed for (v. 17).
Jesus then returns to the parable of the sower, to give to his disciples a fuller understanding of the truth (v. 18). What is of first importance is the seed sown – the word of God. Many people through the centuries have heard “the word of the kingdom,” but not all understand it (v. 19a). As Jesus already made clear, to understand the word one must be blessed, that is, be the subject of God’s unmerited favour or grace (vv. 8, 16). Here also comes the wicked one, who to defend his own kingdom does so through the primary method of taking away the word sown in the heart (v. 19b). These are those who hear only, never finding the way they remain on the wayside (v. 19c). As Jesus already made clear, a house divided will not stand (12:22ff.).
Still others hear and receive the word with joy, but it is only superficial. These people are like stony soil which has no depth into which the word might germinate and grow up strong (vv. 20-21a). “For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (v. 21b). A third possibility are those who hear and receive the word, but the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, are like thorns or weeds that give no place for the word to grow and bear fruit (v. 22). Then there is a fourth outcome, made possible out of mercy and grace, and that is those who both hear and receive the word in such a way that it bears lasting fruit, one hundred, sixty, or thirtyfold (v. 23). It is by this fruit that the true children are known (12:33ff.).