Matthew 13 -Parables about the Kingdom of God - Questions and Answers
1. Read Matthew 13:1-9. Where do you think this took place? Which lake? Near which town?
- At the Sea of Galilee and near the fishing town of Capernaum
2. Why do you think the people came to see Jesus?
- Perhaps it was because they liked His teaching and stories
- Perhaps they were wondering what miracle they would witness
3. Why do you think Jesus got into a boat to speak?
- Maybe it was crowded around him and he needed some space between him and the crowd in order to speak without interruptions.
- If you are sitting in a boat, a sound coming from the shore will sound louder than the same sound heard by a person on land. Sound seems to be amplified when it travels over water.
- The reason is that the water cools the air above its surface, which then slows down the sound waves near the surface. This causes refraction or bending of the sound wave, such that more sound reaches the boat passenger. Sound waves skimming the surface of the water can add to the amplification effect, if the water is calm.
4. Jesus told the people many things in parables. What are the rules for interpreting parables in general? What do we look for? How accurate to the "real thing" is the teaching?
- A parable was a common form of Jewish teaching where something which is known is put alongside what is not known or understood in order to explain it.
- It is not the same as a graphic analogy like we are salt or light because the meaning was clear in the context of Jesus' teaching.
- Parables help to make abstract truth more concrete, more interesting, easier to remember and easier to apply to life. In the parable of the sower and the seed the truth is not made clear because it is only a basic story which tells nothing of the moral or spiritual truth. Only when Jesus explained to the disciples the meaning did they understand. An unexplained parable is nothing but an impossible riddle, whose meaning could only be guessed at.
- We must be careful not to take a parable too literally or to read too much into it symbolically. The mystics would spiritualize these with great elaborations which were not in the text but by taking an idea would try to explain in great detail such things as "What do the birds symbolize? How do the birds eat the food from our souls?" Etc. Since this is a parable there is a limit to the interpretation which we should seek from the parable.
- A parable Jesus told will not give inaccurate information or be misleading.
5. Do you see any differences between the parable as it is recorded in Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:2-9, Luke 8:5-8?
- Combination of the parable in the 3 gospels: "A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil among rocks. It began to grow quickly because the soil was shallow, but the plant soon wilted under the hot sun and died since it didn't have deep roots and for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed sprouted, grew and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!" When he had said this, he called out, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand."
6. Why might there have been some slight variations between the telling of a parable as written by a different author?
- Jesus could have told the parable more than once just as a good sermon can be preached differently to different audiences.
- Different people will report the same event in different ways based on their perspective.
7. Jesus said, "Whoever has ears, let them hear." How can we be sure to hear what Jesus is saying?
- God says He esteems the person who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at His word" (Isaiah 66:2) We need to listen to God's Word with humbleness and reverence and willing to change.
8. Read Matthew 13:10-15. Why do you think that the disciples asked Jesus why He taught in parables?
- Maybe because they didn't understand and it frustrated them or they just wanted to know.
- Maybe they heard others in the crowd asking each other what Jesus meant with that parable.
9. Why did Jesus say he taught in parables? (See also Matthew 13:34-35)
- So that those who were listening to Him would be given understanding as to what He was saying about the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but those who weren't really listening with an open mind wouldn't understand. They would be looking at what Jesus was doing but not really see and therefore not comprehend and learn nothing. They would hear Jesus' words but not really listen or understand. They didn't truly see because they chose to close their eyes or hear because their hearts became hardened. If they would have really been seeing and listen they would have understood and turned to Jesus to be healed and forgiven.
- Those who believe and accept the light that God gives them will be given more light. Those that won't believe, even what light they had will be taken away from them. All people either progress or regress spiritually.
- Matthew mentions that this fulfilled what Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:9-10.
- Jesus was fulfilling Asaph's prophesy in Psalm 78:2 that the Messiah would speak in parables to the crowds about the previously hidden or unknown things/purposes pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven, which He later explained to his disciples but not the unbelieving crowd or religious leaders. To those who rejected Jesus, He spoke in parables.
10. If people search diligently to understand the scriptures, do you think that they are stronger believers?
- If we diligently study God's Word with an open mind, God's Holy Spirit will divinely reveal, explain, interpret what we are reading, so we are able to apply what we are reading to our lives and become stronger believers.
- The person who asks will be given; the person who seeks will find; the person who knocks the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8) Digging deeper to get a clearer understanding of a Bible passage.
- Daniel sought to understand with prayer and fasting. (Daniel 10:12) We also need to earnestly and sincerely seek to understand what God is saying to us.
11. From Matthew 13:16-17, what commendation did Jesus give his disciples and how does Jesus show value to what they are hearing and seeing?
- They were blessed because their eyes were seeing and their ears were hearing - this was because they were believing what Jesus said (as opposed to the Religious leaders) (although in Mark 4:13 Jesus says that if they don't understand this parable how will they understand any parable)
- Many prophets and righteous men longed to have seen and heard what the disciples are hearing and seeing, but didn't have that opportunity and privilege.
- Sounds a little like Hebrews 11:13 where Abraham believed God's promise but had not yet received it but saw and welcomed them from a distance.
12. Do you think there are people today who are longing to see and hear what the disciples were hearing and seeing?
- Those who have never heard the good news - they need missionaries. Are you a missionary?
- Those who have had a vision or a dream that God would sent someone to teach them the truth.
- Those who have a need and are looking for answers.
13. How are we different from those who came before Jesus was here?
- We have the Bible and we can know what Jesus said and did.
- We also have the Holy Spirit who will teach us the truth.
14. Using Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:14-20 and Luke 8:11-15 what is the meaning of the parable about the
Sower and the seed?
What is the seed?
- God's Word, message about the Kingdom
Who is the sower/farmer?
- Anyone who shares God's Word with others
15. What is the meaning of the seed that fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up?
- That represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom but don't understand it. The reason he does not understand is because he is indifferent to spiritual things. If a person continually and consistently resists anything that is spiritual the soil of his heart has become hardened leaving him utterly exposed to Satan's attack. The evil one comes and snatches it away from their hearts and prevents them from believing and being saved. Satan may use false teachers who promote spiritual lies, or fear of what others may think if he became a Christian. Satan uses pride to blind people to their sinful condition and need of salvation and he also uses stubbornness, procrastination, love of the world & love of sin.
16. What is the meaning of the seed that fell among rocky places - it sprang up quickly, but because the soil was shallow when the sun came up they withered because they had no root.
- The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy and is probably vocal about their excitement. But since they don't have deep roots, which often comes from a shallow evangelism that holds out the blessings of salvation but hides the cost, they believe for awhile but don't last long. They fall away (get offended, stumble) as soon as they face temptations, have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word. Often this comes through friends, family, fellow students, co-workers or employers who begin to criticize people for their faith or pressure them to compromise or even renounce it, which they cannot resist and become ashamed of the gospel.
- For these people there has not been a true understanding of God's Word so there has been no repentance, no remorse over sin, no recognition of lostness, no brokenness or humility - which are the first marks of a true conversion.
17. How can we help water and nourish people who sprout and start to grow in their spiritual life?
- Be a friend to them and support them through the questions and trials they have as a new believer.
- Encourage them to get involved in a Bible study and to study God's Word for themselves.
- Talk to them about spiritual things.
- Give them freedom to ask questions and search God's Word together for answers.
- Make sure they understand repentance, lostness, and that they will face persecution and trials.
18. What is the meaning of the seed falling among thorns which choked the plants?
- The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God's word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries/cares of this life, the lure of wealth which they think will give them what they want out of life, the desire for other things and pleasures, so no fruit is produced that grows into maturity.
- This kind of person may make a token profession of faith but his first love is for the things of the world.
- His sin will choke out what knowledge he has of the word.
- This kind of person comes to church but never becomes committed to serving but is continually preoccupied with money, career, fashions, sports and everything but the Lord's work.
- The thorns could also represent friends or family who come along and are apathetic toward spiritual things, discouraging the person from righteous living or encouraging evil and ungodliness.
19. Can we do some weeding to get rid of these choking plants? If so, how?
- According to the parable of the weeds, we shouldn't. However, thorns are easier to detect and remove. If the thorns are people we may need to protect the new believer from those who will choke out their new faith and surround them with those who do love God and encourage them to hold fast to God no matter what others say.
- Teach them to trust in the Lord and let Him be in control, seek first God's kingdom for we cannot serve both God and money.
20. What do you think we could do to make sure that the seed continues to grow?
- Disciple them by continuing to meet with them, encourage them, learn about God and His Word together, share with them what you are learning, and be open when they ask questions.
21. What is the meaning of the seed that fell on good soil and produced a crop of 100, 60 or 30 times what was sown?
- The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear, understand, accept and cling to God's word, with the Holy Spirits power change and patiently produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!"
22. What kind of harvest do you think Jesus is talking about here?
- People becoming believers and following Jesus
- Become a reproducing Christian
23. What would make you more fruitful?
- Talking to God about people before we talk to them about the Lord
- If we are excited about the Lord it will come out naturally from our mouth
- Ask God to direct us to those who would have good soil and open to the things of the Lord.
24. How do we find good soil?
- Ask God whose hearts He has been preparing and are receptive to Him.
- God will direct us to people who are searching, who are hungry for the truth
- As we naturally talk about our life, and the Lord will be part of that, we can sense if there is an openness to hearing more or if they are closed.
25. What is the good soil like - describe someone you believe has good soil but the seed is not yet planted in that soil. (Who are the kind of people who may be open to the gospel?) How do we plant seed there?
- People whose hearts have been prepared by the Holy Spirit and are receptive to God
- Someone who has never heard the Good News and is excited when they hear it.
- They are at a point in their life where they have a desire for something more (peace, joy, hope, etc.), they may have questions and listen respectfully to what you have experienced. They somehow demonstrate that they want what you have.
- They are willing to believe what Jesus said and did for them and accept Him into their life.
Are you on the lookout for good soil? Can you make a commitment to plant the seed in this kind of soil?
26. From this parable, the four reactions the seed encountered on different grounds are the 4 ways people respond to the gospel. They are:
- Unreceptive because they are hard hearted
- Emotional responders but become unfaithful - they fall away
- Unwilling to pay the price because they are too busy with their own agenda so they become unfruitful
- Faithful servants that become wonderfully productive - heard the word willingly, understood & responded to it with a true commitment, they change, and produce fruit (enlist others to follow Jesus.)
Which one represents you?
27. Read Matthew 13:24-30. The first parable's emphasis was on what happened to the good seed. What is the emphasis on in this parable?
- On what happens to the bad seed that the enemy sowed along with the good seed.
28. What was the solution of the farmer?
- Let both the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest - only then could the weeds (tares which closely resembles wheat) be clearly distinguished from the wheat. At the harvest weeds will be collected and burned. Wheat will be brought into His barn (Matthew 3:12)
29. Why did he not want to uproot the weeds?
- Because pulling out the weeds may also cause some of the wheat to be pulled up.
30. Matthew 13:36-43. What was the meaning of the parable of the weeds?
Who planted the good seed?
What does the field represent?
31. What does the good seed represent?
- The sons/children that belong to God's Kingdom. Jesus is scattering His followers throughout the world, planting them as His witnesses to grow and become fruitful plants of righteousness.
What do the weeds represent?
- Those that belong to the evil one - sons of the evil one.
32.Who sowed the weeds?
33. What is the harvest and when is it?
- The harvest represents God's judgment at the end of the age. In this present age, believers are not God's instruments of judgment and destruction but of truth and grace. Toward unbelievers we are not to have hearts of condemnation but of compassion. Our purpose is not to judge but to win souls, not to punish but to convert sons of the evil one into sons of the kingdom.
34. Who does the harvesting?
- The angels - they will weed out of God's Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will execute judgment on all who do evil by throwing them into the fiery furnace (represents hell where the fire is eternal & unquenchable - Mark 9:44, Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:10, 15) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
35. What will happen to the righteous after the unbelievers have been weeded out?
- Then the righteous will receive eternal blessing and will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
36. What should unbelievers be doing about what they just heard? What should believers be doing? Vs 43
- Whoever has ears, let them hear.
- The unbelievers should make sure they become a child of God to escape the judgment.
- The believers should have the loving, merciful and compassionate attitude of Jesus who has called us to be witnesses rather than condemn, to love rather than to hate, to show mercy rather than judgment.
37. Read Matthew 13:31-32. What do you think Jesus is trying to say with the parable of the tiny mustard seed growing to become a tree?
- The kingdom of heaven would grow from tiny beginnings to a great movement and would ultimately provide shelter, protection and benefit to the entire world
- In spite of great opposition, represented by the 3 bad soils and the weeds, His kingdom will start small and spread in power and influence to become victorious.
38. Do you think the small things that you do are insignificant? What can your good deeds and attitudes produce?
- When I as a Christian live in obedience to the Lord, I am a blessing to those around me.
- Christians have influenced nations and have been instrumental in countries building their laws and standard on God's Word which has been a blessing to the rest of the world economically, legally, culturally, socially, morally and spiritually.
- It is the teachings of Jesus through Christian witness that has been influential in high standards of education, justice, dignity of women, rights of children, prison reform and other benefits.
- Whenever the gospel is faithfully preached and practiced, all the world benefits.
- Just as an unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse, so the unbelieving world is to a degree sanctified by the presence of the true church.
39. Does this give you a sense of the importance of what God is calling you to do in kingdom building?
40. Read Matthew 13:33. Do you think the yeast refers to good things or bad things? Why or why not? Does it matter? Could it refer to either?
- Anything, good or bad, has a huge influence or implication on others. In this case, the meaning is positive.
- The point of the parable is that small things can have great influence just like a small piece of leavened dough can permeate a large piece of unleavened dough to make it rise.
- The life of Christ within me is like spiritual and moral leavening to those around me and the world.
41. Does it take much yeast to leaven/permeate a large quantity of bread dough?
- No, it just takes a small amount. In that day before a batch of dough was baked, a small amount of yeast (leavened dough) was saved and when the next batch of dough was mixed, the saved piece of leaven was put into the new dough so it could ferment the new batch of dough and make it rise.
- When a girl got married, the mother would give the girl a small piece of leavened dough from a batch baked just before the wedding. From that gift of leaven the bride would bake bread for her own household throughout her married life. That gift was among the most cherished that the bride received because it represented the love and blessedness of the household in which she grew up and that would be carried into the household she was about to establish.
42. Read Matthew 13:44-45. The two parables are similar. What do you think the treasure and pearl stand for?
- Something that is so valuable that a person is willing to sell all they have to buy the field and then claim it for themselves. Many people hid their treasures in the ground in that day and age to keep it from being stolen, because there were no banks or places for people to take their treasures. If a person died or forced to leave, that treasure would be lost forever unless someone stumbles on it.
- The assumption is that the person who found the treasure did not own the land, the owner of the land was not aware of it or he would have taken it away before selling the land. His honesty is evident in that he didn't just take the treasure, but with great joy used his own money from selling all he had to purchase the piece of land.
- Pearls were the most highly valued gem in the ancient world, so if the merchant, a wholesale dealer, sold all he had to get a particular pearl, it must have been worth more than all his other pearls put together.
- Since these parables are about receiving the Kingdom of Heaven, the message is about salvation. The kingdom of heaven represents the saving knowledge of God through trust in His Son and all the benefits and glory that relationship brings.
- Salvation and our relationship with Christ and having God's Word should be such a treasure and gem to us that we would with great joy choose that over "things" we do or could have.
43. What value does this interpretation have for you today?
- To become God's child, receive salvation and become part of God's kingdom is the most important and valuable thing I could ever experience. There are 6 things I can learn about the Kingdom of heaven:
- We enter or become part of the kingdom of heaven by individually being willing to sacrifice all in order to become part of it. We are not born into God's kingdom or inherit it. It is an individual decision.
- Salvation is so valuable that it is worth selling all to possess it. The blessing of being a child of God is utterly priceless because it is an "inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away" (1 Peter 1:4) It is forgiveness, love, peace, happiness, virtue, purity, righteousness, eternal life, glory, etc
- The treasure of salvation is not obvious to men and it is therefore not something they naturally seek. They do not understand why it is so prized by Christians and why some people give up so much - their self-dependency, sinful pleasures, and sometimes ever their social, political and economic freedom and welfare - to gain what seems to be so little. Many people have a passing admiration for Jesus and the gospel but are totally unaware of the supreme and priceless gift that could be theirs in belonging to Him.
- People do/have things that give them joy but all joys are temporary and disappointing except for the eternal joy that can be found in Christ and His kingdom.
- The way we find the treasure of salvation can come through different circumstances. A person may stumble upon it through something they hear, read or someone they meet - they recognize the priceless value of the message and they believe, are saved and inherit the kingdom. Another person, like the merchant, seeks after God, looking for meaning and purpose in life, trying one religion or philosophy after another but not finding anything that satisfies until they find Jesus.
- To receive salvation you need to surrender everything you have to Jesus. You are exchanging the old for the new. When a person discovers the infinite value of salvation, they simply yield to Christ. Their focus is not on what they give up but on what they receive.
44. What is the most valuable thing in the world for you? Can you prove it by your actions? What would show that you mean what you say?
45. Read Matthew 13:47-50. Which parable from Matthew 13 is similar to this one (the parable of the net)? In what way? What's the difference?
- The parable of the weeds, because the weeds and wheat were separate and the weeds thrown into the blazing furnace. Here the good and bad fish are separated and the bad ones thrown away.
- In the parable of the weeds, the angels come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw the wicked into the blazing furnace (hell) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. In the parable of the net, the good fish are taken out first and put in baskets and then the bad fish are thrown away.
- This parable also is focused on the judgment connected with the kingdom.
- The judgment will happen at the end of the age with the angels as the Lord's instruments of separation and execution of sentence. The dragnet of God's judgment moves silently through the sea of mankind and draws all men to the shores of eternity for final separation to their ultimate destiny - believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation. (could be a picture of the rapture or end judgment)
46. Why do you think Jesus would have told 2 parables that were so similar about the judgment in this chapter?
- Many times Jesus warns about the horrors of hell and pleads with men to avoid it by coming to Him for salvation. After all, Hell was not even created for men but for the devil and his fallen angels (Mt 25:41)
- Jesus talked more about hell than love. More than all the other teachers in the Bible combined. From the Bible we can learn 4 basic truths about the fiery furnace that will help us to partially grasp its terror.
- Hell is a place of constant torment, misery and pain. Torment is described as darkness - Matthew 22:13, fire that will never go out and cannot be extinguished - Mark 9:43, there will never be relief - a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- Torment involves both body and soul - unbelievers get a resurrected body so they can endure the torments of hell without being destroyed - Rev 20:11-15.
- Torments of hell will be experienced in varying degrees - Matthew 11:22-23.
- Torment of hell will be everlasting- Matthew 25:46. There will be a total absence of hope.
47. Read Matthew 13:51-52. What did Jesus want the disciples to understand?
- That the present form of the kingdom will continue to have good and evil in it
- That believers will continue to grow in numbers and to permeate and influence the world.
- That salvation in Jesus Christ is the most valuable thing in the world and everything we have is worthless in comparison.
- That the final separation of the righteous and wicked is inescapable and that the end result of both is eternal - the righteous to everlasting life and the unbeliever too everlasting punishment.
- The message of the gospel is not simply the offer of heaven but a warning about hell. The gospel is good news because of its power to save people from the indescribably bad destiny if they chose to believe the claims of Christ.
48. What is the meaning of Matthew 13:52?
- Under Jesus' instruction, each of the 12 was becoming a teacher of the law and a true disciple of the kingdom of heaven. They had become like a head of a household who would keep supplies or treasures in a storehouse and dispense items as needed. Through these 12 God entrusted the continued revelation of His word and the foundation of His truth. They knew the richness of the old truths of his previous revelation and were being given additional truths that were new. They would proclaim the significance of both and give out the truth of God both wisely and liberally.
- Jesus was talking to the 12 disciples, but Christian leaders and believers must draw on old truths of Israel's faith and the new message of Jesus. (Matthew 5:17-18) Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them.
49. Read Matthew 13:53-58. Where did Jesus move on from? (see Matthew 8:5) Had they accepted & believed Christ's teachings? (see Matthew 11:23)
- From the seashore near Capernaum - after being in Capernaum for about a year they were guilty of rejecting Him so Jesus rebukes them. Jesus leaves them and doesn't return.
- The last synagogue built in Capernaum was erected over the floor of the one where Jesus taught and was decorated with various animals and mythological figures. Having rejected the true God, the people were at the mercy of false teachings and gods.
50. Where did Jesus go to and what did He do after he finished the parables? (see also Matthew 2:23, 4:12-13)
- He went to his hometown, Nazareth and began to teach the people in the synagogue.
51. What do the people tell us about Jesus family?
- Joseph, his earthly father, was a carpenter
- His mother's name was Mary
- He had 4 brothers - James, Joseph, Simon and Judas
- He had sisters that were living in the area
52. What was the response of the people in the synagogue to Jesus' teaching and miracles?
- They were amazed
- They wondered where He got His wisdom and miraculous powers because He hadn't studied in any of the famous rabbinical schools. The people of Jesus' hometown refused to make the logical and obvious connection between His power and His divinity because they were willfully unbelieving. The seed of the gospel fell on hard-packed soil.
- They took offense at Jesus - it was partly over the commonness of Jesus and His family, the limits of his formal training, and His lack of official religious status that the people of Nazareth stumbled.
- He was not honoured as a prophet in his hometown or in his own house. Jesus brothers eventually came to believe in Him (Acts 1:14), but for several years after He began His ministry they did not (John 7:5).
53. What happened as a result of their lack of faith?
- Jesus didn't do many miracles in Nazareth
- Unbelief became a barrier to divine blessing - it prevented Jesus from fully demonstrating His power
54. What application might that have for us today?
- If we don't have faith, Jesus can't do the miracles He wants to do for us.