Matthew Chapter 13
The parable of the sower

1 That same day Jesus left the house and sat down by the lakeside.

2 As many people gathered around him, he got in a boat. There he sat while the whole crowd stood on the shore,

3 and he spoke to them in parables about many things.

4 Jesus said, ※The sower went out to sow and, as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path and the birds came and ate them up.

5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground where there was little soil, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was not deep.

6 But as soon the sun rose the plants were scorched and withered because they had no roots.

7 Again other seeds fell among thistles; and the thistles grew and choked the plants.

8 Still other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop; some produced a hundredfold, others sixty and others thirty.

9 If you have ears, then hear!§

10 Then his disciples came to him with the question, ※Why do you speak to them in parables?§

11 Jesus answered, ※To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but not to these people.

12 For the one who has, will be given more and he will have in abundance. But the one who does not have will be deprived of even what he has.

13 That is why I speak to them in parables, because they look and do not see; they hear, but they do not listen or understand.

14 In them the words of the pro phet Isaiah are fulfilled: Much as you hear, you do not understand; much as you see, you do not perceive.

15 For the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears hardly hear and their eyes dare not see. If they were to see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart, they would turn back and I would heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes be cause they see, and your ears, be cause they hear.

17 For I tell you that many pro phets and upright people would have longed to see the things you see, but they did not, and to hear the things you hear, but they did not hear it.

18 Now listen to the parable of the sower.

19 When a person hears the message of the Kingdom but without taking it to himself, the devil comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed that fell along the footpath.

20 The seed that fell on rocky ground stands for the one who hears the word and accepts it at once with joy.

21 But such a person has no roots. No sooner is he harassed or persecuted because of the word, than he gives up.

22 The seed that fell among the thistles is the one who hears the word, but then the worries of this life and the love of money choke the word, and it does not bear fruit.

23 As for the seed that fell on good soil it is the one who hears the word and under stands it; this bears fruit and produces a hundred, or sixty, or thirty times more.§

The parable of the weeds

24 Jesus told them another parable, ※The kingdom of hea ven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

25 While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and left.

26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared.

27 Then the servants of the owner came to him and said: &Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?*

28 He answered them: &This is the work of an enemy.* They asked him: &Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?*

29 He told them: &No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them.

30 Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.§

The mustard seed and the yeast

31 Jesus put another parable before them, ※The kingdom of heav en is like a mustard seed, that a man took and sowed in his field.

32 It is smaller than all other seeds, but once it has fully grown, it is bigger than any garden plant; like a tree, the birds come and rest in its branches.§

33 He told them another parable, ※The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast that a woman took and buried in three measures of flour until the whole mass of dough began to rise.§

34 Jesus taught all this to the crowds by means of parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.

35 So what the Prophet had said was fulfilled: I will speak in parables. I will proclaim things kept secret since the beginning of the world.

36 Then he sent the crowds away and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, ※Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.§

37 Jesus answered them, ※The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.

38 The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the Kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one.

39 The enemy who sows them is the devil; the harvest is the end of time and the workers are the angels.

40 Just as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of time.

41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil.

42 And these will be thrown in the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43 Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Fa ther. If you have ears, then hear.

The treasure, the pearl and the net

44 The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The one who finds it buries it again; and so happy is he, that he goes and sells everything he has, in order to buy that field.

45 Again the kingdom of heav en is like a trader who is looking for fine pearls.

46 Once he has found a pearl of exceptional quality, he goes away, sells everything he has and buys it.

47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a big fishing net let down into the sea, in which every kind of fish has been caught.

48 When the net is full, it is dragged ashore. Then they sit down and gather the good fish in buckets, but throw the worthless ones away.

49 That is how it will be at the end of time; the angels will go out to separate the wicked from the just

50 and throw them into the blazing fur nace, where they will weep and gnash their teeth.§

51 Jesus asked, ※Have you un der stood all these things?§ ※Yes,§ they answered.

52 So he said to them, ※You will see that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the Kingdom is like a householder who can produce from his store things both new and old.§

53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he left the place.

54 He went to his hometown and taught the peo ple in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, ※Where did he get this wisdom and these special powers?

55 Isn*t he the carpenter*s son? Isn*t Mary his mother and aren*t James, Joseph, Simon and Judas his brothers?

56 Aren*t all his sisters living here? How did he get all this?§

57 And so they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, ※The only place where prophets are not welcome is their hometown and in their own family.§

58 And he did not perform many mira cles there because of their lack of faith.


Comments Mathew, Chapter 13

• 13.1 Here we have the beginning of the third ※discourse of Jesus§ in Mat thew*s Gospel (see Introduction). Jesus had his apostles proclaim the coming of the Kingdom; the first signs were seen: healings and victories over demons but opposition was not wanting and it would seem that on the whole, people did not respond. What must we think of this ※King dom of God§ which changes very little of real life? Matthew replies with the following seven parables.

Jesus uses comparisons just as simple country folk and working people usually do. Proverbs and parables have always been an effective way of teaching wisdom. But we must observe that a parable is not just any comparison; its characteristic is to awaken in the listeners an awareness of their present situation and oblige them to make a decision.

For those listening to Jesus, the reign of God signified first of all a liberation of his oppressed people, and this called for clear explanation. Jesus, for his part, could only give an answer to those who accompanied him; for the Kingdom is one of those things that cannot be seen as long as one has no belief in it. Jesus will only speak of it in images and we will understand according to the degree of our experience of that Kingdom which is developing throughout the world.

For this parable of the Sower which gives the general direction of this chapter, see the commentary of Mk 4:1 and Lk 8:4.

• 10. To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom. To you who took Christ*s call seriously and decided to fol low him. Because you came to be the co-workers of Christ, the Father will reveal to you his secrets.

The quotation from Isaiah that follows may shock us due to the fact of our not fully understanding Hebrew expressions. Does Jesus speak in parables because the audience does not want to understand, or so that they will not understand? It could be both at the same time (compare vv. 13 and 15, and also 35). See the commentary on Mk 4:11.

For the one who has will be given more. Here has means produce, bear as does the tree that ※has§ fruit. It will be given to those who are fruitful.

The kingdom of heaven. We already said that ※Heaven§ was a Jewish expression referring to God. The kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of God, as the Father of Heaven is God the Father. Not realizing this, many have mistakenly thought that the Gospel announced only the kingdom of God in Heaven after our present life. Actually Jesus came to tell us that God had come to rule among us.

Kingdom or Reign of God? See commentary on Lk 8:10.

• 18. Who will welcome the Word of God? This has nothing to do with intelligence or ability to reflect, or interest in religious things: those who are open to hope receive the Word.

Those along the footpath are those not interested in the word they have received, perhaps because they cannot see further than their own interests (they are selfish), or perhaps they have taken another direction in life.

Next come those who do not dare to face contradiction and are easily discouraged and cowed: these are soon burnt. Yet to hope means to be firm despite any obstacle. If God puts us on a road in life, this road will lead somewhere. Hope is courage and endurance.

Next are those that fell among the thistles. They are believers, but the fruits to be harvested along the difficult path seem not to satisfy them. They want to ※save their lives,§ to serve God and Money at the same time. They are dragged down by their aim of winning material success, and hope in the kingdom of God becomes but a flimsy desire for them.

• 24. With the parable of the weeds, Jesus answers those who are scandalized at seeing evil everywhere. Good and bad will be mixed till the end of the world. Good and evil will always be found together in persons and institutions.

God respects people. He knows that temptation is often stronger than their good intentions and they need time to find and to choose steadily what is good.

God is patient. The reconciliation of so many contradictory groups, forces and cultural currents active in the world will be attained only at the end of time. In the meantime we are not to label any of them as ※the§ good ones and ※the§ bad ones.

Jesus himself commented on this parable: see v. 36.

• 31. With the parable of the mustard seed Jesus shows us that the kingdom of God must be a sign; it has to be something very noticeable in the world.

Any spiritual aspiration, cultural innovation or revolutionary movement must be expressed concretely, through one or several institutions, to make it a clearer and more visible entity. Likewise Jesus projects his Church as the bearer (not the owner) of the kingdom of God. Church means: ※Assembly of those called together.§ Two of the characteristics of this Church are indicated here:

每 first it must be very visible and fruitful for the world, like a tree giving shade to birds;

每 secondly, it must be immersed in human reality.

Believers are not to separate themselves from those who do not believe, for they are the yeast of the world.

Jesus does not want an ※invisible Church,§ that is an emotional fellowship and spiritual com munion among all those in the whole world who believe in him. He wants a gigantic tree (in another place Jesus says: a city built on a hill), so that everyone can recognize that the seed was good and full of life. We need organized Christian communities, and ties between these communities, a hierarchy# Nevertheless the believers are not to enclose themselves in their chapels or little communities or to spend all their energies working for ※their§ Church. They must be useful and fruitful in the world together with all people of goodwill.

Let them be yeast for the dough, not small separate and finer dough. The yeast transforms human history, not by bringing all people into the Church, but by infusing into human activity the spirit that gives life to humankind.

• 34. Jesus taught all this to the crowds by means of parables. On reading Matthew 13:12, we might think that Jesus speaks in parables in order to hide his teaching. Here we find another explanation that corrects and completes the first. Jesus spoke in parables because that was the best method to convey a teaching relevant for all times.

I will speak in parables. These are the first words of Psalm 78, as adapted by the evangelist. He means that the secrets of the kingdom of God revealed by Jesus answer the most important questions of humankind.

From the beginning of civilization, people were confronted with problems and challenges they could not solve on their own, and Jesus offers the key to these contradictions. Science has discovered many elements of human destiny; we have still to discover who we are.

Jesus* answer is not given as a theory and it upsets the ※little intellectuals§ who are used to the language of books. He gives us something much richer with these images or enigmas which require some creativity and to which we have to return. Each of us will have to ponder them as long as we live, and humankind as long as history. Only with time shall we discover all that they mean.

• 36. The field is the world. This parable does not refer to what happens within each of us, or only in the Church, as described in the net (13:47). Rather it teaches that the kingdom of God exists and grows in the world, in all dimensions of the secular world. Sacred history is more than an ancient history in the land of Jesus; it is the entire human story of which the risen Christ is Lord.

So will it be at the end of time. Jesus speaks to us of a judgment. The expectation of God*s judgment on the world was an essential element of prophetic teaching. Let us not only see in it a desire for vengeance on the part of honest people who suffered. To know for certain that our life will be judged by one who knows us through and through is one of the bases of the Christian vision of existence. This enables us to understand the tragic character of the decisions we make from day to day directing us either to the truth or a refusal of the light.

This certitude shocks many of our contemporaries just as in the past it terrified the majority of people. It is for that reason they have often taken refuge in metem psy chosis 每 a series of existences. The faults of the present life could be rectified in the one that followed. The importance of our choices is doubted, and the sense of sin is blurred just as is the sense of the presence of God. Before long we could doubt the unique value of our life and of the human person.

While reaffirming the judgment, this short parable contains an extremely revolutionary element: the judgment is God*s secret and up to the end of the world, both good and evil are in each of us, as well as in institutions. When we read the Bible, we are perhaps shocked to see that not only in the Old Testament but also even in the New, the world is constantly divided between the good and the wicked. It seems to us that it should not be: the inner being of a human is a deep mystery. There isn*t a group of the good (we, of course, and those who believe in God, and those who observe the same morality that we observe#) and then the others. Why then does Jesus divide humans?

Our quick reply is that Jesus has spoken as the prophets spoke. To speak of the good and the wicked was a simple way, suitable to the mentality of people less developed than ourselves, to show that each one of us, in each of our acts, takes a step in one of two opposed directions. For centuries women and men have felt them selves interpreted by this way of speaking: it is still effective and pedagogic for us on many occasions. It is very important to understand that Jesus is not duped by images. For the majority of us, the separation is not made, even if after a conversion or two, until we have taken decisive steps.

The servants represent the believers, but especially the ※supervisors§ of the Church. Their zeal for repressing those they judge as straying in order to preserve what seems good to them may well be tainted interiorly. They would like to suppress all the errors. Rather they rely too much on force, or on authority. If the ※masters§ of the faith were not to give the faithful the possibility to think for themselves and make mistakes, the Church would be without life.

God prefers to let matters clarify: he wants people to learn from experience. Evil is part of the mystery of the cross; in doing what is good and living in the light we defeat evil (Rom 12:21).

• 44. The parables of the treasure and the pearl invite us not to let opportunities pass by, when the kingdom of God comes to us.

Some have been waiting for years for that word, or person or sign of hope that would give new meaning to their lives. One day they found it. Sometimes it was found through simple things: a forgiving word, a friendly smile, a first commitment offered to them and accepted. Then they understood that this was the way to gain all they were waiting for, and they entered the Kingdom happily.

The parable says: he hides it again. Ordi narily it is God who hides the treasure again after having shown it to us, for it will be really ours when we have worked for it and persevered.

Everything must be sold. We have to divest ourselves of all those habits, plea sures# that occupy our hearts without filling them. When trials come upon us like a frosty, icy night, we should not forget the treasure we have once seen, until we recover it. Plato, the great pagan philosopher, said, ※It is during the night that it is beautiful to believe in the light.§

※The pearl§ is, in a certain sense, Christ him self. He alone gives meaning to all the sacrifices of a Christian life. These are not really ※sacrifices,§ but the search for a love that has already been proven.


• 47. The Church has given the Kingdom to those who entered, but some of them be long to the visible family of the chosen ones, without having the spirit of the Kingdom.

By speaking of the net, Jesus reminds us that the first activity of the Church must be mission: ※to catch people.§ Many of them surely will not per severe, but a Church that closes itself would die.

How we would like to have a perfect Church made of upright persons, in which each one would discover the gifts of God! Christ, however, did not want a Church like that, nor is that the way for the Church to save the world.


They will throw them into the blazing furnace. This affirmation which we have already seen (13:30) only confirms what the whole Bible says: we shall be judged and the plenitude of life offered to those who will be ※in§ God will have as counterpart the despairing lot of those who have refused life.

The Church has always spoken, according to the terms of the Bible, of an eternal hell. She has also adopted towards the twelfth century the word ※purgatory§ to designate the pain ful purification the saved will ex pe rience, unless they have already known on earth the terrible burning of the pure love of God.

The affirmation of purgatory shocks those who have not experienced divine holiness which is never without a burning of everything that belongs to us; have they ever really pondered what ※becoming God in God§ exacts of us? Hell does not hurt less. We know, of course, that fire is only a figure and we should not interpret it as a vengeance of God: it is the ※damned§ who are unable to renounce the harrowing solitude in which they have en closed themselves; it is at the same time their enjoyment and their torture. However, we no longer accept the idea of pain that has no end and we readily support this with philosophic argument.

Certainly Jesus spoke the language of his time, not ours. This division of the world into good and bad was present in all culture. It is also certain that Jesus had deep and true knowledge of God and human beings. Had he found in this punishment something contrary to the infinite goodness of God he would have said so with out any concern of scandal. He has spoken as he did because the infinite love of God does not take away our freedom to escape him and defy him.

However it is to be noted that Jesus does not only speak of condemnation for some horrible crimes: loss or salvation is an option for all. We must also recognize that he does not speak according to our categories of hell and purgatory: Gehenna (Mt 5:22; 10:28), or fire (Mk 9:42) are imprecise terms that can designate both at the same time. The ※fire of hell§ is said to be ※eternal§ in several places (Mk 9:47; Mt 18:8; Mt 25:41), but this word has not exactly the meaning we give it: it could be something that goes beyond our experience of time.

We can then ask questions, but we must also question ourselves on two matters. Firstly, to speak of what God should or should not do is rather like asking him to be just. But ※justice§ is not something that exists in itself: it is only an aspect of the mystery of God. What do we know of his mystery? Then let us not teach him justice. We must also reply to this question: if Jesus wanted to say that certain people go to unending suffering, how must he say it in order that we may not doubt it?

The mystery remains. If we understood to what God invites us 每 and for an eternity in its truest sense, and that life is unique and that here below we shall give our response and finally give birth to our eternity 每 are there words too strong for someone who has lost everything?

• 53. Compare Luke 4:14. See commentary on Mark 3:31.