Click to donate today!
MATTHEW CHAPTER 13
Matthew 13:1-9 The parable of the sower.
Matthew 13:10-17 Why Christ taught in parables.
Matthew 13:18-23 The exposition of the parable of the sower.
Matthew 13:24-30 The parable of the tares,
Matthew 13:31,Matthew 13:32 of the grain of mustard seed,
Matthew 13:33-35 of the leaven.
Matthew 13:36-43 The parable of the tares expounded.
Matthew 13:44 The parable of the hidden treasure,
Matthew 13:45,Matthew 13:46 of one pearl of great price,
Matthew 13:47-52 of a net cast into the sea,
Matthew 13:53-58 Christ’s countrymen are offended in him.
Mark saith, Mark 4:1, He began again to teach by the seaside: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. Luke, Luke 8:4, saith no more than, when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable. Two evangelists agree that this sermon of our Saviour’s was preached out of a ship, to multitudes that stood on the shore. The occasion of his going into a ship was the throng of people, both for his own and their convenience. It is here said that he sat; this, we observed before, was the usual gesture of the teacher amongst the Jews. This sermon is said to have been made the same day, which some observe in historical narrations is to be taken strictly, and lets us know the assiduity of Christ in his work.
And he spake many things unto them in parables: the term parable often in Scripture signifies dark sayings, or proverbial speeches, Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 20:49. But in the Gospels it generally hath another sense, and signifies similitudes or comparisons of things. This being the first time we have met with the term, and the first formed and perfect parable we have met with, because we shall meet with the term often hereafter, with many formed parables, I shall here give some notes which may be not only of use to understand the following parables we shall meet with in this chapter, but in the following part of the Gospel.
1. A parable, in the gospel sense of the term, signifieth a similitude, taken from the ordinary actions of men, and made use of to inform us in one or more points of spiritual doctrines.
2. That it is not necessary to a parable that the matter contained in it should be true in matter of fact; for it is not brought to inform us in a matter of fact, but in some spiritual truth, to which it bears some proportion. This we see in Jotham’s parable of the trees going to choose themselves a king, &c.
3. That it is not necessary that all the actions of men mentioned in a parable should be morally just and honest. The actions of the unjust steward, Luke 16:1, &c., were not so.
4. That, for the right understanding of a parable, our great care must be to consider the main scope of it, whither the story tends, and what our Saviour designed principally by the parable to instruct and teach the people by that discourse.
5. That the main scope of the parable is to be learned, either from our Saviour’s general or more particular explication of it, either from the proparabola, or preface to it, or from the epiparabola, or the conclusion of it.
6. It is not to be expected that all particular actions represented in a parable should be answered by something in the explication of it.
7. Lastly, though the scope of the parable be the main thing we are to attend unto, and in which it doth instruct us, yet it may collaterally inform us in several things besides that point which is in it chiefly attended.
It is said that our Saviour spake many things to the multitude in parables, covering truths under similitudes fetched from such ordinary actions as men did or might do. This was a very ancient way of instruction, by fables or parables, as we may learn by Jotham’s parable, Judges 9:7,Judges 9:8, &c. It is now much out of use with us, but amongst the Jews was very ordinary; so as our Saviour spake to them in their own dialect. It had a double advantage upon their hearers:
1. Upon their memory, we being very apt to remember stories.
2. Upon their minds, to put them upon studying the meaning of what they heard so delivered; and also upon their affections, similitudes contributing much to excite affection.
But withal it had this disadvantage, that he who so taught was not understood of a great part of his auditory.
There is some difference in the terms used by Mark and Luke in their relations of this parable, Mark 4:3-8, and Luke 8:4-8; but none that are material, nor much to be considered by us, being they are in the parable. I shall when I come to it more exactly consider what differences there are betwixt the evangelists in the terms they use in the explication which our Saviour giveth us of the parable; which he did not give before the multitude, but when he was alone, saith Mark, Mark 4:10. That which our Saviour spoke to the whole multitude was this. Now whether there were indeed any such sower, yea or no, is not at all material: our Saviour’s design was not to inform them in a matter of fact, but of the different success of the preaching of the word; and for this purpose he brought this similitude, leaving the generality of the hearers to study out his meaning, concluding,
He that hath ears to hear, let him hear; which is an epiphonema, or conclusion of a speech, we met with before, and spake something to.
Luke saith, Luke 8:9, His disciples asked him, saying, what might this parable be? Mark saith, Mark 4:10, When he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. It should seem that his twelve apostles understood his meaning, but others that with them were about him when the multitude were gone did not: they therefore desire of him,
1. That they might understand the reason why he spake to the multitude in dark sayings and similitudes, without plainly opening this meaning to them.
2. They own their own dulness of understanding, and confess that they themselves were ignorant, and therefore desired him that he would tell them the meaning of this parable, with which he had entertained the multitude.
Their staying with the twelve when the generality of the multitudes were departed argued that they came with a desire to learn and to be instructed, not out of a mere curiosity to see Christ, or in a mere formality. They show both their charity, in desiring others might be intelligibly instructed; and their piety, in desiring that they might be more fully themselves instructed.
Mark saith, Mark 4:11, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables. Luke saith no more than, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables. Only, Matthew 8:18, he saith,
Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have. Because it is given to you, &c; given by my Father: God, according to the good pleasure of his will, hath given to some persons to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, more than to others. Some here distinguish concerning the things which concern the kingdom of God. The laws of his kingdom, they say, are delivered plainly viz. those things which are necessary to be known in order to our salvation are delivered plainly, so as we may understand them. But there are other things that belong to his kingdom not so necessary to be known in order to salvation, these God giveth to some only to know. I cannot agree to this notion. God manifested in the flesh is the great mystery of the gospel, the mystery hid from ages, yet I am sure the knowledge of Christ as such is necessary to salvation. I therefore think the emphasis lieth upon know.
1. There is a more general and confused knowledge of a thing; and there is a more distinct, clear, particular knowledge.
2. There is a mere notional knowledge, and there is a more effective, experimental knowledge.
To you my Father hath given eternal life, and, as means in order to it, to know more clearly, particularly, and distinctly the things that concern the kingdom of God; to know and to believe in me, who am the Saviour of the world: my Father hath no such special and particular kindness for the generality of this people, and therefore he hath not given to them the same aids and assistance.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: by him that hath, some understand, he that hath and maketh use of what he hath, and that is plainly the sense of it Matthew 25:29, where it is the epiparabola, or conclusion of the parable about the talents. But though the preceding parable plainly leadeth to such a sense there, yet the preceding words seem as directly to lead to another sense here, and what is the more natural and proper signification of the word hath, which most naturally signifies to have a thing in our possession. He that hath, therefore, in all reason signifies, he that hath that which, Matthew 13:11, is said to be given. He that hath the saving knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. To him that doth not so much come to hear me out of curiosity, and comprehends by his understanding something of my will, but hath a heart that embraces and receiveth me, so as he believeth in me. To him that hath the seed of God in him as in good ground.
Shall be given: that is expounded by the next words,
and he shall have more abundance; he shall have more grace, a more full, and clear, and distinct knowledge of me, and the things which concern my kingdom.
But whosoever hath not, hath not the seed of God, a true root of grace, in whom the seed of my word hath not fallen as in good ground, but only as in the highway, or in thorny or stony ground,
from him shall be taken away even that which he hath. How can that be?
Answer: It must not be understood of things in the same nature and kind; Luke expounds it, Matthew 8:18, by ο δοκει εχειν, that which either to himself or to others he seemeth to have. He that hath not a truth of grace may think he hath: his hope and opinion of himself shall fail. Others may, from his gifts and parts, think he hath. God shall unmask him, taking away his common gifts, or suffering him to fall into and be overcome by foul temptations. His gifts and parts shall decay, his moral righteousness will abate by God’s just dereliction of him, and withholding his restraining grace.
Neither Mark nor Luke hath this, but it directly followeth from what they have, which also followeth here; only here it is plainly asserted concerning these hearers, and given as a reason why our Lord spake to them in parables. We shall in the explication of the following words inquire in what sense it is said, This people seeing, saw not, and hearing, heard not.
These words of the prophet are not less than five times found in the New Testament (besides by Matthew in these verses) applied to the Jews. They are taken out of Isaiah, Isaiah 6:9,Isaiah 6:10; And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. It is quoted Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10, where the sense of the words only is quoted more shortly; John 12:40; Acts 28:26,Acts 28:27; Romans 9:8, more largely, yet with some more difference of phrase from that of the prophet. By all of them it appeareth, either that God spake those words to the prophet, as well with reference to those Jews that were to live in the time of Christ, as to those Jews who were living when Isaiah prophesied; or at least, that the words were as true of these Jews as they were of those, so the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled in them. But the words are so differently related, that the prophet, and St. John, John 12:39,John 12:40, seem to make God the cause of the fatness of this people’s hearts, the heaviness of their ears, and the blindness of their eyes: Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. So also Paul speaketh, Romans 11:8, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear. Matthew saith,
This people’s heart is waxed gross. Matthew seemeth to speak of the more proximate cause; Isaiah, Luke, John, and Paul of the higher but remoter cause. Matthew, of their sinful act preceding; John, Luke, Paul, and Isaiah, of the judicial act of God, consequent to their sinful act. God first sent them Moses and the prophets, by whom they might have seen and known his will: they would not see, nor hear, nor understand, nor convert, nor be healed. God at last did leave them to the reprobacy of their own mind: he willed indeed the prophet to go and preach, But, saith he, this shall be all the fruit of thy ministry, it shall but make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, they shall more and more shut their eyes: their time of conversion and healing is past; it is now too late, I will not convert, I will not heal them. Now (saith our Saviour) what was applicable to the Jews in the time of Isaiah, is in like manner applicable to you, and the prophet Isaiah did foretell what I should meet with. The generality of the people are a people that have so despised the grace of God, that their day of grace is over; God is resolved he will not convert nor heal them. They have had light, they have seen me and my works, they have heard my sermons and John Baptist’s; in seeing they would not see, in hearing they would not hear nor understand. So they are fallen under a judicial hardness and blindness. They shall not now have the light as they have had: my Spirit shall no longer strive with them; neither shall they have a heart to make a due use of the means they have. This is doubtless the meaning of these words. And so they give a just reason why he spake to them in parables. And thus undoubtedly God doth to this day; when a people have a long time sat under a good and profitable ministry, wherein their souls have been dealt with plainly and faithfully, and they remain still ignorant, debauched, and unbelieving, God in a righteous judgment gives them over to the blindness of mind and hardness of heart under the ministry, that though it continue never so good amongst them, yet they are not affected with the word, but sleep and harden under it. Sometimes he by his providence suffers such a minister to come amongst them as speaketh nothing but parables, things which they understand not; or smooth things, fit to smooth them up in their sinful courses, and harden them in their prejudices against Christ and holiness. A most tremendous judgment of God. When God, antecedently to this contempt, by his providence sends such a ministry as may declare his willingness they should be saved and come to the knowledge of his truth; and consequently to this contempt, and despising of his grace, so dealeth with them by his providence, either suffering their first seeming affections and edge to abate, (as the Jews are said for a while to have rejoiced in the light John brought), or suffering such a ministry to come amongst them, as one would think God sent lest men should convert and be healed. In the mean time Christ in this text excellently sets out God’s method in his dealing with souls:
1. He bringeth them to hear and see.
2. Then he makes them to understand and believe.
3. Then he converts them, renews and changes their hearts.
4. Then he healeth them, pardoneth their sins, and accepts their persons, not because they are converted, but at the same time when he works faith in them, and giveth them a heart to repent.
Luke repeateth this passage, Luke 10:23, but not as annexed to this parable.
Blessed are your eyes; the eyes of your bodies and of your minds. With the eyes of your bodies you have seen the promised Messias, come in the flesh; and you have seen the works which I have done, confirming me to be the Messiah: and with the eyes of your minds you have understood and believed.
For many prophets and righteous men (Luke adds, kings)
have desired to see those things which ye see, &c. From the very first giving out of the promise of Christ to Adam, upon the fall, Genesis 3:15, there was in believers an expectation of the Messiah, who being so great a good, so infinite a blessing to mankind, they could not but have a desire (if God had so pleased) to have seen him. But we are told that Abraham saw Christ’s day and rejoiced. And Simeon’s and Anna’s expectation of him, mentioned Luke 2:34-38, lets us know that other pious souls had such desires. Our Saviour blesseth his disciples, that they had seen with the eyes of their bodies, what others had only seen afar off by the eyes of their minds, Hebrews 11:13.
Mark addeth a little check he gave them, Mark 4:13, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? Luke saith, The parable is this, that is, My meaning in and by the parable was this. You, seeing that you cannot satisfy yourselves, as the most that heard me, hearing a sound of words without understanding what they meant, and seeing that to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and seeing that you see, God hath opened your eyes and ears to spiritual mysteries.
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower: my true sense and meaning in this parable, my scope in it, was to show you the different effects which the word of God preached hath upon men’s hearts, and the reasons of that difference.
Mark hath this thus, Mark 4:14,Mark 4:15, The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way-side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. Luke hath it thus, Luke 8:11,Luke 8:12, The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. From Luke we learn that the seed is the word; from Mark, that the sower is the preacher, Christ in the first place, then all who derive from him as his ministers, and are exercised in preaching the gospel, which Matthew calleth
the word of the kingdom, because it is the instrument by which God raised up Christ’s kingdom on earth, both in the church, and in particular souls, and by which he prepareth men for the kingdom of glory. This is a mighty commendation of the word. The soil is the heart, the soul of man. Now there are some hearers to whom the word preached is like seed that a sower throws upon some footpath, or highway, the plough never turneth the earth upon it, or the harrow never goeth over it; so it lieth bare, and is trodden down by the feet of passengers, and the fowls of the air come and pick it up. So, saith our Saviour, there are some that hear the word, but never meditate upon it, never lay it to their hearts, never cover it with second thoughts; the wicked ones, the devils, who are afraid of the power of the word digested, (like the fowls of the air), by suggesting other thoughts, or by presenting other objects to them, catch away the word that was sown in their hearts. These are they whom I compared to the highway ground receiving the seed.
But some may say, how was it sown in their hearts, if the devil could thus catch it away?
Answer: By the heart here is meant the soul, which hath several powers and faculties. Every thing we hear goeth into our heart, in some sense. As the heart may signify the imaginative power of our soul, or that power by which we take the notion of a thing, the word doth enter into sinners’ hearts, so far as they spend some thoughts upon it, and gain some knowledge and notion of it, yea, they may entertain it with some sudden and temporary affection and passion: indeed it is never so in their hearts, as that they truly believe it, or that their wills are conquered into the obedience of it.
Both Mark and Luke have this with no difference, save only in words, Mark 4:16,Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13. What Matthew calleth stony ground, Luke calls the rock. By the sun being up, and scorching the seed, in the parable, our Saviour meant tribulation or persecution, which Luke calleth a time of temptation, Luke 8:13.
Stony places are places where may be a little earth, but not much; he is here likened to such ground, who heareth the word, and anon (the Greek is ευθυς, which signifieth presently) with joy receiveth it, as Herod is said to have heard John the Baptist gladly. The word of God (as some other objects) doth often on the sudden affect some persons in whom it doth not take any deep root. A sudden passion surprises them, which is but like the overflowing of a brook, which is quickly down.
Yet hath he not root in himself, &c. Our Saviour here assigns two causes of such hearers falling away, the one internal, the other external; the former is the great cause of the latter. By root in himself some understand constancy, or a serious resolution and purpose of heart; but this is doubtless but the product of this root, which is the same thing which the apostle calls the seed of God, Job calls the root of the matter; a principle of grace in a heart truly touched with the love of God and of his truth.
But dureth for a while; no longer than he thinks that he can by his profession attain the end he aimed at and propounded to himself, be it riches, or honour and reputation.
But when tribulation or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, or because of the word, when he seeth that he cannot own his profession without the danger of his estate, life, liberty, places, and preferments, &c.
by and by he is offended, made to stumble and fall, he falls off from all his former profession of the gospel.
Mark adds, Mark 4:19, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word. Luke saith, Luke 8:14, And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. Under these terms, the care of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of this life, or the lusts of other things, our Saviour comprehends all that which St. John calls the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. The immoderate desires of our hearts after lawful things, or their desires after things prohibited and unlawful, these he compares to thorns: as thorns in a ground choke the seed, shadowing the blade when it comes up, and keeping off the warmth of the sun, and drawing the fatness of the ground from it; so these divert men’s thoughts; and draw men’s affections off from the word of God, so as it bringeth forth no fruit; or if there be some little appearance of fruit, it dwindles away, and cometh to no perfection. None of these were profane, godless persons, who make no conscience of neglecting to hear the word preached; they are all hearers. Oh how strait is the way, how narrow is the gate, that leadeth to everlasting life! How few there be that find it!
Mark saith much the same, Mark 4:20. Luke saith, Luke 8:15, But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. To make a good Christian all these things must concur:
1. A hearing of the word.
2. An understanding or believing it.
3. A keeping of it.
4. A bringing forth of fruit.
5. A bringing forth fruit with patience.
He that receiveth the seed into good ground, is he (saith Luke) who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it.
The good ground, (in this parable), is the good and honest heart, that is, a heart renewed and sanctified by the Spirit of God.
He heareth the word: he (saith the apostle) who is born of God, heareth us: faith cometh by hearing. And understandeth it. Mark saith, receiveth it, that is, not in the mere notion, but by faith, and a mind willing to learn and be instructed. Luke adds, and keepeth it, retains the savour and impression of it upon his soul.
Which also beareth fruit, the fruit of holiness in his life, in an obedience to the will of God; for all seed bringeth forth fruit according to his kind. Luke adds, with patience, by which is to be understood certainty, constancy, and perseverance, and that notwithstanding all trials and oppositions he meets with from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty; not all alike. A soul may be an honest and good soul, and that (as we see here) in Christ’s opinion and judgment, though it doth not bring forth fruit in the same proportion with others.
Here are three parables by the evangelist put together before he cometh to the explication which our Saviour giveth of the first; all of them concerning the gospel church, and the dispensation of the gospel. In the one he instructs us what we are to expect as to the mixture of persons in it while it is in this world. In the other two concerning the increase and propagation of it. The first himself expounds, Matthew 13:37-43. This parable is only found in Matthew. The other two are found, shortly both of them in Luke, one in Mark; neither of them are expounded. I will therefore, without any explication of these verses at present, go on to the verses following them, all which will lead me to our Saviour’s own interpretation of the first of these parables; after which I will also consider these two parables that follow here, but are neither expounded here nor in the other evangelists.
Christ spake all the aforementioned things to the multitude, and also to his disciples, in parables, dark sayings, covering Divine and spiritual truths with fit and proper similitudes; and at this time he delivered himself wholly in this manner to them, though at other times he spake more plainly. He gave us the reason before; and by this way of speaking also he made his own disciples more diligent to attend to what they heard, and more inquisitive after the true sense and meaning of it. And thus, saith the evangelist, that which was spoken by the prophet, Psalms 78:2, was also fulfilled in Christ: not that the psalmist, whether David or Asaph, did there prophesy concerning Christ, for plainly the psalmist intended to relate the history of God’s dealing with the Jews, and their behaviour toward him. Nor was it fulfilled as the type in the antitype, but as a thing of the same nature was done. The prophet delivered himself in dark sayings, so did Christ, but instead of I will utter dark sayings of old, the evangelist hath,
which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world; he means the great and mysterious things of the gospel, hid from ages and generations, Colossians 1:26; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Romans 16:25, where it is called the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. As the psalmist opened his mouth in grave discourses, tending to the good of the people to whom he spake; so Christ taught the people, by revealing the mysteries of the gospel, hid in God from the beginning of the world, as Paul speaks to the Ephesians, Ephesians 3:9.
The multitude went away (as most people do from sermons) never the wiser, understanding nothing of what they heard, nor caring to understand it. But there was a more conscientious part of our Saviour’s auditory, who could not thus satisfy themselves; they follow Christ into the house, and entreat him to open to them
the parable of the tares of the field; they say nothing of the other two parables, because probably they understood them, and it may be this parable did more affect them, in regard of the dreadful conclusion of it.
The design that Christ had in this parable was to show them, that though he laid a good foundation of a church in the world, calling some home to himself; and making them partakers of his effectual grace, laying the foundation of his gospel church in such as took his yoke upon them; yet in process of time, while those that should succeed him in his ministry slept, (not being so diligent and watchful as they ought to be), the devil (who is full of envy and malice to men’s souls, and is continually going about seeking whom he may devour) would sow erroneous opinions, and find a party, even in the bosom of his church, who would hearken to him, and through their lusts comply with his temptations, both to errors in doctrine and errors in practice: and it was his will, that there should be in the visible church a mixture of good and bad, such bad ones especially as men could not purge out without a danger of putting out such as were true and sincere; but there would be a time, in the end of the world, when he would come with his fan, and thoroughly purge his floor, and take to heaven all true and sincere souls, but turn all hypocrites into hell. This appears, by our Saviour’s exposition, to have been our Saviour’s plain meaning in this parable. Hence he tells us, that by the sower here he meant himself,
the Son of man. By
the field he meant
the world. By
the good seed he meant
the children of the kingdom; such as had a true change wrought in their hearts, were truly regenerated and converted. By
the tares he meant the children of the wicked one, that is, of the devil; such as did the works of the devil, John 8:44. That
the enemy that sowed these tares was the devil, who by his suggestions, presenting objects, &c., makes himself the father of all wicked men. Our Saviour here saith nothing to that part of the parable, where the tares are said to be sown
while men slept; that was plain and intelligible enough. The devil hath a power to seduce, persuade, and allure, none to force. If particular persons kept their watch, as they might, the devil could not by his temptation force them. If magistrates and ministers kept their watches according to God’s prescription, there could not be so much open wickedness in the world as there is. Neither doth our Saviour give us any particular explication of that part of the parable, which is Matthew 13:28,Matthew 13:29, where the servants say to their master,
Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up. And
he said unto them, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Our Saviour by this teacheth us, that every passage in a parable is not to be fitted by something in the explication. It was not the point that he designed in this parable to instruct them in, how far church officers might or ought to act in purging the church; but only,
1. That in the visible church they must expect it mixture, till the day of judgment.
2. That in that day he would make a perfect separation.
So as those that would from this passage in the parable conclude, that all erroneous and loose persons ought to be tolerated in the church till the day of judgment, forget the common rule in divinity, that parabolical divinity is not argumentative. We can argue from nothing in a parable but from the main scope and tendency of it. However, it is bold arguing from a passage in a parable, expounded by our Saviour himself, when he hath omitted the explication of that passage; nor can any thing be concluded, but that such must not be rooted out as have such a resemblance of wheat from the outward appearance, that they cannot be rooted out without a hazard of a mistake, and a rooting up of the wheat with them. But our Saviour reserves the point of the ministerial duty in purging the church to another more proper time; he here saith, nothing of that, but of his own design to purge it at
the harvest, which he interprets,
the end of the world, that is, the day of judgment. By
the reapers he tells us that he meaneth
As in the common practice of men, when they have a mind to pick their corn, and have it clean, when it is reaped, to set men to clean the wheat, and to pick out the tares, and, having tied them up in bundles, to burn them, so (saith he) I will do. I will send my angels at the day of judgment, and they shall take out of my church all impenitent sinners, all those who in this world have been scandals, and offences, and mischievous to my people, and who have made it their business to work iniquity.
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. That is, into hell, which, in regard of the severe torments which the damned shall feel there, is often in Scripture compared to fire, as Matthew 25:41, and in other texts, by which is only set out to us the dreadfulness of the punishment of the damned, that is proportioned to, if not far exceeding, that of the burning living bodies in fire. Having thus expressed the punishment of wicked men, he expounds what he means by gathering the wheat into his barn, viz. the taking of righteous men to heaven.
Then, saith he,
shall the righteous, those whom I have clothed with my righteousness, and who have lived in obedience to my will to that degree, that though they be not perfectly righteous, yet are sincere and upright, so as I have accepted them,
shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father: an expression much like that of Daniel 12:2,Daniel 12:3, significative of that glorious state of the saints in heaven, which no eye having seen, nor ear having heard, no tongue is able to express. He concludes in the same manner as he concludes the parable of the sower, exciting his hearers to a diligent consideration and belief of what he had said.
Our Saviour adding no particular explication of the two parables delivered, Matthew 13:31-33, the disciples not asking him to explain them, and the evangelist having put the explication of the first parable after them, it is reasonable, that though I omitted the explication of them in their proper place, yet I should add something here for the benefit of those who possibly will not be able so readily to conceive our Saviour’s meaning in them without an interpreter as the disciples did, which is thought to be the reason why they asked no explication of them. The one is the parable of the
grain of mustard seed, Matthew 13:31,Matthew 13:32; the other, the parable of
leaven hid in three measures of meal, Matthew 13:33. The scope of both is the same. Our Saviour intended them both to let his disciples know the success that his gospel should have over all the world, that they might not be discouraged at the little success of it at present. To this purpose he compares it, first, to
a grain of mustard seed, which, he saith,
is the least of all seeds, that is, one of the least of seeds, or the least seed that produces so great a plant; but becomes a tree so high,
that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof. Though that small seed with us runs up to a great height, and produces a plant which hath branches considerable enough to lodge birds which sit low, yet we must not judge of what grew in those countries by what groweth in ours; there are strange and almost incredible stories told of that plant by naturalists, as to its growth in some hot and fertile countries. Christ by this foretold his disciples, what following ages quickly verified, that the heathen should entertain the gospel, and the sound of it should go to the ends of the earth, notwithstanding its present small appearance. Upon the same score he compares it to a little
leaven, which a woman hid in three measures of meal, till the whole mass of meal was leavened. By these two expressions our Saviour also lets us know the quick and powerful nature of the word; that Christ’s words are (as he said) spirit of life, and have a hidden and extraordinary virtue in them. I do not think it worth the while to inquire into the contents of these σατα or measures of meal, and why he mentions but three. They are curiosities, the knowledge of which turneth to no account. Our Saviour certainly, by the expression, designed only to hint the small number of the Jews that believed in him, but foretold a far greater harvest.
The law should go forth out of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, as Isaiah prophesied, Isaiah 2:3; but many people (after them) should say, Come ye, let us go up to the mountain of the house of the Lord.
Whatsoever belongeth to the kingdom of God, whether the word, which is called the word of the kingdom, or the grace and favour of God, which he by me dispenses out under the administration of the gospel, is like, that is, should be adjudged, esteemed, and used like as
treasure hid in a field. Men should do by it as they would do upon the discovery of a great sum of money, buried up in the earth, in some field not yet their own. Suppose a man had made some such discovery, what would he do? He would rejoice at it, he would hide it, he would sell all he had and buy that field. So should men do to whom there is a revelation of the gospel, and the grace thereof; they should inwardly rejoice in the revelation, and bless God for it, and, whatever it cost them, labour that they might be made partakers of that grace. Earthly possessions cannot be had without purchasing, and those who have not ready money to purchase with must raise it from the sale of something which they have; therefore our labour for the kingdom of heaven is set out under the notion of buying. But the prophet, (Isaiah 55:1,Isaiah 55:2) let us know that it is a buying without money and without price. However, there is some resemblance, for as in buying and selling there is a parting with something that is ours, in exchange for something which is another’s, so in order to the obtaining of the grace of the gospel, and the kingdom of glory, to which the remission of sins leadeth, we must part with something in order to the obtaining of it. We have no ready money, nothing by us, that is a quid pro quo, a valuable price for Divine grace; we must therefore part with something that we have, and it is no matter what it be, which God requireth. Where this discovery is made, the soul will part with all it hath, not only its old heart, its unlawful desires and lusts, but its riches, honours, and pleasures, if it can by no other means obtain the kingdom of heaven, that it may obtain it; they are all of no value to it. Nor is it at all necessary in order to buying, that the thing parted with be of a proportionable, value. Amongst men, wedges of gold have been purchased for knives and rattles, &c; nor doth any thing we can part with, that we may obtain the kingdom of heaven, bear any better proportion; yet it is a buying, because it is what God is pleased to accept, and upon the parting with gives us this heavenly kingdom.
The state of the gospel dispensation is such, that men in it having a discovery of more excellent things than before they were aware of, life and immortality being brought to light through the gospel, 2 Timothy 1:10, grace and truth coming by Jesus Christ, John 1:17, men and women are set upon seeking for these spiritual things, as merchants do for goodly pearls; and when God makes a discovery of Christ and his grace to the soul, it appears to them as a pearl of great price, of more value than all they have in the world, and they are ready to part with all to obtain Christ and his grace. Both these parables have the same scope and tendency, viz.
1. To inform us that Christ and his grace are of a great and transcendent value.
2. That under the gospel there is a clear discovery of these things to the world.
3. That where this discovery is effectually and particularly made to any soul, that soul will part with all it hath, or is worth, rather than it will miss of Christ, and his grace and glory.
The scope of this parable is much the same with that of the tares, to teach us, that while the church is in this world there will be in it a mixture of good and bad, a perfect separation of which one from another is not to be expected until the day of judgment.
Again, the kingdom of heaven. This term signifieth the whole dispensation and administration of the gospel, both the grace dispensed in it, and the means of that grace which is administered under it. I should here interpret it of the preaching of the gospel, which is called
the word of the kingdom, being the means by which men are gathered in both to the church visible and invisible. This our Lord here compares to
a net, thrown
into the sea of the world, and gathering in of every kind, bringing in many to an outward profession, all of which shall not come to the kingdom of glory, nor are indeed true members of Christ; not members of the church invisible, though they be members of the church visible. When the end of the world shall come, and Christ shall have accomplished his design in the world, then a day of judgment shall come, and there shall be a perfect separation between such as received the gospel in truth, and in the love of it, and others: the former shall be taken to heaven, and the latter thrown into hell; which he expresses by the like phrases which he had before used in the parable of the tares, which need no further explication.
A conscientious teacher will have a respect to the profit of his hearers. Christ here setteth us an example, asking his disciples if they had
understood all these things; as well those parables of which he had given them no particular explication, as those he had explained.
They say unto him, Yea, Lord, we have understood them.
Seeing you understand these things, communicate your knowledge of them unto others, do not know for yourselves alone.
Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven. The scribes amongst Jews were not only clerks, that were employed in writing, but teachers of the law; such a one was Ezra, Ezra 7:6. Our Saviour here by every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of God, understandeth every good minister of the gospel, fitted to promote the kingdom of God, to be employed in the church of God: should be like a good householder, that hath not his provision to seek when his guests come; but hath a full fraught storehouse, and hath nothing to do but out of his stock and storehouse to bring out all sort of provision, according to the various palates of his guests. Ministers of the gospel should not be novices, 1 Timothy 3:6, raw and ignorant men; but men mighty in the Scriptures, well acquainted with the writings of the Old and New Testament, and the sense of them; men that have a stock of spiritual knowledge, able readily to speak a word to the weary, and to speak to men and women’s particular cases and questions.
Mark relates this passage, Mark 6:1-4. Our Lord went up and down preaching the gospel: he having preached unto the people in the former parables, now he departeth from the seaside, where he preached as before,
into his own country, most interpreters judge Nazareth; he was born in Bethlehem, but we read little or nothing of any time he spent there afterward. Nazareth was the place where he was brought up, and therefore he was called Jesus of Nazareth. There he preached in the synagogue, or in the synagogues of Galilee. Mark addeth, on the sabbath day.
Insomuch that they were astonished: it is not said they repented, or believed, but they admired at him, and were astonished.
And said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? That is, a power to do these mighty works. Mark saith, Whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this that is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Astonishment and admiration flow from ignorance, and are no indications of any spiritual saving work upon men’s hearts: we shall see that these Jews, notwithstanding their astonishment, are by and by scandalized, and offended at Christ.
Mark saith the same, Mark 6:3; only he saith, Is not this the carpenter? ο τεκτων; which leadeth some to think that Christ, till he was thirty years of age, wrought with Joseph upon his trade. Luke 2:51, it is said, that he came to Nazareth, and was subject to his parents. Joseph was an artificer, that was certain; so τεκτων signifies; but whether a carpenter, or a smith, the word will not inform us. For the brethren of Christ and his sisters, here mentioned, the most by them understand his near relations. The Jews were offended at the meanness of our Saviour’s parents and relations.
They were offended in him; that is, these things made them stumble at him, and not receive him as the Messias, or a prophet sent from God. How unreasonable is malice and prejudice! One would have thought that their knowledge of his friends and education should have rather led them to have concluded that he must be sent from God, and more than a man, seeing that he did not come by this wisdom by any ordinary means, nor work these great works by any human power.
Mark saith, Mark 6:4-6, But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages teaching. Our Lord here gives another more external reason of their being scandalized at him; that is, his being so familiar with them, and conversing so long with them: familiarity ordinarily breeding contempt: to this purpose he applies to them a proverbial speech, That
a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. Men are ready to undervalue, slight, and disesteem those they have been brought up and ordinarily conversed with and amongst.
He did not many mighty works there (Mark telleth us he did some, but not many)
because of their unbelief: he saw them a people whose hearts, through the just judgment of God, were locked and shut up under unbelief, and therefore it was to no purpose to do more miracles before them, upon whom they would have no effect; nor did this consist with what he knew of the counsels of God with reference unto them. So as he left them, and went preaching about the villages or country towns in Galilee.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 13". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent