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Matthew 13:18-23 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Seed and Soil

Matthew 13:18-23 – Parable of the Seed and Soil

|| Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15

MT13:18 “So, you [disciples], listen [to the meaning] of the parable[1] of the Sower. MT13:19 Anyone hearing the kingdom message[2] and failing to understand,[3] the Evil One[4] comes and steals[5] those things sown in the heart[6] – this is the seed sown beside the road. MT13:20 Now, the seed sown on the gravel – this is a person who at first hearing accepts [the message] with joy.[7] MT13:21 But, because of having no inner roots nothing lasts,[8] for as soon as oppression or persecution[9] occurs because of the message[10] the person stumbles.[11] MT13:22 Now, the one sown among thorns – this is the person who hears the message[12] but the anxieties of that Period[13] and deceptive riches[14] choke the message[15] and the person is unproductive.[16] MT13:23 However, the seed sown in good soil – this is the person who hears the message and understands and actually is productive:[17] one person a hundred times, another person sixty times, and another thirty times.”

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[1] Listen [to the meaning] of the parable: Or, WEY: I will explain the parable. Evidently only directed to his disciples.

[2] Kingdom message: TCNT: the Message of the Kingdom; KNX: the word by which the kingdom is preached. This is the “word” (LOGOS) about the Realm of Heaven: the opportunity for membership within the realm of profession.

[3] Failing to understand: Or, NJB: without understanding; KIT: not comprehending; NWT: does not get the sense of. It is difficult to accept that the literal words carry the exact meaning. It is possible the Nazarene’s intent is: ‘hearing the message without attempting to understand it.’ Mark 4:15 omits the part about failing to understand. Luke 8:12 merely has “heard.”

[4] Evil One: The Greek is PONEROS. Or, KJV: wicked one.

[5] Steals: The Greek is HARPAZEI which means to “snatch” or “grab.” Or, GDSP: robs him; KJV: catcheth away; ASV: snatcheth away. The word is related to that one in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the Rapture. Compare also Philippians 2:6.

[6] Things sown in the heart: GDSP: sown in his mind. Something has germinated but likely this person only shows a cursory interest without the inner person being moved to further effort. There is an initial interest but for a variety of self-rationalizations the kingdom theme does not strike a cord in the heart.

[7] At first hearing accepts [the message] with joy: Or, KJV: and anon with joy receiveth it; TCNT: at once accepts it joyfully; MOF: with enthusiasm. There is some follow through by this person who hears and “receives” the kingdom message – but without conviction. Luke 8:12, “they may not believe and be saved.” There may be a degree of interest resulting in joyful gladness. How far this disciple matures is not explained (Luke says there is no belief) but it appears this is a neophyte about to face realities.

[8] Having no inner roots nothing lasts: Literally, this may read: “but he has no root in himself but is transitory.” (UBSInt) Or, KJV: hath not root in himself; GDSP: takes no real root; NEB: strikes no root. Whatever initial joy the person had in the kingdom message no serious effort was forthcoming to cause the “word” to take hold. Some take up Christian discipleship but within a short time run out of enthusiasm. “Nothing lasts” may also be rendered: KJV: dureth for a while; TCNT: stands for only a short time; RIEU: he cannot hold out long. Mark 4:15 has it, “they continue for a time.” And, Luke 8:12, “they believe for a season.” The Christian walk is not a sprint but a marathon. It has been observed that many Christians “last” only three years before slowing down with some grinding to a halt. Consider word studies on endurance.

[9] Oppression or persecution: The Greek for “oppression” is THLIPSEOS (Matthew 24:20, 21) and here related to “persecution.” Or, WEY: when suffering comes. Luke 8:13 has this, “a season of testing.” From the very beginning Christianity knew only persecution and oppression. Despite the joy of accepting the kingdom message the high cost of discipleship takes its toll.

[10] Because of the message: The reason for the oppression or tribulation is not that caused by Life itself. The difficulties are related to the kingdom message.

[11] The person stumbles: Or, KJV: is offended; WEY: turns against it; MOF: at once repelled; RIEU: promptly recants; NOR: at once gives it up. The Greek is SCANDALIZETAI. Luke 8:13 has it, “they fall away (or, stand off).” A word study, stumble or stumblingblock.

[12] Hears the message: This disciple listens but will come against other problems.

[13] The anxieties of that Period: The Greek may also mean “overly concerned.” The word “period” is rendered from the Greek AIONOS which is also rendered: KJV: world; RHM: age; TCNT: life. Each age or period of human history and existence has its own particularly anxieties or concerns. Those of Jesus’ period may not be the same as in the modern period. On the matter of anxiety or being overly concerned see notes on Matthew 6:20-33. GDSP: the worries of the time. Luke 8:14 has it, “by being carried away by anxieties.”

[14] Deceptive riches: Or, KJV: the deceitfulness of riches; TCNT: the glamour of wealth; LAM: the deception caused by riches; MOF: the delight of being rich; RIEU: the lure of riches. The word “rich” describes that person with a surplus and the leisure time that goes with it. Jesus uses the words often and it is worthy of a word study on rich, riches, or, money. The word “rich” is also an interesting one to explore in an unabridged dictionary. Compare 1Timothy 6:17-19. Luke 8:15 adds, “pleasures of this life.” And, Mark 4:18 includes, “the desires for the rest of the things.” (Compare 1 John 2:15-17)

[15] Choke the message: Or, strangle, smother; BAS: put a stop to.

[16] The person is unproductive: Or, KJV: unfruitful; TCNT: it gives no return. Compare John 15:1-10; 2 Peter 1:5-8. What fruit or produce is Jesus expecting? Surely the main emphasis is on what a person does with the kingdom message regarding others. It would seem likely that it would also involve “fruitage of the spirit” and its manifestations (Galatians 5:22, 23).

[17] Hears the message and understands and actually is productive: There are three parts here: listening to the kingdom message, achieving some understanding or comprehension, and then bearing fruitage or evidence the message has taken root. Or, TCNT: really yields a return; BECK: goes on producing good things. Note, however, that this production or fruitage is not the same for all genuine Friends of the Nazarene (John 15:14). Like the “widow’s mite” it depends on individuality and circumstances, as well as a heart driven by faith. Perhaps one of the most outstanding examples of producing a hundred-fold is the apostle Paul (Romans 1:13). Paul defines Christian fruitage: Sharing (Romans 15:27, 28; Philippians 1:22); holiness (Romans 6:21); goodness, righteousness, truth (Ephesians 5:9); good work ad knowledge (Colossians 1:10); praise and charity (Hebrews 13:15).

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Preceding

Matthew 5:38-42 – 5. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 21:24

Matthew 13 – Parables on Kingdom mysteries

Matthew 13:1-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable: the Soil and the Seed

Matthew 13:10-15 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Why Speak in Parables?

Matthew 13:16-17 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Happy Eyes and Ears

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Related

  1. Spiritual Plague-the blindness of mechanical religion
  2. Are You Too Busy?

Matthew 5:38-42 – 5. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 21:24

Matthew 5:38-42 – 5. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 21:24

MT5:38 “You heard it said: ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’[1] [Exodus 21:24] MT5:39 But, I tell you: Do not resist[2] wicked authority. But, whoever slaps your right cheek,[3] turn to him the other. MT5:40 And, the one with a legal settlement against you for your inner garment, let him have the outer. MT5:41 And, whoever impresses you to go one mile,[4] go two. MT5:42 Give to those asking[5] and do not turn away from the one wanting to borrow.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (portret omstreeks de late jaren 1930)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence from Great Britain, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

[1] Eye for eye and tooth for tooth: Ghandi commented that all this Law did was make a world of blind persons. There is no case of this ever being done literally in the Hebrew Bible. The subject is “revenge” which the Nazarene discourages.

[2] Do not resist: The principle behind the Civil Rights Movement. Compare Romans 12:17 and 1 Peter 2:23: yielding. Most do not see the Nazarene teaching pacifism, others do. NJB ftn:

“The gospel does not forbid reasonable defense against unjust aggression.”

Though we do not find the Nazarene making use of this (John 18:22, 36).

The subject may be “wicked authority” represented in either the Roman occupiers or the harsh religious hierarchy. There are three examples within this context of “wicked authority”: a) an insult; b) legal matters; and, c) forced civil service. Here are the sources for “turn the other cheek” and “go the extra mile.” (Note Mark 15:21: authority)

Large outdoor gathering

World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, 2011

[3] Slaps your right cheek: An open-handed insult. The Nazarene experiences this (John 18:22).

[4] Impresses you to go one mile: Such rights by the State are current in most countries. For example, in the United States the police may command one’s vehicle or the fire department may impress one into fire-fighting.

[5] Give to those asking: A hallmark of the Nazarene’s teachings. Various renderings: MOF: the man who begs; WMS: keeps on begging. Compare Acts 20:35 in a rare allusion or quotation of the Nazarene by Paul. These include interest free loans (See Deuteronomy 23:19 and Luke 6:32-34: loans). Luke the Physician is stronger on this matter than Matthew the Tax-collector, the former discouraging loans completely and stressing giving. A real test on the Nazarene Saint is the pocketbook and is demonstrated in being ‘liberal’ (Romans 12:8, 13; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). The Nazarene Saint who refuses to share that good bounty God has given is in serious danger (James 1:27; 2:15-17; 1 John 3:16-18).

Luke includes the giving nearer the context of love for enemies. The Good Doctor includes interest free loans and not expecting any repayment (See Deuteronomy 15:7; Proverbs 21:26; Matthew 5:42: giving).

Does all of this suggest a commandment for all Friends of the Nazarene to divest themselves of their possessions or property? Judging from the descriptions in the Book of Acts this was not a command but a voluntary matter. Peter tells Ananias,

‘When it was unsold, did it not remain your property; and after it was sold, did not the value remain in your control?’ (Acts 5:4)

Peter nowhere argues:

“Did not the Nazarene teach you to sell everything and give to the poor.”

It was completely voluntary, though one can sense a degree of peer pressure from the Nazarene Community of Saints. Later when Paul argues these matters with the Corinthians and then with Timothy, he never resorts to the authority of the Nazarene about selling all. He merely tells Timothy, ‘To command the rich’ and then gives a list of strongly suggested items (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Certainly the Nazarene, and also God, encourage a “simple eye” on “guard against covetousness” (Luke 12:15), always remembering that the Father is paying close attention to how the Nazarene Saint uses material possessions.

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Preceding articles

Matthew 5:33-37 – 4. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Numbers 30:3

Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:10-14 – “What Shall We Do?”

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Additional reading

  1. In a world which knows no peace sharing blessed hope
  2. A man who cannot forgive others
  3. When discouraged facing opposition
  4. God should be your hope
  5. He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
  6. Ability (part 7) Thought about the ability to grow as a member of the Body of Christ
  7. When having taken a new direction in life, having become a Christian
  8. Priest, scribes and others with authority
  9. Many forgot how Christ should be our anchor and our focus
  10. Church sent into the world
  11. Fellowship
  12. Love is like playing the piano
  13. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love
  14. How do you keep people from stealing your joy?
  15. Work with joy and pray with love
  16. What Does Love Look Like?
  17. Overcome division with core values
  18. Cognizance at the doorstep or at the internet socket
  19. A true sermon is a real deed.
  20. How long to wait before bringing religiousness and spirituality in practice

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Further related reading

  1. City on a Hill
  2. Psalms 13: Has God Forgotten Me?
  3. 10 Biblical Passages That Radically Shape My Worldview
  4. Christians, It’s Time to Stop Saying “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”
  5. Chiseled for Change: Part 2
  6. Jesus interprets the Law through love
  7. Letting the Bible study you – Part three
  8. The point is…do you know Love?
  9. The hermeneutics of love – part two
  10. Jesus’ Subversive Kingdom – Part Four
  11. Give me dove’s eyes
  12. It’s Not About Chick-fil-A–It’s About You Standing For Christian Values
  13. Be Strong Be Courageous
  14. There is more to life than meets the eye.
  15. The heart has an ” inner eye ” …..
  16. With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony…

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