Reflecting on Matthew for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 13:1-23


While Jesus occasionally spoke in parables before, here he suddenly addresses the crowds “at length” in parables, giving several in rapid-fire succession. This movement from teaching the crowds primarily in a straightforward manner (Matt 5–7) to a new emphasis on parables (Matt 13) surprises Jesus’ own disciples, who ask, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (13:10).

For the ancient Jews, a parable was a cryptic saying or story intended to stimulate thought. Parables were sometimes used to communicate God’s judgment on corrupt Israelites for their sins (see 2 Sam 12:1–10; Isa 5:1–7; Ezek 17:2–21; 19:2–19). As we will see, Jesus’ parables in Matt 13 address the indifference of many in Israel to his ministry (Matt 11) and the opposition of the Pharisees who are plotting his death (Matt 12).

When asked about the purpose of his parables, Jesus tells the disciples that knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but it will not be given to those who do not follow him. Those who have been open to Christ’s teachings will perceive even more: To anyone who has, more will be given. But those with closed hearts will be unable to penetrate the mysteries of the kingdom: from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

In the punch line (v. 13) Jesus sums up the reason he now teaches in parables. Many in Israel refuse to receive his message: they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. In a fulfillment quotation Jesus points to Isa 6:9–10, a text that tells how the prophet is sent by God to call the people to repentance but predicts that few will take the message to heart.

© 2010 Curtis Mitch, Edward Sri, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


  1. Richard Arnold says:

    We all understand that Jesus refers that the seed is the Word of God. Why does he use a seed and what are the characteristics of a seed growing? A seed needs 3 things for growth…1) good soil (which Jesus talks about), 2) water, and 3) sunlight. Jesus talks about the one things that currently exists at that point in time…the Word of God and the necessity of an open heart. For the seed to be sustained (not die), it needs water. I think the Church emulates that sustaining function of water…providing that guidance to mold the Word of God and sustain you. For the seed to actually grow (with any extent), it needs sunlight and I think this can be represented by the Holy Spirit. The sun provides the energy to grow. It takes the open heart of the soil and the sustainment of water maintain to understand the Word and the sun to grow (wisdom) for that Word to transform and grow 30…60….100 fold. v/r…Rich Arnold