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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Matthew 13

 

 

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Verse 3

SOWERS OF SEED

‘A sower went forth to sow.’

Matthew 13:3

The parables, of which the text is one, do not seem to have been suggested by any immediate wants of Christ’s hearers: the difficulties with which they deal are such as were not likely to be felt by converts in the first enthusiasm of hope. The lessons taught were meant to remove the stumbling-block which the seeming imperfection of His success might place in the path of future disciples.

I. ‘Take heed how ye hear.’—To our Lord’s hearers the one great practical lesson taught by the parable was, Take heed how ye hear. The same seed was cast upon every heart in that crowd. Nothing was wanting to its excellence—the difference was in the soil on which it fell.

II. ‘Take heed how ye speak.’—But there is another lesson now that the seed is sown not by the lips of the Son of God, but by frail and erring men! Must we not say, Take heed how ye speak? We are all sowers, and the chance word of a youth to his friend, or of a child to his parent, may be the seed whence good fruit springs which shall endure to eternity. But, alas! it is not only good seed which is thus sown.

III. Sowers of the Divine seed.—There are some lessons for those who own it to be their duty to help in sowing the Divine seed in the world.

(a) There is the lesson of responsibility: the duty of taking heed what seeds we sow.

(b) There is the lesson of humility taught to those who have done any successful work for God. Paul had planted, Apollos watered, but it was God who had given the increase.

(c) There is also encouragement to the despondent. The seed’s growth is not affected by any weakness in the planter.

Professor Salmon.

Illustration

‘Is there anything on the spot to suggest the images thus conveyed? So I asked as I rode along the track under the hillside, by which the Plain of Gennesareth is approached, seeing nothing but the steep sides of the hill, alternately of rock and grass. And when I thought of the parable of the Sower, I answered, that here at least there was nothing on which the Divine teaching could fasten: it must have been the distant cornfields of Samaria or Esdraelon on which His mind was dwelling. The thought had hardly occurred to me, when a slight recess in the hillside, close upon the Plain, disclosed at once in detail, with a conjunction which I remember nowhere else in Palestine, every feature of the great parable. There was the undulating cornfield descending to the water’s edge. There was the trodden pathway running through the midst of it, with no fence or hedge to prevent the seed from falling here and there on either side of it, or upon it; itself hard with the constant tramp of horse and mule and human feet. There was the “good” rich soil, which distinguishes the whole of that Plain and its neighbourhood from the bare hills elsewhere descending into the Lake, and which, where there is no interruption, produces one vast mass of corn. There was the rocky ground of the hillside, protruding here and there through the cornfields, as elsewhere, through the grassy slopes. There were the large bushes of thorn—the “Nabk,” that kind of which tradition says that the Crown of Thorns was woven—springing up like the fruit trees of the more inland parts, in the very midst of the waving wheat.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE SEED AND THE SOIL

As the sower sowed the seed, some fell:—

I. By the wayside.—This was the path across or by the side of the field. Here the birds devoured it. Satan is that bird of prey which follows God’s seedsmen and steals the precious seed. There is a solemn petition in the Litany, ‘From hardness of heart, good Lord, deliver us.’

II. On stony places.—Here was no depth of soil. This is the picture of a man who receives the word with joy. But he cannot bear the sneers of his clever friends, or the laugh of the worldly. The hot sun of persecution kills the sickly seed.

III. Among thorns.—There are two great thorns which choke the Word. In the case of the poor it is care. In the case of the rich it is money and pleasure.

IV. On good ground.—No ground is good by nature. No heart is good until the Holy Spirit has made it good. Good ground, therefore, means ground prepared by God. He mercifully did so in the case of Lydia (Acts 16:14).

V. Scatter this seed.—Above all things, we shall desire to scatter this precious seed far and wide.

(a) Think of the peace it imparts! (Psalms 119:165; St. John 16:33).

(b) Think of the joy it bestows! (Psalms 119:162; Jeremiah 15:16).

(c) Think of the light it communicates! (Psalms 119:130; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

(d) Think of the hope it inspires! (Romans 15:4).

The Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, once had deep conviction of sin. He consulted a minister, and the unfaithful steward laughed his fears to scorn, and bade him dance them away at balls, and drown them in wine. Alas! in Burns’ case, the thorn of pleasure choked the good seed.’

(THIRD OUTLINE)

HINDRANCES TO GROWTH

There is no doubt about the meaning of this parable. In every heart there is all the capability of service. It is not only the great saints of God who have this capability, but all of us. There are three hindrances:

I. The hindrance of sin.—There is an exhaustive catalogue of the things that keep people from God. Not one when asked to answer for all his innumerable opportunities will be able to make this excuse, ‘I could not.’ Capability is there; the footprint plain, good soil just here and there printed by the marks of evil. Oh, how bitterly lamented the first great sin! And those that came after? The path is no longer separate footprints, but it is a path now trodden down. Only one thing will serve—the ploughshare.

II. The hindrance of levity.—One sees the shallow heart, the heart of sheer levity, in which the seriousness of repentance and the difficulty of right, and the power of the enemy have never been believed in for a moment. After a very little while the condition into which it gets is that which is described in the United States of America, where emotional revivals have raged and gone on until all power of emotion has been lost, as the ‘burnt districts,’ the burnt heart which blazes away in one little flare all its power of emotion, which has nothing left behind. If the ploughshare was the cure for the hard footpath, sometimes one is tempted to ask what is there for hope for the heart which sheer levity has used up?

III. The hindrance of pre-occupation.—After sin shallowness, after shallowness pre-occupation. What was it that choked that soil? Does our Lord say poisonous weeds? No. What is a weed? A weed is simply something growing in the wrong place. An ear of wheat is a weed in your garden, and a rose is a weed in your field. So the very things planted round the outskirts of the heart, the daily occupations, the business honestly and earnestly pursued, the family cares taken on as just the one thing in which you are called to serve God, the amusements which recreated the weary brain and braced the shattered nerve—those very things which were God’s protection round the heart, where the central place was to be reserved for bearing fruit to Himself, those may grow up in the middle of the fruitful soil, keeping out the knowledge of the love of God.

Each heart here is capable of bringing forth that fruit for Him provided only that the sin which has hardened the soil be done away, and the hardness ploughed up by penitence; provided only that the shallowness which made things seem easy give way to the seriousness which faces and overcomes the difficulty; provided only that pre-occupation is turned into care for the things of this world in God and for God.

—Bishop Mylne.

Illustration

‘We have several Scripture examples of the four characters. Pharaoh and Festus may be named as “wayside” hearers. King Saul, Herod Antipas, the Galatians (Galatians 5:7), some of the disciples in Galilee (John 6:66), proved to be like the “stony ground”; Balaam, Judas, and Ananias, like the “thorny ground.” The young ruler, Simon Magus, and Demas, combine some of the features of the two latter classes; Felix combines those of the first and second. Peter was in danger of being one of the second class; Lot and Martha of belonging to the third. Of the good soil, Nathanael and Lydia are striking instances.’


Verse 8-9

PREACHER AND PEOPLE

‘Other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.’

Matthew 13:8-9

Preacher and people should be reminded by this parable that there is such a thing as a good soil, and good results which follow on the right hearing of the word.

I. Good soil.—Our Lord describes for us here the characteristics of good soil. He tells us what sort of man he is who profits by the Sunday sermon; the right hearer has an honest and good heart. This means that the man who has it is—

(a) Receptive. It may be well that the soil of our heart has ceased to become honest and good because we have not kept it informed or receptive or interested in the highest things which form the object matter of our intelligence. It is a matter of supreme indifference to many men whether the Creed be maintained in its integrity or not.

(b) Retentive. But the man with an honest and good heart is also retentive. Having heard the word he keeps it. This is the trouble: how to keep what is heard in face of the birds, and the pressure of the rock, under the adverse growth of thorns which spoil the results. What am I to believe? you ask; who am I to follow? We know that there are certain standards by which we measure all things. Anything which is contrary to the Apostolic Creeds which we have received must be wrong, whoever says it. Anything which is contrary to the traditions and accepted utterances of the Church must be wrong.

(c) Patient. Our Lord spoke of patience as a requisite for fruit-bearing. There never was a time when the preacher needed more to urge patience in those who hear his sermons. It is a day of quick sowing and speedy results. Creeds multiply as fast as the magazines which exploit them, and still the old pulpit goes droning on. The preacher starts with the faith once for all delivered to the Saints, and he demands from you that you seek no other Gospel. It is the unchanging Gospel which needs patience. The system of God is a system which postulates patience.

II. A great responsibility.—‘Take heed how ye hear.’ The responsibility of the preacher is immense, but there is a responsibility which rests with the hearer to offer that honest and good heart, to retain and develop with patience the seed which is to bear fruit unto everlasting life.

—Canon Newbolt.

Illustration

‘There are four different kinds of hearers in the world,—those like a sponge, that suck up good and bad together, and let both run out immediately; those like a sand-glass, that let what enters in at one ear pass out at the other, hearing without thinking; those like a strainer, letting go the good, and retaining the bad; and those like a sieve, letting go the chaff, and retaining the good grain.’


Verse 16

BLESSED EYES AND BLESSED EARS

‘Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.’

Matthew 13:16

The senses of sight and hearing are avenues of knowledge and of pleasure. The capacity and disposition to receive heavenly illumination and intelligence, satisfaction and communion, are accordingly admirably set forth by a reference to these higher senses.

I. The vision and the voice. (a) What the first disciples saw and heard. When Christ was here, His disciples saw Him fresh from His baptism and temptation, performing miracles before wondering spectators, transfigured, tried and crucified, risen, and ascending! They heard his teaching on the Mount, His parables, His reproaches of Pharisees, His encouragements to sinners, His discourse in the upper chamber, His cry on Calvary, His final benediction. They ‘beheld His glory’; they knew that ‘never man spake like this man!’ And after the descent of the Spirit, they witnessed the advance of His kingdom, and heard the tribute of adoring love. (b) What we see and hear. We may have seen and heard more of Jesus than even His contemporaries, for we have the enjoined testimony of many. And we see Christ as rendered in the life of His people, and of the new humanity.

II. The spiritual sight and ear.—In order that the visible and audible may be apprehended, there are needed the faculty, the cultivation and exercise of the faculty, and the opportunity. In the ministry of Christ were those who were lacking in one or other of these. There were those like Simeon, the centurion, St. Peter, etc., who had them all. So now, there are needed the gift of the enlightening and quickening Spirit. Those who seek and obtain this both see and hear the things of Christ, and Christ Himself.

III. The blessedness of true beholders and hearers.—Happiness arises upon the exercise of God-given faculties upon God-given objects. In Jesus Christ and His salvation we have the highest objects of the heart’s vision and hearing.

Illustration

‘A little child was playing on a headland over the sea. There was a blind sailor sitting on the cliff close by. The child gave the old man a telescope, and bade him sweep the far horizon and tell him with the glass what ships he saw. The poor old man could only turn sadly towards the child. The telescope was useless because his sight was gone. Even so it is with the things of Christ. Wonderful pictures are to be seen, but our eyes must be opened by God’s Spirit, or we shall see nothing.’


Verse 28

THE ENEMY IN THE FIELD

‘An enemy hath done this.’

Matthew 13:28

The general view of this parable gives us a scene of confusion, an intermixture of good and bad. The picture shows us a field in which two kinds of seed have been sown, the one by a friendly and the other by a hostile hand. And this confusion, the parable teaches us, is one that cannot be remedied. The mischief is irreparable until the time come, and that time is God’s time, not man’s.

I. The field is the Church.—It is the Kingdom of Heaven which is itself the field, and if our Lord adds also that the field is the world it is only because His Divine confidence was looking forward to that day when His Church should be universal. It is then inside and not outside the Church that this confusion is to be looked for. It is within the society of the baptized that the tares and the wheat are to be found side by side. And often the tares look so like the wheat that it is only in the fruit, not in the early growth, that the difference can be found out at all. In very early days in the Church’s history Christians began to see in this parable a counsel of warning and one of encouragement.

II. A counsel of warning.—It forewarned them against that kind of disappointment which arises from a confusion of ideas—the confusion of failure with imperfection. The results of the Gospel are real even when they are not complete. It is not the less true that Christ is the Saviour because all men will not come to Him. It is no argument against grace that men who seek it not do not receive it. It is no defect of the Gospel that that should come to pass which its Founder foretold—that amongst the children of the kingdom there should be a plentiful growth of spurious plants, whether they take the form of unbelief or ungodliness or hypocrisy. On the contrary, this has to be expected as a fact which Christ foretold, and dealt with in the light of the Master’s teaching. All attempts to narrow down the family of Christians so that it shall contain none but the good have been failures.

III. A counsel of encouragement.—Not that this maxim is meant to forbid the proper exercise of discipline. It was not so that our Lord’s Apostles understood it. It is not so that our own Church interprets it. But it does mean to tell us that discipline has for its object the restoration, not the condemnation of the offender. Has not every man a right to be taken on his own profession—a right to pass through life unchallenged as to his claim to be a follower of Christ?

IV. The enemy in the field.—There is an enemy in God’s field. Nowhere does the good sower carry his basket but a watchful foe follows in the night. That staggering question often suggests itself—how can this be? The parable gives us the answer, still leaving it all in deep mystery. An enemy hath done this. But it is chiefly in one broad direction that the parable sets before us the danger of this hostile sowing. It is the danger to the good of the presence with them—at their very side—of the evil. The tares look like the wheat; it is often impossible to discriminate between them. But in these words our Lord teaches us decisively to disconnect all evil from the hand of God. Evil, He teaches us, is God’s absence, and we need never be away from God.

—The Rev. Lewis Gilbertson.

Illustration

‘Do what we will to purify a Church, we shall never succeed in obtaining a perfectly pure communion: tares will be found among the wheat; hypocrites and deceivers will creep in; and, worst of all, if we are extreme in our efforts to obtain purity, we do more harm than good: we run the risk of encouraging many a Judas Iscariot, and breaking many a bruised reed. In our zeal to “gather up the tares,” we are in danger of “rooting up the wheat with them”: such zeal is not according to knowledge, and has often done much harm. Those who care not what happens to the wheat, provided they can root up the tares, show little of the mind of Christ: and after all, there is deep truth in the charitable saying of Augustine, “Those who are tares to-day, may be wheat tomorrow.”’


Verse 30

GROWING TOGETHER

‘Let both grow together until the harvest.’

Matthew 13:30

Our Lord emphasises the final separation at the last between the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:41-43). Meanwhile, both grow. Sin grows, and grace grows.

I. Sin grows.—Of all figures in the picture-gallery of history, none is so appalling as the portrait of Judas Iscariot. He began by being a thief; he ended by being a traitor. He became what he was by degrees, like all other lost souls, into whom when besetting sins are unresisted, Satan enters.

II. Grace grows.—‘The righteous shall flourish like the palm trees; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon’ (Psalms 92:12). It has been well said that there are three steps in the Christian life—three steps in spiritual growth.

(a) The first step is when a man cares for his own soul—when he is ‘wakened up from wrath to flee.’ The grace of God has touched the innermost springs of his life. He cries, ‘O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul.’ He longs to be holy.

(b) The second step is to care for the souls of others.

(c) The third step is to care for the honour of Christ.

One thing is certain: if we are living Christians, we shall be growing Christians; we shall learn more of Christ, of His kingdom, power, and glory, and desire to give our lives more e ntirely to Him.

—The Rev. F. Harper.

Illustrations

(1) ‘How does a Christian gain likeness to Christ? By little and little. Have you seen a painter at work—say a portrait-painter? After the main outlines of the picture are placed on the canvas, have you noticed how gradually and how minutely he produces the likeness? A touch of the brush here, then a pause, then another touch and another. Then, at another place, a gentler touch, a little deepening here, a little lightening there, a little lengthening here, and a little shortening there; and so by countless and, to the unskilled observer it might seem, uncombined applications of the brush, the likeness at last is perfected. There is something analogous to this in the production of the likeness of Christ on His people’s hearts and characters by the Divine skill and patience of the Holy Ghost.’

(2) ‘A simple-hearted girl heard God’s call to the mission-field, and felt keenly the pain of leaving her lover in one of our great manufacturing centres. She came to her parish priest and said, “I cannot bear to give up anything for Jesus grudgingly.” So she spent a whole night in prayer that He would help her to make the gift with a smile, and came again to her parish priest, saying, “I don’t love Jack less, but I love the Lord Jesus so much more that it is easy to go.”’


Verse 31-32

THE TREE FROM THE SEED

‘The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed … so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.’

Matthew 13:31-32

The truth which our Lord teaches by this parable is that His Church should rise from a small beginning and grow and spread gradually like some vast tree from a very small seed.

I. The history of the Church.—And so it has ever been in the history of the Church. Our Lord Himself is the seed. In that little Babe who lay in Mary’s arms the whole Church was contained, as the great spreading oak is hidden at first in the little acorn. He chose His twelve apostles, and that little handful of missionaries went forth and boldly preached the Gospel. In one land after another, our own among the rest, a little band of earnest missionaries has raised the standard of the Cross and preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, and, slowly but surely, a branch of the Christian Church has grown and put forth leaves and borne fruit, until it has overshadowed the land. And this work is going on now.

II. Our responsibility.—In India, in Africa, in all parts of the world, the false systems of heathenism are crumbling into decay, and surely, if slowly, the Christian Faith is taking root and spreading. If we will not put forth a hand to help it forward or breathe a prayer for its success, Christ can do without our aid, His kingdom must come. But if we remain inactive, uninterested, lookers-on, our sin is great and great is our loss. As Christians, we are bound to help on the work.

(a) By giving ourselves to labour in some part of the Mission Field.

(b) By our alms and prayers.

III. The coming kingdom.—If we long for His speedy return, if our hearts’ prayer is, ‘Come quickly, Lord Jesus,’ let us, remembering that He said, ‘The Gospel must first be published among all nations,’ pray and work, each according to the ability which God giveth, that the good seed may be sown in all lands, and grown and spread, until ‘a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation,’ and the earth be ‘full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’

The Rev. J. E. Vernon.

Illustration

‘A very striking sight often meet the eye of a traveller in India, which beautifully illustrates this growth of the Kingdom of Christ and overthrow of the errors of heathenism. Out of the roof of an ancient temple is seen growing a great tree. It is curious to see it spreading and flourishing with nothing but the stones, as it seems, to subsist upon. How could it have come there? A breath of wind or a little bird has at some time deposited a living seed on the dome of the idol’s temple; the dust which has been collecting for centuries in the chinks and crevices of the roof has given it soil; the silent dews or the pouring rains, together with the warm rays of the sun, have caused it to sprout. By and by a shoot has appeared, but so small as hardly to be noticeable; months pass by; all the while the roots have been twining themselves in and out among the stones. At length the heathen priests find out the growing mischief. They climb up and try to root it out, but it is too late; they cut down the tree level with the stone; but it is of no use,—the roots are there still. In a few weeks the tree appears again. It is a hopeless case: the priests feel it to be so, they are obliged to let the evil go on, assured of what the upshot must be—the dead temple must yield to the living tree.’

(SECOND OUTLINE)

LIFE IN THE SEED

Here are two objects: a very minute seed and a very large plant. We may apply the parable to—

I. The religion of Christ.—Its beginning was very small. There were two disciples of St. John the Baptist, and one of the two brought another to Christ, and then Jesus finds Philip, and Philip finds Nathanael, and so the Kingdom grew.

II. Any Christian enterprise.—Sometimes a tiny seed grows to a forest. ‘There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon’ (Psalms 72:16).

III. The Divine life in the soul.—Be thankful for good desires: dead souls have no desires after Christ. Be thankful if only you desire to fear His Name (Nehemiah 1:11), and be assured that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it to the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

—The Rev. F. Harper.

Illustration

‘How faint and feeble life may be! There is a child just taken out of the water—drowned. She is thought by all bystanders to be dead; they all say, “She is dead!” And as the eyes do not see, as the ears do not hear, as the heart’s beat cannot be felt, as the form is so still and ghastly, you might well suppose that life had flown. But, see! there is the faintest possible quiver of the lip—so faint that none have seen it but that anguish-stricken, quick-eyed mother! Precious sign; it means life! So there may be in your soul just a little quiver, just a faint pulsation of love to Christ, just a dawning interest in things Divine. Do not think little of it. Count it, rather, inestimable treasure. It is a germ of infinite potentiality; it is the minute seed of Life Eternal.’


Verse 33

THE POWER OF LEAVEN

‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.’

Matthew 13:33

This parable relates to the marvellous increase of the Kingdom of God, declaring its hidden working.

I. Mighty in operation.—By the leaven we are to understand the word of the kingdom, which word, in its highest sense, Christ Himself was. The leaven is something apparently of slight account, but at the same time mighty in operation.

II. The Gospel a new power.—The leaven which is mingled with the lump is different from it, for the woman took it from elsewhere to mingle it therein; and even such is the Gospel. It was a new and quickening power, cast into the midst of an old and dying world; a centre of life, by the help of which the world might constitute itself anew. This leaven is not merely mingled with, but hidden in, the mass which it renewed. For the true renovation, that which God effects, is ever from the inward to the outward.

III. A prophecy.—The promise of the parable has hitherto been realised only in a very imperfect measure; yet we must consider these words, ‘till the whole was leavened,’ as a prophecy of the final complete triumph of the Gospel, that it will diffuse itself through all nations and purify and ennoble all life.

—Archbishop Trench.

(SECOND OUTLINE)

THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE GOSPEL

The Gospel like the leaven is—

I. An inward power.—The leaven had no power until the woman ‘hid’ it ‘in three measures of meal.’ So when God’s grace takes possession of a man, it begins to work in the heart; and little by little the thoughts, the feelings, the wishes, the habits, are changed.

II. Gradual in its operation.—The ‘whole lump’ will be leavened, but it takes time. So with the work of grace. Old faults are not cured in a day; the new nature is not perfected at once; the fruits of the Spirit, like many other fruits, are slow in appearing and slow in ripening.

III. An assimilative power.—The leavened dough transforms the meal by making it like itself. The yeast plant causes fermentation by the rapid multiplication of itself. Leavened dough produces leavened dough. This process, in which one thing changes another by making it like itself, is called assimilation. The food we eat becomes assimilated, that is, a part of the body which receives it. So the Holy Spirit slowly and gradually but surely transforms the soul into His own likeness.

—W. Taylor.


Verse 39

WHAT WILL THE HARVEST BE?

‘The harvest is the end of the world.’

Matthew 13:39

The harvest is used here to denote the Judgment—

I. The soul.—In this world God has set each of us, as the farmer sows the seed-corn in the field. A soul grows as a seed grows, and God watches every soul which He has planted in this field of the world, and sees it growing better and holier continually by prayers and sacraments, or else He sees it yielding again and again to temptations, and so growing worse and more wicked.

II. And its fruit.—Bear in mind that God expects of you, of every soul among you, fruit for the harvest of eternity. He has given to you many gifts. He would have you use them in His service and for your brother’s good.

(a) Talents He has given you, and He expects you to use them to his glory.

(b) Wealth He has given to some among you, and He reminds you, that whether it was inherited from your fathers or has been the gathering of your own industry, none the less it is His gift.

III. Ripeness for harvest.—Ask yourselves, Am I ripe for the harvest? Am I full of good deeds, full of holy thoughts—am I rising day by day above my besetting temptations, day by day making steady progress towards what is good? Friends have passed away; for them the harvest is come, how soon will it come for me?


Verse 44-45

TREASURE AND MERCHANT-MAN

‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field … is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls.’

Matthew 13:44-45

The two parables should be taken together. Two views of one subject:—

I. Look at each separately.

(a) The husbandman and the treasure. Tales of treasure found; unreal to us, real to the Orientalists then and now. Treasure buried at the flight of a man, he never coming back. Found perhaps years after. This the picture here. Describe finding, joy, prudence (buying the field), possession.

(b) The value of pearls and the variety of worth. The merchant-man—his occupation, good fortune, immediate wise action, possession.

II. Look at them together.

(a) Points of difference.

(i) The husbandman found without, and the merchant-man after, seeking. Those now living the Christian life described in both parables, but there divided into two classes, the distinction having reference to the way in which they were led to the possession of Gospel treasure. Those whose search has not been treasure but low aims, earthly desires; and those who seeking for the valuable and nobler have found Christ.

(ii) Emotion spoken of in the one instance, but not in the other. The joy of the husbandman. The joy of the merchant-man. The one spoken of, the other not mentioned. Both real, but the one in some respects different from the other. Let us not harshly judge one another.

(b) Features of resemblance.

(i) Each man made what he found his own individually. The husbandman bought the field himself, not his employers. The merchant-man himself bought the pearl, not his fellow merchant-man. In no sense the act of others for them, in each the act of the man for himself. There must be personal contact through personal faith, before we possess.

(ii) Each man willing to give up all in order to possess. In each instance this was done, directly, readily, without effort. Why? Because of the incalculable gain. The Christian life is one of giving up to possess. What Christ calls us to give up—sin, occasions of sin; self; the Christian aim, ‘None of self and all of Thee.’

Illustration

‘One of the diamond-fields of South Africa was discovered on this wise. A traveller one day entered the valley and drew near to a settler’s door, at which a boy was amusing’ himself by throwing stones. One of the stones fell at the stranger’s feet, who picked it up and was in the act of laughingly returning it, when something flashed from it which stopped his hand and made his heart beat fast. It was a diamond. The child was playing with it as a common stone; the peasant’s foot had spurned it; the cart-wheel had crushed it; till the man who knew saw it and recognised its value.’


Verse 52

THINGS NEW AND OLD

‘Things new and old.’

Matthew 13:52

The first thing which we notice in these verses (51, 52) is the striking question with which our Lord winds up the seven wonderful parables of this chapter. He said, ‘Have ye understood all these things?’ Personal application has been called the ‘soul’ of preaching. Our Lord tells us that the instructed scribe is he who has mastered these parables. The disciples, understanding and living upon the truth, were in the position of owners of treasure. By why of things new and old?

I. All truth is of necessity old as well as new. The truths Christ taught were only new truths, because men from sin and neglect had overlooked them.

II. As things new are in reality old, so things old—the things of the Spirit of God—never become obsolete, take new life, and are seen in new developments day by day.

III. Every man’s experience is a treasure-house of old and new things, by which it is allowed him to profit. The past is a precious possession of every one of us. Our help is in the truth which does not roll round in earth’s diurnal course, and is unaffected by earthly change.

—Canon Ainger.


Verse 58

THE SIN OF UNBELIEF

‘He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.’

Matthew 13:58

We see in these words the secret of the ruin of multitudes of souls!

I. Those who will not believe.—They perish because they will not believe. There is nothing beside in earth or heaven that prevents their salvation: their sins, however many, might all be forgiven; the Father’s love is ready to receive them; the blood of Christ is ready to cleanse them; the power of the Spirit is ready to renew them. But a great barrier interposes: they will not believe. ‘Ye will not come to Me,’ says Jesus, ‘that ye might have life’ (St. John 5:40).

II. The old root-sin—unbelief.—It is the old root-sin which caused the fall of man. Cut down in the true child of God by the power of the Spirit, it is ever ready to bud and sprout again. There are three great enemies against which God’s children should daily pray:

(a) Pride.

(b) Worldliness.

(c) Unbelief.

Of these three none is greater than unbelief.

Bishop J. C. Ryle.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 13:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/matthew-13.html. 1876.

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