The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on 13:1-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 18, 2016

1. The same day Jesus going out.] Jesus here describes the character of the Messianic kingdom in seven parables: first, that of the sower, vv. 1–23; second, that of the cockle, vv. 24–30; third, that of the grain of mustard seed, vv. 31, 32; fourth, that of the leaven, vv. 33; fifth, that of the hidden treasure, v. 44; sixth, that of the pearl, vv. 45, 46; seventh, that of the net, vv. 47–52. Vv. 34–43 contain an explanation of the second parable. The first two parables show the obstacles to the kingdom arising from within and from without; the second two show the efficacy of the kingdom as to its extent and its intensity; the third two parables illustrate the priceless value of the kingdom; the last parable points forward to the consummation of the kingdom [Thom.]. Since the evangelist has shown the unfitness of the great mass of the people for the Messianic kingdom, it cannot surprise us that our Lord now employs a manner of speaking the more unintelligible to the multitudes, because they expect a Messianic kingdom far different from that described by Jesus. We may reasonably suppose that the evangelist has here placed together various parables spoken by Jesus on different occasions.

1. Parable of the sower. The same parable is related by Lk. 8:4–8 and Mk. 4:1–9; the second evangelist gives it in the same connection as the first. [A] Wording of the parable, α. “The same day” may signify the day on which the mother and the brethren of our Lord had come to see him, though it may also mean “at that time” generally [cf. Aug. de cons. 2, 41, 88; some codd.]. β “Going out of the house” refers to the house of Peter in Capharnaum [cf. Mt. 8:14; 9:1]. γ. Jesus first “sat by the seaside,” and when “great multitudes were gathered together unto him,” “he went up into a boat and sat.” δ. The “multitudes stood on the shore,” though the Talmudic tradition that the disciples began to sit only after the time of Gamaliel I appears to be false [cf. Lk. 2:46; Acts 22:3; Aboth i. 4]. ε. “Parables” in a wider sense may embrace proverbial expressions and similitudes [cf. Jn. 10:6; 16:25, 29; Mt. 15:15; 24:32; Mk. 3:23; 4:30]; but in their specific meaning, they are fictions built up on the human life, and illustrating some practical or theoretic truth. Such parables occur even in the Old Testament [Judges 9:7 ff.; 2 Kings 12:2 ff.], and the Rabbinic teachers employed them frequently [Lightf. hor. hebr. ad h. l.; Ed. i. p. 580: Wünsche, p. 160], though they appear to have stated the truth before stating the parable, while our Lord follows the opposite course. ζ. The “many things” which our Lord spoke in parables renders it probable that he spoke more than one parable on this particular occasion [cf. Mk. 4:2, 33; Lk. 8:5]. η. The apparent carelessness of the sower may be explained by his sowing in one of the ways peculiar to the Jews [cf. Ed. i. p. 586]; for they had two manners of sowing, one by hand, the other by means of an ox carrying a perforated sack of grain over the land that was to be sown. θ. There are three kinds of unprofitable seed, as there will be three degrees of fruitfulness. Jans, draws attention to the accuracy of statement according to which the seed fallen on stony ground springs up immediately, owing to the greater warmth; “they had no root” does not deny the presence of any root at all, but must be understood of the weakness of the root [cf. Schanz]. ι. “The thorns” are represented as growing up, so that in their progress they outgrow the wheat, κ. That Galilee was noted for its fertility is clear from Joseph. B. J. III. iii. 2; “an hundred-fold” harvest is known also in Gen. 26:12. λ. The importance of the parable is inculcated by the final admonition, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” [cf. Mt. 11:15]. μ. According to Mk. 4:10 and Lk. 8:9, the apostles asked for an explanation of the parable, while the first gospel insists on their asking the reason why Jesus spoke to the people in parables; this difference is fully in accordance with the different scope of the gospels. For since the teaching in parables was common [3 Kings 4:32; Ecclus. 39:2], the second and third evangelists need not explain this fact to their readers; but the first evangelist had to state why our Lord addressed the multitudes in parables, while he spoke to his disciples in plain language, ν. In answer our Lord calls attention to the difference between the disposition of the multitudes and the disciples: the former have proved themselves unworthy of knowing the mysteries, i. e. the true nature and the divinely appointed properties of the kingdom of God; for they have failed to acknowledge the divine legate in spite of his countless signs and miracles [cf. Mt. 11:7–24; 12:1–45]. The apostles have accepted the person of the Messias, and therefore they will be assisted to understand his mission and kingdom [cf. Rom. 11:25; 16:25; Eph. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:12]. ξ. Our Lord illustrates this further by what occurs every day in business life: the wealthy become easily wealthier, and the poor easily lose their little property. In the present case, the Jewish multitudes are the poor, possessing only a natural desire after the Messianic goods [cf. Chrys.], or the blessings of Abraham with the advantages of the law and the prophets [cf. Hil. Orig. cat. Theoph. Pasch. op. imp. Calm.]; since they have failed to invest these goods properly, they will lose them in the present Messianic crisis, ο. But this poverty is owing to the fault of the Jews themselves; for though they see the truth theoretically, they do not see it practically, either through malice, as happens on the part of the leaders, or through neglect, as is the case on the part of the multitudes [cf. Chrys. op. imp. Theoph. Euth. Mald. Schegg, Weiss, Keil].

π. “The prophecy of Isaias” [Is. 6:9] was directed to the contemporaries of the prophet; but the gospels and Acts too [Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Jn. 12:39, 40; Acts 28:26, 27] point out that its fulfilment extends to the Jews of our Lord’s time. The Greek verb for “fulfilled” used in this passage means properly “wholly fulfilled,” and is still further emphasized by its position in the sentence. In the text of the prophecy we must notice its beautifully inverse order of the members: “heart … ears … eyes …; eyes … ears … heart.” The citation follows the Greek version rather than the Hebrew text, for the latter reads: “Hearing hear ye, and understand not; and seeing see ye, and know not. Make fat the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy, and close their eyes, lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and they be converted and healed.” The main difference between the Greek version and the Hebrew original consists in this, that the former emphasizes more the wickedness of the people, while the latter insists on the divine decree of rejection. The evangelist may have employed the Greek version because he wished to show the guilt of the Jews, or because our Lord himself had quoted the Septuagint, or again it may be supposed that St. Matthew cited the Hebrew original, but that his Greek translator substituted the Septuagint version, since the Hebrew wording of the passage was not necessary for the argument. Our Lord continued to instruct the multitudes though their conversion as a body had become hopeless, because he was anxious to win over those individual souls that had not yet fully shared the guilt of the mass.


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