Lesson 15: Matthew 13:1–23

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

While the Savior was in Galilee, a great multitude came to Him. The Savior taught the people using parables, beginning with the parable of the sower.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 13:1–17

The Savior begins to teach in parables

Show students a small container filled with soil.

  • What are some characteristics of fertile soil? Of soil that is not fertile?

Explain that in Matthew 13:1–23, we read that the Savior compared different kinds of soil to the degrees of openness or spiritual receptivity of people’s hearts. Invite students as they study these verses to consider which kind of soil is most like the current condition of their heart.

Invite a student to read Matthew 13:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for how Jesus taught the multitude in Galilee.

  • How did Jesus teach the multitude? (In parables.)

Invite students to silently read the first two paragraphs under the entry “Parables” in the Bible Dictionary.

  • What is a parable?

Explain that a parable is “a simple story used to illustrate and teach a spiritual truth or principle. A parable is based on comparing an ordinary object or event to a truth” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Parable,” scriptures.lds.org).

  • According to Matthew 13:3, what was the Savior’s parable about? (Explain that to sow means to spread or plant seed.)

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 13:4–9. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the four types of soil the sower’s seeds fell on.

  • What kinds of soil did the sower’s seeds fall on?

illustrations of plants in rocks, soil

Draw on the board illustrations that depict the four types of soil, and invite the students to make similar drawings in their class notebooks or on paper you provide for them.

Explain that a wayside is a path near fields that becomes hardened as people walk on it. The hardness of the wayside prevents seeds from taking root in the soil. Stony places are rocky surfaces covered by a thin layer of soil. Though seeds can develop shallow roots, the rock that lies just below the surface prevents the roots from going deeper. The ground with thorns is fertile soil, but the thorns crowd out the plants by depriving them of light, water, and needed nutrients. The good ground is fertile soil with sufficient depth for healthy roots.

Summarize Matthew 13:10–13 by explaining that the Savior’s disciples asked Him why He taught in parables. The Savior explained that parables revealed the mysteries or truths of the kingdom of heaven to those who were ready to receive them, while hiding the meaning from those who were spiritually unprepared (see New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 45).

Invite a student to read Matthew 13:14–15 aloud, and ask the class to look for what prevented the people from understanding the truths the Savior taught.

  • What did the Savior say prevented the people from seeing, hearing, and understanding the truths He taught? (Explain that the phrase “this people’s heart is waxed gross” means the people’s hearts had become hard and insensitive.)

On the board next to the drawing of the wayside soil, write the following incomplete statement: If we harden our hearts, then …

  • According to verse 15, what blessings can we lose if we harden our hearts? (After students respond, complete the statement on the board so it conveys the following principle: If we harden our hearts, then we will not understand the word of God, be converted to the Savior, and be healed by Him.)

  • What does it mean to be converted to the Savior and healed? (To be changed and purified through His Atonement so that our beliefs, heart, and life are in harmony with Heavenly Father’s will and we are freed from the burden of sin.)

Summarize Matthew 13:16–17 by explaining that Jesus told His disciples that they were blessed because they had eyes to see and ears to hear.

Matthew 13:18–23

The Savior provides the interpretation of the parable of the sower

Refer again to the drawing on the board of the wayside soil. Invite a student to read Matthew 13:18–19 aloud. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the Savior compared to the seed, the wayside, and the birds mentioned in Matthew 13:4.

  • What does the seed represent? (Label the drawing of the seed The word of God.)

  • What kind of heart does the wayside represent? (Label the drawing of the wayside Understands not the truth [a hardened heart].)

  • What do the birds represent? Who is “the wicked one”? (Label the drawing of the birds Satan and his servants.)

  • How might the Savior’s teachings about the wayside help us further understand the principle that if we harden our hearts, then we will not understand the word of God, be converted to the Savior, and be healed by Him?

Refer to the drawing on the board of the stony ground.

Invite a few students to take turns reading aloud from Matthew 13:20–21 and Luke 8:13. Invite the class to follow along, looking for the Savior’s interpretation of the stony places.

  • What do the plants that grew in the stony places represent? (Label the drawing of the plants in the stony places Testimony that is not deeply rooted.)

  • What does the heat of the sun represent? (Above the drawing of the plants with shallow roots, write Tribulations, persecutions, and temptations.)

Write the following incomplete statement on the board next to the drawing of the stony ground: Unless we strive to deepen our testimonies …

  • Based on what you learned from Matthew 13:20–21 and Luke 8:13, how would you complete this statement? (After students have responded, complete the statement on the board so that it conveys the following principle: Unless we strive to deepen our testimonies, we may lack the strength necessary to endure tribulations, persecutions, and temptations.)

Refer to the drawing on the board of the thorny ground. Invite students to read Matthew 13:22 silently and look for what the thorns represent.

  • What do the thorns represent? (Label the drawing of the thorns Cares of the world.)

  • What are some examples of the “cares of the world”? (Worldliness, greed, or temporal distractions that take us away from God.)

  • What principle can we learn from this verse about what the cares of the world can do to our faith and testimony? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board next to the drawing of the thorny ground: The cares of the world can distract us, remove our focus from the Lord, and choke our faith and testimony of the word of God.)

Refer to the drawing on the board of the good soil. Invite a student to read aloud Matthew 13:23 and the portion of Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 13:21, found in Matthew 13:23, footnote b. Invite the class to follow along, looking for what the good soil represents.

To help students understand the significance of the word endureth in Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 13:21, point out that the plants in the good ground were exposed to the same heat of the sun (representing tribulations, persecutions, and temptations) as the withered plants in the stony ground.

  • How would you summarize what the good soil represents? (Label the drawing of the good soil One who hears and understands the word of God and endures tribulations, persecutions, and temptations.)

  • Based on what we learned in Matthew 13:15, what could the fruit mentioned in verse 23 represent? (Conversion to Jesus Christ.)

  • What principle can we learn from the Savior’s teachings about the good soil? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board next to the drawing of the good soil: As we receive the word of God, understand it, and endure tribulations, persecutions, and temptations, we will become converted to the Savior.)

To help students further understand the principles they have identified, invite four students to each read one of the following scenarios aloud. After each is read, invite the class to explain which principle the scenario illustrates:

  1. 1.

    A young man spends most of his time studying so he can be accepted to a prestigious university. When he is not studying, he is busy working. He tells himself that he doesn’t have time to read the scriptures, pray, or attend church.

  2. 2.

    A young woman used to love attending church each Sunday. However, as she grew older some of her friends began to mock her because of her standards. She has begun to break some of the commandments. She no longer feels comfortable at church and has lost the desire to attend.

  3. 3.

    A young man regularly attends church, but he rarely participates and does not open his heart to the influence of the Holy Ghost. He has been reading information online that challenges important Church doctrines, and he questions whether he still believes in the truthfulness of the gospel.

  4. 4.

    A young woman attends church and quietly prays that she can be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. When she receives promptings, she acts on them. She feels close to the Lord and is grateful for the ways she has been inspired to overcome temptation.

Explain to students that hearts, like soil, can change and be improved. Write the following questions on the board or provide them to students as a handout. Invite students to read and discuss the questions with a partner:

What could be done to change or maintain each type of soil so it would be a favorable place to grow healthy, fruitful plants?

How could we liken the improvement of each soil to what we can do to be more receptive to the word of God?

After sufficient time, invite a few students to report their responses to the class.

  • How has seeking to receive and understand the word of God helped you become more deeply converted to the Savior?

Invite students to ponder which soil best represents the condition of their heart right now. Invite students to set a goal regarding what they will do to better receive and understand the word of God and to endure tribulations, persecutions, and temptations. If time permits, invite students to write their goals in their class notebooks or scripture study journals.

Commentary and Background Information

Matthew 13:3–8, 18–23. The parable of the sower

President James E. Faust of the First Presidency taught what we can do to prepare our hearts to be more receptive to God’s word:

“For the seeds of faith to sprout in our lives, we must avoid Satan’s grasp.

“We also need to prepare our own seedbed of faith. To do this we need to plow the soil through daily humble prayer, asking for strength and forgiveness. We need to harrow [break up] the soil by overcoming our feelings of pride. We need to prepare the seedbed by keeping the commandments to the best of our ability” (“Of Seeds and Soils,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 48).

Matthew 13:6, 21. “They were scorched … because they had no root”

Sunlight is required for a plant to grow, but if a plant’s root system is not deep, that sunlight will scorch and destroy the plant. Similarly, trials, persecution, and opposition can actually help us grow if we allow the word of God to develop deep roots in our hearts; if not, such experiences can cause fragile testimonies to wither away.

Matthew 13:21, 23. Firmly rooted in the gospel

President Thomas S. Monson taught about the blessings of having a testimony firmly rooted in the gospel:

“Unless the roots of your testimony are firmly planted, it will be difficult for you to withstand the ridicule of those who challenge your faith. When firmly planted, your testimony of the gospel, of the Savior, and of our Heavenly Father will influence all that you do throughout your life” (“May You Have Courage,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 126).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Matthew 13:10–13. Why did Jesus speak in parables?

Rather than summarize Matthew 13:10–13, invite a student to read aloud Matthew 13:10–13 and Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 13:10–11 (in Matthew 13:12, footnote a). Ask the class to follow along and identify why the Savior taught in parables. Explain that the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” mentioned in verse 11 are spiritual truths that can be known only through revelation.

  • Why did the Savior teach in parables?

To help students further understand why Jesus taught in parables, invite a student to read the following statement aloud:

“The parable conveys to the hearer religious truth exactly in proportion to his faith and intelligence; to the dull and uninspired it is a mere story, ‘seeing they see not,’ while to the instructed and spiritual it reveals the mysteries or secrets of the kingdom of heaven. Thus it is that the parable exhibits the condition of all true knowledge. Only he who seeks finds” (Bible Dictionary, “Parables”).

  • According to Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 13:10–11, what principle did the Lord teach concerning those who are willing to receive spiritual truths? (As students respond, help them identify a principle similar to the following: If we receive the spiritual truths the Lord gives us, then He will bless us with more.)

  • What principle did the Lord teach about the consequences of being unwilling to receive the spiritual truths the Lord gives us? (As students respond, help them identify a principle similar to the following: If we are not willing to receive the spiritual truths the Lord gives us, then we will lose the spiritual understanding we once had.)

  • What do you think it means to “receive” spiritual truth? (Answers should include hearing, understanding, and acting on truth the Lord gives us through the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and our Church leaders.)