Chapter 10: “He Spake Many Things unto Them in Parables”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 70–76


Map Chp. 10

The Galilean Ministry

A.D.  31 to A.D. 32

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Sea of Galilee

Speaks of Sacrifice

8:18–22

 

9:57–62

 

Stills Storm, ca. autumn, A.D. 31

8:23–27

4:35–41

8:22–25

 

Gergesa, Tetrarchy of Philip

Legion of Devils and Return to Other Side

8:28–34; 9:1

5:1–21

8:26–40

 

Capernaum, Galilee

Daughter of Jairus and the Woman with Issue of Blood

9:18–26

5:22–43

8:41–48

 

Healing the Blind and Casting Out Devils

9:27–34

   

Parables at the Sea of Galilee

13:1–53

4:1–34

8:4–18

 

Second Rejection at Nazareth

13:54–58

6:1–6

  

Interpretive Commentary

(10-1) Matthew 8:28–34. Why Does the Man Speak with Such Confusion: “My Name Is Legion, for We Are Many”?

“The fact of the man’s dual consciousness or multi-personality is here apparent. So complete was his possession by wicked spirits that he could no longer distinguish between his individual personality and theirs.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 311.)

(10-2) The Significance of the Healings Performed by Jesus

“As performed by Jesus, healings followed this pattern: (1) They came because of the faith of the people among whom he ministered; (2) To the Jewish mind they were and should have been convincing evidence of the divine mission of the Lord of heaven who walked among them; (3) As acts of mercy and compassion, they were of inestimable benefit and blessing to the suffering and diseased of the day; and (4) Their occurrences came in accordance with the Messianic utterances of inspired men of former ages. To King Benjamin, for instance, a holy angel in telling of Jesus’ mortal ministry had said, he ‘shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.’ (Mosiah 3:5.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:158–59.)

(10-3) What Is a Key to Understanding the Parables?

“I have a key by which I understand the scriptures. I enquire, what was the question which drew out the answer, or caused Jesus to utter the parable?” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 276–77.)

(10-4) What Single Prophetic Message Is Developed by the Parables in Matthew 13?

“I shall now proceed to make some remarks from the sayings of the Savior, recorded in the 13th chapter of His Gospel according to St. Matthew, which, in my mind, afforded us as clear an understanding upon the important subject of the gathering, as anything recorded in the Bible.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 94. Italics added.)

(Note: The gathering process, whereby the scattered descendants of Israel are gradually contacted in the nations of the earth and permitted to receive all the benefits of the gospel, is presently in progress. The keys to pursue and complete this great project were restored by Moses when he appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple [D&C 110:11]. The gathering will not be complete until all the tribes of Israel are finally situated in their own lands of inheritance [Jeremiah 16:14, 15]. The parables of Matthew 13 plot out the major steps and elements of this gathering process, starting with the planting of the gospel seed in the meridian of time [parable of the Sower], and culminating in the final severing of the wicked from the righteous [parable of the Net].)

(10-5) Matthew 13:3–8. What Was a Major Purpose of the Parable of the Sower?

“This parable was spoken to demonstrate the effects that are produced by the preaching of the word; and we believe that it has an allusion directly, to the commencement, or the setting up of the Kingdom in that age. …” (Smith, Teachings, p. 97. Italics added.)

(10-6) Matthew 13:9–17. Why Do Some Receive the Words of the Savior and Others Do Not?

“… the condemnation which rested upon the multitude that received not His saying, was because they were not willing to see with their eyes, and hear with their ears; not because they could not, and were not privileged to see and hear, but because their hearts were full of iniquity and abominations; ‘as your fathers did, so do ye.’ …

“We draw the conclusion, then, that the very reason why the multitude, or the world, as they were designated by the Savior, did not receive an explanation upon His parables, was because of unbelief. To you, He says (speaking to His disciples) it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And why? Because of the faith and confidence they had in Him.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 96–97. Italics added.)

(10-7) Matthew 13:25. What Are Tares?

“The writer of the article ‘Tares’ in Smith’s Dictionary says: ‘Critics and expositors are agreed that the Greek plural zizania, A. V. “tares,” of the parable (Matt. 13:25) denotes the weed called “bearded darnel” (Lolium temulentum), a widely-distributed grass, and the only species of the order that has deleterious properties. The bearded darnel before it comes into ear is very similar in appearance to wheat, and the roots of the two are often intertwined; hence the command that the “tares” should be left till the harvest, lest while men plucked up the tares “they should root up also the wheat with them.” This darnel is easily distinguishable from the wheat and barley when headed out, but when both are less developed, “the closest scrutiny will often fail to detect it. Even the farmers, who in this country generally weed their fields, do not attempt to separate the one from the other. … The taste is bitter, and, when eaten separately, or even when diffused in ordinary bread, it causes dizziness, and often acts as a violent emetic.”’ The secondary quotation is from Thompson’s The Land and the Book, ii. 111, 112. It has been asserted that the darnel is a degenerated kind of wheat; and attempts have been made to give additional significance to our Lord’s instructive parable by injecting this thought; there is no scientific warrant for the strained conception, however, and earnest students will not be misled thereby.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, p. 301.)

(10-8) Matthew 13:30. Which Is Gathered First, the Wheat or the Tares?

Matthew 13:30 indicates that tares are collected first, but note the Inspired Version:

“Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the wheat into my barn; and the tares are bound in bundles to be burned.” (Matthew 13:29, Inspired Version; see also D&C 86:7.)

(10-9) Matthew 13:29, 30, 38. Do the Tares Represent Wickedness outside the Church or among Church Members Themselves?

“Now we learn by this parable, not only the setting up of the Kingdom in the days of the Savior, which is represented by the good seed, which produced fruit, but also the corruptions of the Church, which are represented by the tares, which were sown by the enemy, which His disciples would fain have plucked up, or cleansed the Church of, if their views had been favored by the Savior. But He, knowing all things, says, Not so. As much as to say, your views are not correct, the Church is in its infancy, and if you take this rash step, you will destroy the wheat, or the Church, with the tares; therefore it is better to let them grow together until the harvest, or the end of the world, which means the destruction of the wicked. …” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 97–98. Italics added.)

You may also want to carefully study D&C 86:1–7, where the Lord makes use of this parable again in our day and gives further keys of understanding.

(10-10) Matthew 13:31. The Mustard Tree

“It should be known that the mustard plant attains in Palestine a larger growth than in more northerly climes. The lesson of the parable is easy to read. The seed is a living entity. When rightly planted it absorbs and assimilates the nutritive matters of soil and atmosphere, grows, and in time is capable of affording lodgment and food to the birds. So the seed of truth is vital, living, and capable of such development as to furnish spiritual food and shelter to all who come seeking. In both conceptions, the plant at maturity produces seed in abundance, and so from a single grain a whole field may be covered.” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 291.)

(10-11) Matthew 13:31, 32. To What Stage of the Gathering Does the Parable of the Mustard Seed Refer?

“And again, another parable put He forth unto them, having an allusion to the Kingdom that should be set up, just previous to or at the time of the harvest, which reads as follows—‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. …’ Now we can discover plainly that this figure is given to represent the Church as it shall come forth in the last days.

“Let us take the Book of Mormon, which a man took and hid in his field, securing it by his faith, to spring up in the last days, or in due time; let us behold it coming forth out of the ground, which is indeed accounted the least of all seeds, but behold it branching forth, yea, even towering, with lofty branches, and God-like majesty, until it, like the mustard seed, becomes the greatest of all herbs. And it is truth, and it has sprouted and come forth out of the earth, and righteousness begins to look down from heaven, and God is sending down His powers, gifts and angels, to lodge in the branches thereof.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 98.)

(10-12) Matthew 13:31, 32. What Is Represented by the “Birds of the Air” Which Come Down to Lodge in the Branches of the Mustard Tree?

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. The mustard seed is small, but brings forth a large tree, and the fowls lodge in the branches. The fowls are the angels. Thus angels come down, combine together to gather their children, and gather them. We cannot be made perfect without them, nor they without us; when these things are done, the Son of Man will descend, the Ancient of Days sit; we may come to an innumerable company of angels, have communion with and receive instruction from them.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 159.)

(10-13) Matthew 13:33. The Parable of the Three Measures of Meal

“It may be understood that the Church of the Latter-day Saints has taken its rise from a little leaven that was put into three witnesses. Behold, how much this is like the parable! It is fast leavening the lump, and will soon leaven the whole.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 100.)

(10-14) Matthew 13:52. The Pattern of a Householder Bringing Forth Things Old and New

“For the works of this example, see the Book of Mormon coming forth out of the treasure of the heart. Also the covenants given to the Latter-day Saints, also the translation of the Bible—thus bringing forth out of the heart things new and old, thus answering to three measures of meal undergoing the purifying touch by a revelation of Jesus Christ, and the ministering of angels, who have already commenced this work in the last days, which will answer to the leaven which leavened the whole lump.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 102.)

(10-15) Matthew 13:54–58. What Was the Significance of the Second Rejection at Nazareth?

“These Nazarenes were witnesses against themselves, they had absolute knowledge that their fellow townsman excelled in wisdom and performed miraculous works beyond man’s power; yet they rejected him.

“According to the eternal laws which Jesus himself ordained in eternity, miracles are the fruit of faith. Where there is faith, there will be signs, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit. Where there is no faith, these things cannot occur.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:322.)

Points to Ponder

The Purpose of Parables

(10-16) Those Who Have Ears to Hear Will Hear

“Our Lord used parables on frequent occasions during his ministry to teach gospel truths. His purpose, however, in telling these short stories was not to present the truths of his gospel in plainness so that all his hearers would understand. Rather it was so to phrase and hide the doctrine involved that only the spiritually literate would understand it, while those whose understandings were darkened would remain in darkness. … The difference in receptiveness to the truth of the Jews, among whom our Lord ministered in mortality, and the Nephites, to whom he went after his resurrection, is nowhere better shown than in the fact that he gave at least 40 parables to the Jews, but he taught the Nephites, not in parables, but in plainness.” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 553–54.)

Now reread Matthew 13:10–13. What did Jesus say was the real intent of the parables?

The Parable of the Sower Symbolizes Those Who Are Prepared for the Word versus Those Who Are Not

Let us now examine one parable in order to discover the interpretation thereof.

Jesus indicated that there are two general results when the gospel is preached. What are they? Read Matthew 7:24–27. Note how the parable of the Sower represents these two possibilities:

Obedience

To better understand the teachings of this parable, review the meanings of some of its major symbols listed below:

The Seed

=

The Word of God

(Luke 8:11. See also Alma 32:28.)

The Sower

=

One Who Preaches the Word of God

(Mark 4:14 and Alma 32:27, 28)

The Field

=

The “World”

(Matthew 13:38)

The Soils

=

The Varying Hearts of the Hearers of the Word

(Matthew 13:19 and Alma 32:28)

The Fruits

=

The Results (Works) Which Come Forth in the Lives of the Hearers of the Word

(Luke 8:15 and Matthew 7:16–19)

Keeping these things in mind, use the following activity to study the varying responses to gospel truth demonstrated in the parable of the Sower:

Wayside Soil

Stony Places

Among Thorns

Good Ground

The columns of boxes to the left refer to the four kinds of soil. Indicate with a check mark the condition listed on the right that applies to each soil. (Answers are found at the end of the lesson.)

The sower.

(10-17) The Wayside Soil (Matthew 13:4, 19; Mark 4:4, 25; Luke 8:5, 12)

What is it that hardens the heart? This explanation was given by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“Men who have no principle of righteousness in themselves, and whose hearts are full of iniquity, and have no desire for the principles of truth, do not understand the word of truth when they hear it. The devil taketh away the word of truth out of their hearts, because there is no desire for righteousness in them. …” (Smith, Teachings, p. 96.)

(10-18) The Stony Places (Matthew 13:5, 6, 20, 21; Mark 4:5, 16, 17; Luke 8:6, 13)

(Note: Just as the rootless sprout is unable to remain alive under the heat of the noonday sun, so there are those who, without real testimony and faith, lose conviction and even interest under the pressures of difficulties or ridicule. Though not commenting directly on the Savior’s parable, President Heber C. Kimball prophesied over a century ago of a condition that illustrates the need for a deeply rooted, living faith capable of enduring challenges. The prophecy has an increasingly important message for the Church in our day as it faces the unfolding future.)

“‘Let me say to you, that many of you will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work. This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand.

“‘Remember these sayings, for many of you will live to see them fulfilled. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?’” (Quoted by Harold B. Lee in CR, Oct. 1965, p. 128; see also Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, pp. 446, 449–50.)

(10-19) Among Thorns (Matthew 13:7, 22; Mark 4:7, 18, 19; Luke 8:7, 14)

Elder Bruce R. McConkie has said:

“If the seed falls among thorns, it is in good soil, as is evidenced by the growth of the undesirable plants. But the good plant is soon choked and dies because it cannot overcome the influence of the weeds and thistles. So it is with the members of the Church who know the gospel is true, but who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, who are not affirmatively and courageously striving to further the interests of the Church. So it is of the Saints who think more of the honors of men, the educational standards of the world, political preferment, or money and property, than they do of the gospel. They know the Lord’s work has been established on earth, but they let the cares of the world choke the word. And instead of gaining eternal life, they shall be burned with the tares which overcame them.” (DNTC, 1:289.)

(10-20) Good Ground (Matthew 13:8, 23; Mark 4:8, 20; Luke 8:8, 15)

Again from Elder McConkie:

“If the seed falls on productive, fertile soil, and if it is thereafter nurtured and cared for, it bringeth forth a harvest. But even here crops of equal value are not harvested by all the saints. There are many degrees of receptive belief; there are many gradations of effective cultivation. All men, the saints included, shall be judged according to their works; those who keep the whole gospel law shall bring forth an hundred fold and inherit the fulness of the Father’s kingdom. Others shall gain lesser rewards in the mansions which are prepared.” (DNTC, 1:289.)

Now What of Your Own Heart?

It is hoped that as you contemplate these teachings of the Master, you will consider your own soil—your own heart. Could it use some softening, some deepening, some cultivation—even, perhaps, some weeding?

When gospel truth is gently sown
in my unlearned heart,
I hope it finds no hardened crust
on wayside paths apart.
Nor even drops on softer spot
with hardness just below,
Where faithless, poorly rooted sprouts
are doomed to never grow.
I pray it shall not fall in dirt
where thorns have made their bed.
Where choking plants, ’mid worldly cares,
grow fruitless, nearly dead.
But let that seed find fertile soil
in deep and clean abode,
And drawing life, yield true and full
to Him who gently sowed.

—Anonymous

Answers