The man of St Matthew


Chapter 13: Overview

The Parable Discourse

It's best to begin by reading through the whole chapter and then take note of the ending in 13,53. This verse is Matthew's usual way of ending a discourse as we have already seen (7,28; 11,1). Once again the evangelist has adapted the phrase to indicate the theme of the chapter.
We can then note how the theme of parables is announced at the beginning in 13,3 and how the theme runs through the whole of the discourse. Parables are mentioned again in the conclusion in verse 53 as well as several times during the discourse.

Next, we can note how 13,1 is a simple transition from what precedes, there is no major break. We can also note how a new scene opens in 13,54 for the final verses of the chapter (13,54-58). Check at this stage that there is a new beginning in chapter 14.
We can therefore see the broader setting given to this discourse by comparing 12,46-50 with 13,54-58. What are the implications of this comparison for our reading of these parables?

Think just what we mean in a general way by a parable: note the word which is common to verses 24,31,33,44,45 - but which is not found in 13,3. We can see too that Jesus makes some specific comments about parables in verses 10-17, about which more in due course. We can also see that there are two types of parables in this chapter.

We need a response to these initial comments.

Organisation of the Discourse

The Gospel of Mark also has a parable discourse, chapter 4. A simple comparison will be useful. Following the parable of the sower, 13-1-23 (Mk 4,1-20, also Lk 8,4-14), you will discover how different are the two discourses and how many of these parables in chapter 13 are unique to Matthew.

Following the comparison with Mark, pick up the styles of the various parables. We will find three which are like stories and these three have also been given explanations. The other four are similies and they come in two pairs. We can see as a result how the discourse unfolds in three parts.
What then is the significance of 13,36? Consider how it fits into the pattern.
Take note of the similar endings to the second and third parts, 13,42 and 13,50. This is a favourite expression of Matthew, see also 8,12; 22,13; 24,51; 25,30.

We now need to have another response.

It is clear that the evangelist has organised this discourse carefully. Out of his arrangement there will be a message. We can keep this in mind and make some comments about it at the end of our reading.

Our Reading

The whole parable discourse is read as the Gospel over three Sundays. These Sunday readings follow the three main sections of the discourse that we have discovered. That gives us our framework for our reading:

We will read verse 53 with the the third page (13,44-53) because this verse concludes the discourse.

That leaves 13,54-58, the scene at the end of the chapter which follows the discourse. This we will read as the final page of this chapter.

We are ready therefore to begin our reading with the parable of the sower, 13,1-23.