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). Note how the evangelist has adapted the phrase to indicate the theme of the chapter.
Then note how parables are announced at the beginning in 13,3 and how the theme runs through the whole of the discourse. Parables are mentioned several times during the discourse up to the conclusion at 13,53..

Next, Look at 13,1 where there is both continuity and a new beginning.
We can also note how a new scene opens in 13,54 for the final verses of the chapter (13,54-58). Check as well that there is a new beginning in chapter 14.
We can see the broader setting given to this discourse by comparing 12,46-50 with 13,54-58 as we did when we read 12,46-50. What are the implications of this frame for our reading of the 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. See too that Jesus makes some specific comments about parables in verses 10-17, about which more in due course. See that there are two types of parables in this chapter.

We now need a response to these initial comments.

Overview of the Discourse

The Gospel of Mark also has a parable discourse, chapter 4. We saw with chapter 12 how Matthew is following Mark at this point so a simple comparison of the two discourses will be useful. This will show how different are the two discourses and how many of the parables in chapter 13 are unique to Matthew. Look also at Luke, Lk 8,4-15.

Following the comparison with Mark, pick up the styles of the various parables. Note those which are stories and have explanations. The others are similies and are arranged in two pairs. As a result, consider how the discourse unfolds in three parts.
Note where a favourite expression of the evangelist appears twice. See for example, 8,12 or 25,30.

Consider the significance of 13,36. How does it fit into the pattern?

We now need another response from me.

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 that at the end of our reading.

Our Reading

The whole parable discourse is read as the Gospel over three Sundays. The readings follow the three main sections of the discourse that we have discovered and so fit the pages of our reading:

We can 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.