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Week 12: Matthew 13; Luke 8 & 13

From United Church of God


Verse 3: Bruce R. McConkie gives excellent and intriguing commentary on the purpose and nature of parables:
"When opposition to his message became bitter and intense, the master Teacher chose to present many of the truths of salvation in parables in order to hide his doctrine from those not prepared to receive it. It was not his purpose to cast pearls before swine.
Parables seldom clarify a truth; rather, they obscure and hide the doctrine involved so that none but those already enlightened and informed, on the very point presented, are able to grasp the full meaning. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the parable of the wheat and the tares. When Jesus first gave this parable, even the disciples did not understand it. They asked for the interpretation, and he gave it, partially at least. And then with both the parable and the interpretation before the world, the Lord still had to give a special revelation in latter-days so that the full meaning of this marvelous parable might sink into the hearts of men. (D&C 86.)
The allegory of the tame and the wild olive tree, as given by Zenos, is in the same category. (Jacob 5.) Even in this day of spiritual enlightenment, there are parts of it which are hidden from the understanding of the saints. If the Lord had intended that people generally should know the full meaning of this allegory and of his various parables, he could have presented the truths involved in plain language, and there would have been no room for doubt or speculation.
But had Jesus taught all of his doctrine in plainness, such would have added to the condemnation of his hearers. (D&C 82:2-4)." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 221)
This can perhaps open our eyes a little more to the word 'plainness' in Nephi's writings. In other words, plainness doesn't necessarily mean simple. It means teaching that which is light intensive in a straightforward manner.

Verses 9-12: These verses reflect well a truth taught often in scripture. Those who have the mysteries revealed unto them are those who have grown a close relationship with the Savior. See verses such as D&C 42:61 and Alma 12:9-11 for a few examples of this same truth being taught.

Verses 13-16: Kevin L. Tolley, in an article published by the Interpreter Foundation, comments:
"The concept of speaking in layered meanings or parables was introduced to the disciples in conjunction with teaching the mysteries (Matthew 13:11). As an example, Jesus quotes in part the call narrative of Isaiah 6 (Matthew 13:13). The concept of “see and hear” has a layered meaning, as do the parables. In a private tone to his disciples, the Savior complimented them with a phrase that would sit well among the beatitudes: “But blessed art your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matthew 13:15‒16). This is not merely a compliment for understanding difficult doctrine, but an allusion to an ascension text found in Isaiah 6 where Isaiah is brought into the presence of God, becomes a witness of the divine council, actively participates in his council, and is commissioned to preach. Compare similar statements concerning eyes being opened to introduce visionary experiences of the Divine, D&C 76:12, 19; D&C 110:1; D&C 136:32; D&C 138:11, 29." (1)
Verse 17: Thomas Wayment points out something interesting that might help us make more sense out of this verse. "The word translated as righteous is often used in the New Testament sense of being justified according to the law of Moses" (NTTFLDS, p. 30). In other words, this verse might be Christ suggesting that influential people during the apostasy of the Jews did not receive these things. It might be Christ drawing a line between the theology of the First and Second Temple period. The Jews/Deuteronimists of the Second Temple Period rejected visions and revelation and would, therefore, not receive the mysteries.

Verses 18-23: Jesus proceeds to explain the meaning of the parable of the Sower. The meaning in Jesus's explanation is self-evident. McConkie gives lengthy but beautiful commentary:
"Our Lord's emphasis is not on the sower or the seed, but on the soil. The seed is the word of God, the gospel, the truths of salvation, and all these are ever the same. But whether the seed sprouts depends upon proper planting in prepared soil; whether it matures depends upon the continued care given the growing plant. Thus, in view of the message taught, this parable aptly may be considered as the Parable of the Four Kinds of Soil:
(1) If the seed falls on a wayside path, on ground trodden down and unprepared, it never sprouts. Similarly when the gospel is preached to men whose souls are hardened by rebellion against the Lord's servants; when it is presented to those who have hearkened to the whisperings of Satan rather than the promptings of the light of Christ; when its truths are offered to people who are prejudiced and bigoted, it falls on stony hearts and finds no place to take root. No conversion takes place and the he, hearers continue to walk in darkness.
Joseph Smith, in interpreting this part of the Parable of the Sower, said: "Men who have no principle of righteousness in themselves, and whose hearts are full of iniquity, and [who] 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." (Teachings, p. 96.)
(2) If the seed falls upon stony places where there is only a small layer of good soil, though the seed readily sprouts, it soon dies, for the roots attain no strengthening depth. Likewise, those who gain testimonies of the truth, but who do not give their whole souls to Christ; those who gain only a superficial knowledge of the doctrines of salvation; those without sufficient strength of character to keep their enthusiasm alive in the face of obstacles; those who are only lukewarm in the cause of righteousness; those whose testimonies are weakened because they discover other men have weaknesses -- all such are offended and fall away when persecutions arise and when they are called upon to make major sacrifices for the cause of Zion.
(3) 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.
(4) 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, digital copy, p. 226-227)
 Verses 24-30 & 36-43: The Lord gives greater detail in an explanation he gives in D&C 86:1-11. Joseph Smith gives lengthy commentary:
"We learn by this parable not only the setting up of the ingdom 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, which is not yet fulfilled. ...
"The harvest and the end of the world have an allusion directly to the human family in the last days. ... As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world; that is, as the servants of God go forth warning the nations, both priests and people, and as they harden their hearts and reject the light of truth -- these first being delivered over to the buffetings of Satan, and the law and the testimony being closed up, as it was in the case of the Jews -- they are left in darkness, and delivered over unto the day of burning. Thus, being bound up by their creeds, and their bands being made strong by their priests, [they] are prepared for the fulfillment of the saying of the Savior -- 'The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.'
"We understand that the work of gathering together of the wheat into barns, or garners, is to take place while the tares are being bound over, and [incident to] preparing for the day of burning, [and] that after the day of burnings, the righteous shall shine forth like the sun, in the kingdom of their Father." (Teachings, pp. 97-98, 101.)
It is also worth pointing out what is meant by barn or garner:
“Clearly, when we baptize, our eyes should gaze beyond the baptismal font to the holy temple. The great garner into which the sheaves should be gathered is the holy temple.” - Neal A. Maxwell (in John L. Hart, “Make Calling Focus of Your Mission,” Church News, Sept. 17, 1994, 4)
The meaning of verse 43 is that the same fire that will burn up the wicked is the same fire that will purify and sanctify the world. The garner/barn is where we go in order to be purified so we can endure everlasting burnings, which is the same as the presence of the Father.

Verses 31-32: The parable of the mustard seed is light intensive. It is another way of saying that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. The mustard seed is the faithful disciple, or the general Kingdom of God, who grows up to entertain angels. Dale Z. Kirby, in an article published by BYU's RSC, comments on some commentary from Joseph Smith:
"Joseph Smith taught that these birds represent the angels, gifts, and powers that God is sending down from heaven to lodge in the branches. These branches symbolize congregations of the Church. The Prophet later added that these angels would come down and combine together to gather their children and save their kindred." (2)
Verses 33-35: The leaven was placed into three measures of meal. That is approximately 16 pounds of flour. The symbolism here is self-evident in that the Kingdom is almost hidden and then grows to fill the earth. It takes work and kneading for that to happen.

Verse 44: McConkie comments:
"By seeming accident a man sometimes discovers the gospel treasure. Unaware of the saving grace of our Lord, devoid of true religious understanding, overburdened with the
cares of the world, hardened by sin, walking in an ungodly and carnal course -- he suddenly stumbles onto Christ and the pure Christianity found in his true Church. Immediately all else seems as dross. Temporal wealth becomes but glittering tinsel as compared to the eternal riches of Christ. Then worldly things are forsaken; then no sacrifice is too great for the new convert, as he seeks a valid title to the treasures of the kingdom... Though the formally organized Church and kingdom operates openly among men, and though the gifts of the Spirit and the fruits of the gospel are seen on every hand, all these things are hidden treasures to the spiritually illiterate. "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 2:11.)" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 237)
In other words, the treasure hidden in the field can also be hidden from those who are members of the Church.

Verses 45-46: This parable serves as a contrast to the parable of the field. In the field parable, the man was not looking for the treasure. In this parable of the pearl, the merchant sought long and hard for the pearl. The moral, when these two parables are taken together, is that the Kingdom of Heaven is and will be made up of those who stumbled upon the message or spent a lifetime of searching. The point trying to be made, therefore, is summed up in the next parable.

Verses 47-50: The gospel net gathers of every kind. Whether you stumbled upon the hidden treasure or whether you have been searching for it for some time, the point is will we be gathered into the Lord's holy temple regardless of our circumstance? McConkie comments:
"Rich and poor, bond and free, Jew and Gentile, learned and ignorant, sincere and hypocritical, stable and wavering -- men of all races, cultures, and backgrounds accept the gospel and seek its blessings. But all who are caught in the gospel net are not saved in the celestial kingdom; church membership alone gives no unconditional assurance of eternal life. (2 Ne. 31:16-21.) Rather, there will be a day of judgment, a day of sorting and dividing, a day when the wicked shall be cast out of the Church, "out into the world to be burned."" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 239)
Verse 52: Joseph Smith gives interesting commentary when he compares the bringing forth of things old and new to the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon to be a companion with the Bible (Teachings, p. 102). To go even further, those who comprehend the Kingdom of Heaven will be open to more light and knowledge while still having a healthy zeal towards those truths which are ancient.

Verses 53-58: The moral of this story is that the living oracles are the most important thing to us verses those prophets who have already passed on. For many, even in the Church, we like to hang on tooth and nail to those oracles who have passed on and tend to neglect the words of the living prophet. For the Jews in this instance, Christ was not able to do mighty works among them because of their unbelief. The same is true for our day, we will not enjoy the gifts of the spirit if we neglect those who hold the keys of the Kingdom in our day.


Verses 1-3: Luke mentions 3 women by name who followed Jesus and also adds that there were 'many others'. These women where financial/substance support for Jesus as he ministered without purse or script as the line "which ministered unto him of their substance" indicates. Mary Magdalene was a choice woman. She was the first person Jesus appears unto after his Resurrection. Joanna was the wife of a political appointee (we, therefore, get a sense of Jesus's influence). Nothing else is known about Susanna, but all three of these women are mentioned again in Luke's account of the Resurrection (see Luke 23:49, 55 & 24:10)

Verses 4-18 are skipped over here as they repeat what is found in Matthew 13.

Verses 19-21: This passage can be confusing. I prefer to interpret it as Christ trying to teach a lesson to those present. Christ is redefining his family here to teach that only those who hear the word and do it are considered adopted into His family. To become the sons and daughters of God are abundantly taught in scripture and has reference to us becoming adopted into Christ's family through ordinances, covenants, and obedience.

Verses 22-25: These verses take place in a different place in the timeline compared to where Matthew and Mark place this event. McConkie gives lengthy and interesting commentary:
"From this miraculous stilling of a tempest on the Sea of Galilee we learn several lessons:
(1) During his mortal probation, Jesus was subject to the same laws of health and physical conduct that apply to all mankind. Being physically exhausted, he slept; by labor he became weary; without food he hungered; without drink he thirsted. Sleeping calmly amid the raging billows of a tempest that threatened to sink the ship is certainly evidence of an unimpaired nervous system. It is clear that the mortal Jesus lived a normal, healthy, balanced life.
(2) The disciples knew Jesus had divine powers and could save them even from the raging tempest. Because of their fear they were themselves devoid of that confidence and assurance which would have enabled them to still the storm; yet, almost instinctively, they knew their Master could do what they hesitated to attempt, and so -- as all men should when their own weak powers are ineffective -- they turned for help to the fountain from which perfect help flows.
(3) Jesus, the Lord of nature and Creator of all things, had and freely exercised power over the creature of his creating. By his word, as he acted in the power of his Father, heaven, earth, and sea had their beginning. Now he spoke and winds and water obeyed.
(4) Deity intervenes in temporal things, even controlling and moderating the elements for the faithful. True, he makes the sun to shine and sends his rains upon the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45), for all men have come to earth to receive the experiences and undergo the vicissitudes of mortality. But he maintains special watch care over those who by obedience and righteousness become his especial friends. For them storms are stilled, barren soil becomes productive (Isa. 35), special needed rains fall and bounteous harvests mature (Lev. 26:3-5; Deut. 11:13-15; 28:11-12), vines do not cast off their ripened fruits untimely (Mal. 3:11), climatic conditions of whole regions are changed, mountains are moved, and rivers are turned out of their courses. (Moses 6:34; 7:13- 14.)
(5) As with almost all men in their divers walks, greater faith should have been evidenced by the disciples as their ship struggled in the surging waves of the Galilean sea. "O ye of little faith," and "Where is your faith?" were the Master's mild but pointed expressions of reproof.
(6) Implicit in Jesus' reproof of the weak faith of the disciples is the assurance that by faith they also could have commanded the elements and had them obey. By faith all things are possible, and when the Lord's servants rise in the full majesty of their callings, they have "power to command the waters." (D&C 61:27.)" (DNTC, digital copy, p. 243-244)
Verses 26-39: The term and name 'Legion' has interesting connotations. A Legion in the Roman army was about 4 to 6 thousand men. The heard of swine was numbered at about two thousand pigs. In short, this was an uncomprehensible demonic possession in one man. Is it any wonder he had to be held down by chains? And you could possibly also give a little sympathy to the people who were afraid and sent Jesus away for casting out a whole legion of spirits. This probably was a huge spectacle because of the sheer numbers involved.

In this context, this story reminds me of the following verses:
"For God having sworn unto Enoch and unto his seed with an oath by himself; that every one being ordained after this order and calling should have power, by faith, to break mountains, to divide the seas, to dry up waters, to turn them out of their course;
To put at defiance the armies of nations, to divide the earth, to break every band, to stand in the presence of God; to do all things according to his will, according to his command, subdue principalities and powers; and this by the will of the Son of God which was from before the foundation of the world." (JST Genesis 14:30-31)
Verses 40-56: Fantastic insights can be found here about the story of Jairus's Daughter and the Woman with the issue of the blood.


Verses 1-9: This parable is unique to Luke alone. It is noteworthy that this parable seems like a very tiny microcosm of the Allegory of the Olive Tree in Jacob 5. McConkie gives the following commentary:
"A certain husbandman (God) had a fig tree (the Jewish remnant of Israel) planted in his vineyard (the world); and he came (in the meridian of time) and sought fruit thereon (faith, righteousness, good works, gifts of the Spirit), and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard (the Son of God), Behold, these three years (the period of Jesus' ministry) I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down (destroy the Jewish nation as an organized kingdom); why cumbereth it the ground (why should it prevent conversion of the world by occupying the ground and pre-empting the time of my servants)? And he (the Son of God) answering said unto him (God, the husbandman), Lord, let it alone this year also till I shall dig about it, and dung it (preach the gospel, raise the warning voice, show forth signs and wonders, organize the Church, and offer every opportunity for the conversion of the Jewish nation). And if it bear fruit, the tree is saved (the Jewish nation shall be preserved as such and its members gain salvation), and if not, after that thou shalt cut it down (destroy the Jews as a nation, make them a hiss and a byword, and scatter them among all nations)." (DNTC, digital copy, p. 403-404)
Verses 10-30 are skipped here because they cover materials I have covered in Matthew 13 and in previous Come, Follow Me commentaries.

Verses 34-35: These verses are meant to be read in light of the temple. For a light intensive commentary on the subject, read my short article on it here.



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