Matthew's central discourse section (13:1-52) contains seven or eight parables depicting the present character of the kingdom until the end; his final discourse section contains a roughly equal number of end-time kingdom parables (24:32-25:46). As in Mark, Jesus' parables of the kingdom's present state explain why his kingdom comes first in a hidden way and why Israel's leaders reject him (compare F. Bruce 1972a:69; Ladd 1963). These parables dramatically reinforce that Jesus' first coming was coercive neither militarily nor intellectually (11:25-27); he came as the meek burden bearer (11:28-30), and only the meek could recognize and follow him (11:25, 28).
That the parables address his people's acceptance or rejection of the kingdom message follows from the context: Jesus speaks parables that same day that he has confronted Pharisaic opposition (12:24-45) and offered a culturally offensive statement about his family (12:46-50). The parables section closes immediately with an account of Jesus' rejection by his hometown (13:53-58), so that rejection by his own frames his kingdom parables (compare 10:21, 34-37). This likewise implies that true disciples-those who follow the kingdom message-must be prepared to pay the ultimate price for doing so (13:20-22, 44-46).
Because modern readers often misunderstand parables, it is important to provide some brief comments about their character. Most of Jesus' parables were stories designed to illustrate a particular point or points, something like sermon illustrations today (except sometimes without the accompanying sermon that would clarify the illustration!). We should not read too much into parables; often some details of the parables merely are necessary to make a good story. Nevertheless, parables provide one creative way to explain Jesus' central point or points.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your free trial.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
Step 1 - Create an account or log in to start your subscription.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
Now that you've created a Bible Gateway account, upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus, the ultimate online Bible reading & study experience! For just a few dollars each month, Bible Gateway Plus gives you:
• A complete digital Bible study library integrated with your Bible Gateway account, with no expensive software to install.
• Access to 40+ study & reference books including the NIV Study Bible, the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, and the MacArthur Study Bible.
• Special during April only: full access to the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
• An ad-free Bible Gateway experience.
• A risk-free, 30-day trial—you can cancel any time.