As we have seen already, Mark 4:1-34 presents Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God. The discourse begins with the Parable of the Sower and it followed by other short parables and sayings. There is a comparable discourse in Matthew 13:1-52. This discourse begins with the same parable and Jesus’ interpretation of it, but what follows is both similar and different in comparison with Mark 4:1-34. Some of the sayings and parables that elaborate the Parable of the Sower in Matthew are unique to Matthew or are found only in Matthew and Luke. The placement of the discourse in Matthew’s narrative is also different and significant. Where Mark’s parable discourse occurs in the first part of the narrative, Matthew’s parable discourse lies in the middle.
- Note points of similarity and difference between Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven” discourse (13:1-52) and the comparable discourse in Mark 4:1-34. First note sayings in Matthew’s discourse that are absent from Mark. Some of these are Q sayings (common to Matthew and Luke, but absent from Mark) and others are unique to Matthew. (Powell’s book has charts for Q sayings and sayings unique to Matthew.) Then note the few instances where Matthew omits or modifies sayings found in Mark’s discourse. In each discourse, what does Jesus presume about his disciples’ capacity to understand what he is teaching them?
- Reflect on the placement of the Parable of Wheat and Weeds (Matt 13:24-30) within Matthew’s narrative. How is the point of this parable, which is found only in Matthew, related to teachings of Jesus in the two earlier discourses in the narrative–the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5-7) and the Mission Discourse (chap. 10)–each of which is comprised of sayings unique to Matthew or found only Matthew and Luke (Q material)? Is Jesus here presuming his disciples’ understanding of what he has taught them already and their engagement in the mission to which he has called them?
- Consider how Jesus’ instructions to Peter in Matt 16:17-19 and his instructions in Matthew 18 (the fourth discourse of the gospel) relate to the meaning of the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, particularly its meaning in relation to Jesus’ teachings and instructions to his disciples in the earlier discourses. Murphy’s brief commentary on these passages is insightful.
- Matthew’s Gospel is written for a church engaged in missions Jesus entrusts to his disciples in 10 and 28. What is the nature of that mission and does the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds relate to it? How should this parable when read in the context of Matthew’s Gospel as a whole inform the missional activity of churches today?