Reading The Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 13-16

In chapter 13 of Matthew, Jesus is sitting by the seaside and preaching to “great multitudes.” Rather than speaking directly, he instructs through parables. The first is the parable of the farmer who goes out to sow seeds. Some fall in rocky, thin soil (sprout fast, burn out), others among thorns (deceitfulness of riches choke the plant), and still others on good soil (thrive).

In 13:15, He talks about why people can’t receive the message:

“for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes;”

Kind of a common problem today, wouldn’t you say?

Jesus continues with two other parables: the wheat and the darnel weeds; and the mustard seed and then explains them (somewhat unclearly). He finishes with:

“So it will be in the end of the world. The angels will come forth, and separate the wicked [darnel weeds] from among the righteous [wheat], and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”

Chapter 14

Herod hears tales of Jesus and thinks that He is John the Baptizer “risen from the dead.”

You quickly learn in a backstory aside that Herod’s brother Philip is married to Herodias, and John had told him that the marriage wasn’t lawful. Herodias wasn’t happy about this and had Herod throw John in prison. At Herod’s birthday party, the daughter of Herodius danced so well that Herod granted her whatever she wanted. Mother clearly had some input into the request, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptizer.”

The terrible deed is done, and John’s disciples go to tell Jesus who then withdraws by boat to a deserted place. The multitudes follow on foot. He tells his disciples to feed the people, but they say they only have five loaves and two fish. There are 5,000 men plus many women and children. Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish and feeds everyone with plenty of leftovers.

After the meal, Jesus tells his disciples to get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side. He sends the multitudes away and then heads up into the mountains to pray by Himself. In the evening, a storm comes up and the disciples are being rocked around in the waves. Jesus walks across the water to save them and they cry out “It’s a ghost!” Jesus, clarifies his identity and invites Peter to come walking with Him. Peter takes a few steps on the water and then gets afraid and starts to sink and has to be saved (“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”)

This chapter instantly makes me think of John Lennon’s quote:

“Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary.”

Lennon’s got a point don’t you think? The disciples have been traveling with Jesus for quite a while by this point, have seen him bring back people from the dead, heal every disease, feed thousands with 5 loaves and 2 fish, calm storms, and many other fantastic deeds. And yet, when they see Him walking on water, they have no idea who it is and think it’s a ghost? Pretty thick.

Chapter 15

The Pharisees complain to Jesus that His disciples, by not washing their hands before the eat their bread, are disobeying the traditions of the elders. Jesus blasts away, call them hypocrites and utters this nice line (15:11)

“That which enters into the mouth doesn’t defile the man; but that which proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.”

Jesus then leaves and goes into the region of Tyre and Sidon. He heals a demonized woman and then goes to a mountain near the sea of Galilee. Huge crowds follow him and Jesus feels bad that they haven’t had anything to eat for three days. The genius disciples ask “Where should we get so many loaves in a deserted place as to satisfy so great a multitude?”

HELLO. You were there just a couple of pages ago!

Jesus, of course, does the same thing he did in chapter 14 and this time turns seven loaves of bread and a few small fish into a feast for thousands. Jesus then sends away the multitudes, hops into the boat and heads for the borders of Magdala.

Chapter 16

After being poorly tested by the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus meets up with his disciples who have forgotten to bring any bread to eat. Jesus says:

“Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

The disciples huddle together and the best they can come up with is “We brought no bread.” Jesus has to patiently explain that he was using a metaphor and that they should be beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

He asks His disciples who the people think He is. “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” Jesus then ask His disciples who they think He is. Simon Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Ding, ding, ding! Finally, a correct answer. Jesus is very happy with Peter and offers to give him the “keys of Kingdom of Heaven…”

The chapter ends with Jesus telling his disciples not to divulge to anyone He is Jesus the Christ. He also says He has to go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly, be killed, and then on the third day be raised up. Peter takes him aside and says, “Far be it from you, Lord! This will never be done to you.” Jesus gets angry with Peter and tells him off with a “Get behind me, Satan!” for good measure. He then turns to the rest of the disciples:

“If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

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