Notes Matthew chapter 13
© copyright 1997 drs Gijs van den Brink
The Parable of the Sower 13:1-9
1. A series of parables on the Kingdom of Heaven begins here. Whether there are seven or eight depends on whether one considers v.52 to be a parable or not. So far Jesus has spoken lucidly and without imagery. Now all this changes. But although Jesus uses images, he continues to preach the same truths. The distinction between the people who reject Jesus and the disciples is now shown in a way of teaching. This also appears in that Jesus begins this way of teaching on the day when the opposition from the people (including His family) has reached a climax (12:38-50; 13:1; the same day).
Jesus went out of the house. The word ‘house’ is preceded by a definite article, indicating that the house in which Jesus lived in Capernaum is meant (4:13). Now Jesus leaves for the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, because there He can speak to many more people than in the house (v.2).
At the start Jesus used to speak in the Jewish synagogues, but now He usually speaks out of doors. The synagogues were not yet closed to Him, but this would not last long (only until 13:54).
2. This lively description indicates that Matthew must have been an eyewitness. Luke relates that many people gathered out of the surrounding towns (Luke 8:4). The people gathered on the beach, which was well suited for such gatherings. The crowd was so great that Jesus had to enter a boat, from which He addressed the people. It was usual for the speaker to sit and the audience to stand (Luke 4:20).
3. He told them many things in parables. The word ‘parable’ is compounded from para (near, next to) and ballein (throw, place). Literally, it means something put next to, with which it is to be compared. With Jesus a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, which needs explanation because of its hidden character.
‘A farmer’ is meant generally.
4. Some fell along the path. The soil of paths running through the fields had been trodden hard. The seed falling by or on these paths remains on the surface because of the hardness of the ground, and the birds pick it up. There is no question of the sower being so careless and ungainly that much seed is wasted. On the contrary, he sows intentionally by (even on) the paths and among the thorns (v.7) because the Palestinian farmer sowed before ploughing: he sowed on the unploughed stubble. After sowing the whole seeded field would be ploughed.
5. Some fell on rocky places. It is not meant land full of stones, which is a frequent occurrence in the East, but stony ground with a thin layer of earth on top. Because the farmer has not yet ploughed, he does not yet know where the stony ground is. Stony soil was not uncommon in Palestine. Everything grew here much more quickly that in a piece of ground full of thorns (v.7). But what at first seemed promising appears to yield nothing.
6. The same sun which makes plants with roots to grow compels plants without roots to wither.
7. Other seed fell among thorns. Another part of the seed is choked by weeds as it grows. There is a direct link between thorns and sin, for thorns and thistles are the direct result of the curse which came on the ground after the Fall (Gen:3:18; cf. Heb 6:8).
8. Still other seed fell on good soil. Much of the good seed is lost, but yet the sower has not sowed in vain. For a part falls on good ground and brings forth much fruit. The fertility of Palestine is praised. The parable contains three lessons, the first of which is brought out here.
This parable contains a contrast between the beginning (seed-time) and the endtime (harvest), cf. the parable of the good and bad seed (vv. 24-30), the mustard seed (vv.31-32) and the leaven (v.33). Jesus teaches that the Kingdom of God has two phases, i.e., a seedtime (the present time) with few genuine followers, much preaching done in vain (11:16-24), bitter opposition (12:2,10,14,24,38) and much loss (John 6:60,66) and a time of harvest (cf. vv.30,39) at Jesus’ return in glory, when the Kingdom of God will assume an encompassing of all frontiers (quantitative and qualitative).
9. He who has ears, let him hear. In these words Jesus calls on us to give ear to the deeper, heavenly meaning of this narrative. In the sequel the two other lessons Jesus wanted to teach will become clear: comfort and explanation for the preacher of the Word of God in connection with the meagre (quantitative) yield from his work (vv.11-15) and an admonition for the listener to receive the Word of God in the right way (vv.18-24). These two lessons point exclusively to the seed-time. The difference in stress from the parable itself is quite natural in view of the different listeners (v.10).
The Purpose of the Parables 13:10-17
10. Why do you speak to the people in parables? It is clear that Jesus intends to use another sort of instruction. No longer will a parable illustrate a truth, but it will now form the basis of the instruction as well. It is on this raison d’etre of the parables that the disciples here ask their question.
Matthew and Mark speak of parables (plural) although Jesus has hitherto told only one parable. This may point to the question’s being asked later in the house (v.36; Mark 4:10).
11. The secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you. This is Jesus’ first answer to the disciples’ question: because He wants to reveal the secrets of the Kingdom of God to the disciples but not to the unbelieving people. The realm of peace has not yet completely dawned (compare 11:12; 12:28 to 10:26) and therefore some of its different aspects, especially the central Father-Son relationship, are still secret, still concealed (11:25-27).
Divine truths are called secrets, because no-one can understand them without a revelation from the Holy Spirit (I Cor 2:6-14). They are mysteries for those who only have eyes for externals, but they are simple truths for those to whom they are revealed by the Spirit.
12. Whoever has will be given more. Those who have are those who are open and receptive, who like the disciples inwardly recognise the truths offered them. They will be rewarded abundantly. Those who have not are the Jews who have closed their hearts to the truth by an outward appearance of religious knowledge. Even what they have will be taken from them. In this way speaking in parables is a punishment for the unbelieving people, but a reward for the disciples who are led even deeper into the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God. In this way Jesus fulfils the will of God expressed in v.11.
It is a spiritual law that he who uses God’s gifts in a right way and keeps in his heart the light and the grace he has received, will receive still more from the Lord. While even what he has will be taken from him who neglects the possibilities given him and who has no love for the truth (cf. Prov 9:9).
13. This is why I speak to them in parables. The second answer (vv.13-15) that Jesus gives to the disciples’ question (v.10) is similar to the first in content (vv.11-12), but is now made in the light of the prophetic word. Although the Jews saw Jesus’ works, they did not believe in Him (John 6:26,36). For this reason Jesus now speaks to them in parables. Here occurs precisely what had previously happened to Pharaoh in Egypt. When he hardened his heart, God hardened it still more (Exod 7:22; 9:12). That these people do not see and hear is not because they cannot, but because they will not.
14. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah. The words from Isa 6:9-10 are repeated elsewhere in the NT in relation to the Jews: Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26-27. The wording is precisely that of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament of the third century before Christ.
Worldly thinking and materialism also blinded the people in Isaiah’s time (Isa 5:8-24) and did so in Jesus’ time. The people did not want to hear the truth. The Greek anaplro means literally ‘to fill completely’. It indicates that the word was proleptically fulfilled in Isaiah’s time, and that it now is definitely fulfilled (cf. Rom 11:8).
15. The people suffer the consequences of their own deeds. Because they do not repent, they will not be healed by God, i.e., of the fatal consequences of their lack of faith.
Has become calloused. The Greek pachun means ‘to make thick, to fatten’ (physically) and figuratively means to make lazy and indolent, to close off the spirit.
16. Blessed are your eyes. The word ‘your’ is strongly stressed in its early position in the Greek sentence. This is a question of contrast with the unbelieving people (v.13-15). The disciples are praised as blessed (see 5:3), not because they were better that other people but because they were open to Jesus’ message and so might receive grace where others resisted it.
Because they see. Seeing with one’s eyes indicates that a real personal experience is meant (Job 19:27; 42:5) and not simply an intellectual understanding. The act of seeing and hearing is as much involved as the content, that which is seen (v.17) i.e., the signs of the time of salvation, the mighty works of Jesus.
17. Many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see. The prophets and righteous men longed to see what can now be seen and heard in Jesus’ words and actions (cf. 2 Sam 23:5; Job 19:23-27; Luke 2:25). Abraham was one of them (John 8:56), cf. Heb 11:13,16; and 1 Peter 1:10-20. The coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom are signs and the time of commencement was an important matter for the saints in the old testament. What the great men of God in the Old Covenant have not seen is now seen by the poor, the meek, humble believers. Further, we see that according to Jesus hearing the Word is just as important for the believer’s experience as seeing signs.
The Explanation of the Parable of the Sower 13:18-23
18. Listen then to …, litt. ‘you then, listen to’. The word ‘you’ is specially emphasised by its early position. Jesus speaks directly to them to whom it is given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God (v. 11). Those who have already received it will receive still more by God’s grace (v. 12). The explanation of the parable of the sower was restricted to the disciples.
19. When anyone hears the message … and does not understand it. It deals here with those who hear the Word but do not consider it. They do not understand it, and this is their downfall. The reason for this is not that they cannot understand it, but that they will not take the trouble, that they do not want to understand it. Satan can work in those who do not want to; he will immediately steal the Word away. Jesus tells His disciples that the Kingdom of God prepares a way for itself, during this seedtime (see v.8), by the preaching of the Word of God. But Satan and his agents will always be busy to throw up all sorts of obstacles to cripple this work and they will try to prevent the spread of the gospel. The choice that each man makes personally is decisive for the fact of which works in a man’s heart: the Word of God, or Satan.
20-21. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places. Jesus is speaking here of those who receive the Word of God enthusiastically, but who do not grow. Their belief has no roots, no depth (cf. Eph 3:17; Col 2:7). They are people of this moment, just as changeable as the weather and are thus the plaything of circumstances.
When trouble or persecution comes. Trouble and persecution speak of the believers suffering in this world for their belief (see Matt 24:9,21,29; John 16:33 and Matt 5:10,44; 10:23; 23:34). When this happens these superficial enthusiasts fall immediately. Yet there is progress relative to the first group: the word is now understood and accepted.
22. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns. The seed is good, the soil excellent and there is even mention of growth (in contrast to the second group, vv.20-21), but this plant too bears no fruit because it is choked by thorns. These thorns symbolise the cares of life (cf. Luke 21:34) and the distraction of riches, of affluence. In such a case a man is divided and this always leads to the life of faith being choked, for the gospel does not permit two masters.
23. The one who received the seed that fell on good soil. Jesus now comes to speak of the good soil that will bear fruit. In Matthew we read that it is those who hear and understand the word; in Mark, that it is those who hear it and receive it (Mark 4:20); in Luke, that it is those who hear it and keep it (Luke 8:15).
All three mention a part of the total message of this verse. Not every believer is equally fruitful. All do hear and understand and bear fruit, but not in the same measure.
He produces a crop. By crop, Jesus here means sanctification (Luke 8:15, cf. Gal 5:22) and this sanctification is a foretaste of the great harvest, i.e., the perfection which will begin when Jesus comes in glory (v.8; cf. Rom 6:22).
The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds 13:24-30
24. Jesus spoke this parable to the people too (cf. 13:3,10,13,34) and explained it to his disciples at home.
Jesus told them. The Greek word parathithmi (litt. set before) is usually used for the setting of food before someone sitting at table and also figuratively as here (Bauer, s.v).
The kingdom of heaven is like … The ‘is like’ must not be taken in the strict sense, i.e., that the Kingdom of Heaven is comparable to a man, but as an Aramean manner of expression in which two situations are compared and may best be translated: things in the Kingdom are like those in which …
25. His enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. This action was indeed effective if one wants to harm someone else. The weed which is mentioned here is the poisonous cockle or darnel (lolium temulentum = stupefying, intoxicating darnel), which cannot be distinguished from wheat in the early stages. Cockle causes light-headedness (through a fungus) and sickness in those who take it and can also cause death in both men and animals. In ancient times it was considered a degenerate kind of wheat. In Hebrew it was called zn and was associated with zona(h) (= whore).
26. When the haulm appears the cockle can be recognised, among other things by the black seed due to the fungus. Therefore it is also called cow-wheat/darnel.
27. The servants were extremely surprised. The poisonous weed could not be the consequence of bad seed nor of poor ground. It grew in great quantities over the whole field. Someone must have deliberately sown the wrong seed.
28. The householder confirms the servants’ suspicion and says that an enemy has sown the bad seed. It is obvious that the landowner is not to blame for the poisonous weed that is coming up. Now the servants ask a second question and with this the real problem is mentioned: Do you want us to go and pull them up? It is no foolish question, for it was usual to weed out the cockle, and even to repeat the process.
29. But the owner is of the opinion that the cockle must be left standing. On the one hand because the servants would not always be able to distinguish the young cockle from the young wheat. On the other hand because the roots of the weed would have entwined themselves with the roots of the wheat on acount of the great quantities. So the owner fears that the servants would pull out the darnel with the young wheat.
30. At harvest-time reapers would also be hired (cf. James 5:4). Collecting the weeds is not a matter of weeding before mowing, but implies that the reaper lets the cockle fall as he cuts the wheat with the sickle, so that it does not come into the sheaf. Tying into bundles occurred because the dried weed was used as fuel in Palestine, which is low in trees (cf. Matt 6:30).
Let both grow together until the harvest. The landowner rejects a premature distinction and tells the servants to wait for the right time, until the harvest. Then the reapers will distinguish the cockle from the wheat.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed 13:31-32
31. The kingdom of heaven is like, see v.24.
A mustard seed. Jesus is speaking about the seed of black mustard (sinapis nigra). The seed is the size of the head of a pin; it is the smallest seed visible to the naked eye and therefore lends itself to be used as an example for something small (cf. 17:20).
32. When it grows, it … becomes a tree. When the mustard plant is mature, it is the largest of garden plants of its kind and may reach a height of 3 metres. In this case it is not unnatural to speak of a tree. A tree is the usual example for a mighty kingdom which protects its subjects (Ezek 17:23; 31:6; Dan 4:12,21). The birds represent the nations (cf. Ezek 31:6).
We must reject the idea that Jesus is here speaking of the growth of the false church. He is indeed not speaking about the congregation but about the Kingdom of Heaven. In the second place, the parable is not so much concerned with growth, but with the contrast between the beginning and the end. For the Bible, and the East in general do not see a natural process as an evolution and a biological development (as do modern men), but as a miracle from God, life from death, and look at the beginning and the end. In this parable Jesus wants to teach us that from tiny beginnings (the works of Jesus and His disciples) God will create an all-including Kingdom which will dawn when the Son of Man returns in glory in the latter days (see also 13:8).
The Parable of the Leaven 13:33
33. Is like …, see v.24.
Yeast that a woman took. Yeast or leaven is a piece of old yeasty dough used to set the leavening process going. The dough with yeast was left to rise overnight and was ready for use in the morning, fully worked and risen.
Mixed into a large amount of flour , litt. three measures of flour. Three measures is a greater quantity than usual. (3 sata (= Heb. sea’h) = 1 1/2 Roman modius = 13.13 litres). It is enough dough to feed 160 people.
Biblical scholars are not unanimous of the explanation of this parable. Some maintain that the yeast is a picture of a positive force and that the parable means the christian faith will influence the whole of society. But it is unlikely that it is concerned with the congregation and a gradual growth (see v.32). Dough as a picture of society is also unlikely.
Others maintain that the leaven is a picture of evil among the Jews on account of its links with the Passover (1 Cor 5:6-8; cf Matt 16:6,12; Mark 8:15). In this connection it is also considered that the woman was busy preparing a meal offering, for which it was forbiden to use leaven (Lev 2:11; Judges 6:18-19). In this case the parable would speak of the growth of the false church in the strength of corrupt teaching. But a symbol may often be used in a positive and a negative way: cf. snake (Matt 10:16), water, fire, etc. It is in any case uncertain that a meal offering is intended.
Apparently the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven are named together because they have the same message (a twin parable). In any case this parable, like that of the mustard seed, is concerned with the contrast between the beginning, the tiny piece of leaven, and the remarkably great quantity of risen dough at the end, and not with the process, which takes place unseen in the night. Further, it is more concerned with the picture of the risen dough which represents the Kingdom of Heaven than with the yeast (cf. the picture of the tree in the previous parable). Dough is indeed used as a picture of the people of God (Rom 11:16). In this case the meaning is: just as surely as a little piece of leaven produces risen dough, so will the little group of disciples of this moment irresistibly become a universal people of God in the end, when the Lord returns in glory.
Jesus teaches in the form of Parables 13:34-35
34. On the reason, see vv.11-15.
All these things. This includes more than four parables mentioned so far. Mark 4:33,34 stresses this : ‘With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.’ All Jesus’ teaching of the people took place in parable form.
35. The prophet quoted here is Asaph, the writer of some of the Psalms (here Ps 78:2). In 2 Chron 29:30 he is called a seer. The Greek text is a free translation of the Hebrew.
Jesus does not fulfil simply the Law and the Prophets, but He also fulfils the calling of the prophets. The prophets were called to make known God’s secrets, His saving plan and His will to the people (in connection with Jesus see Matt 11:25-27). Among other ways Jesus fulfils this calling in speaking and explaining parables.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds Explained 13:36-43
36. Jesus now leaves the beach (cf. 31:1) and returns to the house. The disciples have not understood all Jesus’ parables, but they have been sensible enough to ask Jesus for an explanation. Verse 51 shows us clearly that Jesus considered it very important that they should understand everything.
37-38. The field is the world. ‘The world’ (kosmos) is in the first place the world in which we live, but is also used for the dwellers in the world, mankind. The field is not the Kingdom of God, but it is the world, the sphere in which the Kingdom will expand (cf. Matt 5:13). The two sorts of seed are the children of the Kingdom and the children of evil, the children of the devil and the children of God (cf. John 8:41,44; 1 John 3:8,10).
Son of Man, see commentary on Matt 8:20.
39. The end of the age: an expression reasonably characteristic of this gospel, cf. vv.40,49; 24:3; 28:20; further in Heb 9:26. The Greek for ‘age’ (ain) means period. We are here concerned with the end of the current age, i.e., the end of the period in which the world has its present appearance. Jesus compares the end of the world to the harvest (cf. Joel 4:13; Rev 14:15-16). This harvest has both positive and negative senses (cf. vv.40,43 and Matt 9:37).
40-41. God has given the whole judgment to the Son of Man (John 5:22-27); see commentary on 8:20. For this reason His angels are mentioned (cf. 24:31) and His Kingdom. Jesus clearly teaches here that the Kingdom will come in two phases (cf. vv. 41 and 43). Since the first coming of Jesus the Kingdom of God has been revealing itself in a temporary guise, which among other things appears from the fact that it still contains strange elements, even devilish ones (cf. Matt 7:15-23). But in future, after the judgment of the Son of Man, the kingdom of peace will dawn in its definitive form (v.43).
Everything that causes sin, litt. ‘all the scandals’, i.e., all the offensive things, all that leads to sin, in particular all people who lead others into sin (cf. 18:6). The Greek for ‘all who do evil’ (poiountas) means ‘those who act continuously, out of habit.’
In verses 40-43 Jesus gives more attention to the judgment than in the parable itself. He emphasises in this way the fact that the weeds will be taken away completely in God’s time and that those who carry out the judgment can make no mistakes. Only then will the good seed come completely into its rights.
42. The fiery furnace. The furnace of fire points to the judgment, which will be so unbearable that the Son of God came from heaven to earth to save us from it. See Mark 9:44; Matt 25:41; Luke 16:24; Rev 19:20; 21:8.
Weeping and gnashing of teeth: see commentary on Matt 8:12.
43. The righteous will shine like the sun. The words that Jesus now speaks links directly with Dan 12:3. The ‘righteous’ are the corn from v.30. They will shine, literally ‘shine out (forth)’ (ek = out, lamp = shine). It is a picture of the divine glory that will be their share (1 Cor 15:40; cf. Matt 17:2).
In the Kingdom of their Father. In v.38 Jesus says that the good seed represents the children of the Kingdom. Therefore He speaks here of ‘their Father’. This verse deals with the world to come (ain, see. v 39), which will commence when Jesus comes in glory.
He who has ears, let him hear. In this way Jesus calls for attention and reflection. The importance of His word is tremendously great.
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price 13:44-46
44. The following three parables (vv.44-50) are not told to the people but only to the disciples. They must learn to understand their Master in this way of teaching too.
Treasure hidden in a field. In those times it was difficult to keep treasures, for there was not such a safe bank system as in our time, and there were many thieves and robbers. Especially in times of war much treasure was buried. The man who chances on the treasure, probably while ploughing, is a poor day labourer, working on another’s field.
He hid it again. The man hides the treasure again for three reasons: firstly the treasure has to remain part of the field. According to Jewish civil law one bought a field with everything on and in it, unless otherwise agreed (SB I,674). Secondly the treasure must be kept safe against thieves. Thirdly he has to keep it secret.
The treasure is a picture of the concealment of the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. vv.11,16,17). The day-labourer is the man who discovers salvation, redemption in Jesus Christ (which is a mystery, Matt 11:25-30). The parable teaches how a man is seized by the endless worth of the Kingdom of Heaven and sacrifices everything to obtain this treasure.
45. Like a merchant looking for fine pearls. Pearls were fished by divers in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. They were bought by pearl merchants, who sold them as jewels (cf. Rev 18:12). Pearls were sometimes worth millions and were the most valuable of a man’s possessions. The merchant is apparently a wholesaler, a rich man (cf. Rev 18:23).
46. He found one of great value. The emphasis lies totally on the valuable, not on the seeking. Seeking is part of a merchant’s job. The merchant seeks beautiful pearls and finds unexpectedly a pearl exceeding all others in value.
Mostly one sees the parables of the treasure and the pearls as a twin parable with the same message: Jesus is teaching how a man is overwhelmed by, and sacrifices everything for, the value of the Kingdom of God, which exceeds everything else (cf. v.44).
The Parable of the Dragnet 13:47-50
47. The kingdom of heaven is like a net. This dragnet (Gk. sagn) was a large square net with floats to hold it upright in the water. It was towed between two boats, or one end was made fast on land and the other towed by a boat. A dragnet (in contrast to a casting-net, Matt 4:18) was too large to be emptied on board. It was dragged on land and emptied there. The Greek word sagneu (to fish with a dragnet) also occurs in Greek as an image. Herodotus speaks of the Persians who had ‘drawn Samos in’. In our parable fishing with a dragnet is a picture of preaching the Gospel.
48. Threw the bad away. The bad, unacceptable fishes are on the one hand all unclean fishes (Lev 11:9-12), i.e., all fishes without scales or fins and on the other hand all inedible water-creatures.
The meaning of this parable is similar to that of the weed among the wheat. God has determined the hour of separation. A certain measure must be full. Jesus calls for patience. He says that we must cast the net wide, but leave the rest in faith to God.
49-50. Separate the wicked from the righteous. We find the same explanation of the parable of the weed among the wheat (vv. 41-42). V.42 is in fact repeated word for word. ‘Separate’ (aphoriz) is literally ‘completely separate from each other’. At the end there will come a distinct separation between the people who belong to God and those who do not belong to Him.
The Parable of the Householder 13:51-52
51. It was extremely important to the Lord Jesus that the disciples had understood Him properly. Otherwise He was prepared to explain things further. The intention was not only that they should just hear a story, but that they should understand the explanation. The disciples are being trained by Jesus in this form of teaching in which He teaches them the mysteries of the Kingdom. Their knowledge of God and His plan of salvation was, as is ours, still incomplete (cf. 1 Cor 13:9).
52. Every teacher of the law. The Greek word grammateus is not used here in the strict sense of someone belonging to the class of Jewish scribes, but in the general sense; it means here a Bible scholar schooled for the Kingdom of Heaven. The disciples would not simply be preachers, but would also become teachers of the people of God (Matt 23:34).
Who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old. Before someone has become His disciple and has been instructed in the Kingdom of God, he cannot become a Bible teacher. But when he has been instructed in the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, the teacher can bring forward from his store, i.e., from those things that must be taught, those new things of the Gospel which were previously not taught in Israel, and also the old things from the OT which only now are to be seen in their true light. According to the state of the hearers he can teach them what is required.
Jesus is rejected in Nazareth 13:53-58
53-54. When Jesus had finished… : see commentary on Matt 7:28.
Coming to his home town. We read that Jesus left his home in Capernaum (cf. v.36) to journey to the town of His birth, Nazareth (v.54; Matt 2:23). Luke describes another visit by Jesus to Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30). The visit he writes about took place at the beginning of Jesus’ activities in Galilee, while the journey Mathew and Mark (6:1-6a) tell about took place at the end of this period. His reception the first time was not particularly positive, but despite this Jesus visited His friends and acquaintances a second time.
Teaching the people in their synagogue. Every Jew had the right to instruct in the synagogue, if he was able (SB I,677). Jesus’ tuition was now heard with amazement, but the peoples’ attitude, although not so aggressive, showed just as much rejection as the previous time (v.57; cf. Luke 4:28-29).
Where did this man get this wisdom. The people of Nazareth had not expected such wisdom from someone who had grown up among them. The question asked might mean that there was a serious longing among the people to discover whence Jesus had gained His wisdom and how He was able to do such mighty deeds, but it appears from v.57 that the question has an undertone of indignation.
55. Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Joseph is not mentioned by name; he had apparently died. Mark writes (6:3): ‘Isn’t this the carpenter?’ Before His call Jesus worked in the shop with Joseph. The Greek word for carpenter, (tekton), means artisan, carpenter, furniture-maker.
Aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? There are differing views of the brothers and sisters of Jesus. One is that they are the children of Joseph and Mary; another is that they are Joseph’s children by a previous marriage, and yet another is that they are really the Lord Jesus’ cousins. But we must draw the most obvious conclusion from texts of this sort, that is, that Jesus’ brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph and Mary. James later became the leader of the congregation in Jerusalem (Gal 1:19; Acts 15:13). He also wrote the epistle of James. Jude wrote the epistle of Jude.
56. Aren’t all his sisters with us? Jesus’ sisters are mentioned only here and in the parallel text in Mark. We do not know their names. Because ‘all’ are mentioned, we must conclude that there were at least three.
57-58. They took offence at him. Because Jesus had grown among them and was one of them, they should have honoured Him all the more. Jesus reminded them of the temptation not to accept Him, because He came from their town. Everywhere there are people who honour a ‘prophet’ from elsewhere, but not from their own town. In the same way Israel as a whole had persecuted its prophets (Matt 22:1-14; 23:37). Yet Jesus performed a few healings here (Mark 6:5), despite the fact that the people would not believe in His divine gifts and qualifications to do such things.
In his own house is a prophet without honour, cf. Matt 12:46-50.