That same day Jesus went out and sat by the lake-side, where so many people gathered around him that he had to get into a boat. He sat there, and all the people stood on the shore. He spoke to them in parables, at some length.
He said: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the footpath; and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil, and it sprouted quickly because it had no depth of earth; but when the sun rose the young corn was scorched, and as it had no root it withered away. Some seed fell among thistles; and the thistles shot up, and choked the corn. And some of the seed fell into good soil, where it bore fruit, yielding a hundredfold or, it might be, sixtyfold or thirtyfold. If you have ears, then hear.’
The disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He replied, ‘It has been granted to you to know the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven; but to those others it has not been granted. For the man who has will be given more, till he has enough and to spare; and the man who has not will forfeit even what he has. That is why I speak to them in parables; for they look without seeing, and listen without hearing or understanding. There is a prophecy of Isaiah which is being fulfilled for them: “You may hear and hear, but you will never understand; you may look and look, but you will never see. For this people’s mind has become gross; their ears are dulled, and their eyes are closed. Otherwise, their eyes might see, their ears hear, and their mind understand, and then they might turn again, and I would heal them.”
‘But happy are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear! Many prophets and saints, I tell you, desired to see what you now see, yet never saw it; to hear what you hear, yet never heard it.
‘You, then, may hear the parable of the sower. When a man hears the word that tells of the Kingdom but fails to understand it, the evil one comes and carries off what has been sown in his heart. There you have the seed sown along the footpath. The seed sown on rocky ground stands for the man who, on hearing the word, accepts it at once with joy; but as it strikes no root in him he has no staying-power, and when there is trouble or persecution on account of the word he falls away at once. The seed sown among thistles represents the man who hears the word, but worldly cares and the false glamour of wealth choke it, and it proves barren. But the seed that fell into good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it, who accordingly bears fruit, and yields a hundredfold or, it may be, sixtyfold or thirtyfold.’
Here is another parable that he put before them. ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like this. A man sowed a field with good seed; but while everyone was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel among the wheat, and made off. When the corn sprouted and began to fill out, the darnel could be seen among it. The farmer’s men went to their master and said “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Then where has darnel come from?” “This is an enemy’s doing,” he replied. “Well then,” they said, “shall we go and gather the darnel?” “No,” he answered, “in gathering it you might pull up the wheat at the same time. Let them both grow together till harvest; and at harvest-time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the darnel first, and tie it in bundles for burning; then collect the wheat into my barn.”‘
And this is another parable that he put before them: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard-seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. As a seed, mustard is smaller than any other, but when it has grown it is bigger than any garden plant; it becomes a tree, big enough for the birds to come and roost among its branches.’
He told them also this parable: ‘ The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and mixed with half a hundredweight of flour till it was all leavened.’
In all this teaching to the crowds Jesus spoke in parables; in fact he never spoke to them without a parable. This was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter things kept secret since the world was made.’
He then dismissed the people, and went into the house, where his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the darnel in the field.’ And this was his answer: ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed stands for the children of the Kingdom, the darnel for the children of the evil one. The enemy who sowed the darnel is the devil. The harvest is the end of time. The reapers are the angels. As darnel, then, is gathered up and burnt, so at the end of time the Son of Man will send out his angels, who will gather out of his kingdom whatever makes men stumble, and all whose deeds are evil, and these will be thrown into the blazing furnace, the place of wailing and grinding of teeth. And then the righteous will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear.
‘The kingdom of Heaven is like treasure lying buried in a field. The man who found it, buried it again; and for sheer joy went and sold everything he had, and bought that field
‘Here is another picture of the kingdom of Heaven. A merchant looking out for fine pearls found one of very special value; so he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.
‘Again the kingdom of Heaven is like a net let down into the sea, where fish of every kind were caught in it. When it was full, it was dragged ashore. Then the men sat down and collected the good fish into pails and threw the worthless away. That is how it will be at the end of time. The angels will go forth, and they will separate the wicked from the good, and throw them into the blazing furnace, the place of wailing and grinding of teeth.
‘Have you understood all this?’ he asked; and they answered, ‘Yes.’ He said to them, ‘When, therefore, a teacher of the law has become a learner in the kingdom of Heaven, he is like a householder who can produce from his store both the new and the old.’
The New English Bible (with the Apocrypha)
Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, 1970