Come, Follow Me
- Matthew 13; Luke 8, 13: “Who Hath Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear” (March 20-26)
“Parable of the Sower (September)” by Marten van Valckenborch
“I will open my mouth in a parable,” wrote the psalmist Asaph, “I will utter dark sayings of old” (Psalm 78:2). Even though the sayings were “dark” or hard to understand, the author’s intention was to make them more accessible. He had learned these things from his ancestors, he wrote, and “we will not hide them from their children” (Psalm 78:3-4).
Matthew saw in these words a prophecy of the Savior’s teaching style. “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables,” he wrote, “and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35).
The word “parable” comes from the Greek word parabole (παραβολή), which means literally “thrown beside.” A parable places something we understand side by side with something intangible. The comparison makes the intangible thing less confusing, more relatable.
When His disciples asked why He taught in parables, Jesus referenced a passage from Isaiah: “Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not” (Isaiah 6:9, 2 Nephi 16:9). He said that the people had closed their eyes and stopped listening, so parables were the only way to reach them. (See Matthew 13:10-15.) Then, He made the following sobering observation: “Whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he hath” (Matthew 13:12, Joseph Smith Translation in footnote a). Both Nephi and Alma taught the same principle in the Book of Mormon. (See 2 Nephi 28:29-30, Alma 12:9-11.)
Parables demand something from the listeners. The speaker introduces the comparison, but the audience must work out its implications. Jesus emphasized the responsibility of the listener with a phrase which He used repeatedly: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15, Matthew 13:9, 43, Mark 4:9, 23, Mark 7:16, Luke 8:8, Luke 14:35). Here’s a blog post on the topic: Hidden Treasures.
Spiritual growth has a lot in common with physical growth, and we can learn a lot from observing nature. Perhaps that’s why several of Jesus’ parables relate to farming:
- The Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, Mark 4:3-9, Luke 8:5-8). (Jesus provided an interpretation for this parable in Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:14-20, Luke 8:11-15).
- The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30). (Jesus also interpreted this parable in Matthew 13:36-43.)
- The Unfruitful Fig Tree (Luke 13:6-9)
- The Growing Seed (Mark 4:26-29)
- The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, Luke 13:18-19)
- The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
At least two passages in the Book of Mormon compare spiritual growth to tending plants: (1) Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Tree as quoted in Jacob 5, and (2) Alma’s comparison of the word of God to a seed in Alma 32:28-43.
Here are a couple of blog posts about some lessons we can learn from these parables:
The Kingdom of Heaven
The phrase “the kingdom of heaven” appears 33 times in the book of Matthew, and no where else in the Bible. (Mark and Luke use the similar phrase “the kingdom of God” in parallel passages.)
In the Book of Mormon, the phrase appears 17 times, in sermons by Alma and Amulek (Alma 5:25, 28, 50, 51, Alma 7:9, 14, 25, Alma 9:25, Alma 10:20, Alma 11:37), in an editorial note by Mormon (Helaman 3:30), in a statement by God to a group of Lamanites and Nephite dissenters (Helaman 5:32), and in the Sermon on the Mount (3 Nephi 12:3, 10, 20, 3 Nephi 14:21).
Jesus opens eleven of His parables by comparing the kingdom of heaven with something:
- The Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30)
- The Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)
- The Leaven (Matthew 13:33)
- The Hidden Treasure (Matthew 13:44)
- The Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46)
- Drawing in the Net (Matthew 13:47-50)
- The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35)
- The Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
- The Great Banquet (Matthew 22:2-14)
- The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
- The Talents (Matthew 25:1-30)
Looking at all of these parables, it is clear that the kingdom of heaven has the following characteristics:
- It may not come as quickly as we hope, and we can’t be sure when it will arrive, but when it does come, we need to be ready.
- It is worth more than anything else in the world, but it’s value isn’t evident to most people.
- It is available to everyone who earnestly desires it.
Here is a blog post about the practical meaning of establishing God’s kingdom on the earth: “Thy Kingdom Come”.
Not Without Honour
Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house.” Why do we routinely underappreciate the people closest to us? We can approach our relationships with more humility, honoring the ones we know best.
How Did Jesus Observe the Sabbath Day?
On six occasions, the Pharisees accused Jesus of sabbath-breaking. In response, He taught them what it really means to keep the Sabbath day holy: Be joyful, do God’s work, and serve others. We also benefit from gathering with other believers on that day.
Offended in Me
The Greek word for “offence” means literally a stumbling block or a trap. Jesus said, “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” When we are offended, we can stumble, but God can help us to avoid that trap if we trust in Him.
Jesus said that when an unclean spirit is cast out of a man, it sometimes returns and is welcomed back. What are some ways to fill our lives with goodness so that sins we repent of don’t come back?
A House Divided
God seeks to bring people together. Satan seeks to divide us, because we are easier to conquer when we’re alone. Jesus taught that a house divided cannot stand. We can follow Him by bringing people together instead of separating them.
“Take My Yoke”
A yoke is a wooden beam connecting two animals. It is associated with hard work and even bondage. But Jesus invites us to take His yoke, promising that it is easy. As we connect ourselves to Him through sacred covenants, we gain access to His power.
“Worthy of His [or Her] Hire”
Jesus told the twelve and the seventy that they should accept the generosity of others because “the laborer is worthy of his hire.” This phrase can be seen as an admonition: Work hard. Be a laborer. Hard work can bring great joy.
“Freely Ye Have Received, Freely Give”
One reason Jesus sent His apostles without “purse or scrip” was to help them be generous. When we are the recipients of unmerited blessings, we are more inclined to be generous. As King Benjamin said, we are all beggars, so we should freely give.
Letting Things Go
A major part of discipleship is letting things go. Jesus told his apostles what not to pack, how not to plan for speeches, and how to move on when treated badly. The principle is simple: find joy by focusing on the most important things.
Be of Good Cheer
Jesus invited a paralyzed man to “be of good cheer.” He gave the same message to his apostles as He prepared to suffer for our sins in Gethsemane. How could He speak of cheerfulness at that time? Because He knew that He would be victorious.
Jesus told Jairus and his wife to “give place” for the miracle He was about to perform. Alma invited the Zoramites to “give place” for the word of God. We also need to make room in our schedules and in our hearts to receive God’s grace.
He [or She] That Receiveth You…
Jesus said to His apostles, “He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” Living apostles post to social media regularly. When we follow them and pay attention to their words, we honor the Savior who sent them.
First the Blade
When a seed begins to grow, we have a choice: be grateful for the sprouting plant and nourish it, or neglect it because it doesn’t look very important. Jesus described our spiritual growth as first a “blade,” then an “ear,” and finally the “full corn.”
What Manner of Man/Men/Persons?
When Jesus calmed the storm, His disciples exclaimed, “What manner of man is this?” On the American continent, He asked, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” Then He answered, “Even as I am.” Peter also asked, “What manner of persons ought ye to be?”
So Great Faith
Jesus recognized an unusual manifestation of faith and praised the centurion. Ammon saw the same in the Lamanite queen. Strong faith can come from unlikely sources, and we would be wise to recognize and learn from it.
He Saw Their Faith
When the roof was broken over Jesus’ head as he taught in a home, He didn’t chastise the men who did it. He “saw their faith” and healed their friend. We can approach Jesus with certainty that He sees our true intentions and will honor them.
“Tossed with Tempest”
Jesus remained calm during a tempest, and He asked His disciples why they had become so fearful. Lisa L. Harkness taught that faith is “gritty and resilient.” It helps us stay calm even in tumultuous circumstances.
How Did Jesus Use Questions?
In January 2023, I reviewed and categorized the 190 questions asked by the Savior, as recorded in the four Gospels and in 3 Nephi. Here’s what I learned about the ways Jesus used questions.
Names and Titles of Jesus Christ
In March, 2019, I studied 20 different names or titles of Jesus Christ which appear in the Book of Mormon. I was particularly interested in the way each name was used, both in the Book of Mormon and in the Bible.
The New Testament and the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon can enrich your study of the New Testament. Here is a list of connections between the books to help you incorporate the Book of Mormon into your New Testament study.