Summary: The thirteenth chapter of Matthew opens with these words "That day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea.”
The thirteenth chapter of Matthew opens with these words "That day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea.” This statement clearly looks back to the preceding chapter, where Matthew records Israel’s rejection of their King. At the beginning of Matthew 12 we find the Pharisees challenging the disciples of Jesus because they had plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath day, which is followed by the Lord’s vindication of them. Next we are told, “The Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (v. 14). This is the first time that we read of anything like this in Matthew’s Gospel.
In verses 22-24 we are told, "Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the blind and mute both spoke and saw." Up to that point this was the most remarkable miracle that the Lord Jesus had performed, in fact, it was three miracles in one. Such an impression was produced upon those who witnessed it that we are told, "all the people were amazed, and were saying, This man cannot be the Son of David can He?" Following this we are told, "When the Pharisees heard this, they said, this man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons"—there they committed the sin for which there was no forgiveness.
Following our Lord’s sentence upon the Pharisees for their unpardonable blasphemy, we are told; "some of the scribes and the Pharisees said to Him, Teacher, we want to see a sign from You" (v. 38). His response was that no sign will be given to that evil and unfaithful generation but "the sign of the prophet Jonah," that is after three days in the place of death the Son of Man will come forth and the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah and yet someone greater than Jonah was standing before them and they reject Him. Following this, the Lord solemnly pronounced the coming judgment of Heaven upon that wicked generation, so that their last state should be worse than the first (vv. 43-45).
The chapter closes by telling us that while Christ yet talked to the people one said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” Jesus asked, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" Then He pointed to His disciples and said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! For whosoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister, and mother" (vv. 46-50). This was a severing o£ fleshly ties by Jesus. It denoted the Savior’s break with Israel: it announced that from this point to the end of time He would only own as His kinsmen those who did the will of His Father which was in heaven.
The opening words of Matthew 13 supply the first key to the interpretation of what follows. The parables of this chapter were spoken by Christ "the same day" when the Pharisees had taken council together to destroy Him, when they committed the unpardonable sin, when He pronounced judgment upon the nation, and when He severed the fleshly ties which united Him to the Jews and had intimated that henceforth there will be a people united to Him by spiritual bonds. Thus the relation between Matthew 12 and Matthew 13 is that of cause to effect; in other words, Matthew 12 makes known the cause which led up to Christ’s acting as He did in the thirteenth chapter: that cause was Israel’s rejection of their King and His rejection of them. His action in Matthew 13:1 is an anticipation of what is developed in the book of Acts—God, temporarily, turning away from the Jews and turning to the Gentiles.
Jesus going out of the house to a place of natural ties and sitting by the sea is a confirmation of His own words at the close of Matthew 12: the link which had bound Him to the Jews was now severed. Christ’s next act was to take His place by the seaside. This also had a deep symbolical significance for those who had eyes to see. The "sea" speaks of fallen man in the restlessness and barrenness of nature, of man apart from God "And He spoke many things to them in parables. This marked a departure in Jesus’ method of teaching. The first twelve chapters of this Gospel will be searched in vain for any parables. Prior to chapter 13 Jesus instructed the people in plain language, using simple terms of speech; but now His message was veiled and His meaning hidden. This explains what we are told in the tenth verse: "And the disciples came, and said to Him, Why, do you speak to them in parables?” The disciples were surprised: not being accustomed to this form of teaching, they were at a loss to account for it. The Lord’s answer to their question is recorded in verses 11-15. His answer is further proof that Israel had rejected their King. In consequence of this rejection He had taken a place of distance from them, as this new form of teaching plainly evidenced. It is a principle exemplified all through the Scriptures that, wherever parables or symbolic utterances were employed they are addressed to a people separated from God.