Matthew 13–15

“Lesson 5: Matthew 13–15,” New Testament Teacher Manual (2018)

Introduction and Timeline

The events in Matthew 13–15 took place at a time when Jesus Christ and His disciples were facing increasing opposition from many of the Pharisees (see Matthew 12:14; 15:1–20). At this point in the Savior’s public ministry, He began using a teaching method that reached listeners at their individual levels of spirituality—He began to teach in parables (see Mark 4:34). Jesus Christ used the parables found in Matthew 13 to teach truths about the kingdom of heaven, which is the Church, including the eventual Apostasy and latter-day Restoration (see Bible Dictionary, “Kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God,” “Parables”).

The account in Matthew 14 of Jesus Christ walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee provides an example of the Savior’s power over the elements. This experience teaches that the Savior, who can walk on water and calm storms, can also lift His disciples and give them peace during storms of opposition. The storm can also be seen as a symbol of the opposition the Lord and His disciples were facing at that time. The Savior’s power to lift and to heal is further illustrated by the healings described in Matthew 15.

lesson 5 timeline

Chapter Overviews

Matthew 13

Jesus Christ taught the parables of the sower, the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the treasure hidden in the field, the pearl of great price, and the net cast into the sea. The Savior was rejected by those in His hometown.

Matthew 14

Hearing of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ sought to be alone, yet multitudes followed Him. Jesus had compassion on the five thousand and fed them. He walked on the Sea of Galilee and bade Peter to come to Him. He healed many people in the land of Gennesaret.

Matthew 15

Scribes and Pharisees contended with Jesus over things that defile a man. The Savior healed the daughter of a Gentile woman and fed the four thousand.

Suggestions for Teaching

Matthew 13

Jesus Christ Taught in Parables

The following short exercise is designed to prepare students to think about parables. Begin by asking students to fill in the following blanks with names of objects they might encounter in their everyday lives. (You might write these on the board.)

The Holy Ghost is like .

Faith is like .

Repentance is like .

After several students share their answers, ask why they chose the objects they did. Point out that the Savior frequently taught using parables, which, like the phrases on the board, compare two unlike things. Parables are short fictitious stories in which “divine truth is presented by comparison with material things” (Bible Dictionary, “Parables”). Have students read the student manual commentary for Matthew 13.

  • Why do you think parables can be an effective method for teaching gospel truths?

Write the following verse numbers from Matthew 13 on the board—24, 31, 33, 44, 45,  47—and have students look at several of them and identify what gospel subject the Savior compared to something else. Write the following phrase on the board and invite students to name some of the comparisons that could fill in the blank, based on the verses they read in Matthew 13:

The kingdom of heaven is like .

(Possible answers: A man sowing good seed, a mustard seed, leaven, treasure hid in a field, a merchant man seeking pearls, a fishing net.) Emphasize that by reading Matthew 13, we can learn how Jesus Christ used parables to teach about the kingdom of heaven. One definition of the “kingdom of heaven” is the Church (see the student manual commentary for Matthew 13:11). Invite students as they study Matthew 13 to consider how these parables apply to the Church today. Explain that keeping this application in mind will make these parables more relevant.

While one student reads aloud the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1–8, have the rest of the class listen and identify the main symbols in this parable. After students have shared their ideas, help students better understand the parable by asking questions such as:

  • What is a sower? What does it mean to sow seeds? (To plant them.)

  • What are the different soil types identified in the parable? (“Way side,” “stony places,” “among thorns,” and “good ground.”)

  • How does the condition of each type of soil affect the seed’s ability to grow and produce fruit? (If needed, refer students to the explanation of the soil types found in the student manual commentary for Matthew 13:4–8.)

Remind students that the divine truth taught in a parable is uncovered by making a comparison between the physical objects and the spiritual concepts being taught. To help students discover the meaning of the parable of the sower, point out that this parable is one of the parables the Savior Himself interpreted. Have a student read Matthew 13:18–19, and ask:

  • What did the Savior compare the seed to? (The word of the kingdom, or the gospel.)

  • What did the Savior compare the soil to? (The hearts of people.)

Have a student read Matthew 13:20–23, and ask questions like the following to help students understand the gospel truths Jesus taught in this parable:

  • While this parable is often called the parable of the sower, why might it also be accurate to call it “the parable of the soils”? (It really has more to do with the soil in which seeds are planted than with seeds or with the person who planted the seeds.)

  • What reasons did the Savior give for why some people fail to live up to their spiritual potential?

  • How would you state the central message of this parable? (As students present their ideas, make sure they understand these principles: The condition of our hearts determines how we receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must eliminate unnecessary distractions from our lives if we are to produce the good works the Lord desires of us.)

  • How would you relate the message of this parable to your own life?

Divide your class into small groups, and assign each group one or more of the following parables to study in Matthew 13. Let students know that they will be reporting their findings to the rest of the class.

Explain that there is more than one possible meaning of these parables. Ask groups to spend five to seven minutes studying their parable and any related student manual material or other study aids, such as the footnotes or Topical Guide. Have them look for answers to questions such as:

  • What do the main objects in the parable teach about the meaning of the parable?

  • What is the meaning of the parable?

  • How does the parable apply to us today?

Have students report their findings to the class. As they report, use follow-up questions like the ones below to help students understand that there is a central message of these parables: In the last days, the Lord will gather the righteous into the kingdom of heaven, which is the Church.

  • How does the parable of the wheat and the tares describe what eventually happened to the Church that Jesus Christ established? What do we call the historical event represented by the sowing of tares? (The Apostasy; see D&C 86:1–7.)

  • What do the symbols in the parable of the mustard seed teach about the blessings that can come to those who are gathered into the kingdom of heaven (the Church) in the last days? (Possible answers: The Church is a place of safety, rest, refuge, or nourishment.)

  • What do the parables in Matthew 13:44–46 teach about the value of membership in the kingdom of heaven?

    To conclude this portion of the lesson, consider inviting a few students to share their feelings about the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and about what membership in the Church has meant to them.

Matthew 14:22–36

Jesus Christ Walked on Water

Read Matthew 14:22–25 to your class. During the reading, have students close their eyes and imagine or visualize that they were present for these events.

Ask students to describe the disciples’ possible thoughts and feelings during the following events:

  • The Master sent the disciples ahead by ship (see Matthew 14:22).

  • The disciples rowed all night against waves and contrary winds (see Matthew 14:24–25).

Have a student read Matthew 14:26–29, and then ask:

  • Why were the disciples afraid when they saw Jesus? (They thought He might be a spirit.)

  • What do these verses show about Peter? (He exercised tremendous faith in the Lord.)

Have students silently read Matthew 14:30–33 and look for what caused Peter to sink.

Ask students to read the quotation by President Howard W. Hunter in the student manual commentary for Matthew 14:27–31. Help them identify a principle taught in this scripture account by asking:

  • How would you summarize what President Hunter taught about the account of Peter walking on water? (As students share their responses, help them understand: Having faith in Jesus Christ and relying on Him enable us to overcome fear and tribulation. Consider writing this principle on the board.)

The following questions can help students analyze the account of the Savior walking on water and feel the importance of this experience:

  • What are some possible indications that we have lost faith in the Savior or have stopped relying on Him?

  • How does fear affect a person’s ability to deal with difficult circumstances?

  • How have you been able to maintain trust in the Savior in circumstances that seem discouraging or even frightening?

Share what you have done to stay focused on the Savior and how doing this has helped you dispel fear and move forward in faith. Invite students to take a moment and ponder what they can do to better focus on Jesus Christ and exercise faith in Him throughout each day.