Chapter thirteen contains four distinct sections. The first section (vs. 1-9) was a parable Jesus gave in response to some people who tried to get him to speak on a political matter. Instead of taking the bait, Jesus used a couple of current events to point out two facts: 1) suffering and death are not necessarily linked to one’s spiritual condition and 2) judgment is coming for those who do not repent.
In the second section (vs. 10-21), Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath day, in the synagogue, to the horror of the religious leaders. When they chided him for doing work on the Sabbath, he responded by condemning their misunderstanding of God’s intent and by telling two short parables. These parables indicate that the kingdom of God, which the Jews greatly anticipated, has both an internal and external component. The internal side will change a person from the inside, while the external side will ultimately provide rest and relief to all kinds of peoples, not just the Jewish people.
The third section (vs. 22-30) provides another example that Jesus taught that entrance into his kingdom will not be based solely on ethnicity. On the one hand, Jews must come into relationship with the King, not just be in proximity to him (vs. 26-27). On the other hand, Jesus will welcome people “from east and west, and from north and south,” who will sit alongside “Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (vs. 28-29).
The fourth section (vs. 31-35) is reminiscent of Nehemiah. When he was faced with opposition to his work, Nehemiah said, “I am engaged in an important work, and I am unable to come down” (Nehemiah 6:3). In a similar way, when Jesus was warned that Herod might try to kill him, he responded, “Look, I am casting out demons and performing healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work” (vs. 32). In other words, “I’m busy, and his threats are not going to throw off my schedule!” (There is something to be said that they were local Pharisees who warned him to save his life.) At the same time he was ignoring Herod’s idle threats, he knew the serious nature of Israel’s ultimate rejection, and he wept over what he knew was in store for them until they will one day finally accept him.