Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23)

“And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”” (Matthew 13:3–9, NASB95)

As looked at in the previous couple of posts this parable of Jesus’ gave cause to His disciples to ask why He had been speaking to the masses in this way. They inquired why it was that he wasn’t speaking more plainly so that they understood. To this Jesus replied that their hearts weren’t willing and as such it was not spoken for their benefit, but for those few that would believe and because of their belief be those who truly use their ears to hear and their eyes to see. Fittingly, this was a parable about those who maybe would give attention to what was said for a brief period of time, but who ultimately never really understood or believed and who were soon off to other things.

After His disciples questioned Him over this parable, and Jesus spoke to them His reasoning for using parables, He then proceeded to explain the parable to His disciples that they might more readily understand just what it was that He was speaking of. Jesus went on to say (see also Mark 4:3-20 and Luke 8:4-13),

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:18–23, NASB95)

Of the first group, the ones represented by the seeds that fell beside the road, where birds came and ate them up, these are the ones that hear the word of the kingdom but who clearly do not understand. And in their lack of understanding the evil one quickly snatches away the good news that had been shared. This seed never sits long enough to grow any form of root or have any lasting impact. It is as if the words fell on deaf ears. These are those ones who maybe listen but who do not hear as Jesus shared in verse 13. These are the ones whose minds are quickly filled with other things. They just don’t get it, and it doesn’t matter in their case just how clearly the message was presented but rather that their ears were unwilling to truly hear and their eyes closed to actually seeing. This is the hard ground where the seed is left as easy picking for the birds as if eating bread in an asphalt parking lot.

Of the second group, the ones represented by the seeds being sown in rocky places, these are the ones where no firm root exists in them such that he falls away when trials come. In the first the seeds were exposed and available for easy picking. In this second group the seeds are protected for a season until something comes along to break up the rocks and the seed is washed away. The rocks may be like fingers that quickly grab on to a pleasing promise with hope of change for the better but without any real understanding of why. They may like the friendliness or have felt the meeting of a need or appreciate the comfort in a difficult situation, but in reality never really understood what it is that our God truly has done for them nor grasped the salvation that He so freely gives. For them it is likely more of a feeling and not that of faith, and when the feelings fade so do they. As Jesus said, it was only a temporary keeping of them around until some trial or even persecution washes them away.

Enjoying the outdoors I had an opportunity recently to walk by myself and observe various wildflowers in a variety of soils. As I observed the hardest grounds I readily saw that they also had no growth of any form. And as I observed the rocky faces I saw that the flowers which grew there had a tenuous and temporary grasp on life, for when the waters would come the soil which held them would be washed away and when the sun beat down that same soil would not hold enough water to keep them alive. These flowers were never the rich leafy ones, but the ones that sprung up quickly and soon were gone. Being a flower in rocky ground is a rough way to live for there is joy for only a very brief season as they have no firm root of their own which survives the harsher times.

The third seed reminds me of an unattended garden. Jesus spoke of these as the ones who were sown among the thorns. This is a rough and unruly ground, where nothing of real value endures. As the seeds are cast among the thorns (or weeds which we might be more familiar with), the weeds quickly steal the nutrients necessary for the seed to establish roots and grow. While the weeds thrive, the seed is quickly choked out, not to bear any fruit. Jesus said that this type of person is the one who hears the word and who maybe even understands it a bit more than the others, but the concerns of his life prove more valuable and the message is quickly lost in the jungle of his priorities. Jesus spoke quite a bit about those whose priority was storing up treasures in this life. This last group can easily fit that picture. In Luke chapters 12 and 16 Jesus told a couple of parables of rich men whose treasures in this life proved more valuable than the truth of God’s word. In Luke 12 we read,

“And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”” (Luke 12:16–21, NASB95)

As Jesus concluded the parable of the sower, He said, “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” And in wrapping up His explanation He adds, “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” This is the one who both hears and sees. This is the one where the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ brings forth the great riches of new life and great growth as God works in them to bear great fruit. All of these people are saved and all of these people have a rich inheritance in eternity. But each of these people has to choose daily to worship and follow after God as well as returning themselves back to Him in service (Romans 12:1).

Scripture records that none of us are the same in the body of Christ, but that all of us are valuable. None of us have the same aptitudes, or talents, and none of us are gifted by His Spirit in the same way. But each of us is called to serve God with our whole hearts, and He promises to reward us for what we do in our bodies. God does not save us to sit on a branch and grow fat soaking in the nutrients of the vine. A plump juicy grape is a wonderful thing, but left unpicked it serves no benefit. God has called us and is equipping us to bear fruit, and this fruit evidences itself as we return ourselves to Him in obedient service. Even the seeds that were sown to begin this parable were sown by someone.

“Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.”” (John 4:34–36, NASB95) 

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