Gospel Quest Thru Matthew #3:
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Introduction: Parable of the Sower or soils.
This is the third in our Gospel Quest series and today we will listen as the Lord gives his most famous parables in Matthew 13. This takes place in the 2nd year of Jesus public ministry. The Life of Christ is often divided into 3 time periods beginning with the year of obscurity or preparation, the year of popularity and the year of opposition. Matthew 13 take place during the year of popularity. Jesus would have been about 32 years old.
Matthew 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables…
Of all the ways and styles of teaching in the Bible, Jesus used parables more than any other means to convey truth to his disciple and yet hide truths from his enemies and those who were only pretenders instead of believers.
When the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke to the crowds in parables, he told them in, Matthew 13:10-17 Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
How did a parable separate disciples and seekers from pretenders and enemies? It came down to this simple act, if you heard a parable and did not understand it, then a disciple would go to the Lord and seek an answer. Those who were only pretenders or enemies would not take the time or bother and they would simply walk away.
The parable of the Sower or the parable of the Soil
Matthew 13:3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Matthew 13:18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and ringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
Wayside - Matthew 13:3-4
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
What Is A Parable?
Before we can understand what the Lord is teaching in Matthew 13, we need to know what a parable is. The parable was a familiar teaching device in Jesus day. He did not invent it but he so perfected it that no one else but Jesus comes to mind when we talk about parables. Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures tells us that the parable is a transliteration of the Greek word, paraballô. It means to place alongside for measurement or comparison like a yardstick. It is an objective illustration for spiritual or moral truth.
A simpler and more memorable definition is that a parable is an earthly story that tells heavenly truth.
Matthew 13 contains the largest collection of Jesus parables and probably His most famous, the one we will look at today, the parable of the sower and the seed.
Rules For Interpreting A Parable:
Never make a parable walk on all fours. A parable is meant to teach only one point, one truth, don’t get lost in the details.
Interpret according to context. Who is speaking, why, who is the audience, what is the time period.
Interpret according to proper time frame. Is this a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, the church age, the second coming or a parable teaching a general truth.
The main point of Matthew 13:1-9 is not who is saved or not saved but the types of soils or hearts of people during the church or interadvent age. It is to prepare the disciples for the conditions they will encounter when the gospel and the truth is broadcast.
Matthew 13:4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Matthew 13:19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
Wayside soil is soil that has been compressed and hardened by the walking to and from in the field.
Even the place where the sower walks in his planting can become compacted. Because of the hardened soil the seed falling on it cannot penetrate and take root. Jesus said, birds, who he identifies as agents of Satan, come and snatchs it away.
A wayside heart is one that has been compressed by the busyness and stress of life and now it has no place for the seed of the gospel.
These individuals cannot see how the Word of God can have any effect upon their life's situation, their life is just too full and too complex to be addressed by a simplistic principle of scripture or a man who lived thousands of years ago even if he did claim to be the Son of God.
The stress of job, family, finances, troubles even the activities of church can add up to a life that crowds out the seeds being planted by the Saviour and allows Satan to snatch away the truth.
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:5-8 The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better is a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. Then I returned and I saw vanity under the sun: There is one alone, without companion: he has neither son nor brother. Yet there is no end to all his labors, nor is his eye satisfied with riches. But he never asks, "for whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?" This also is vanity and a grave misfortune.
Illustration: The man who asked Christ how to earn eternal life
Mark 10: 21-22 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
What a terrible and eternal sadness, to know that Jesus loved him, but his possessions had hardened his heart and even the love of Jesus could not penetrate that hardness.
The first soil is hardened by the stress of life and perhaps even by the Gospel itself, and the truth cannot get through and Satan makes sure it is quickly taken away. The second soil is different, it is not hardened at the surface, but it is stony under that surface.
Stony Soil- Matthew 13:5-6
Matthew 13:5-6 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
Matthew 13:20-21 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
The sower, who is always Jesus, broadcasts the good news, the truth, the gospel and it falls on shallow soil with a rocky ledge underneath that upper layer of seemingly fertile soil. The seeds spring up quickly, before the other seeds have germinated, because the sun is heating the rock underneath this portion of the field. As Jesus says they anon with joy, this means immediately and with great happiness they accept the truth.
Yet it is not what it seems because when the roots of the truth try to grow downward, they strike the rock underneath. They cannot find nourishment and so the plant that started so joyfully and quickly withers.
This is a person’s heart with no depth and without that depth there is no ability to let the roots of the word of God grow. When the disciples then, and you and I today spread the truth of Jesus Christ, we will encounter people just like this, who jump at the first mention of salvation, or forgiveness, or fellowship with a church. But they don’t grow and usually they don’t last.
This person seems to immediately and joyfully accept Christ, but they never grow or matures in the Christian life. They may very well be saved but if they are, then their relationship with the Lord is very shallow and that shallow weak relationship will not get through the times when things get hot. When tribulation and persecutions come then the Lord says these shallow Christians fall away.
These are people who don't study the God’s Word. They refused to be challenged in their Christian faith. They are truly what we call nominal Christians. Christians in name only. They will fail because the word, that they would not give themselves to, is not rooted and grounded in them.
This is not the purpose for which God saved them. It is not why the Gospel was given to them. Listen to Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
This is the ultimate goal of sower, this is the purpose of the truth taking root in my heart, it is to grow and to grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus.
Illustration: The Stony Heart of Demas 2 Timothy 4:10
Paul writes to Timothy and says, Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica;
Can you imagine over the last 2000 years every time someone reads 2 Timothy they read of the weak, shallow, unfaithful Demas, who forsook Paul and chose the world? Was Demas saved? I don’t know and neither do you, we can’t tell from this passage, but we can tell that in this instance Demas was shallow and had no root and he withered when Paul and the Lord needed him. How terrible to know that this is how we all think of Demas. How much worse to think of that book kept in heaven that records our heart and our faithfulness.
Transition:There are 2 heart soils left, thorny and fertile.
Thorny Soil- Matthew 13:7
Matthew 13:7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
Matthew 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
Thorny soil is soil that is on the fringe of the field, away from the center of the field and the attention of the sower. Because it is on the fringe, the border of the field, it is easily overgrown with weeds. It is rich soil, fertile soil, but it is so crowded with thorns that also grow there that it cannot bring forth fruit. The plants are starved, overshadowed and stunted by the weeds that have also taken root.
These are hearts away from the care and protection of God's will and fellowship of the Lord’s church.
Thorny hearts are fond of the lushness and variety of the world. They don't wish to only live the strict, strait and narrow life of the Christian. They believe they can stay at the edges of Christianity and have a foot or a root in both worlds.
Yet by allowing the weeds of the world to grow in their hearts, the seeds of the Gospel, the word of God, the truth are choked and stunted, unable to bring forth fruit.
John the last living apostle wrote in his epistle 1 John 2:14-16 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever
Illustration: Samson's Life
Samson was an example of a thorny soil heart. I believe he was God's own but so in love with the world that God had to take everything of the world away from him in order for him to be what God intended him to be. But remember we aren’t Samson, though in my youth many people did think I was pretty buff, We are not Samson and instead of God forcing us to be what he created us to be, the weeds of this world will choke our usefulness to God.
Transition:The Lord saved the best till last. It is simply called the good soil but just look what Jesus say can happen in the good soil.
Good - Matthew 13:8
Matthew 13:8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Matthew 13:23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
This is the rich, fertile soil of the heart that has been worked deeply and enriched by the constant working of the sower. This is good soil because it has been plowed deeply and often. It is nourished and well-watered.
Now when the seed of the truth, the good news of the Gospel are planted in this rich seedbed, the purpose of creation and the purpose of the Gospel takes place. The plant that grows brings forth fruit, Jesus says. It reproduces thirty times, or sixty times or even 100 times over.
The soil, this heart is one that is willing to be worked by the master. This heart is plowed deeply, and it will bear the marks of the master’s plow, but unlike the heart compacted by stress it is softened not hardened.
This is exactly what Jesus said in Worked by the Lord John 15:1-2 I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser, every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
This heart seeks the enriching of God's word and by drawing nourishment it is able to grow.
Nourished by the Word Proverbs 3:1-8 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
This heart seeks the refreshing of the Holy Spirit. As water is to the soil so the Holy Spirit of God sustains us.
Refreshed by the Spirit John 4:13-14 Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Illustration: Granddad’s garden took years of intensive labor.
The garden and every plant in it flourished because of the work, the touch of the master gardener.
The parable of the sower speaks not so much of who is saved as it does of our willingness to be touched and used of God. We as the church must understand that we will encounter all these times of heart soils as we act in the power of the Great Commission to make disciples. Don’t be discouraged by the hard hearts, don’t feel betrayed by the stony heart, don’t feel forsake by the thorny hearts because when the seed of the Gospel finds a good heart. It makes up for all the others. Look for the promise of the good hearts and it will keep us from the disappointments of the others.
But there is another lesson here for us as individuals Jesus would not have said “he who has an ear let him hear” if this parable did not apply to us on a personal level as well.
Let me give you a question on that personal level. What kind of soil is your heart this morning? Has it been compacted by stress of this world or even by the words that you have heard here today?
Is your heart shallow, unable to let the word take root and grow? Or Is your heart crowded by the thorns of this wicked world? Is there any fruit to mark the impact of the gospel in your life? All of us want to be productive in our Christian life, but we must make that choice. Only we can determine to change the barren hearts we have for the fruitful hearts God can use.
The only thing that can change hard hearts, shallow livess and choked spirits is the breaking up of the soil by the Sower, Jesus the Son of God. Are you willing to let him break up your hard heart? Will you yield to His touch that He may dig deep and uproot the stones that make us shallow? Would you let Him uproot the weeds of worldly relationships and entanglements that choke out our spiritual life?
Poem: Touch of the Masters Hand
'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile:
'What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
'A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two" "Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?
Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three-" But no,
From the room, far back, a gray-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then, wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loose strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet
Sweet as the angels sings.
Then the music stopped, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for this old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
Then he called out, 'One give one thousand, who'll make it two?
Only two thousand? Who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, twice, and that’s a good price.
Who’s got a bid for me?
The people called out, “What made the change, we don’t understand?”
The auctioneer stopped and he said with a smile,
“It was the touch of the master's hand."
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine;
A game - and he travels on.
He is 'going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.
MYRA BROOKS WELCH