THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In the next several lessons on the Life of Christ we will be examining several parables that Jesus taught. Let us not forget that Jesus would use these parables to describe something the first century Christian understood and then use that to explain spiritual things they did not understand that well such as the kingdom of God. The first parable we will look at in this lesson is THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER† found in: Mt. 13:3-8, 18-23, Mk. 4:4-8, 14-21, Lk. 8: 5-8, 11-15.
The background behind these parables come from where we left off in our last lesson in Matthew 12. If you will remember, Jesus healed a man who was blind and mute because he was possessed by a demon. Some were amazed while others were accusing Jesus of casting out the demon by the power of Satan. He quickly explained to them how it wouldnít make any sense for Satan to cast out Satan. Then the scribes and the Pharisees start asking Jesus to give them a sign and He would not. Instead, He rebuked them for their unbelief. Then Jesus mother and brothers were trying to get to Jesus but they could not because of the crowds that were around Him. In chapter 13, on that same day Jesus goes out by the sea and a great multitude follows Him. He gets on †a boat and sits down and begins to speak to the people the parables that are found in this chapter. Jesus would be able to use this boat to keep Him at a safe distance from the people, and His voice would be easier for them to hear because His voice would bounce off the water. Letís look at the verses:
Matthew 13:1 On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea.† 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.† 3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow.† 4 "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.† 5 "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.† 6 "But 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 sprang up and choked them.† 8 "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.† 9 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
The story itself is easy to understand without adding any extra meaning to it, but when Jesus spoke these parables even His disciples had a hard time understanding what Jesus was trying to teach with them. Both Mark and Lukeís account clearly show that they did not understand this parable and they asked Jesus privately to explain it. Jesus spoke many parables during His ministry and some of them He explained, but many of them He does not. So, it is important for us to look at Jesusí explanation of His parables to help us better understand these parables He does not explain. This will help up tremendously as we try and understand and apply the parables that Jesus speaks. Before we look at Jesusí explanation of this parable, let's look at what Matthewís account say next.
Matthew 13:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"† 11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.† 12 "For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.† 13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.† 14 "And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive;† 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'† 16 "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;† 17 "for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
There is a lot that could be said about what Jesus has said here. The longer Jesusí ministry went on, the more the opposition to Jesus arose, more of these opposing Jews would come and hear what Jesus had to say. While many of these opposing Jews were smart enough to see that Jesus was the Messiah, they made themselves blind to this truth. So, when Jesus spoke plainly, they would criticize Him and use His message to stir up the opposing Jews who wanted to shut Jesus up.
When Jesus started speaking in parables, which are rich with a spiritual meaning, these opposing Jews would not have much of anything to report or speak against because Jesus used common things like a man sowing seed to teach His lesson. If a person was not listening carefully or did not take the time to hang around Jesus to find out what He meant by what He said, then they would learn nothing. Of course, Jesus was also fulfilling prophecy when He did this as well.
His disciples were curious enough to wait around to find out what Jesus was talking about. Since they sincerely wanted to know more, their eyes were opened to the mystery that was hidden even from those prophets of old, which is simply referring to Godís complete plan for man through Jesus.
There are many today who are just as blind as the opposing Jews because they do not take the time to listen carefully to the message from Godís Word. They just believe what they want to believe because it is what they are used to. We all need to have the attitude of Jesusí disciples who continued to learn by asking questions and digging deeper into what Jesus was presenting.
Now look at Jesusí explanation of the parable:
Matthew 13:18 " Therefore hear the parable of the sower:† 19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.† 20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;† 21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.† 22 "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.† 23 "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."†
Now that Jesus has supplied the meaning of this parable, letís go back and look at the different aspects of it. The sower sowing seed was a common practice back then. It was not uncommon to see a sower out in the field sowing seed. As I explained earlier, Jesus would use common earthly examples like these that the first century people could understand and use it to teach a spiritual message. It is possible that there was a sower in a nearby field that Jesus was talking about.
The sower represents Christ or anyone who is teaching the Word of God. We know that the seed represents the word of God because of Lk. 8:11 because it says:
Luke 8:11 †The seed is the word of God.
Every Christian should be a sower of the Word. In our parable, the four soils represent the differing kind of attitudes or we could say different kinds of hearts that people will have when it comes to receiving the Word of God. So, whenever we go out and preach the good news to the world, per the Great commission, we must realize that we will run up against these differing kinds of soils or attitudes with the people we encounter. There are several other things we must understand as being sowers of the Word.
1. We need to understand that God has just asked us to sow the word and allow Him to give the increase. As Paul said:
1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.
Isaiah 55:10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,† 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
2. Unlike a sower who only plants certain times of the year, we must sow the Word of God all year long. As:
Ecclesiastes 11:4 He who observes the wind will not sow, And he who regards the clouds will not reap.† 5 As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything.† 6 In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good.
As Paul said:
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
3. Sometimes others will reap what we have sown. For example some will come to Christ at a gospel meeting only because others have invited them and studied with them, yet they respond to the message spoken by the preaching that night. Jesus talks about this in:
John 4:35 "Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!† 36 "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.† 37 "For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.'† 38 "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."
4. We must sow the seed with love that means having the right attitude. As Paul said:
2 Timothy 2:24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,† 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,† 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Ephesians 4:15 †speaking the truth in love
5. We must believe in the seed. A farmer would never waste his time planting seeds that he did not believe would grow.
The seed only produces after its own kind. If you plant corn you get cornÖ. The same thing is true when it comes to the Word of God. Notice what Peter says
1 Peter 1:24 †"All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,† 25 But the word of the LORD endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
Godís Word does not change. The word that was preached in the 1st century produced Christians and the same word or the same seed that is planted today will still only produce Christians. If it produces something other than a Christian it is because the pure seed has not been planted. We will see an example of this in the parable of the tares and the wheat in another lesson, but know this, if you mix the Word of God with doctrines of men, you will produce something other than a Christian.
The soil in our parable represents the heart of man. The success of sowing a seed in a garden or in the heart of a person depends on the type of soil or heart that it falls on. With this in mind, letís begin looking at the four soils Jesus described. †
The wayside soil is that soil that is found on the side of the road next to the field that has been ridden on and walked on. So, the surface is extremely compact and hard. When a seed falls on this type of soil, it doesnít stand a chance of penetrating the soil. So, the birds come along and snatch away the seed. This soil represents the mule headed person who has no desire to hear anything you have to say about the Word of God. They might listen to you and nod, but the seed cannot penetrate that personís harden heart. Some great examples of this from the Bile are the Pharisees and Scribes.
What makes people be like this today? Well, I think Pride is one factor. As
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
Fear of giving up something they love as the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18ff.
Worldliness in another reason as Paul says in:
Ephesians 4:17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind,† 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;† 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
Paul is telling us as Christians not to be like the worldly gentiles who love to live like the world and engage in its sinful pleasures. There are more things that cause people to have a hard heart, but I think these three I just mentioned top the list.
†The birds in the parable represent Satan. Notice that the devil only takes the seed away once the soil has rejected it. Satan loves mule headed people because he has them right where he wants them. Once he snatches away the seed, he quickly replaces it with worldly things. Look at how Jesus describes those who hear the word, but reject it and do not do it.
Matthew 7:24 " Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:† 25 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.† 26 "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:† 27 "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Next, is the stony soil. This soil is not too hard for the seed to penetrate. In fact, the seed is able to take root. Unfortunately, this type of soil is shallow, and underneath the soil, is a solid layer of bedrock. Just as fast as this seed grows, as soon as the sun comes out it withers and dies because it lacks the proper depth.
Matthew 6:33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
The fourth soil Jesus mentions is the good soil. This is the kind of soil that every farmer desires. It is plowed and all the rocks, thorns, and weeds are removed and it is ready for the seed. This represents a person who is honest and will take the time to listen and consider the Word of God. They will be like the Bereans in Acts 17 who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what is being spoken is true.
Notice the qualities of this type of a person.
1. They are able to hear the Word of God and understand it.
2. After hearing it, they accept it for what it says.
3 After they accept it, they hold fast to it and they never let it go.
4. Best of all, they produce fruit because they live by the Word of God and teach it to others.
As Jesus pointed out, different people will have different results of how much fruit they produce. I believe this varies based on their circumstances, abilities, opportunities and experience. Of course, no fruit can produce without the help of God and His mighty Word.
In this parable, Jesus has taught us about four different kinds of hearts we will encounter as we go out and sow the seed of Godís Word. This helps us to understand the importance of doing our part of sowing the seed everywhere because the more seed we sow, the better the chances are that we will find some of the fertile soil that produce another faithful Christian for the Lord. We also learned from this that not everyone will accept the Word of God and some of those that accept it at first will fall away later. Nobody likes to think about how only a few will end up taking the seed of Godís Word and will stick with it and remain faithful till they die, but this is a fact. As Jesus said in:
Matthew 7:13 " Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.† 14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
So, donít stop sowing seeds and make sure that you keep your heart like this fourth soil so that you will be among the few who remain faithful and make it to heaven.