Matthew 13

Matthew 13: The Parable of the Sower

This teaching was on the same day as the sermon he preached in Matthew 12. “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea (KJV).” The ‘house’ can be interpreted as the house of Israel and sea represents the gentile nations.  These words are used in other Scriptures to refer to Israel and the Gentile Nations.  What we are seeing is a turning from the nation of Israel to the world.

There are 8 parables in this one section; however, only two are interpreted by the Lord for his disciples: the parable of the sower and the seed and the parable of the wheat and the tares. In doing so, the Lord gives us the keys or guides to interpreting the other parables. So we want to take careful note His explanation of these two parables.

We are told when this occurred- on the same day he preached the sermon in Matthew 12. We are told where it took place- outside of the house by the seaside. In fact, Jesus got into a boat and sat on it while the ‘great multitudes of  people stood on the shore.’ We know what he preached- he preached in parables. And we know why he preached in parables. It was for those who were seeking the truth- he told them what the parables meant. Ask- and it shall be given; seek and you shall find; knock and it  will be opened to you.  Matthew Henry describes parables as:  ‘ A parable is a shell that keeps the good fruit for the diligent, but keeps it from the slothful.’

The nearer we draw to the Lord Jesus and the more time we spend with Him, the better acquainted we become with the gospel mysteries. By doing this we gain the most valuable kind of knowledge- the knowledge that comes from experience. It is the Lord Jesus who dispenses these gifts of wisdom and understanding. Here is the principle of which we must take note:  ‘whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.

The first in this series of 8 parables in the well-known parable of the sower and the seed. “ A farmer ( a sower, KJV) went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, ( the wayside, KJV) and the birds came and ate it all up. Some fell on the rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly , because the soil was shallow. (interesting the plants spring up quickly here – quicker than that which lands in the good soil) But when the sun came up, the plants were withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on the good soil, where it produced a crop- a hundred , sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears let him hear.”   A parable is an easy to remember story.  Seven verses- fours situations- four different outcomes. It is easily remembered so one can meditate upon its meaning and delve deeper into its truths.  We will see as we study these parables, they offer instructions for those of us who are disciples. It tells us what we are responsible for doing and what is left up to the Lord.  It foretells us the results we can expect from our activities when we do as instructed by the Lord.

The four types of soils represent four types of hearts which in turn each heart represents a type of hearer and the response to the seed.  Remember this truth regarding our Heavenly Father- He never gives one a desire without also giving the power and/or means to obtain it. “ For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” ( Phil. 2: 13)

Now let us turn to listen in as the disciples come to Jesus and ask him: “ Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied: “ The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, not to them. Whoever will be given more, and he will have an abundance . Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

First God lays the foundation. And when God lays a foundation- He will build upon it. He bestows his gifts and gives more to those who improve them through use. This is a very precious and positive promise.  But there is also another promise- that is a negative promise. Those who do not use what has been given to them- will have it taken away.

The first promise is easy to understand.  Those who heard the parables and came to Him wanted to know more.  How do people today come to church or to Bible study?  Some come to gain more knowledge and insight and have a closer walk with the Lord. They come believing ‘ all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3)

Others  come out of habit or duty. It is the thing to do and place to be on Sunday morning. It is like the Rotary club to some- it does good work; it helps make connections, both socially and business-wise and attendance is important.

What have they been given that will be taken away? God has revealed himself to all mankind with two witnesses. The external witness is His creation.  Romans 1 tells us:  “ Since what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood  from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God ( through the external witness of creation), they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”   Mankind also has the internal witness- the conscience as Paul writes in Romans 2: “ …since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing now even defending them.” When mankind does not respond to the knowledge God has given them through the wonder of creation and the internal witness of the conscience- God will take away that knowledge and they will now believe a lie. And the further one gets away from the truth of creation- the further one gets away from his creator.

Now how does one learn anything ?  By reading; or by seeing it done as by example;  by hearing teaching and thinking about it. Some as Jesus quotes from Isaiah have willful ignorance- do not want to see or hear because as Jesus said they prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil.  It is like the person who is sick and suspects something is wrong but does not want to go to the doctor because they are afraid they will learn the truth and not like what they hear.  I buried a friend three years ago who refused to go to the doctor for a problem he was experiencing and had convinced himself by reading on the internet that his health problem was not serious.

Seeing, hearing and understanding are necessary for conversion. God changes lives by convincing men ( conviction) of sin and righteousness. It is God’s grace that does this- by opening the eyes of an individual’s heart and turning them from the power of satan to the power of God from darkness to light.

What we see around us every day are the two types of faith. Human faith believes only what it can see, taste, hear, smell or feel.  Human faith is limited to the five senses. It will sit in a chair it believes will hold one up.  It would not sit in a chair with only three spindly legs. This is natural faith which the natural, ( unsaved) man has and deals only with what he can understand through his five senses.

We cannot see God or the devil. We cannot see heaven or hell.  So how do we believe the things we cannot see?

We are told: ‘’Without faith it is impossible to please God.”( Hebrews 11:6)   Our relationship with God is based on a faith that is not human faith. Supernatural Faith is what brings the things a supernatural God has provided us in the spiritual realm into our physical realm. ( Hebrews 11:1) Everything the Lord does for us is accessed through this faith that is not human faith.  So if it is impossible to please God without this type of faith – how do we get it?  “ For by grace are saved through faith and that not of ourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” ( Ephesians 2:8,9)    God always gives us what is necessary. Since we cannot by human faith understand spiritual truths for we cannot see the unseen with human eyes, or understand with human faith. This supernatural faith is a gift of God. And like any gift- it must be received. And to ‘ those who received and believed he gave the authority to be called the sons of God.’ ( John 1)  To believe supernatural truths, you must have supernatural faith.

God gives this supernatural gift to those who will turn aside and come to Him earnestly seeking Him.  “So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  We access this supernatural faith though His Word.

Now do you understand the significance of casting the seed,the Word of God. We are born again, ‘ not of corruptible  seed  but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (I Peter 1)

When we turn to the Lord in faith, the veil that blinded us is removed. ( 2 Cor. 3) The eyes of our understanding are opened.  As a believer  we are then given this faith as Paul explains in Romans 12:3- ‘.. according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.’ Notice when we receive the gift of faith- it is ‘the measure of faith.’ The article, the, in front of the word measure,( I believe) tells us we each receive the same measure of faith. It is like the Holy Spirit is ladling out the gift of faith like soup- we each get the same measure of faith. However, we are told as we behold the glory of the Lord in His Word – we are changed in ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. So it is what we do with this gift of faith, which we are told has now become a fruit of the Spirit in our  lives. It all begins with the seed, the word whereby we are born again. There are too many illustrations of fruit, seeds, trees, vineyard and farming to not come away with the idea of continuing to grow and produce.  Colossians 2 tells us: “ … continue to live in him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.” This supernatural faith is by the way- the faith of the Son of God.(Galatians 2:20) We have not only His peace- we have His faith! Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. He, the Lord Jesus is the Word!

So let us look at the example given us in this parable. It will tell us what we are to do as believers and what we can expect. It will reveal to us what kind of hearers we will encounter as we go forth casting the seed- the incorruptible – the Word of God which endures forever . It like all good seed has life within it. It is  alive and powerful.  It divides asunder soul and spirit and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.( Hebrews 4:12)

It produces new life. It brings forth fruit in due season. We must not be weary in well doing- in casting it.

So with this as a background let us take a closer look at these parables to gain the understanding  the Lord would have us to have.  First let us go ahead and look at all the keys the Lord gives us to unlock the mysteries of these parables.

In the first parable the seed is the Word of God. The birds which snatch up the seed are representative of the devil, who is call the ‘ prince of power of the air.’ The different soils represent the different types of hearts and how they respond to the Word of God. In the second parable of the weeds and the tares, the field represents the world. The wheat from the good seed represents the sons of the kingdom. The tares or weeds represent the sons of the evil one.  The harvest is the end of the age and the harvesters are the angels.

These parables are given to us believers in the Lord’s kingdom so we may know we must expect opposition from the devil and his children.

The first thing we must consider is the comparison by the  Lord of men’s hearts to soil.  Like soil, it is capable of improvement. Just as it is with different types of soils, some hearts like some ground takes more improvement, more work to become fruitful than others. But the Lord is not willing that the land lay fallow. The path by the wayside had become hard packed due to the heavy traffic that is passing through and the seed bounces off the surface and is quickly eaten by the birds, never taking root.  What kind of heart does this soil represent? It is a selfish heart, a hard heart. A heart, ( mind, will and emotions) that thinks constantly of self, a heart that is bent on pleasure and success, a heart consumed with thoughts of selfish pleasures and pride. A hard heart produces a stiff neck that will not bow to the Lord. Look at their Christmas calendar- and you will see an endless list of parties and events. Their lives are spent planning vacations, careers , and almost anything else except where they will spend eternity. It is a hard heart because it entered the broad way and the crowd of those seeking the things of this world as their meaning and fulfillment of life. We are told the ‘birds of the air came and devoured them up. Who is this?  The evil one, Jesus tells us. He is the prince of the power of the air. He goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour. Notice the plural- birds. It can also be a wife or a husband ,friends, co-workers or employer who will effectively take away the seed. Yet some of us- had hard hearts like this one described here and the Lord melted our hard hearts- He softened it with the tear stained prayers of loved ones and the blood of His Only Begotten Son. Thus the Holy Spirit sunk the plow into the  soil of our hearts and prepared it to receive the seed which produces the new heart.

The next heart with the rock beneath the surface represents the shallow heart. This heart did not turn its back on the Word when it heard  the Word. In fact, we read it received it with joy. This heart is shallow because it is ruled by its emotions.  Beneath this shallow soil is a rock that keeps the seed from taking root. Their decision is an emotional one- notice it is joy with which the Word was heard and received. Although joy is a part of the Christian life so is godly sorrow. Repentance is based on godly sorrow , a contrite spirit , a heart broken by its sinfulness. We must remember what is the characteristic of the heart of the unbeliever- it is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. The shallow heart is a deceitful heart. There is no root and it will endure for a while but not to the end.  Paul wrote to such believers as this in Galatians 5:7- “ you were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” Something hindered the word from taking root. It was a deceitful, shallow heart that lay beneath the surface like a rock.  When persecution or trouble comes because of the Word, he quickly falls away.  Persecution is represented by the scorching sun. Take note the persecution or trouble comes because of the Word.  This persecution may come from another person they  have a relationship with- or it might simply come from their old nature. The old nature realizes the Word wants to crucify him and rebels at the idea it can no longer indulge itself in its favorite sins because the Word of God says  they are wrong. Since they do not possess the Spirit of God they have no recourse but to fall away.  The only remedy is to remove the stony heart. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you one of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow  my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” ( Ezekiel 36)   We must remember each of us possessed one  of these types of hearts before the Lord came into our lives and we were born again and became a new creature. When I think of this type of heart- I think of the often used phrase- ‘easy come- easy go’.

The third type of heart is the crowded heart. The seed fell among thorns and ‘ the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke it and make it unfruitful. Just that same day in an earlier sermon, Jesus said a ‘ tree is known by its fruit.’ Thorns are a good description of worldly cares, aren’t they?  They scratch and tear and entangle us . Thorns came into being as a result of sin in the Garden of Eden. God created a thorn-free garden, sin created thorns that easily entangle us.  Why are riches referred to as deceitful?  Riches create self-reliance. It creates confidence in one’s self and abilities to solve their own problems and manage their own lives.  Gradually  the rich do not need the Word of God, because the rich do not need God.  You cannot serve God and mammon too, said Jesus. In fact, Jesus said it is harder for rich man to get into heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.

The fourth soil is simply referred to as the good soil. This is a person who is born again and possesses a new heart, a clean heart.  Notice Jesus says it is an understanding heart. It hears the Word and understands it.  This soil , this heart is fruitful. The fruitfulness  varies, with some producing a hundred times, some sixty and some thirty.  When God created all of creation, He gave this commandment to all of His creation –‘ to be fruitful and multiply.’ And we know He created within all of His creation the ability to create and reproduce after its own kind.  When we receive the good seed, the Word of God , we receive also the commandment and ability to cast the seed and thus we see some are more fruitful than others.  Christians are not perfect. Our lives are not completely free of sin- we will still deal with hardened areas, stones and thorns, but sin is no longer our master. We have received the Good Seed, the Truth. And the Truth has set us free from the reign of the evil one.

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14