Right here in the hills of Washington County, Southern Indiana, is an excellent place to discuss our topic for today. For many of the residents of Washington county don’t have to go too far until you are surrounded by fields of corn, beans, hay, and the list can go on and on. When I look out the windows of my house I’ve got a corn field behind me and to the side. I have a field of beans across the road and a small field of hay on the other side of our house. Many of the members within the Pekin congregation are farmers or have had some experience or encounter with farming. For those reasons alone this parable is excellent for us. For we are familiar with watching the seasons change and right along with it the crops are planted, they grow, they’re harvested and then the cycle begins once again. What is interesting about many of our fields in the area, every so often a field is left dormant for a season to allow it to heal if you will. To recover from season after season of providing a yield for our farmers. Why, you may even do something similar in your own garden if you have one.
One of the neatest experiences I have had when it comes to looking at various soils right here at home and in all of my travels around the world is seeing a garden with dark rich soil in Red Bud, Illinois. The soil there was so dark and rich it almost looked black in color. The gentleman that maintained his garden took great care of the soil and it produced beautiful vegetables that he would share with the congregation there. Around here we can see fields with this type of soil in various places as well as fields that are sometimes rocky, or light in color which shows use. From these soils an experienced farmer has a good idea of the type of yield he will get when he plants his crops and he has to make the determination to either allow the filed to rest, plant a different crop, or continue to plant the same crop he did before. But this takes a great deal of study and patience on the part of the farmer. He knows he has to get a crop planted at the appropriate time so he has to think it through.
In our lesson this morning we find Jesus sitting by a sea side when great multitudes were gathered together unto him. So, Jesus went into a ship and sat and the whole multitude stood on the shore. At this point Jesus began speaking to them in parables. Jesus explains the use of parables to His disciples in Matthew 13:11-14, “"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.'” Put simply, Jesus teaching in parables veils or hides the truth from those who do not want it, but unveils or reveals the truth to those who are ready for and will receive it. Many of those present to hear Jesus were only after things of the flesh. They weren’t interested in the spiritual things; Jesus was bringing to the world.
Thankfully, for us today, these parables still work the same. We can use them to teach the true principles of the Kingdom of God as Jesus did and still, the parable veils or hides the truth from those who don’t want it and it unveils or reveals the truth to those who are ready and will receive it.
Jesus Parable of the sower identifies several things for us. First, Jesus knew His audience very well, and that many would have been workers of vineyards or farms, or even shepherds. And since we have a simple understanding of what it means to sow or plant and reap we can examine the parable closely and see the message that Jesus brings concerning the Kingdom of God. As well, we are blessed with Jesus’ explanation of the parable later on to his disciples.
Let’s read Matthew 13:3-9, “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!" Just like many of Jesus hearers we can see in our imagination, a sower going forth to cast the seed into the ground. It’s quite clear from the parable that the sower would drop some of the seed by accident along the way to the field, or along the hard and trodden path through his field, where it would not be covered with sufficient soil. This area is identified as the “way side.” We can see in our minds eye the birds of the field being eager to feed upon the seed as it lay exposed on the hard ground.
From the parable Jesus also speaks of the “rocky places” where the seed would fall. This is where the earth was lodged in the hollow places and basis of rocks, or where the rocks are close to the surface with just a very thin layer of dirt over it. In these places the rain and heat would cause a more rapid growth than in other places. What we find, is due to lack of soil, this seed would grow and then whither very quickly.
Jesus also identifies the seed falling in the thorns. That is, some seed fell into thorny or briary places; certain brambles and coarse briars in hot climates have very rapid growth. Their roots occupy the whole earth, they take the moisture from everything else, and their matted foliage covers the few plants which may struggle up to the surface, and choke them; they are shut out from the light. These thorns and briars deprive the seed of their share of light, moisture, strength of soil, and air.
Lastly, Jesus tells of the seed falling on the good ground. This is the ground that has been properly prepared, from which the stones and thons had been removed. Some preparation is necessary for the successful growth of the seed, just ask any farmer. The good ground yielded an abundant harvest; sometimes each seed produced a hundred times, sixty, or thirty times as much.
As Jesus closes this parable He states, “He that has ears, let him hear.” This means that those who hear the truth are responsible for taking the parable and utilizing it properly. You see, there are three things essential to producing a crop. First, we need “seed.” A means of reproduction. Second, we need a “sower” one who sows the seed. Third, we need soil, a place for the seed to grow. From the parable we can easily identify these requirements.
Now, when the apostles were alone with Jesus they asked Him to explain the parable to them. In Matthew 13:18-23 we get to read the explanation, “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."
With Jesus explaining the parable to His apostles, we have been given the great blessing of having His very explanation before us to see and understand for ourselves. As Jesus explains He identifies the seed as the Word of the Kingdom. From there He explains what happens with each type of soil the seed falls into and for our application we have to understand that the soil represents the human heart. For Jesus says of the seed that fell by the way side is the heart of a man that hears the word and does not understand it. And then the wicked one catches that which was sown in the heart and takes it away.
Then Jesus goes on to explain the seed sown upon the Rocky Soil. He explains these as those who give the impression that they will grow and bear abundantly; for they “with Joy receive” the word, but they don’t have the roots they need to endure. We must understand the numbers of hearts in our world today that are like this soil. For when tribulation arises or persecution they stumble and fall away. One thing to recognize is that with the preaching of John there were many Jews who were full of joyous excitement when he talked about “the kingdom of heaven being at hand.” But, with many of them, there was only a superficial excitement; their hearts were not truly converted.
After this, Jesus goes on to explain about the seed being sown among the thorns. With this seed there is great symbolism as to what can happen to one who continues, after they have received the word, to try and continue to be of the world. It’s clear that the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word within the heart and the heart becomes unfruitful. Many of these hearers show many virtues and grace for a time. The seed is good, the soil is good, the growth is genuine, internally everything is right; but while all is going well within there are difficulties without, which in time prove fatal. The cares of the world have a powerful effect on the hearts of the disciples of Jesus; there is constant warfare between the good and the affairs of this world.
Finally, Jesus speaks of the good soil, “those with a good and honest heart,” A heart with a sincere and honest desire for truth and a willingness to receive it. These things are necessary to produce an abundant harvest. The good ground of the human heart takes God at His word and without hesitation does what He commands and trusts him implicitly for his blessings. He is willing to be guided by the truth of God and is satisfied with that truth; such a one bears abundant fruit.
There is one part of this parable that we must take note of with very careful consideration. With the number of churches and religions in the world today we have to ask the question, which seed? Well, it must be the seed found on the pages of the New Testament, for only that seed will produce the type of Christian our Lord and Savior seeks. In Galatians 6:7 the apostle Paul states, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Therefore we must examine every bit of teaching as the noble Bereans did in Acts 17:11, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” We are to test the spirits as John writes in 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We must heed the apostle Peter’s instruction of not twisting the truth to meet our needs as some do. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:17, “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;” We must always utilize the Scriptures as God has given them for Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:20-21, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore we must speak as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
Let us take in the seed, the Word of God, and allow it to permeate our hearts in a way that we will obey. Let us do as the apostle Paul explains in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;”
Let everyone believe Jesus Christ as the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Let everyone hear the Word of God and have the faith described by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 11:1 and 6, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Let everyone do as Peter told those to do on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Let all confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God as Jesus explains in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” The apostle Paul says in Romans 10:9-10, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Let all follow the wonderful example of obedience found in Acts 8:36-39 where Philip has been teaching the Ethiopian eunuch, “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" 37 Then Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.” The apostle Paul helps us see the importance of baptism in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” When one has been baptized, their sins are washed away and they rise a new child of God, a Christian. This is where the “walk in newness of life” begins. This new beginning requires a lifetime of service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus says in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you a crown of life.”