This parable of Jesus gets right to the heart of what it means to hear and believe. Quite literally. Jesus contrasts four different types of soils and draws a spiritual correlation to the condition of our hearts when we hear the truth of the gospel message.
That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 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. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15 For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly 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.
The Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 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. 20 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; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the [j]word, immediately he falls away. 22 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. 23 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 13:1-23 (NASB)
A Desire To Hear And Understand
To some people it may have sounded like Jesus was just telling stories. Just like grandpa at Thanksgiving dinner. Or a friend that has traveled overseas and returns to tell of his adventures. But these parables were more than just stories. Every parable that Jesus told had a deeper spiritual meaning beyond the story that was being told.
The disciples questioned why Jesus would teach the people through parables, and Jesus gave them a response that is important to us to understand. In Matthew 1:10-17 of today’s study, Jesus explains that some people will grasp the spiritual significance of the stories and some people will not.
Jesus wasn’t trying to confuse anyone or deceive anyone. The key factor was in the heart of the hearer. Whether or not they had a desire to understand, would determine what they took away from the story.
This is the reason two people can come into a church service and listen to a preacher deliver a sermon and one can be touched emotionally and spiritually and the other can walk out just the way they came in. To the person that desires to hear there is understanding. To the person that does not, there remains a dull heart.
The Four Soils
1. Some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.
There are people that discount the truth of the gospel before they ever hear it. Their mind is already made up and no matter what evidence is presented, they cannot bring themselves to believe.
The devil sits back with a smile on his face and does what he does best. He lies and deceives. He snatches away the truth by feeding these people with affirmations for what they already want to believe.
“You can’t prove God exists.”
“The bible is just like any other book.”
“Jesus was just another religious leader like Muhammed or Gandhi.”
These folks can also be antagonistic towards those that present Christ as the savior, just as the Pharisees were in Jesus day. It wasn’t enough for them, not to believe, but they had to ensure that there was no way anyone else would believe.
2. 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.
This person was willing to receive the truth but there were two great dangers to be leery of. A shallow foundation and no depth of roots. These circumstances can show up in people’s lives in a variety of ways. Let’s explore two of them.
When some folks are presented with the gospel, it is such a contrast from the hard life they live it creates hope and they immediately jump at the thought of a new life. Sometimes this can be an emotional decision with very little thought about what is being asked of someone to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Because this person came to their decision quickly and impulsively the soil for their foundation is not very deep. It doesn’t take long for the emotional appeal to be replaced with emotional anxiety. When the pressure of the outside world comes against the person’s decision to believe, the easiest way to relive that pressure and anxiety is to walk away and let go. The decision is fleeting because there is no conviction.
There are also some folks that respond positively to the gospel message that have no support system in their lives; they did not grow up in a Christian home, none of their friends are believers, and they do not attend a church. For these folks, it seems like they are confronted with a conflicting message at every turn. As much as they want to believe, they have nothing in their lives to help anchor them to their decision. Most people in this situation will walk away from their new found faith. This is why it is critical for people to get involved in a local church and begin new relationships with people that share a belief in Christ.
Every person that hears the gospel should wrestle with the cost of following after Jesus. It should not be an impulsive decision. They should evaluate the evidence and wrestle with the facts. And once a decision is made, it is critical to find like minded people to support that decision. These folks usually turn away because they do not attend church regularly, they do not read their bible and pray consistently, and they do not develop any strong Christian relationships.
3. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.
This person was also willing to hear the truth but was also confronted with two great dangers; the troubles in their life and the deceitfulness of wealth.
Troubles of Life
For some folks, they are not able to hold onto their faith because they cannot take their eyes off their circumstances. They allow the troubles in their life to determine how they will make choices. What this person never comes to understand is that faith will help manage the troubles of life if you will let it.
This is the person that will always have something go wrong on Saturday night or Sunday morning and never make it to church, and the person that has something go wrong every time they intended to pray. No matter what their intentions were, they are always distracted by what pops up. They never come to realize that everyone has troubles, but faith causes us to prioritize and value some things above others.
For a healthy person of faith, the troubles of life lead them to pray. For the person that lets their troubles choke out their faith, it simply becomes an excuse not to pray. This becomes the pattern for all things in their life with spiritual significance. Troubles and hardships become an excuse.
Deceitfulness of Money
From my perspective, money is deceives us in a couple ways. The first is, no matter how much you have, it is never enough. And the second is, wealth is purely for pleasure.
When I see people that have had their faith destroyed by money it is usually because of one of these two reasons. They spend so much time and energy acquiring more wealth that they have no time to nurture their faith. Or, they use their wealth to indulge selfishly in pursuits of pleasure and they never learn how to leverage their money to serve God or others.
Leisure is one of the greatest threats to faith in our culture. People spend gobs of money trying to escape life that they never learn how to build a life worth living. Instead of finding peace in the presence of God they seek temporary contentment through pleasure.
4. 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.”
This is the person we should all want to be. Below are a couple verses that describe that qualities of such a person.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
– Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)
This person has a character that reflects an indwelling of the Holy Spirit and their life is dedicated to learning all they can about their Heavenly Father; being obedient to His commands; and teaching others about Him.
You already know which one of these people you relate to most.
Is that where you want to be?