The parable of the sower

by LA UBF   05/10/2005     0 reads




Matthew 13:1-23

Key Verse 13:23

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.  He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

I prepared a short presentation to help us understand this passage.  



As Jesus kept on teaching all the people, it got too crowded in the house.  So, he went outside by the lake, and taught the people from a boat.  Jesus taught them a parable.  Look at verses 3-9:  A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed  fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear.

After Jesus gave the parables, his disciples came to him and asked in verse 10, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  The disciples couldn’t figure out why Jesus didn’t just say what he meant in plain Hebrew.  They must have thought, “What on earth does he mean by “A FARMER…”?  It seems like Jesus was using a secrete code langauge.  Jesus answered their question in verses 11-17, but his answer was even harder to understand than the parables!  Look at verse 11, “He replied, the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”  Ahh ha!  Jesus is using a secret code language.  But why?  Doesn’t he want everyone to know the word of God?  

Jesus explains in verse 12, “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.”  This sounds unfair, why should you give $5 to the man who already has $5?  Shouldn’t you give it to the man who has nothing?  But Jesus says, “whoever has will be given more…and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”  So, the man with $5 gets $5 more dollars, and the man with an empty wallet even looses his wallet.  How can this be?  But there is an important thing to remember, that is, why do some people have more, and some people have nothing?  

In this passage, we see 2 groups of people.  The disciples who had and would reiceve more, and the crowd who did not have.  What’s the difference between the 2 groups?  The crowd came and went, whenever they wanted, they had no lasting commitment to Jesus.  But Jesus’ disciples had committed themselves to Jesus.  They had taken hold of a hold relationship with Jesus, and as a result, they gained more and more from Jesus each and every day.  But those who never comitted to Jesus could never even begin to truly accept the word of God, and this is what the parable of the sower is really talking about—that the most important factor in determining whether or not the word of God bears fruit in a person’s life, is the condition of their heart.  The disciples had and received more becuae they committed their lives to Jesus.

This is why Jesus taught them in parables—so that only those who were truly committed to Jesus and studying his words deeply would have access to the word of God.  The word of God is holy and preciuos and should not be taken lightly.  It is not for the casual listener, but for the one who really wants to know the truth.

Let’s read verses 13-17 responsively, “13This is why I speak to them in parables:  "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:  " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes,  hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn,and I would heal them.'  16But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” 

In these verses Jesus diagnoses the fundamental problem of the crowds who came to him based on the words of Isaiah the prophet.  The problem of the crowds, was that their hearts were calloused, so they could never truly hear or understand the word of God, or see what Jesus was trying to teach them.  As we will see later on in the passage, these people were like the seed sown along the path.  The word of God never even had a chance to grow in them because they did not commit themselves to Jesus.  They did not even bother to ask Jesus what his parables meant.  Jesus taught in parables, so that those who truly valued the word of God could know the truth.  Through giving mysterious sounding parables, Jesus hoped that people would become curious and ask him what he meant, and try to make a more sincere effort to understand the word of God—just like the disciples who came to Jesus and said, “What are you talking about?”  Because they came to Jesus, heard his words, and struggled to understand them so they could put them into practice—because of this, they were blessed.  They were privileged to know the secrets of the kingdom of God.  Do you want to know the secrets of the kingom of God?  Then, check out your attitude toward the word of God, and your practical commitment to Jesus.  Do you come to Bible study with a casual attitude or with a reverent and learning mind?  Do you think you already know everything?  Or Do you think that there is nothing new to learn?  Then, trust me, you’ll never learn anything.  If you come to the word of God with a hunger for the word of God, then you’ll be blessed.

PART 2 Jesus explains the parable(18-23)      

In verses 18-23 Jesus explains the meaning of the parable of the sower.  The seed represents the word of God.  Its full of potential to bear much fruit, but only if its planted in the proper soil.  The different kinds of soil represent the different conditions of people’s hearts.  The first kind of heart soil is the path.  The thing about a path is that people walk on it all day long, back and forth, making it really hard.  So, if a seed falls on a path, it just sits on top, begging for a little sparrow to come down and gobble it up.  That seed never even had a chance to grow because it never got inside the soil.  The general crowd was like this, they heard the word of God, but made no effort to take the word of God into their heart.  So, satan has no trouble helping them to forget about that word completely.  They go to worship service on Sunday, but during the message they only wonder what’s gonna be served for lunch.  Other people just have a bad attitude toward the word of God because their spiritual condition is bad, they don’t like to hear the word of God.  The word of God bothers them.  If they can, they’d rather sleep through the message, or not be there at all.  If your heart is hard like a path, there’s no chance for the word of God to bear fruit in your life.  

The second kind of heart soil is the rocky soil.  Unlike the seed sown on the path, the seed sown on the rocky soil, easily gets planted.  It grows really quickly, at nitrospeed, becoming a happy little sprout.  But the problem is, that there are so many rocks, that there is very little soil.  So, the plant has weak roots.  Actually, everything is fine, until a bright hot sunny day.  Usually, a bright sunny day is good for a plant, but becusae this plant has weak roots, it can’t take the heat.  It withers under the hot sun.  Similarly, many people receive the word of God with joy at first, and they look like they are doing pretty good.  But then, one day, suddenly they are knocked out, and everyone wonders: What happened to that person?  The problem is that the word of God only penetrated the emotional level.  But emotions are not enough.  We must not just feel good about the word of God, we must put it into practice.  What does it mean to put the word of God into practice?  First, it means to remove rocks from our hearts.  Rocks are anything that keeps the word of God from taking deep root in our heart.  Do you hold unforgivenss in your heart?  Do you have a secret addiction to something?  These days, there are so many potential rocks.  I have known some young men who were addicted to playing video games.  They enjoyed coming to Bible study, but every night they stayed up all night playing games until their eyesballs were dry.  That addiction worked like rocks, preventing the word of God from taking deep root in them, and so they remained so weak that whenever any peresecution came because of the word they received, they totall wilted.  If the word of God is going to bear fruit in our lives, we must remove the rocks.  What are your rocks?  

The third kind of heart soil is the thorny soil.  Seed that falls in this soil takes root and grows.  At first, everything seems to be fine.  But the problem here is that the growing seed has a lot of competition.  Ultimately, the thorny weeds grow up and choke out the little plant, preventing it from bearing fruit.  The weeds represent things that compete for our attention and energy.  Jesus identifies two main kinds of thorny weeds: the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth.  These two things are tough competition for the the word of God.  In order for the word of God to bear fruit in our lives, we must uproot these two weeds.  No one is immune to the worries of this life.  College students worry about their grades, about money, and many other things.  Married people worry about their families, how to pay the bills, and how to raise their children properly.  There is a billion different things to worry about.  But when worry fills our hearts, we cannot focus on the word of God and we cannot bear fruit.  How can we overcome the worries of this life?  We must remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-34: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  

We must also uproot the thorny weed Jesus calles: “the deceitfulness of wealth.”  Jesus describes wealth as deceitful.  What is the deception?  The deception is that more money will make you happier.  If you have a little more money, then life will be easier, and you will be able to enjoy life better.  But this is a deception, because no matter how much money you have, you always find something to spend it on…and it never makes you happy.  Yet this is such a powerful deception that many Christians fail to bear spiritual fruit because they are too busy pursuing wealth to do the work of God.  They are deceived into thinking that they just need a little more—but the reality is that there is never enough.  The truth is that wealth does not bring happiness—serving God brings true happiness.  Therefore we must always be on the lookout for these two thorny weeds sprouting up—at first, we usually don’t even recognize them, and by the time we do, it might be too late. 

Finally, there is the good heart soil.  This soil is free from all of the problems associated with the first three kinds of soil.  When the seed goes into this soil, it takes deep root, grows up healthy and strong, and produces a crop, thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.   The person with good heart soil is the one who hears the word and understands it produces a crop.  Here we can see the phenomenal power of receiveing and understanding even one word of God.  If we hear and understand and put into practice even one word of God, then that word will produce at least 30 times what was sown.  For example, Jim Eliot deeply accepted Exodus 23:20: “See I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared; pay attention to him and listen to what he says.”   Based on this one word he went as a missionary to the Indians of Ecuador to preach the gospel to them, and he even gave gave his life as a martyr for Jesus’ name sake.  Because of that one word of God bearing fruit in his life, many Indians of Ecuador came to meet Jesus Christ and countless Christians have been inspired by the faith and obedience of this man of God.  

I also received one word of God deeply, Hebrews 11:24,25, 24By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.  Through this verse I could see how much God wants to bless my life and make me fruitful.  I repent of my bad attitude toward the word of God, and I want to reverently and humbly study the Bible so that it may bear much fruit in my life.  I offer my life and my housechurch into God’s wants for the purpose of world campus mission.  My coworker and I are continually praying for Latin America, especially Ecuador and the university of Guayaquil.  May we have God’s great vision and the Holy Spirit’s power to guide us and help us to bear much fruit in this land.


One Word:  yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.