Summary: The Seed is the same it is the Soil that describes us, which soil am i? which soil do i want to be?
The Parable of the Sower
Matthew 13.1-9; 18-23
This morning we begin a sermon series on parables told by Christ Jesus in Matthew’s gospel. Some of the parable will be very familiar to us all but we should not allow that familiarity to close our minds to hearing God speak to us again through His Word. Most of you will have heard a parable described as ‘an earthly story with a heavenly (or spiritual) meaning.’ That is a simple definition of a parable. A parable is also a comparison of two subjects for the purpose of teaching. It usually proceeds from the known to the unknown in order to teach something spiritual. There is generally, but not universally, one salient point to the parable. A parable holds the attention of the hearer, enables them to see themselves and whilst dealing with something well known adds a twist which fascinates and makes the hearer reflect.
Why did Jesus teach in parables? Well if you look at verse 1 of chapter 13 we see that He has moved from teaching in the synagogue to teaching in the open air, by the seashore. This move is significant in Matthew’s gospel. Having been rejected by the religious leaders of the day He moves now out into the open air and addresses the crowds of common people. By telling parable He holds their attention, to fascinate without alienating them. Secondly if you look at verse 35 you will see that they are an instrument of revelation but only for those to whom it is given to see (verses 11, 16-17). The parable revealed truth to those who were hungry to receive it but concealed it from those who were too lazy to seek its meaning. Verse 12 tells us that the law of atrophy is at work amongst the hearers of the parable – if you don’t use the muscle it withers and dies, the same is true spiritually of Jesus’ hearers and of ourselves. The parables bring light to those who look for it but for those content in the darkness, it intensifies that darkness. Thirdly, the parables are a spur towards decision. The kingdom of God cannot be understood from outside. 1 Corinthians 2 verses 14 – read. Finally the reason Matthew groups parables together is to clarify them and to make it simple to understand them. For example these parables in chapter 13 mark the hinge upon which the whole gospel of Matthew turns, from this point on Jesus leaves Galilee and turns towards Jerusalem and the cross. As people hear these parables they are challenged to see where they stand in relation to the kingdom of God which Christ brings. Put another way they ask ‘What will you do with Jesus?’
Verses 1-3 The parable begins with Christ using a familiar everyday sight – the farmer sowing seed in a field. The seed which ‘the farmer’ sows is able to transform the soil. The seed is the Word of God proclaimed by the Sower of God. The kingdom of God comes when the seed and the soil come together. And the kingdom comes in to a life where the seed takes root and begins to germinate and shoot.
Verses 4, 19 – The Shallow Soil/Seed. The fields of Galilee, like today, would be unfenced with many paths running through them. The paths would have been rock hard with the countless feet, hooves of animals and cartwheels travelling over them. Jesus uses the imagery of a hard path which the seed finds impossible to penetrate and hungry birds which come to snatch it away as illustrations of how some hear the word of God but do not digest it, understand it or appropriate it in their lives. They are very vulnerable to losing it all as the devil comes quickly into such a heart and snatches it all away. Hebrews 4.2 tells us that for the seed to be effectual it must not only be heard but also combined with faith. The seed planted on to a hard heart that does not receive it with faith is easily snatched away and bears no fruit at all. It comes to nothing. Ask yourself this morning: Has the seed (the word of God) bounced off me like a seed bouncing off a hard path? C S Lewis in the Screwtape Letters writes of such an account of a man who was beginning down the path to belief in Christ and how easily he was distracted by hunger and the news headlines on a billboard. We are easily distracted from the word of God when our hearts have been trampled hard by sin. You see the word which is only heard and not acted upon is easy prey for satan to snatch away. The path is part of the field and it is even made up of the same soil – except it has been packed hard and made impenetrable. The seed lands on it, it is close enough to the Sower for that to happen, but to no avail because it is not prepared to receive the seed. Quickly satan comes and snatches it away before it can penetrate any openings in the path’s surface.