The Three Soils: (Parables of Matthew Part Three)
Text: Matthew 13:1 – 23
About three weeks ago we started looking at the parables that we find here in the Gospel of Matthew. We took a break from it last week for Mother’s Day, but now were back to it. And if you noticed, when we started this series; we actually looked at the last parable first because that’s the one where Jesus explained to His disciples His purpose and reason for teaching them these parables. He said (just to remind you all) that the purpose of them was to train them for the Kingdom. And He told them that if they get properly trained (in other words, if they become true disciples) they would be like Scribes in the Kingdom.
And I just wanted to remind everyone of that so it would be in our minds as we turn to our text this morning: Matthew 13:1 – 23 (READ).
So the 1st nine verses of our text this morning we see Jesus telling a parable to the crowds who’ve gathered by the Sea of Galilee. And on the outside it seems simple enough – you’ve got a farmer; and he’s scattering his seeds, but his fields have varying types of soil. In verse 4 we see that some of the seeds actually fell on the path next to the field and the birds came along and ate them. In verses 5 and 6 we see that some of the seeds fell on rocky ground… and the idea there isn’t just that there are a lot of rocks in the field (which can cause enough problems) but that there wasn’t a whole lot of top soil and there was limestone or bedrock close to the surface, and since the plants weren’t able to develop deep enough roots they wither and die. Verse 7 tells us that some of the seeds fell on the ground that hadn’t been cultivated or plowed, and there were thorns and weeds. And so the seeds had to compete with the weeds and the weeds choked out the seeds and they died. But then in verse 8 we see that some of the seeds do fall on the good soil, and as I’m sure most of you know… there’s a variety of yields when the harvest comes. Some produce 100% yield, some 60% and some 30%.
But then in verse 9 Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Now one of the funnies explanations I’ve ever heard about that verse is that Jesus was talking to corn farmers. In other words, “If you have ‘ears’ of corn, then listen up, this is for you.” And that’s laughable to me, because that’s not what Jesus was saying when He said that. When Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” That’s a clue for us that more is going on than what’s on the surface… there is a depth of meaning here that is telling us that we need to have some spiritual insight if we’re going to properly understand what Jesus is saying. And this is why the disciples come up to Jesus afterwards and starting looking for explanations. And it’s interesting what they ask Him. Instead of coming up and asking “What does the parable mean?” They instead ask, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” In other words, “Jesus; why do you teach the way you teach?” And what we’re going to look at today is Jesus’ answer to that question, and then next time (Lord willing) we’ll get into the actual meaning of the parable.
So Jesus’ answer: verses 11 – 23 is where we see it. And basically; what Jesus is saying in these verses is: “This is why the Word of God works the way it does in the lives of those who hear it.”
Let’s look at verse 11 (READ). Do you see what He’s saying there? He’s saying that understanding the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven is not just a matter of logic and reasoning. You see; the Bible teaches us over and over again that when sin entered the world, it not only brought death with it, but it corrupted all of creation, and it corrupted all of humanity… and when I say all of humanity, I not only mean each and every person that has ever lived and ever will live… I mean all parts of our very being. For example: Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 4:17, and Titus 1:15 – 16 all teach us that our minds – our ability to think logically and reason… are corrupted by sin and tainted and deceitful. John 3:19 and Ephesians 2:3 tell us that our affections and desires are perverted and corrupted by sin. And John 8:34, Galatians 4:8 – 9, 2nd Peter 2:19, and Titus 3:3 all tell us that even our wills were enslaved to sin.
You see; this is why the unbelieving world celebrates when an openly homosexual football player gets drafted by the St. Louis Rams and he kisses his boyfriend on national television. And the world says, “This is a good thing! Hooray for equality!” Let me tell you something, based on the authority of the very Word of God Almighty, this is not a good thing! It’s sick! It’s disgusting! It makes me want to vomit!
But before I get too far off track… let me get back to my point. Man’s mind, will, and affections are corrupted by sin. His ability to think rightly about God, his ability to reason correctly about God and God’s Word, is affected by sin… And so we need the Holy Spirit to supernaturally intervene if we are ever going to rightly understand God’s Word
There’s an old story about a man named William Wilberforce… William Wilberforce was a Christian, and he was the man mostly responsible for ending slavery in England during the late 1700’s. They actually made a movie about this called Amazing Grace (check it out if you get the chance). Anyway… Wilberforce was a member of Parliament and he was good friends with William Pitt, who just happened to be the Prime Minister of England at the time, and who also happened to be an atheist. And so one day; Wilberforce took Pitt to hear a well known preacher named Richard Cecil… and Cecil just so happened to be on fire that Sunday, and delivered one of his best sermons. And after the sermon, Wilberforce was so excited, and he turned to Pitt and asked him what he thought… and William Pitt said, “I haven’t the slightest idea what that man was talking about.” Now understand – Richard Cecil was an excellent preacher, and the Gospel he preached was crystal clear… and William Pitt was an intelligent man, a political genius by most accounts, but on that day… he didn’t have ears to hear. It hadn’t been given him to know the mysteries of the kingdom.
So what’s that mean? Well… it means that when you or I, or any person out there, gets ahold of an understands the truth of God’s Word, to the salvation of our souls, we should praise God for the sovereign work of His grace in our hearts! That’s why Jesus says what He says in verse 16, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear!”
This is why Christians have always taught that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! IF you are a believer… if you’re a Christian then you should rejoice because it has been given to you to see, and to hear, and to understand the deliverance you have been given, from the bondage of sin.
That’s the 1st reason or explanation that Jesus give’s His disciples about why He teaches in parables. But then He goes on to explain in verses 12 – 15 that the Word of God comes the way it does in order to serve the purpose of God in judgment. Let’s read those verses again (READ).
So you see… in verse 12 there Jesus is stating a principle… if you’re faithful in the little things, then eventually you’ll be given more and more. That’s true across the board. Athletes who consistently and faithfully train hard get off the bench and become starters! Students who study hard get the good grades. Biblical students who study hard increase in Biblical knowledge. The employee who doesn’t miss work, works hard and does a good job, gets the promotion.
And the reverse of this little proverb is true as well. If you don’t do those things… then those good things don’t happen. You don’t train hard, then you get put on the bench… you don’t study hard, you don’t get the good grades, and on and on.
And in the context of verses 12 and 13 Jesus is saying, “I speak to them in parables, because they’re not willing to hear and see, and receive the message.” He says, “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” So what He’s saying is – that the Word of God comes in form that it does so that those who will not receive it will instead stand judged by it. And that’s why Jesus goes on and quotes Isaiah 6:9 – 10. He’s drawing a parallel here. He’s saying that Isaiah’s ministry to his generation is similar to Jesus’ ministry to the generation He was in. And the same is true in our generation today. You see; we live in a generation today where people are heaping upon themselves teachers who will satisfy their itching ears… not their HEARING ears… their itching ears. We live in the generation where the people want 3 points and a poem… 4 quick principles that will make me happy in my sin, that will satisfy my greed, and let me maintain my idols. We live in a generation that doesn’t want to receive the engrafted Word of God that will renew our minds and save our souls.
Basically; What Jesus is saying here is – “Those who don’t respond to God’s Word will ultimately be judged by it.”
And so… even here… in Jesus teaching these two purposes of the parables that He’s giving, He’s also giving His disciples, and us, a solemn warning. And understand… warnings aren’t bad – they’re good. If you’re driving down the highway and you see a sign that says BRIDGE OUT, that’s a good thing. It’s only bad if you don’t heed the warning!
And the warning here is: BEWARE WHAT YOU DO WITH GOD’S WORD. Those who don’t embrace it are judged by it. Those who don’t welcome it, are excluded by it. Those who don’t nurture it and love it and stir it up within themselves will never be changed by it.
Now this is a good stopping point… we’re going to continue this next time and look at the ways we respond to the Word, and it’s my hope and prayer that the soil of your heart has been properly cultivated by the Holy Spirit so that the seed – which is the Word that has been preached today, will take root and bear fruit in your life, and that you would respond to it as you should.
Maybe it’s the need to repent of a certain sin – whether its in our thoughts, or our words, or our deeds. Maybe its in the sense of doing something that you should do, but haven’t done… Maybe it’s putting away things that are holding you back from a deeper relationship with Christ. And they may not be bad in and of themselves, but they are keeping you from growing closer to Him. Or maybe, just maybe… someone here today doesn’t even know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If that’s you this morning, I’m praying that God would capture your heart and draw you to Himself.