Summary: Help for the hurting heart.
True spirituality is discussed a lot but seldom experienced in today’s world. Jesus faced the same problem. So the Lord used parables, stories of familiar things, to point out how unfamiliar people truly were with spirituality.
Here in His famous story of the farmer scattering seed Jesus masterfully describes four different categories of spirituality. Three out of the four types are psuedo-spirituality and only one type is genuine.
Every one of us belongs in one of these four groups.
The first type is SURFACE SPIRITUALITY.
"A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them." (Matthew 13:3b & 4, NLT)
Later Jesus interpreted this type of hearer for us:
"The seed that fell on the hard path represents those who hear the Good News about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches the seed away from their hearts. (Matthew 13:19)
There were many people in the huge crowd to which Jesus first spoke these words who no doubt fit in this category.
They came to this spiritual meeting to hear the greatest preacher in the history of the world yet went away unfulfilled because they simply didn’t have a deep enough understanding of what Jesus was saying to be truly converted.
Jesus even explained the reason for their difficulty.
"That is why I tell these stories, because people see what I do, but they don’t really see. They hear what I say, but they don’t really hear, and they don’t understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah, which says:
You will hear my words, but you will not understand; you will see what I do, but you will not perceive its meaning. FOR THE HEARTS OF THIS PEOPLE ARE HARDENED and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes - so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them." (Matthew 13:13-15)
"The hearts of these people are hardened", Jesus said, and it has affected their ability to see, hear and understand spiritual truth.
Their understanding is so shallow that even when the seed of the Word of God is placed within their grasp, it cannot take root, remains on the surface and is snatched away by "the evil one".
These are the people with closed minds to the gospel. Minds closed, not because of intellectual inability to understand and believe the gospel, but because of a hardened heart.
There are several reasons why people harden their heart toward the gospel, but one very important reason is often overlooked. Hearts are often hardened because they’ve been hurt, walked on like the footpath in Christ’s parable, and they are trying to protect themselves from any more hurt.
When I was a teenager I was spiritually stirred by the book, "The Cross and the Switchblade" by David Wilkerson. It is the story of Wilkerson’s venture into the gang infested streets of inner-city New York.
Recently I re-read some of Wilkerson’s old "Teen Challenge" literature. In it he and others who work with him described how so many of the inner-city gang members had tough exteriors but inside their hearts were broken. Their hearts were hardened because their hearts were broken. They felt unloved and their rebel behavior was their attempt to cope.
For instance, here’s one dramatic story.
Back in the 1960’s, a young man committed a horrible crime in a New York city park. An old man was resting on a park bench reading a paper, and this 16-year-old boy pulled out a huge butcher knife, and stabbed the man about 130 times. When the police finally pulled the boy off the body, he was still stabbing him. As they arrested him they tried to find out why he had done this.
For the longest time the boy wouldn’t say a thing. The police finally said to him, "Look, who was this guy?" He said, "I don’t know." They asked, "Well, what did he do to you?" "Nothing." "What did he say to you?" "Nothing." They said, "You mean you just went up to a total stranger, who didn’t do or say anything to you, and killed him?" "Uh huh." With disbelief they asked, "Why did you do that?"
The boy said, "Do you really want to know? I’ve got an older brother, and he’s really smart, and he’s a great athlete, and he’s good looking and he’s talented and he’s everything I’m not. My mother keeps on saying, "Why can’t you be famous like your older brother?, and I know there’s no way I’ll ever be famous by being talented or smart or anything else. I just figured if I couldn’t be famous that way, I’ll be famous some other way. So I thought of the worst possible thing I could do and I went out and did it. At least my mother will remember me now..."