Summary: Jesus explains the conditions of entry into God’s Kingdom - He is the Sower, the Seed is His Word and men and women are the Soil, either "Bad-Soil" - along the Path: responding NO; on the Rock: YES & NO; among Thorns: YES BUT; or "Good-Soil" : YES!
The first recorded parable of Jesus is “The Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:1-23) but it’s equally the story of the seed and the soils. Earlier that day He’d had a confrontation with the Pharisees and religious lawyers about His claim to be the Son of Man and the great gulf that separated them from God’s Kingdom. They could not bring themselves to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. There had also been a demand by His mother and brothers for a private talk – perhaps to persuade Him to call it day. But Jesus declined them special access saying that the only relationship that ultimately counted with Him was what He had with those who do “the will of my Father in heaven” (12:50).
Jesus had cast out devils; He’d healed the sick and He taught the precepts of the Kingdom but still they didn’t understand. Soon He would be leaving Galilee and setting His face as a flint towards Jerusalem, there to meet increasing opposition and eventually the cross. How was Jesus to get His Message of the Kingdom of God through to the people in the crowds, now full of expectancy, hanging on to His every word? The word “Kingdom” had excited the common people with the expectation that a powerful, dynamic messianic figure would drive out the Roman oppressors and restore the national pride once more. But the extraordinary thing is, He didn’t choose that route. He told them a story instead – a parable.
That’s the context of Jesus addressing the crowd about entry into that Kingdom. And what’s more, it was far from straightforward, more of a riddle. His closest friends were puzzled by it and asked Him why He was speaking in this way. His reply was even more perplexing! It was a quote from Isaiah: ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand”’ (8;10).
Those with a far great knowledge of the Bible than me explain this enigmatic statement like this: The mass of the people weren’t on His wavelength! They had prejudicially closed their minds and hearts to the Kingdom of God. Jesus had often said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (8:8). But they weren’t willing to heed the words of Jesus so they weren’t even able to hear them correctly. By their own actions they cut themselves off from God’s revelation of His Kingdom. The disciples and a relatively few others were willing to “hear” and accept His teaching and it was to them would be given to understand the revelation, but would be incomprehensible to the unbelieving. What a responsibility we have as people who’ve been privileged to hear and handle the Word of God!
The aim of the parables was to draw out from the masses the few who would grasp what Jesus was driving at. These fascinating stories would be the window of understanding, the filter, to separate those two types – the believers in Jesus and those who rejected Him. God would use the teaching of the parables to enlighten the receptive and to befuddle the unreceptive. Parables revealed truth to those who were hungry, and concealed it from those who were too lazy to look for it, or too blinded by hatred and prejudice to discern it. Tragically, many heard the message but were not saved; many were called but not chosen.
What a lesson this is for us. Spiritual illumination is the privilege of those who are personally committed to Jesus. God’s Word brings light for those who look for it, but for those who don’t, the darkness intensifies. It’s our choice. We must come to the Scriptures with an honest, open heart, genuinely willing to know and do God’s will. To you, Jesus says, “the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given.”
The Parable of the Sower, the Seed and the Soils was probably our Lord’s first parable, and is a foundation parable of the Kingdom of God through the detailed explanation given. Interpretations of most of Jesus’ parables are not recorded, but in this instance we have it spelt out line by line from His lips so we don’t need to speculate. The disciples and Jesus’ circle of followers had asked Him what it meant. They were ready for the manifesto of the Kingdom. It turned out to be a simple lesson in gardening! But behind the imagery of the Sower, the Seed and the Soils there are solemn and serious truths.
I think it’s quite possible that Jesus took the story from life. Imagine the scene: as He stood in the boat moored on the shore of Galilee there in the distance was a farmer sowing seed, some falling along the path bordering the field, some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground and fortunately, some on good soil. The classic definition of a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” It tells us in familiar human terms something about God’s reign in human life and His terms for the salvation of His creation. Let’s consider the constituents of the Parable by asking, firstly: