Summary: No matter how good the preaching, the Word of God only takes root in hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit.
THE SOWER, THE SEED, AND THE SOIL.
There were great crowds pressing to see Jesus, straining to hear His words, or perhaps hoping for a healing touch. The Lord entered into a boat and sat and taught, whilst the crowds stood on the seashore. The boat served as a pulpit, and the open spaces provided good acoustics.
There are seven parables in this chapter: the first (Matthew 13:1-9), along with its interpretation (Matthew 13:18-23), being the most well-known. We can imagine Jesus spotting a farmer sowing seed somewhere nearby, and using this to illustrate His own ministry. Even whilst talking about it, Jesus was sowing the seed of the Word of God!
The Word of God is good seed: of that there is no doubt. So why is it that it does not have a good result in the lives of all those who hear it? The fault is in the soil.
No matter how well the farmer prepared the ground, there would always be some part of that rocky terrain that would not yield any fruit. On any account, seed scattered would not always land in the good soil, the prepared soil. No matter how ‘good’ the preaching, the Word of God only takes root in hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:32-34).
Jesus speaks of four types of hearers, with four results:
Not everybody will be enthusiastic when you are converted. Some will mock and scold, questioning your sanity; others will bully and apply psychological pressure upon you to conform to the world; others will persecute and murder. Then there is questioning in the heart when it seems that God’s providence is against us.
The cares of this world soon smother the good work that God would do in their lives. Those who lack, covet; and those who have riches must needs build bigger barns (Luke 12:18). There are dangers in both extremes (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Earlier Jesus taught, ‘Take no thought for your life’ (Matthew 6:25). Not that He is counselling carelessness, but rather warning against being overly concerned with the fleeting comforts of this world. Striving after things that perish should not take precedence over our relationship with the Word of God (Matthew 6:33).
What is interesting here is the diversity: some produce a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. This is a matter of fact observation, rather than a criticism. Let us each do our utmost and our best, in proportion to the gifts and opportunities which the Lord has given us.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 13:9).