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Summary: Are we deep or shallow? Are we quitters or do we last the distance? Are we choking in worldly cares? Do we receive the word of God? Is it fruitful in us? Let’s understand the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23.

Are we deep or shallow? Are we quitters or do we last the distance? Are we choking in worldly cares? Do we receive the word of God? Is it fruitful in us? Let’s understand the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23.

The Parable

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:3-8 NKJV)

Jesus Explains the Wayside

The word wayside is variously translated as a path (NIV, ESV), footpath (NLT) or road (NASB). The original Greek meaning supports all these possibilities. As we can imagine, birds just love an easy meal that has not been carefully planted in the soil. Jesus explains the spiritual meaning as follows:

Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. (Matthew 13:18-19 NKJV)

When the word of the kingdom comes, do we take time to understand it? Do we let it sink deeply into our souls? Are we careless with the word of God? Is our faith only a superficial label, just on the surface, or something deep down inside of our lives?

Jesus Explains the Stony Places

Rocky soil is a nuisance for any farmers. Over generations, the stones are removed and often laid on the edge of the fields or used for some other purpose, even for building if they are good quality. Some fields are just too rocky to be useful, and cannot be plowed.

But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. (Matthew 13:20-21 NKJV)

The seed that fell on the rocks did take root, but it was shallow and didn’t last. Shallow Christianity focuses on good times and materialism, not deep spiritual things, and not persecution or suffering. Shallow Christianity cannot handle the whole truth and so avoids it. But deep-rooted Christianity lives on.

Jesus Explains the Thorns

Two plant species competing for the same soil rarely works well. Though some cases of symbiosis do work well, that is not the purpose of this parable. When there is no symbiosis, we often call the plant we don’t want a weed. Some weeds can even totally destroy a crop.

Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22 NKJV)

Like thorns, worldly cares and material wealth can suck the life out of us. We waste time and effort chasing after worldly things. Worldliness becomes our master. We are on a treadmill going nowhere. Important things like the word of the kingdom are neglected. Our lives can become spiritually dead.

Jesus Explains the Good Ground

The main types of soil are sand, silt and clay. To tame deserts experts may mix clay with the sand to hold moisture. In other areas, there may be too much clay and sand is mixed in to improve the soil. Creating and keeping good soil is a constant challenge.

But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matthew 13:23 NKJV)

The Greek implies the good soil is “put together.” The Holy Spirit helps us to put spiritual ideas together producing fruit-filled lives. John the Baptist understood this when he chided the Pharisees about repentance. Genuine repentance, or change of heart, is seen by its fruits. Authentic Christians live fruit-filled lives.

Ears to Hear

He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:9 NKJV)

This is a familiar saying of Jesus. He means, pay attention! Hear deep down inside. It is an invitation to think about the deeper, hidden meaning. Why did Jesus paint such familiar farming pictures? His parables require more than ordinary superficial thought to understand. They require meditation, or thinking deeply.

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