I had the privilege this past weekend of leading our children’s staff retreat. It was awesome to spend the weekend with people who love the Lord. We had many activities planned for the weekend and a lot to accomplish. I was excited because we had 2 nights and a full day to spend in God’s Word growing together as a team. I prayed for a long time about what to teach while we were there. The first study that came to mind for the first meeting was Matthew 13, Jesus Christ’s parable of the sower and the seed. This is an intense study that makes you evaluate your walk with the Lord. God blessed our time as He searched our hearts through His Word. I would like to share the truths that we learned, with you in this article.
As a student of the Word of God, do you do all that you can to come face to face with God’s Word and put forth all effort to understand God’s message to us as His followers? When you teach others about God, do you make sure that they come face to face with God through His Word? Do you put forth all effort to make sure that they understand God’s Word so that they can apply It? I want you to dwell on these things as we analyze this parable.
The passage can be divided up in three different parts. First, let’s look at the parable itself.
1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow ; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil ; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched ; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13)
I. Jesus shares a powerful message that no one understands
The large crowds were continuing to follow Christ, not really for what He was teaching them, but, more so for what He could do for them (feed 5,000 or heal the sick etc.). This parable is a prime example of the fact that the majority of the people were not interested in the spiritual message. The disciples were also there with Jesus. These men had been walking with Christ from the beginning, learning from Him. After He shared the parable, they were the only people present who actually came to Jesus and confessed that they did not understand what He taught and sought to understand the meaning of His message. The rest of the people had no clue what His teaching meant and they really did not care to find out. The disciples wanted an explanation of the parable and they also wanted to know why He continued to teach the people in parables. Our next point reveals why Jesus taught in parables.
II. Jesus taught in parables to reveal the type of heart His hearers had
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables ?” 11 Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance ; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 “Therefore I speak to them in parables ; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 “In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND ; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE ; 15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ 16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see ; and your ears, because they hear. 17 “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. (Matthew 13)
Jesus did not teach in parables because He did not want people to understand the deep truths of the kingdom of God. He taught in parables so that the people who really wanted to know God would humble themselves and come to Him with a teachable spirit. The problem with the majority is that their hearts were not right. They were not following Jesus for the right reasons. They did not humble themselves and come to Jesus for an explanation. They probably thought, “well isn’t that just a great message” and left it at that. They left the same way that they came. They heard but did not understand and did not really even care to understand. Jesus wanted them to learn the mysteries of the kingdom but they did not. The disciples did. This leads to the explanation of the parable, revealing who is in what category.
III. Jesus’ message is explained by . . . Jesus
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy ; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13)
In the first example, the people hear the Word of God but do not understand It and as a result, they produce no fruit. This sounds very similar to the crowd. They heard but did not even care to understand and as a result, their lives were not transformed. The second example is of someone who heard and seemed to like what he heard but he did not fully understand the message because when persecution came because of the Word, he turned away. He did not produce any fruit either. The 3rd group is made up of those who heard but did not fully understand because they became distracted with life and turned away, again, producing no fruit. The fourth group both heard and understood the Word and they are the only ones to produce fruit. Their fruit production differs based on the depth of their understanding of the Word. That is why some produce 100 and others 60 while others only 30.
As a leader, I must make sure that I am in the 4th category, hearing God’s Word daily and seeking to understand It. As I work with people, I will encounter people in all 4 groups and therefore I need discernment to know which ones to invest in. Also, as I teach people the Word of God, I must put forth all effort to get them to understand what they are learning. I do not want to do half the work and just get them face to face with the Word of God. I want to finish what I start, making sure that I have done all I could to help them understand and apply so that they will begin to produce fruit. What about you, are you producing fruit? According to the passage, the fruit is people who understand the message and apply it by making sure others hear and understand, or, in other words, the process of making disciples. Do you seek to hear the Word of God daily by studying the Word? Do you put forth all effort to understand God’s Word so that you can apply It? Do you seek to teach people God’s Word in a way that they can understand It and apply It? May the Lord help us stay true to His calling of being disciples and making disciples.