Jesus – Sower of the Seed
During the ministry of Jesus, when teaching those who followed him, he spoke most often in parables. A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.
Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Sower highlights four different responses to the gospel. The seed is the word of the kingdom.
The hard ground represents someone who is hardened by sin. He hears but does not understand the Word. Satan then plucks the message away, keeping the heart unresponsive and preventing the Word from making an impression.
The stony ground pictures a man who professes delight and is eager for the Word. However, his heart is not changed, and when trouble arises, his faith quickly disappears.
The thorny ground depicts one who seems to receive the Word, but whose heart is full of riches, pleasures, and lusts. The things of this world take his time and attention away from the Word, and he ends up having no time for it.
The good ground portrays the one who hears, understands, and receives the Word, and then allows the Word to accomplish its result in his life. The man represented by the good ground is the only one of the four who is truly saved.
Let’s look at the parable of the sower as told by Jesus.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.
Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: A farmer went out to sow his seed.
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.
But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Human ears hear many sounds, but there is a deeper kind of listening that results in spiritual understanding. Jesus was speaking of the response of the mind and heart necessary to understand spiritual truth. But Satan and his demons are there to snatch the truth away from those who are weak or do not believe.
2 Corinthians 4:4
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"
When Jesus got away from the crowd and was alone with his true followers (the twelve disciples and the larger group of believers), a more intimate question-and-answer period followed. His followers asked him why he told stories that seemed to confuse his listeners and obscure the message.
He replied, Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you (true believers), but not to them.
Jesus revealed that understanding the truth of the gospel comes as a gift of God to those he has chosen. The, you to whom Jesus spoke was the group of his true followers. God had given this understanding of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven to the disciples as a permanent possession, a distinguishing mark of discipleship. They understood, though only partially, the secret that God’s Kingdom had arrived among them in the person of Jesus. Those who have not been given this knowledge are those who willfully reject the gospel message.
Whoever has (spiritual truth), will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.
To those who are open to Jesus’ teaching, God will give more understanding and an abundance of knowledge. In contrast are those who are not listening—Jesus says that even what they have will be taken away from them. Those who were not listening were the religious leaders and the vast majority of the Jews.
This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
The parables could not penetrate the hard soil of unbelief already characterizing unbelievers’ hearts. These unbelievers had already rejected Jesus; no amount of explaining or talking would make any difference. The soil of their heart was hard; the seed of the word would not grow; the parables would be nothing more than strange stories to them. Jesus was not hiding truth from sincere seekers because those who were receptive to spiritual truth understood the illustrations.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
The parables allowed Jesus to give spiritual food to those who hungered for it; but for the others, Isaiah’s prophecy explained their situation. God told Isaiah that people would hear but not understand and see but not perceive its meaning (Isaiah 6:9); Jesus witnessed the same reaction to his teaching.
He said, Go and tell this people: “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.”
Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."
Jesus quoted the message in Isaiah, and expanded on it for his listeners.
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal (forgive) them.
Neither Isaiah’s nor Jesus’ audiences were denied the opportunity to turn and receive healing (forgiveness). Instead, refusing to listen would mean that the people’s hearts were hardened. No matter how much they saw of Jesus’ miracles or heard of his teaching, they never would be able to understand because they had deliberately chosen to reject him.
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
The images of “seeing” and “hearing” refer to knowledge of God’s revelation. The disciples were blessed above the people in the crowd because they could see and hear what the prophets had foretold. God gave them spiritual enlightenment to understand and accept the person and message of Jesus.
For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
The Kingdom of God was a mystery to the prophets of the Old Testament because, though they wrote about it, they did not understand it (as Paul explains in Romans 16:25-26). The believers who knew Jesus personally received spiritual insight that illuminated the mystery. In these words, Jesus was explaining that he was the fulfillment of the prophecies (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:
Jesus explained the story about the farmer sowing grain. The farmer was Jesus proclaiming the Word of God (Matthew 13:37) and, by extension, anyone after him who would teach and preach the Good News (represented by the seed). Jesus was sowing the word among the crowd of followers. The parable revealed people’s varying responses to the gospel message. The attitude or condition of their hearts would govern their response.
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
The word makes no impression on some people. For those who hear and don’t understand, the seed lands on a hard heart. Then the evil one (Satan) snatches it away. Perhaps the person feels no need in his or her heart, no desire for anything other than this life, no guilt of sin or need of forgiveness.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.
The rocky soil represents people who joyfully receive the Good News of the gospel because of the promises offered. These people understand some of the basics but do not allow God’s truth to work its way into their souls and make a difference in their lives. Their roots don’t go very deep, and although they are fine at first, they wilt as soon as they have problems or are persecuted. Satan can always use sorrow, trouble, and persecution to draw such shallow people away from God.
But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
The thorny ground is Satan’s most subversive tactic of all. These people hear and accept the Good News, giving hope of a harvest. But thorns grow up and choke out the growing seed. All too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth. Worldly worries, the false sense of security brought on by prosperity, and the desire for material things plagued first-century disciples as they do us today. Daily routines overcrowd and materialistic pursuits distract believers, choking out God’s word so that no crop is produced.
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
But other people are like good soil. They hear the word and accept it. These are the true disciples. Those who have accepted Jesus, believed his words, and allowed him to make a difference in their lives. These people produce a huge harvest. They tell the Good News to others who tell it to others and so on.
Your questions and comments are always appreciated.
2015 – 2016