“And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;” Matt 13:3
The first of the kingdom parables details the beginning of the kingdom. It speaks of the rapid expansion of the kingdom of heaven through the proclamation of the good news. It begins with the ministry of Jesus Christ as He went forth sowing the seeds of the gospel. The duration of this parable will continue until the end of time when the good fish will finally be separated from the trash fish (Matt 13:47-49).
There are four important topics in this parable:
- The Sower
- The Seed
- The kingdom
- The soil
Since Jesus provided for His disciples the interpretation of this parable, we need not speculate about its meaning. However, while the meaning of this parable is scarcely unknown to even a casual reader of the Bible, the implications of it often go unrealized. This it true for the same reason that Jesus used parables to convey His most pointed teaching. Those who are unwilling to apply the truth of Jesus’ word personally might understand what He says, but never will grasp what He intends.
This is the law of the hungry heart. Spiritual understanding flows toward the hungry and away from the self-satisfied. Many have hearts that are closed to new truth, and for them their ears are useless.
“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matt 13:9
“And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed;” Matt 13:14-15
The primary meaning of these seven parables is a narrative of the kingdom of heaven in our age. Yet the personal application of each parable is very instructive and beneficial in the spiritual life. It is the personal application of these parables that is almost the exclusive way they have been used. Let’s examine the four subjects contained in this parable.
Jesus told the disciples that the topic of this parable was the kingdom of heaven. Why parables?
“He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Matt 13:11
John the Baptist pointed to this kingdom. His message was that the kingdom of heaven is near, or at hand.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 3:1-2
Jesus also announced the soon appearance of the kingdom.
“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15
But this kingdom was in a mysterious state. It was a spiritual kingdom first and would grow into a physical kingdom later. Jesus told Nicodemus how to enter this kingdom:
“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5
In the first phase the kingdom is a mysterious, spiritual kingdom. It is not a physical kingdom but a spiritual one that is entered through the new birth - water and Spirit. The Jews expected the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God to be a physical kingdom with Messiah sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem. This will not happen until the second phase of the kingdom during the millennial age.
The kingdom will first exist as a spiritual kingdom consisting of those who are born of water and the Spirit.
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom 14:17
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20-21
This mysterious kingdom began on the day of Pentecost when men first received the baptism of the Spirit and the Church was born. This is the mysterious aspect of the kingdom that Jesus addressed to His disciples.
“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” Matt 13:11
The mysterious aspect is that the kingdom of heaven would first exist inside of men and in the group of believers called the Church. This is a mystery that had been kept secret since the foundation of the world.
“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.” Matt 13:34-35
The mystery was the God would have a spiritual kingdom consisting of people from all nations, races, and tongues. It was a mystery that this kingdom would be entered by all people, including Jews, the same way - by being born again of water and Spirit. It was a mystery that the Holy Spirit would come to live within men and women of all backgrounds and walks of life, and bring them into one body - the body of Christ, the Church.
There is a day coming when the kingdom of heaven will become a physical kingdom on this earth. But first Jesus will return for His church at the Rapture. After the Tribulation Period, Jesus will return with His Church and establish a physical kingdom here on earth. After that there will be a time of sorting; the good fish will be separated from the bad fish. And then eternity will begin once again after all loose ends are tied up once and for all.
“Behold, a sower went forth to sow;” Matt 13:3
The reason a sower sows is in hope of a bountiful return. The reason farmers farm is the hope of raising an abundant crop. The hope is that what is sown will multiply and return from the soil abundantly. If one seed were only expected to produce one plant which had only one fruit, there would be no reason to sow. The law of the harvest is the law of multiplication. Jesus was the first sower of this divine seed. His expectation was for the seed to multiply. And so it has. But not all have received His doctrine.
The sower is anyone who proclaims the truth of the kingdom. The most important truth is regarding the nature of the kingdom and how one is to enter it. So many who sow want to mix the seed with their own ideas and philosophies. These false sowers find their place in the next kingdom parable concerning tares sown in the field of wheat.
“Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom…” Matt 13:18-19
What is sown will determine what if anything is reaped. The quality of the seed will determine the quality of the crop. Those who go about sowing their own ideas and convoluted philosophies will not be able to reap a good crop.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal 6:7-8
This is true in our lifestyle as well as in the broadcasting of God’s Word.
We should mention that some religious beliefs place tradition on equal footing with the Word of God. However many of these traditions were developed in the centuries that common men did not have access to the Word of God. And thus they are found to contradict the Word of God in many instances. If what you are sowing is a polluted seed what you harvest will be a polluted crop.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Col 2:8
The reason God had His Word written and miraculously preserved for us is because He did not trust men to transmit His truth accurately through tradition. One person I recently spoke with pointed out that all the things Jesus said and did are not recorded in the Bible. He is of the opinion that in addition to the Bible we need the traditions of others to guide us in spiritual things. However John said that the things that are recorded are adequate to accomplish their intended purpose.
“And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20:30-31
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” 2 Peter 1:3
Peter also says that through the knowledge of Jesus we have all we need to guide us in life and godliness. Peter did not write that through the knowledge of Him plus the traditions of the “Church” we have adequate guidance in life and godliness. It is through the knowledge of Him alone, and the Word and Spirit adequately impart that knowledge.
The written Word is completely adequate to accomplish God’s purpose in the world. We need add nothing to it. In fact to add to the Word of God is to toy with our own destruction (Rev 22:18-19). In the end, it will be the sixty-six books of the Bible by with all of humanity will be judged.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Rev 20:12
There will be no addendum called the traditions of the “Church,” to the “books” of the Bible on judgment day. There will be no Appendix C written by men that will dismiss your responsibility to obey the gospel as it is recorded in the Bible!
The main Christian organization that places tradition on an equal footing with Scripture is the very group guilty of martyring those attempting to place the Bible into the language of the common people. Many of their main doctrines have no Scriptural basis and in fact are completely contrary to Scripture. Mixing the philosophy and the traditions of men in with the seed of God’s Word will not produce a good crop.
In the parable there are four types of soil. Each type of soil received the same seed from the hands of the same sower. The sower and the seed were not a factor in determining the success of the crop. The only variable that changed was the soil itself.
Many want to blame those who proclaim the message of the kingdom for their own unwillingness to accept the truth. Others blame the message itself for their unwillingness to obey the gospel, calling it exclusive or intolerant. And yet in the same church service, sitting on the same pew, hearing the same message beside those who reject the seed, are those who bear fruit. How is the seed or the sower responsible for this disparity?
A) The Wayside, or the Pathway
“And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:” Matt 13:4
The wayside is the trail beside the cultivated plot. Being stepped on by many feet has hardened it. When the seed is sown upon it, the seed lies on the surface and is not received. There is a danger in being hardened toward the Word.
“When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.” Matt 13:19
Why don’t they “understand” what is spoken to them? Because they have allowed themselves to be hardened toward it. They are not hungry but have hardened their heart.
It is one thing to understand these words but it is quite another to receive the word with comprehension. Those who are committed to resisting the Word might hear the language and yet not really understand the message. This soil says, “Yes, there is a seed lying there on my surface.” And before you can swing a dead cat around by the tail it is gone! What happened to the seed? A dirty bird came and stole it.
“…then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” Matt 13:19
Satan attacks the new soul by stealing God’s Word before it can work. Seed is sown to germinate and grow a plant. Knowing that a seed is lying on the surface of your heart will not produce a crop. It is not enough to simply know what a seed is. The Word of God will not accomplish what it is intended to accomplish until a heart welcomes it and hides it. Only then can it do what it is intended to do and become what it is intended to become. The Word of God germinates only in a willing heart.
The wayside soil’s seed found no home. The danger of seed without a home is the wicked one stealing the precious seed.
B) Stony Places
“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” Matt 13:5-6
The stony soil’s seed had no roots. Why? The stony soil’s seed could not find enough earth. There were too many stones in the way. Stony soil can have rocks on the surface or rocks under the surface. In either case, the seed finds enough soil to germinate but not enough to grow strong roots.
“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” Matt 13:20-21
The danger for the plant in the stony soil is the sun of persecution and hardship. What sustains our spiritual man during times of hardship is the strength of the spiritual root system. Most plants have as much growth under the earth as above the earth. The problem with stony soil is there is not enough earth for the roots to grow deep and strong. Notice that in times of trial that the word which would sustain and strengthen is the very thing that causes the new believer to be offended. Why? Because he has no depth and has not learned how to allow the word to sink deeply into his heart and help him overcome in times of hardship.
Trouble always comes. Your ability to withstand hardship depends on the depth of your relationship with God. If you have put up barriers on the surface or just under the surface, your relationship cannot grow roots. The answer is to break up the fallow ground and remove those barriers. Openness, honesty, and transparency; these are the things that allow God’s Word to take root in our lives. Barriers hinder commitment and prevent spiritual roots.
C) Thorny Soil
“And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:” Matt 13:7
The thorny soil’s seed had no room. Other things were allowed to grow in the same soil.
“He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Matt 13:22
One of the rules of horticulture is that most plants try to expand to encompass all available space. Some plants do this faster than others. The thorns and thistles of life grow very rapidly. Often they grow faster than the seeds of the spiritual life. The cares of this world and the drive to obtain wealth are very rapid growing weeds. If left unchecked they will expand to encompass the entire plot of life.
Have you ever noticed that weeds will grow almost anywhere? Several years ago I had weeds take over the rock barriers around my house. They found just enough soil to grow between the rocks and expand until all that could be seen was weeds. You have to stay after those weeds or they will take over. And weeds require very little depth of soil to thrive.
Most of us have thorny soil to varying degrees. If we are not diligent, the thorns of life will overgrow the seed of God’s Word and the spiritual man will be choked out! Thorns will always spring up. Will you put on your gloves and weed the garden often?
The danger to the seed in thorny soil is being choked out by undesirable plants.
D) Good Soil
“But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.” Matt 13:8
The good soil’s seed had no limits. It found a home and was able to germinate. It found adequate soil and was able to grow strong roots. If found lots of room and was able to expand. It produced abundantly - fruit of righteousness. This is why the sower sows.
The same sower spread the seed on all four soils. The same seed was sown. What kind of soil are you?
“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Matt 13:9
It is one thing to comprehend the meaning of words - it is another to understand spiritual concepts. It is one thing to hear the Word - it is another to bear fruit. The same sower and seed cultivated all four soils.
- The wayside soil’s seed lacked a home - it was stolen.
- The stony soil’s seed lacked earth - it had no roots.
- The thorny soil’s seed lacked room - it was choked out.
- The good soil’s seed multiplied and produced fruit.
This is a story about the kingdom of God in men’s heart. What kind of soil do you offer to the Word of God?
© 2008 Nevin Bass. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced for the purpose of resale without written permission.