Matthew chapter 13:1-9, 18-23 (continued)
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Great crowds assembled around Him, so that He went into a boat and sat there. And the whole assembly stood on the shore. Then He told them many things in parables, saying, ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. While he sowed, some seeds fell beside the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
But other seeds fell on rocky ground where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up because they did not have deep soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched. And because they did not take root, they withered away. Some seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. But other seeds fell into good ground and produced grain: a hundred, sixty, or thirty times as much. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.’
Therefore listen to the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one who received seed beside the path. But he who received the seed on rocky ground is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while.
For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, eventually he falls away. He also who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit. Some produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”
Last time we discussed the importance of parables and that in them were hidden truths about the kingdom of heaven that Jesus wanted us to know. These truths are hidden from the Jews and when they read or hear these parables they are unable to understand what is being said. When Jews realize who Jesus is and trust Him as Savior, then the Holy Spirit in them allows them to read these parables and understand them. Parables are earthly stories with heavenly or spiritual lessons in them. Today we will look at one of the more famous parables, The Parable of the Sower.
We are privileged in that not only does Jesus speak the parable but He then gives the full interpretation for His disciples and to us today. Today will not bring some new revelation that we have not seen before, rather it will be a reminder to us of the job we are called to do as ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven. This parable lays out the job of the New Testament church at its foundational levels.
Everything else we will do as the Lord’s churches will either fail or succeed based on this parable and the execution of its lessons. I do not think it an accident that Jesus made sure to explain this parable from it all the other parables are properly understood. Come sit with me for a few minutes on a Jewish hillside and listen to Jesus teach.
Three Parts, One Goal, Verses 3-4
In this parable there are three very important parts and they are essential for this parable to make any sense. We have the seed, the sower and the soil. Without these three parts there is no parable. Without the seed, the sower has no job to do and without the soil he has nowhere to do his job. Jesus will tell us later in verse 19 that the seed is the “word of the kingdom.”
We talk about what is important to us. I love football, so I watch the games and if there is conversation about football, I can join in and get my two cents in. Are we engaged with the same fervor in speaking about the kingdom of heaven? Are we fast to publicly give God praise and mention Him often?
Are our conversations peppered with grace and holiness? I am not talking about “lifestyle” evangelism where you live it but don’t speak it. I am talking about an all-consuming relationship with Jesus that pours out of your life and your conversation. You can’t help but talk about Jesus He is so real and present in your life.
The goal is to advertise the kingdom of heaven, to plant seeds in the minds and hearts of people about the kingdom of heaven. We spend a lot of time with people at work, or we often eat at the same restaurant, we go to the same gas station, shop at the same stores and attend our children’s sporting events. We have ample opportunities to sow seed
Let me give you an example that you will get from your everyday life. As you watch your favorite TV program you see commercials that tell you directly about a product like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, we get that. But we also get indirect advertising, we go to a basketball game and there are little signs on billboards or we see people wearing Pepsi shirts or we get a wrist band with the Coca-Cola logo and on and on we can go.
The idea is that these multinational corporations use any and all means to get the message of their kingdom out. The Lord’s church should look at the ‘word of the kingdom’ with the same tenacity. It is our job to get the message out by all good means. Whether it be by word of mouth, t-shirts, wristbands, billboards, TV Ads, handing out free Bibles, giving out tracts or by any and all means possible simply get the word out.
Once we have this singular determination in our mindset as New Testament churches we can go about the business of the kingdom. The complete central focus of any and all churches should be advertising for the kingdom of heaven. I know that this does not sound super-spiritual, BUT that is the job.
Often we forget that “church” is a business. It has a product, it needs consumers, we have a marketing plan and it is essential for us to market our product to keep the business alive by bringing in new ‘customers’ into the business. Once we have a customer we then work at keeping that customer loyal with our customer service, things like love, mercy, compassion, time, teaching, fellowship and forgiveness.
You see all too often we have “spiritualized” the work we are called to and it loses its sense of being practical. Jesus offered to the people of Israel a religion that they had never heard of before, one filled with love and compassion; one that could be lived by everyone not just the religious elite. This is the same kingdom that we offer. This parable is as relevant today as it was that sunny afternoon on a Jewish hillside.
The Seed, Verse 19
The “word of the Kingdom.” This is the seed that we have to sow with. Today we have the “word of the kingdom” in our Bibles. It is essential for us to be familiar with the message of the Bible. Over the past year or so I have challenged our folks here to read through the Bible “cover to cover.” Just start at one end and go to the other.
I have benefitted from this, I am on my second pass through but we have people in the Old Testament, the New Testament and making good and steady progress. Once one is able to see the continuity of the scriptures and to view the Bible as 66 books penned by the same author, one is then able to grasp the words and the word more securely.
Confidence is the biggest issue that many face in sharing the gospel. But let me add here that sharing the gospel is just a part of the “word of the kingdom.” The kingdom of heaven is bigger than the gospel itself, and it encompasses ALL OF OUR LIVES. And this is the biggest issue that most have with sharing the gospel, it is compartmentalized to “soul winning night” or the special outreach that we have planned, as opposed to it simply being a natural outflow of all that we are and do.
When we take the time to read about the men and women of the Bible we find that they were just like us. They failed and messed up and sinned just like us. What made them great was that they lived the message. God was their all and so it was natural to speak of His wonders and His glory and about the time He rescued them and healed them and fed them. And as they lived longer and longer they began to understand that God was the one who sustained them in every breath of life. This kind of total dependence becomes a way of life and thus the gospel becomes a natural expression of how we speak.
David did not have to think up the Psalms, they came from God yes, but more than that many of them were deep expressions of the relationship that he had with Jesus/God. This relationship shaped his childhood, his kingship and even his death. It was impossible for him not to write about the Lord, it was all he knew and cared about. This is how we should be.
The seed should be spread everywhere we go simply because it is a natural fruit of our life in and with Jesus. Too many of us Christians know about Jesus but we do not know Jesus, thus it is unnatural to talk about Him. It was natural for the sower to take the seed, thus he is called a sower. He was familiar with the seed and the soil, he knew how to throw the seed for maximum effect and he understood that importance of saturation.
A marketing survey done in 2013 found that the average American watched 15 minutes and 38 seconds of commercials in the average one hour TV show. According to Yahoo Answers, the average commercial is anywhere from 15-30 seconds. So in the average one hour TV show we would see 31 commercials of the 30 second variety. They understand that saturation is important and so should we. Simply get the word out. Get the message of the kingdom of heaven out. Tell them and tell them often by any godly means possible.
The Soils, Verses 19-23
Seed needs soil to grow. Of course we are talking about people’s hearts and minds. The message of the kingdom is heard as we talk about it and there are four kinds of reactions that happen when we spread the word of the kingdom. Jesus lays out the truth for us and He equips us to deal with the results of the seeding whether ‘good or bad’ so to speak. It is essential to have our souls, hearts and minds prepared for the outcome as we are performance driven as a people in general.
Think of all the stats that they share during a sports game. Coaches know that this particular right handed batter gets hits when there are 2 runners on and facing a left- handed pitcher. We love stats because they are predictable and by them we can gauge our success. Jesus gives us the stats so that we are not discouraged and give up.
Here is the truth that you need to be armed with, the devil knows that you are a sower so he watches to see where you sow and his most effective weapon is to steal the seed. In the first example Jesus likens the birds of the air who steal the seed to the devil that comes along and steals the message of the kingdom immediately after you have shared it. The devil will not steal a counterfeit message so be encouraged that the devil knows you, you are doing your job.
The second and third types of soil offer “immediate” return on our sowing but do not offer any long term dividends. One receives the message with joy and tries to do the kingdom work in his own power and fails miserably and quits when serving God begins to cost him something, the next fellow gets the message but has his life too tied to this earthly kingdom and so gives up as well, Paul tells us about a dear friend of his named Demas who forsook the work of the kingdom for the cares of the world (2 Timothy 4:10).
But there is the fourth type of soil, those who receive the message of the Kingdom, they love it, surrender to it and trade all they have for it. They in turn become sowers themselves and bring others into the kingdom by sowing. When we understand the stats and the ratios we will find that we are less inclined to have the emotional swing that can often come with sharing the gospel. Also it takes a year for seed to geminate and produce fruit, some trees done produce useful fruit for 3-5 years as there is a maturation process. We will find much more peace and satisfaction in the sowing part as it is really all we have control over.
The Sower, Verse 3
You and I are the sowers. The “word of the kingdom” has been entrusted to us in the pages of the Bible. Each New Testament church as an entity is a sower. We are the messengers of the kingdom and we must simply get the word out. There is not a lot to be explained about this.
The only way to get better at sowing is to sow. It is not rocket science. You can read and pray all you want but until you get out and start to sow that all means nothing. When you begin to sow it will invigorate your need to read the Scriptures, and it will frame the way that you pray. Go out and sow.