The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
I. The Hardened Heart (vv. 4, 19)
What is probably meant by “road” is more of a walking path that went through the field that people used a short cut to get from one side to the other. The path was too hard for the seed to sink in, so it remained on the surface where the birds could easily pluck it up and eat it. This soil describes the heart of someone who hears the word of God and is totally unaffected by it. Jesus says that this person doesn’t understand the word. However, their lack of understanding isn’t the result of the message being too difficult or their intellectual capacity being too small—it’s the result of their hardness of heart. They don’t understand the word because they have no interest in understanding it; they don’t even make an attempt to understand it. And since they do nothing with the word they receive, they make an easy target for Satan to come and snatch the word away from them altogether.
II. The Shallow Heart (vv. 5-6, 20-21)
In this second soil, lying just under a thin layer of dirt, there was a solid layer of bedrock. The seed falls into the soil and immediately sprouts up, but it can’t ultimately withstand the heat of the sun because there is no depth of soil for the roots to extend into. Just as quickly as the plant sprouts up, it withers away and dies. The person represented by this soil looks promising at first and they seem to show a lot of excitement after hearing the word of God. But, soon they realize that the gospel not only brings blessings, it also brings affliction and persecution. Immediately, they reject the word and their interest in Christ dies out. In fact, the same message that immediately brought them joy, is now an “offense,” which is the literal translation of the word for “fall away” (v. 21). Their interest in Christ lasts only as long as it means things will be easy for them.
III. The Worldly Heart (vv. 7, 22)
Underneath this soil there was an entire root system of thorny bushes. These roots dominated the soil to such an extent that there was no place or nourishment to be had for the plant of the good seed. While there is some initial growth and progress, the plant is eventually choked out by the competition of the thorny bushes. This person probably has a little more understanding than the shallow soil. Maybe they have a little better comprehension of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, of their need for salvation, of the value of Christ, etc. But at the end of the day, this heart has one thing that prevents it from receiving the word of God and bearing fruit: it is unable to rid itself of its ultimate love for the things of this world. When push comes to shove, it eventually becomes obvious that they are more committed to worldly concerns and worldly gain than they are to Christ and His cause. Christ never comes to have preeminence in their hearts. At first they may show a lot of interest in the things of Christ, but eventually it becomes evident their loyalty lies not with Him, but with their own worldly gain.
IV. The Well-Prepared Heart (vv. 8, 23)
Of the four soils, only this soil represents the heart of the Christian. This is the heart that has been well-prepared for the hearing of God’s word. At the most foundational level, they understand God’s word because God has renewed their heart by regeneration and given them spiritual understanding of the gospel. They show a sincere interest and comprehensive submission to the word of God. They hear it with the sincere desire to know Him and respond to Him in obedience. The result of this hearing is that God’s word produces a supernatural effect in them, bearing abundant fruit. Jesus makes clear that the amount of fruit is not the same for all believers—some people bear a hundred fold, some only thirty. But the point is that all Christians will bear fruit. At times, even Christians will find themselves looking like one of the first three soils, but a true believer will never be content to stay there. The general, enduring characteristic of the Christian’s life will be Spirit-produced fruitfulness through obedience to God’s word.
- As Jesus taught these parables among the massive crowd, He was the Sower sowing the seed of the word. He knew the hearts of men, and knew that many that day would ultimately reject Him and prove to be one of the first three soils, but still He sowed the gospel generously. If they rejected Him, it was not because they lacked opportunity to believe, but because they were too stubborn in heart to receive Him. Christ continues to speak through those who go out sowing the truth of the gospel. The word of the kingdom is now spreading to the ends of the earth. All men everywhere are commanded by Him to repent submit to the King. Hear the call of Christ in the gospel and make room in your heart for Him.