One of Jesus’ favorite methods of revealing the secrets of God’s Kingdom to his followers is by telling stories called parables. He uses various illustrations from everyday life to communicate spiritual truths to this diverse audience. Jesus refers to farmers, fishermen, and merchants as he draws ideas from their occupations. Not everyone understood what he was teaching, and sometimes even his closets followers needed Jesus to explain the meaning of his parables.
What is a parable?
In the Greek the word means: “a similitude (“parable”), that is, (symbolically) fictitious narrative (of common life conveying a moral), parable, proverb.” (Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Definitions G3846)
The word parable is from the root word “paraballo” in the Greek. This compound word comes from “para” which means “to come along side or compare” and “ballo” which literally means “to throw” or “see” with.
The parables are used in giving one or more instructional lessons or principles and can be an allegory and may include inanimate objects (like trees, plants, or things) or people in various positions in society.
There is often a tension between good and evil or sinful and holy meaning that they can proclaim what is good versus what is bad and what is evil in contrast to what is holy or God-like.
A parable is often a significant comparison between two objects that may be used as a mirror image of a comparable object to teach a single concept or teaching. Some of the key words that Jesus usually concludes the parables with are phrases that alert the listener to pay close attention to what was just said and may include such words as “He who has ears, let him hear”or “Most assuredly I say to you,” and “How much more.”
Jesus wants the listeners to focus on what was just stated in the parable so that they will comprehend what Jesus is trying to teach them. (http://www.patheos.com)
A Sunday School definition would be: A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
There are over 40 parables in the New Testament, but did you know there are also many in the Old Testament too? Did you also know that 35% of Jesus teachings were parables?
Jesus clearly gives parables to hide the meaning from those whose hearts are hardened. Some of the parables are hard to understand but they frequently serve as object lessons that use experiences from life to clearly communicate a meaning for Jesus’ teachings.
Jesus quotes Isaiah the Prophet by saying:
Matthew 13:34 – 35 NKJV
All these Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
This is found in…
Psalm 78:2 NKJV
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old.
The Disciples questioned why Jesus spoke in parables when He talked to the people.
Matthew 13:11 – 15 NLT
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets (Greek: the mysteries) of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables.
For they look, but they don’t really see.
They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
When you hear what I say, you will not understand.
When you see what I do, you will not comprehend.
For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cant see,
and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand,
and let me heal them.”
We are embarking on a new sermon series; Parables, from now to the end of Summer. We will be looking at powerful teachings from Jesus and applying them to our everyday life. You don’t want to miss a Sunday service during this series. Believing God will teach us mighty things to take us to a higher level in Him, Amen!
The Parable of the Sower and the Four Types of Soil
Jesus used common scenes from everyday life to teach new truths about the Kingdom of God. The amazing thing is that we can experience these truths here on earth to prepare us for that glorious day when Jesus comes to take His own to Heaven with Him. I am looking forward to that glorious day, are you?
Read Matthew 13:1 – 9 NLT
There are three elements to this parable: The sower, the seed, and the soils. I want to talk about all three elements in further detail to understand what Jesus was wanting the listener to understand.
1. The Sower.
In this parable the Sower is unknown. This story speaks simply of the fate of the seed sown, the different kinds of soil on which it fell, and the effect it produced. So who was Jesus talking about when He said, “Behold, the sower went forth to sow”? and in the New Living Translation we read, “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.” The words “Behold” or “Listen” implies we need to pay attention to what Jesus was about to say.
The Sower is…
a. God Himself.
Jeremiah 31:27 NKJV
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast.
God is saying here that He will sow in the house of Israel and Judah seed to bring forth man and cattle. We have such a persistent and over abundant Sower we serve. He constantly sows/plants seeds in our lives to grow spiritually, physically, financially, and so much more. God’s character is to bring growth and good things. God knows full well that much seed He sows falls by the wayside and yet He knows a great harvest is going to come. Many will reject, and many will receive what God has to say.
b. Christ Jesus.
Jesus even announces Himself as the Sower in Matthew 13:37 NKJV, “Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed.” He is constantly sowing seeds in our life. What type of soil do you have when He sows? Let us be people who readily receive what Jesus teaches and allowing it to sink down into our spirit and bring forth good fruit!
c. Holy Spirit.
He is the One who brings inspiration for the sower to sow the seed, and waters it. Holy Spirit is like the wind which blows as it wills and every breathe of that Spirit is the Word of God. Life giving! His language is unexpected and life changing in our life. We know what it is like to have our spirit touched and inspired to scatter seeds for God’s Kingdom. We see someone hurting or needs encouragement and we are compelled to go and talk to them. That is the Holy Spirit sowing seeds in our heart, and in return, we sow seeds in others. Which leads me to my next point.
d. Every Christian.
In Commissioning us, Jesus spoke of the hearts of men as the field, and His Gospel as the seed to be cast everywhere.
Matthew 28:19 – 20 NKJV
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Mark 16:20 NKJV
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
What Jesus began to teach, His Apostles continued teaching. The Apostle Paul regarded his whole ministry as a sowing of spiritual things.
1 Corinthians 9:11 NKJV
If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?
Acts 9:15 NKJV
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.
From the time of his remarkable conversion, Paul knew that he was a chosen vessel for sowing the precious seed of the Gospel into the human hearts wherever an opening should appear among the Jews and Gentiles.
It is the privilege and obligation of all who are Christ’s to function as sowers. We are saved to serve and sow! Compared to the huge field of lost souls, the sowers are view.
God needs everyone of us to do our part to sow seeds into the hearts of those who do not know Him. We can do this by the spoken word, and also by our lifestyle. Is your lifestyle giving God a bad name or a good name? Are you sowing good seeds, or are they selfish, sinful seeds? The world is watching you. Be the best representative of Christ to your world!
Our heavenly Father, the Husbandman, exhorts us to pray that He would send more sowers into His field. Everyone! Not just the preachers and the teachers of God, but all of us should be sowing in God’s field.
The Greatest service any Christian can give is sowing the good seed of the Word. Words and works are seeds to drop in the soil of the hearts. We as Christians need to be sowing in season and out of season; devoted, yielded heartily, entirely and sincerely to this greatest of all tasks.
Sowing is hard work and may sometimes seem like fruitless work. Or it may seem like your works are wasted. But God’s Word promises us that we shall always reap the fruits of our seeds with Joy!
“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.
This is our Promise. No matter how fruitless our labor seems the Lord promises a joyous harvest. God is pretty much saying it is a done deal. Joy will come in the morning!
Remember that it is our job to be the sower. All the sower has to do is Sow. It is beyond our power to make the seed grow. The one obligation of the sower is to Sow, leaving the Holy Spirit to make well-prepared ground bring the fruit of the seed which we have sown.
We are responsible for sowing not for the growing. This has helped me throughout my years in ministry. It is not my responsibility to make you grow, only to sow the seeds and the rest is up to you and God. This frees me from stress and anxiety I can feel over the sheep in my care.
2. The Seed.
The seed to be sown is described in two ways. The seed is…
A. The word of the Kingdom.
B. The word of God.
All the seed must be sown. The whole counsel of God must be presented. The full Gospel is seed, that is, “the most vital form of the matter”
As to the nature of the seed we sow it is spoken of as being…
* Living and Incorruptible (1 Peter 1:22 – 25)
* Powerful and soul saving (Romans 1:16; 10:17)
* Heavenly and divine and will not return void (Isaiah 55:10 – 11)
* Immutable and everlasting (Isaiah 40:8)
* Engrafted and able to save. (James 1:17, 18. 21)
James 1:21 NKJV
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
As the “Word of God” is the seed and Christ came as the “Word of God” He himself is the seed. The seed we sow, then, is not only from Christ— It is Christ.
“The seed of the Kingdom is Himself the King.” He was consistent in representing Christ as the seed as well as the sower. He preached the Savior, and also was the Savior he preached. The Savior preached the Savior, Himself the Sower and Himself the Seed.
3. The Soil.
In this parable the attention is focused not on the sower or his seed, but on the soil and its reaction to the seed sown. Here we come to the importance of the parable, and importance we can not exaggerate.
This parable deals with the fundamental truth, namely the proclaiming of the Gospel to sinners, and being good soil to receive the seeds from the Word of life. Other parables deal with subsequent truths, and would not be understood without this one first.
Lets understand that these soils are different states of the heart and their reaction to the Gospel. Which one represents you?
Lets take a look at the different soils…
I. The Wayside Hearer .
Or the hearer with the closed mind. This condition of the heart receives the seed by ear, but no life comes from it. The seed is on the surface but not in.
The people represented here are the hard surfaced souls who are destitute of spiritual perception or understanding. These people may be “religious” and attend regular church but the truth they hear is never received into their hearts.
The truth takes no hold because the heart is like a highway; the surface is hard and nothing can make an impression on it. The seed can not penetrate: therefore the “Birds” which symbolizes the “Enemy” can snatch it way. The truth takes no hold, when the Word is understood and received in faith, it is beyond Satan’s reach.
II. The Stony Ground Hearer.
Or the hearer with and emotional mind. In this instance the seed is received but does not take root. The seed is on and in but not down.
“The root of the matter” is not in them. When temptations and persecution arise, they quickly backslide. Depth of faith, and surrendered character are lacking. Hard heart is connected with superficial faith and character. There is no place to increase or grow. Only surfacy character is present.
The first soil represents those who take “No Hold” and the second soil represents those who take a “Superficial hold.”
“Violent emotion is a sign of shallowness and never lasts; but the tender heart leans to moral thoughtfulness, and where that is, the feeling is permanent.”
The stony place was where there was only a shallow layer of earth beneath which was hard rock. Some churches have too many of these stony hearts. What a blessing they would be, if only they had depth!
III. The Thorny Ground Hearer.
Or the hearer with the wondering mind. Here the seed takes root but bears no fruit. The seed is on, in and down but, does not come up. It is choked and typifies the pre-occupied people. The too busy people. The truth takes hold, but the hold is a battle by three foes or forces. Forces in opposition to the nature of the seed are:
a. The Cares of the World.
Worry, worry, worry over the things of this life. An anxious, unrelaxing attention to the business of this present life chokes the seed. A variety of interests, legitimate in their place, are allowed to dominate one’s life, with your relationship with God as just another department of the already highly departmental life.
Where does the worry stop and the trust in God begin? It has to begin in our minds. Do you really believe God cares for you? Do you really believe God takes care of you? It is a faith walk everyday trusting in Jesus. We have to remember that if His eye is on the sparrow, we know God watches over us. This takes away the worry and anxiety and then the word of God, or the seeds God sows on our hearts will germinate and bring forth much fruit.
Too many Christians allow spiritual impressions to come to nothing because of their submission to influences other than God. They place their attention instead on entertainment and family business, and things that make them feel good, instead of allowing a closer relationship with Jesus. These people, like Martha, “cumbered with much serving,” miss the joy and privilege of sitting at the Master’s feet.
b. The Deceitfulness of Riches.
In itself, riches can be a blessing, but the value of them is decided. Money can buy houses and food, but will it set a man free from Hell, or set him free from pain or sorrow? No! This is false security. We can have riches one day (striving to be rich all our life), and the next day it all be taken.
In the Greek, “Deceitfulness” can be translated as “Delusion.” Having an unhealthy drive to get rich deceives us or deludes us to thinking it is the most important thing. When we think like this, it crowds out what truly is important in this life on earth: Our relationship with God.
It is a hard road for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Our riches will fail us. Don’t rely on false security, but trust in the name of the Lord your God!
Psalm 20:7 NKJV
Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
On the road trying to obtain wealth people can reason and think mistakenly. They scheme to do this or that and it falls empty, or corrupts the owner of it.
c. The lust of other things.
A few other words for lust can be: longing, desire, or pleasures.
In the book of Mark we see his account of this parable. Mark adds; “the lust of other things” as another thorny ground element.
Mark 4:18 – 19 KJV
And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
The lust for other things can be translated as “The pleasures of this life.” Enjoyments, innocent in themselves, in which worldly prosperity enables one to indulge, smother the seed. So much of time is taken up for pleasure that only the dregs or the most worthless part of our energy and reasoning, remain for spiritual things. (Herbert Lockyer)
In the early stages of being a Christian there was growth and the promise of fruitfulness, but other things, or considerations prevented the fruit from ripening.
May the good Lord deliver us from becoming engrossed with earth and earthly things resulting in the neglect of the great realities of the soul and eternity. The rich young ruler wanted all of his possessions and he wanted eternal life. The reality is either Christ or potions, but not both. No man can serve two masters.
We have to be careful between the cares or worries of life, delusion of chasing riches, and having a lust for others things. They all can overtake us if we allow them too. Be aware and alert that you are not allowing them in your life when you are hearing the Word of God. Know the Word! Know God! Further, do everything in your power to protect your relationship with Him!
It is not saying that worrying or wealthy or lustful people are bad, or they don’t bear fruit. What it is saying is those who get caught up in all these things don’t bring forth the fruit to perfection or completion. The fruit is choked or crowded out by all three of these thorns.
IV. The Good Ground Hearer.
Or the hearer with the stedfast, understanding mind. Those who were open to God and the things of God, and were resolute in keeping it. Because there was deep root in this instance, there was much fruit!
The seed was on, in, down and up! The seed had taken full hold. It had entered the whole soul, filling mind, heart, conscience and will. The Word was received, understood and yielded to, then it produced faith that bound them to Christ, and service to Him that glorified God and benefitted others.
This last soil is really the reverse of all the other soils. The seed takes root, does not quickly lose the moisture which would take away the life producing plant. The good ground hearers were the positive of this pessimistic parable.
Jesus said the good ground hearers produced different degrees of fruitfulness.
*Thirty fold – is lowest degree of fruitfulness
*Sixty fold – is the intermediate degree of fruitfulness
*Hundred fold – is the highest degree
Interesting that the degrees of hearing are three:
- The Wayside Hearer
- The Stony Ground Hearer
- The Thorny Ground Hearer
So is the abundance of fruit is three-fold as well. What amount of increase is your life yielding? Are you giving back thirty fold, a fair return; sixty fold, more heartening to the Sower than the former; or a hundred fold, a striking, wonderful and God-honoring return that is actually the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ?
Than the parable ends with, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” As we read the parable we must strive not only to be fruitful, but to abound in fruitfulness for the glory of God! We must give attention to how important it is to hear the Word of God and receive it for ourselves. Not only hearing and receiving, but understanding and obeying it if we want to be fruitful! How many of you want to produce good fruit?
A parable reveals truth to those accepting and appreciating it — concealing it from those resenting and abusing it.
One more thing about this parable: We are three times blessed, just like the Disciples were, in receiving and understanding and applying it. Let us be people who gladly and readily receive God’s word and His teachings with eager and hungry hearts: 30 fold, 60, and 100 fold, Amen!
Your sister in Christ,
Pastor Kris Belfils
Sources: Pastor Kris Belfils, All the Parables of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer, and notes from The WayFind Bible NLT.