Matthew 13:18-23 Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and the Seed: The Explanation
Jesus has just told His disciples that they are privileged to get to understand the stories/parables He has been using in His teachings. THEN He proceeds to explain the stories. I bet there were a few very relieved disciples in that bunch. Imagine being Jesus’ closest bunch and not having a clue as to what He was really talking about. Sure, they could understand the stories in and of themselves because He painted such vivid and common pictures when He spoke. But the disciples KNEW there was more to the story than what was on the surface. What was Jesus’ hidden meaning?
We are going to take the explanation Jesus gave His disciples today and match it up with the attendees on the seashore. See if we can find some examples to fit Jesus’ descriptions. Mark 4:13-20 records this same parable. Mark’s narrative makes it a little clearer what the sower and the seed are than Matthew’s retelling does. We also know, from many years of being taught this story and by logical conclusion, that the place the “seed” is being sown is in men’s hearts. The heart condition then is represented by the different kinds of soil. (I had to say that, just in case someone new to this story happened by today.)
Jesus starts with the impenetrable soil of the roadside. That soil is packed hard from continually being walked on. The seed just sits there on the surface. It is good seed, but it has no way of getting below the surface, so the birds eat it instead. Jesus says the birds represent Satan snatching away what was sown before there is any possibility of a surface change. A good rain could have softened the surface of a dirt road enough to maybe get a seed in, but Satan is not taking that chance. In our story that kind of heart would be represented by someone we didn’t give much attention to. It would be the customers of the fishermen. Specifically, the ones who came simply to get their marketing done, then left. They were there as Jesus was “casting His seed”, but they had no interest in what He was saying. They might have listened for a minute or two as the fisherman prepared their order or while they waited in line for their turn, but it was only a casual listening for something to take up their time while they waited. They left as soon as they had accomplished their task. Satan stole what they heard as quickly as it fell.
The second soil sample Jesus talks about is the rocky soil. This person actually listened and liked what Jesus had to say. This person might think over what Jesus said and try to apply it to their life, but not for very long. Being a follower of Jesus was not easy, and this was too much work. It was also very unpopular with the authorities. Not worth the trouble in the long run. In our crowd the boat captain would probably fit this category. He willingly took Jesus and a few of His disciples out on the sea so Jesus could address the crowd. He got a front row seat for Jesus’ message that day. It was intoxicating being this close to Jesus. He thought about the fact that Peter, Andrew, James and John were all used to be fishermen, just like him. They certainly had a good relationship with Jesus. Maybe he could give following Jesus a try. But then, that would mean leaving his way of life behind. He also saw the way the Pharisees looked at Jesus and His disciples. He didn’t need any more trouble with the law. He would pass on this opportunity, at least for now.
The third kind of growing condition was among the thorns. This person hears the word and it actually goes into the soil, but everything else in life takes priority. There is no room for the seed to grow. All the nutrients (time, attention, resources) are being sucked up by the weeds. The town merchant from our crowd certainly falls into this category for me. He is hearing the stories Jesus is sharing, and at times he is even finding them interesting and compelling. BUT he is so busy trying to make a buck that the word has no room to grow. Even his desire to be at more of Jesus’ teachings is motivated by his desire for riches.
The last type of soil Jesus addresses has been prepared in advance for the seed. This is the only type that care has been taken to ensure the success of the seed. Tilling the soil is not always easy either. Sometimes the surface is as hard as the road when you first start. But someone has put work into the process in order for the ground to be ready to receive the seed and provide it with proper nutrients for growing. In Jesus’ example He mentions the different yields from the good soil. This comes from what is put into the preparation of the soil. Simple dirt cannot grow nearly as much as soil that has had fertilizer and nutrients worked into it. What comes out is at least partially dependent on what goes in beforehand. Jesus separated this kind of soil into three yields, so I’m going to separate out three groups too.
From our crowd, I imagine that some of those seeking healing are going to be in the 100 fold group. These people have been diligently seeking Jesus. They recognize that He is their only hope. They will also be the ones who have a daily reminder of what He has done for them and will be all too happy to share their testimony with anyone who will listen!
The 60 fold group would come from those who sat down up front by the seashore to listen closely to everything Jesus had to say. This group purposely got in as close as they could and paid attention through all of His teaching. They were hungry for His word. They would have been the ones to come up to Him afterwards and ask questions. They would be the ones to tell their friends about Jesus’ message and try and apply what they learned to their lives long term. Most of our up front group were men, and as such, they will have the opportunity to use what they learned from Jesus in their work and home lives. Their families will benefit from their new understanding of Jesus’ words.
I’m going to put many of our mom group into the 30 fold category. They were so willing to hear what Jesus had to say that they brought their “work” with them. They had to divide their attention between Jesus and their children, but they WERE listening. The woman will also most likely have a “smaller yield” because her sphere of influence is smaller. She will have the opportunity to influence her children and the other mothers and children she comes in contact with. She may actually have more of an impact than she could ever imagine too. As they say, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. Her use of Jesus’ teachings may set her children on a path that leads one of them to be a GREAT tool for God.
Lord Jesus, thank You for sharing the explanation with Your disciples and with me. I love hearing Your stories. I look forward to hearing them time and time again. Forgive me for the times I think I know the story so well I really don’t need to read it any more. Kind of like a toddler “reading” her favorite book from memory. Like the toddler, I miss parts along the way. There is ALWAYS something more I can learn from each reading. The part about the soil preparations for the 30, 60, and 100 yield was new for me today. You hadn’t shown me that part before. Thank You for making me sit still and listen.
Father God, thank You for the story time we share each day when I read Your word. Today’s message reminds me of the “Story Time” poem You gave me. It actually reminds me of both of them. How You took the rough ideas You placed in my heart, stirred them around a while, then turned them into something even more. From our Story Time to Story Time poem. Thank You for the stories! Keep them coming God!