Main point summary
The message of the kingdom has come, but the result is not the same in all of us. If we are to be the ones who bear fruit, our hearts must bow in submission.
That day Jesus went out of a the house
and was sitting b by the sea.
And 1 large crowds gathered to Him,
so a He got into a boat
and sat down,
and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.
And He spoke many things to them in a parables, saying,
“Behold, the sower went out to sow;
and as he sowed,
some seeds fell beside the road,
and the birds came and ate them up.
Others fell on the rocky places,
where they did not have much soil;
and immediately they sprang up,
because they had no depth of soil.
But when the sun had risen,
they were scorched;
and because they had no root,
they withered away.
Others fell 1 among the thorns,
and the thorns came up
and choked them out.
And others fell on the good soil
and * yielded a crop,
some a a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.
a He who has ears,
1 let him hear.”
And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
1 Jesus answered them,
“ a To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,
but to them it has not been granted.
a For whoever has,
to him more shall be given,
and he will have an abundance;
but whoever does not have,
even what he has shall be taken away from him.
Therefore I speak to them in parables;
because while a seeing
they do not see,
and while hearing
they do not hear,
nor do they understand.
1 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘ 2 a You will keep on hearing ,
3 but will not understand ;
4 You will keep on seeing ,
but will not perceive ;
a For the heart of this people has become dull ,
With their ears they scarcely hear ,
And they have closed their eyes ,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes ,
Hear with their ears ,
And understand with their heart
and return ,
And I would heal them .’
a But blessed are your eyes,
because they see;
and your ears,
because they hear.
For truly I say to you
that a many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see,
and did not see it,
and to hear what you hear,
and did not hear it.
“ a Hear then the parable of the sower.
When anyone hears a the 1 word of the kingdom
and does not understand it,
b the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.
This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.
The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places,
this is the man who hears the word
and immediately receives it with joy;
yet he has no firm root in himself,
but is only temporary,
and when affliction or persecution arises because of the 1 word,
immediately he 2 a falls away.
And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns,
this is the man who hears the word,
and the worry of a the 1 world
and the b deceitfulness of wealth choke the word,
and it becomes unfruitful.
And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil,
this is the man who hears the word
and understands it;
who indeed bears fruit
and brings forth,
some a a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
The scorching is a result of the sun coming up, not a consequence of there being no root. The reason the plant could not handle the scorching is because it had no root. In Christ's explanation, the scorching is persecution. It makes no sense to say they were persecuted because they had no root, but rather, when persecution came and they were scorched, because they had no root they therefore withered away.
Why do they not understand it? Because their heart has become dull and hardened
It has been said that "teaching, in its simplest sense, is the communication of knowledge."* If you or I professed ourselves to be a gifted teacher, one sure-fire way to discredit that claim is for us to publicly teach a lesson where everyone walked away confused and uncertain as to what we were talking about. But in the passage we will read today, that's exactly what happens to Jesus. What is more, Jesus tells us it's his goal. But why? Read Matthew 13:1-23 One of the great themes of the gospels was the ironic popularity of Jesus when no one seemed to understand who he was. In verses 1-2 of our passage, we see exactly how large some of these crowds could become. Nevertheless, his identity was surrounded by confusion; some thought he was a prophet, a great teacher, a miracle worker-- but rarely did God the Father grant to someone the revelation that Jesus was God the Son as man. And this is very important to Jesus. If you are wrong about who He is, then you cannot accept who He is. You will, as a basic result, reject Him. And this is precisely what the Jewish people had done when Christ came. I wonder if you have made the same serious mistake? Once Jesus has pushed himself out to sea far enough where everyone on the shoreline can see him, and has raised his voice so that everyone could hear him, he begins to teach a parable, or a story meant to illustrate a point. In verses 3-9, we hear of a farmer, his seed, and 4 soil types-- only 1 of which produces a plant with fruit-- and the cryptic phrase, "He who has ears, let him hear." Story over. No explanation. Understandably, everyone is confused. Is this what this popular teacher has to say to us? What is the point of teaching if you're going to intentionally hide your message in riddles? We know that we are on the right track with these types of questions because this is exactly what the disciples ask Jesus in private. Verse 10, And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Matthew 13:10 NASB Jesus responds with a sermon within a sermon. The smaller sermon, the explanation of the parable in v18-23 is the 'what'. But the larger sermon, v10-23, is the 'why'. First, the 'what'. Jesus explains his parable in v18-23. The seed of the sower is the message of the kingdom; the gospel of Christ and his kingly rule. Some are like the hardened road, who hear this message and cannot understand it (why, we'll see in a second) and the devil snatches the word away. Is this you? Have you heard that the day of judgment is coming and you simply move on. It doesn't affect you and you see no need or urgency to flee to Christ as a safe refuge from judgment. The second seed is tossed among rocky places and it springs up immediately, yet, because it does not have a strong root, when the sun comes and scorches the plant, it has nothing to keep it alive and it dies. Is this you? Did you once upon a time hear the gospel and flee from you sinfulness but to something that cannot sustain you and so now you have returned to your old life, perhaps comforting yourself with the small sense of guilt about your hypocrisy but you still wait in fear for inevitable death. Friends, Christ has never lost one of his sheep. Perhaps even more pressing, will this be you? Do you have a root that will hold when the afflictions of faithfulness come? The third seed falls among the thorns. The problem is not the plant cant grow but the plant cant compete. The love of money and the allure of the being great in the eyes of the world are so strong and established that a call of Christ as better than those things cannot survive. Is this you? How many times have you heard the preaching of a better, abundant life to be had in Christ but when it comes time to choose, the world wins your affections again and again and again. The last seed lads on fertile ground and brings forth a healthy, productive, fruitful plant that grows and matures. Is this you? All that are in the vine grow even though they must occasionally be pruned. Have you borne fruit in keeping with repentance, not from deeds only, but from faith in any other righteousness but Christ? How do you know if you are the fruitful tree or the one who was sprouted among the thorns? For this, we must move to the larger sermon: the 'why'. Why does the same seed have all of these different effects? Why does Christ sow seed but do so in parables? v11-12 - The fruitfulness of the seed is Christ's to grant. To the crowds, it was not granted that they would believe but to his disciples-- to those Christ chose and kept and cared for, to those he gave the explanation of the parable. The crowds were fulfilling their God intended purpose and so were the disciples. The ones to whom God chose to understand who Christ was, to them they would receive more and more blessing on these grounds. And to those who thought they understood but it was not granted, even the little bit of standing they think they have will be taken from them. Therefore, says Christ in v13, I speak to them in parables. I want them to see me, but not know what they are seeing. I want them to hear me teach, but not understand what I am saying. Their doing so is fulfilling their own prophets. But why? Why intentionally confuse people and then condemn them for their lack of understanding? Or perhaps a different question. We would be foolish to think that anyone who reads verses 10-23 is "being granted the mysteries of the kingdom." Judas heard these words. So how do I know if it has been granted to me? I'm hearing these verses and terrified by the reality that I might see, and not see; that I might hear and not hear. I don't want to be the thorns. I want to be the good soil. Friend, I want you to look at verse 15 and do the opposite. Why was it not granted to them? Because of their hearts. They actively dulled their hearts. They actively withheld their ears. They actively closed their eyes. I am a full, glad believer in the doctrine of unconditional election. Not one in that crowd nor one in this one will believe apart from regeneration. But it is also equally true, that if you will humble yourself, receive what Christ says about himself as your God in the flesh, your righteousness through his life, your wrath suffered at the cross, your vindication through his resurrection, your confidence as the righteous king, and your judge with whom you will stand before blameless on his account alone, you will have your firm root. You will not fall away if you hold fast to this gospel. You will bear fruit. To you, it has been granted. *"The Seven Laws of Teaching" by John Milton Gregory.