Parable of the Sower
Well with Easter weekend now behind us I think that it is safe to say that we are officially in a new season, spring season, motorcycle season (hopefully), the season of cleaning up after the long winter months of being shut in, the sun shines longer, the flowers come up out of their slumber and the birds return from their long journeys
So that must mean that it’s also time for some freshness in the realm of preaching
We spent a fair bit of time this year in the book of Proverbs and I hope that it was beneficial to you, not just in the area of knowing theology but in seeing how the wisdom and way of the Lord can be applied to our everyday lives
Studying theology for the sake of knowing theology is a noble pursuit but studying theology for the purpose transformation is faith
And so as I pondered where to take my preaching after Easter and in what direction I should go it dawned on me that If I wanted to preach messages are life altering the best place to go would be to look at what Jesus taught because His ministry was all about the transformation of lives
So to that end I want to spend this season looking at the parables that Jesus used to get His message through to the people and see what they might say to us today, and considering the spring season I think that there is no better place to begin than with the Parable of the Sower so if you would open up your Bible to Matthew’s gospel the 13th chapter
Multiple times in the scriptures that Word of God is described as being a seed, something that is planted into the heart, mind, and conscience of the person who hears it
But if I have proven anything over the past 9 years it is that not everything that is meant to grow, grows
Although describes God’s Word as “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword...” there is still one mitigating factor as to whether or not it is going to produce results in the person who hears/reads it
That factor is the ability of that person to receive that Word and be willing to allow it to grow and mature in us and produce the intended results
In this parable Jesus shows us 3 different conditions that we need to be aware of and deal with if the Word is actually going to make a difference in our lives
The first condition that Jesus warns of is to beware of listening with a hard heart
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
To really understand this point you have to understand the nature of Jewish farming at the time
By the time that Jesus was speaking this parable the majority of Jews were poor and did not have land of their own to cultivate
But in a society where agriculture is the primary source of living you have to do something to feed your family
The solution? Those that did own land usually had way more than they needed for their own purposes so they would take a section of land, usually on a hillside or something keeping the best land for themselves, and they would divide that field into many little plots that people could rent from him
These rentals were not large fields consisting of acres but small plots like a decent modern sized garden
Around these plots would be a series of paths for the renters of higher up gardens to make it past the power ones and get to be where they needed to be
Every day people would walk back and forth on these paths carrying their water jugs and their farming implements to go tend to their plot
Because of this, in no time at all these paths become very hard packed, unyielding to anything trying to get through, including any seed that happens to land there
Now usually we hear this parable and we instantly think about those people who are hard core atheists
Those who refuse to any kind of Biblical teaching at all but I caution you this morning to remember who it is that Jesus is telling this parable to
Jesus is speaking this to those who have actually gone out of their way to come and listen to Him teach
In modern vernacular Jesus is talking to the church people and He is telling us to make sure that when we come into contact with the Word to make sure OUR hearts aren’t hardened against it
“That’s ridiculous Pastor. We’re the ones here, listening.”
True but have you ever heard something so many times that you inadvertently, and maybe even unknowingly, stop listening
Maybe not with your ears but with your heart
“Oh the Pastor is preaching on salvation again, or the Pastor’s preaching on anger again, or this topic or that topic. I’ll listen but this message is for someone else. It’s definitely not for me.”
Sometimes when you have gone over the same thing many, many times a little bit of an arrogance begins to build up and you think that you’ve already got this covered and that you don’t really need it again
In my opinion that’s even more dangerous than the staunch atheist because at where he is at is obvious but we don’t even see this hardness
In Paul warns those Christians that “Knowledge puffs up” in other words because we have been around a long time we actually believe that we have it together because we already have heard it all
He goes on to say in the next verse,
Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know.
David wrote the 95th Psalm for those people who loved and served God, it is a Psalm declaring the greatness of God and How He deserves our worship, listen to what he says near the end,
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
Let’s worship God because we belong to Him, and when His Word speaks let us make sure that we do not harden our hearts so that we don’t hear what he is really trying to say to us
The second condition that Jesus warns us about is listening to the Word with a shallow heart
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray: “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
In His own interpretation of this parable Jesus said,
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
They receive it, they hear and let it come in but not very deep, it’s just under the surface, deep enough that you see some results, you notice something growing but when testing comes, and testing always comes, they can’t handle it
Like we said about those who waved the palm branches and cried “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, they are often in it for what they can get out of it
Jesus wants to heal my hurts, I accept that, Jesus wants to deal with my past, I accept that, Jesus wants to set me free, I accept that
Jesus wants to have all of me! Jesus wants to cut away the greed and pride and selfishness! I didn’t sign up for this
They are sufferers in need of a solution rather than sinners in need of a saviour and so the word only gets so deep
Perhaps you have heard the newest song by Natalie Grant called More Than Anything
The chorus goes:
Help me want the Healer more than the healing Help me want the Savior more than the saving Help me want the Giver more than the giving Help me want you Jesus more than anything
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
How deep are you willing to allow the Word to penetrate? A shallow faith will only produce temporary results and you’ll soon find yourself scorched and withered
The final condition that Jesus warns us as hearers to be aware of is listening with a divided heart
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
When our loyalties, our devotions are divided, the Word is not able to produce in us the results that it desires to
Everything looks good because on the surface we look like we are supposed to look
We play the part of Christian but there can never be any fruit because underneath our power to change, our power to produce fruit is being sapped away by the weeds, those divided loyalties that keep us from allowing the life giving source to get through
John records these words of Jesus in his gospel,
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
His words have to be in us, but more than just in us, they have be our life blood, they have to run through us and permeate every part of us and they can’t do that if there parts of us that are devoted to something else
The things that would divide our loyalties like wealth and fame and ease of living etc are what the world would have us believe are right but as Solomon tells us, they lead to death
Only the life giving source of God’s Word running completely through us can lead us in life to the fullest and life everlasting
When you step back from this parable and look at it as a big picture you notice how it is a progression, how at first the Word can’t permeate at all, then the Word can permeate but it only goes so far and then finally it goes in but it is not allowed to do its full work and produce the fruit that it is designed to produce in us
We also notice that these warnings are not spoken to those who are being exposed to the seed of the Word, in other words, us
Let us heed the warnings so that the living and active Word can be allowed to get deep within us and produce fruit, all the way up to a hundred times what was sown