The Soil of Your Heart
Review: Parables - stories with a message.
How to read parables slide.
We’re going to talk about one of Jesus’ first parable, about a sower, his seeds and the ground. Let me tell you something. I have a huge patch of dirt and weeds in my backyard. I have been trying and trying to get grass to grow there. So, I took a bunch of seed and fertilizer and spread it everywhere. Then I watered it everyday. And you know what’s there now? Nothing. Because, I think, the soil is bad. And this is exactly what Jesus is saying in .
He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Okay, so here’s the deal with the parable: for the last few chapters in Matthew, he’s been telling us about different people, and some of them follow Jesus and others don’t.
This parable helps us to see why some people are following Jesus and others aren’t. This makes sense too, because it’s split by this explanation by Jesus about the parables. In it, he explains that some people hear the parables and get more confused, while some people hear them and understand Jesus better. It all depends on what kind of person you are.
I think of a guy who is undercover in the mob or something. The boss says to them, “Eh, kill this guy, will ya?” And for just a regular mobster, they’re like okay yeah sure no problem bro. But for an undercover cop, they’re immediately shoved into this huge moral dilemma and they have to figure out a way to not give up their identity, but also protect as much life as possible. The exact same directive: “Eh, kill this guy, will ya?” but they receive it totally differently because of who they are.
Does your heart listen to Jesus?
Jesus gives us four types of people in this parable. Now, it’s important to remember that this is a parable, which means that these are not necessarily the only four types of people, but they represent broad categories of people that almost everybody falls into.
The first category is the person who hears but doesn’t understand. Now, I think based on everything Jesus has been saying so far about people who don’t really listen and aren’t really interested in Jesus, I don’t think this means someone who genuinely wants to understand but just can’t figure it out. What he just said before this is that if you genuinely want to understand, you will.
So, what he really means here is a person who hears the message of the Gospel, but they don’t really listen to it, and they give up before they really grasp it.
The second type of person is the one who receives the message, but they don’t have roots. What are roots? Jesus doesn’t explain that part of the parable, but I think roots are the daily disciplines of knowing and growing in Jesus. For us, that looks like reading the Bible, going to church, and praying to God—even when it’s hard! Because that’s the point here. Since they haven’t practicing loving God when it’s boring or uncomfortable or requires them to make sacrifices, they’ll never be able to love him when real persecution comes.
It says they received it with joy. They thought: Man, this kingdom thing sounds awesome and this Jesus dude is really cool! But they aren’t willing to give anything up, to change their lives because of it.
The third type of person is the one who hears the word, but the world and money crowd it out. This person also is interested in the word, but only as one thing among many. They have ambition. They want to be somebody, they want to be famous, successful, rich, and they don’t have room in their heart for the Gospel, because the Gospel requires the whole heart.
The last type of person is the one who truly hears and understands. The others “hear” the word, but this final person “truly hears.” They’re listening. They’re all-in. They want this message to take hold of their hearts, to have first place, and they’ll give up anything to have a piece of it.
And, when they do that, the message of the Gospel becomes like a field of wheat that grows and grows and gives back far more than what was put into it! Their lives are forever changed by this little truth that was given to them.
You know, there are two big moments in my life when it comes to following Jesus. When I was in kindergarten, at Sunday school, the teacher simply told us that Jesus wanted to live in our hearts, and if we would just pray to him, he would. And then, when I was in 7th grade, my small group read through a book called Mere Christianity together. That’s two small, simple things these two people said: Jesus wants to live with you and let’s read this book about what it means to follow Jesus. But those two little things have grown to take over my entire life, so that everything that I do, everything I think about is consumed by the person of Jesus.
So, what do we do with this parable?
Does your heart trust Jesus?
Evaluate Your Heart
Evaluate Your Heart
The first question you need to ask yourself is: which kind of soil are you? Are you really listening? Are you chilling on the outside of the kingdom, looking in but won’t go through the front door? Are you willing to do the hard things of the kingdom? Is Jesus the only thing that matters to you? What kind of heart do you have?
Here’s really what it comes down to: Is there evidence of growth in your life? The good soil has plants on it. All three of the other kinds of soil have no plants. In the end, it doesn’t really matter why. The point is to be in the kingdom, to have a life that shows the growth of the gospel in the soil of your heart.
What kind of heart do you have?
So, when you look at your heart, what do you see? Maybe you need to evaluate your heart.
But, here’s the other thing about this: We join Jesus, the sower in spreading the seed. So, what does this mean as we go out into the world and try to spread the good news of the gospel?
Trust God in Preaching the Gospel
Trust God in Preaching the Gospel
Does your heart love Jesus?
Does your life show the seed?
It means we trust God as we preach the gospel. As we read through the rest of the Bible, we find out that this message, this word, this seed, is not just for us, but for the world. And it’s not our job just to receive the message, but also to spread it. So, we go out like Jesus and we throw the seed everywhere we can.
And, as we do that, we’ll be met with different responses. Sometimes, people will outright reject you. I remember this time when I was in college and we were trying to start a campus church, so I went and handed out waters on campus with our church name on it. This guy came and took a water, and as he was walking away, he saw that it was from a church, turned around and handed me the water and said, “I don’t want anything from a church.” Sometimes, people will seem interested, but it won’t last. Sometimes, people will be all-in and their lives will change forever!
But we have no control on those outcomes. We trust God with the results. Our whole job is to throw the seed out there. It’s just to get the word out. We tell the story of Jesus everywhere we go—because we know what it’s done for us!
We know that the kingdom of God is amazing: it’s a place where sins are forgiven, where people care for one another, where peace rules above all. We give the word to others because God gave it to us in Jesus.