Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 “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. 6 “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 “He who has ears, let him hear.” 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, 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. 20 “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; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 “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 hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
This passage is broken up because in between the parable and the explanation, Jesus has an important dialogue with His disciples which we will study next. Until then, let us understand what He was explaining. This is one of the more popular parables of the bible because it is the first one we read about in the New Testament. It is appropriate because Jesus is talking about how different people receive and utilize the Word of God that is revealed to them. Some folks ignore it completely, others receive it emotionally and easily die off in the faith, while others become distracted by worldliness and lose focus on what is truly important. As we read this parable, we might ponder into what category we fit and then arrive at the forth “seed” and think, “yep, that’s me!” I wonder if those who fall into one of the first three categories think back to this parable when they fall from the faith. The big question, however, isn’t necessarily about which category we fit into, but how can we make sure we have good soil so that the seed which God plants in our hearts takes root and brings forth fruit?
The comparison to soil here is our positioning to receive the word implanted so it can grow. It is how we view God’s Word and what we do with it. It is all about the prep work we do. If we take a minute to think about farming (which Jesus’ audience knew a lot about), we recognize that good soil just doesn’t happen; there is work involved. There is tilling, watering, fertilizing…when a farmer or gardener prepares the land for planting seeds that they hope to bear good fruit, they make sure that it is deep, protected from animals and birds, and free of weeds. When Jesus mentioned the 4 locations of where these seeds fell, we notice all the things that detracted from the proper growth of the seeds. This directly relates to our spiritual growth as well. If God’s word falls on shallow ears that won’t pay much mind to what is said, it will easily be taken away. If it falls on the heart of someone who doesn’t establish a good foundation and is driven by emotions, it will not withstand the turbulence of life. Even if the word is planted deep in one’s heart and they take it seriously and are not as driven by their emotions, they can still be choked out by the influence of worldliness. We must not only prepare a place for God’s truth to grow in our hearts but keep the soil maintained. A gardener doesn’t just prepare the soil, plant the seed, and walk away. He tends his garden constantly in order to make sure he gives the plant the greatest potential to bear fruit.
In our spiritual life, we must do everything we can to maintain the soil of our heart. We must water it, weed it, keep it full of nutrients, protect it, and make sure the garden maintains enough soil for the roots to be firmly planted. How well have you been tending your garden?