Jesus' teaching on the state of this generation has been interrupted by a request to see His mother and brothers who are outside. Now, as we pick up with chapter 13, it is the same day, and Jesus has left the house in which He was teaching.
Large crowds were surrounding Jesus, so He had them stand on the beach while He got into a boat.
We have all been in auditoriums and churches with bad sound. We've all been to public events where we couldn't hear what was going on. Jesus did not have the advantage of microphones, amplifiers, and speakers in the first century. But He knew that,
Rom. 10:17 ...faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
And so, because He is the Creator of sound waves and their behaviors, as well as our ears which perceive them, He utilized the perfect environment to make Himself heard. With the sound waves of His voice reflecting off of the water, and the shore acting as a natural amphitheatre, He was easily heard by the multitudes.
Notice that unlike the Sermon on the Mount, what He was about to teach was not limited to His disciples, but to the entire multitude.
The word "parable" in Greek is "par-ab-ol-AY," and it means to compare, or place two things next to each other for comparison.
The first parable here is that of someone scattering seed in a field to plant his crop. But that seed landed in various areas. The seed that fell by the road was eaten by birds, the seed that fell in rocky places grew, but died without any depth of root. The seed that landed among thorns grew up into plants but were choked by the thorns. Only the seed that fell on good soil actually grew up and produced a crop.
The disciples had a problem - they had enough trouble comprehending what Jesus said when He spoke directly (Mk. 9:9-10). Now, He's teaching in parables! Why?
Jesus' reason is interesting. You see, parables are stories that everyone hears. And yet, not everyone understands them. Jesus says that those who won't or can't understand them are fulfillments of what the Lord told Isaiah to do:
Is. 6:9-10 He said, "Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed."
Jesus wasn't trying to disguise the truth in parables. It was simply making more obvious those that were dull of hearing and dim of seeing. It was differentiating those who were coming to God and those who were far from God. It is the difference between the disciples and the multitudes. Everyone's hearing, but only the disciples will understand. Paul reiterated this to the Corinthians in 1Corinthians 1,
1Cor. 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
And he told them in the next chapter,
1Cor. 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
I've got to wonder what each of the disciples must have been thinking at that point. "Oh man! I didn't understand that parable! I wonder if I'm not really a disciple! Could I be one of those dull and dim people Jesus was talking about?" But Jesus immediately sets their minds at ease.
Jesus now explains the parable of the sower to His disciples. Mark and Luke give us some extra details about Jesus' interpretation, which we will use as we go along.
For example, Jesus said in Luke and Mark that...
Luke 8:11 "...the seed is the Word of God."
Mark 4:14 "The sower sows the Word."
Again, we turn to Mark and Luke for a complete picture...
Mark 4:15 "These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them."
Luke 8:12 "Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved."
There are people to whom we preach the Word that don't understand it, who can't believe it, and won't be saved by it. Their hearts are like the side of the road. No matter how many seeds you plant there, nothing can grow.
The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places receives the Word. He receives it - even with joy. But the rocks mean that the soil is too shallow to have any depth of root. So, the plant will grow quickly, but then die just as quickly, because the sun will scorch it.
What will make the Word grow with no depth, only shallowness in your heart? If you don't get rooted and grounded in the Word. The Psalmist wrote, "How blessed is the man whose...
Psa. 1:2-3 ...delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither...
The sun is inevitably going to come out. This represents the fiery difficulties in the believer's life:
Matt. 13:21 ...affliction or persecution arises because of the Word...
If we're not firmly rooted in our belief in the Word, then persecution and difficulty because of the Word will cause us to fall away.
How many people have we seen fail to study the Scriptures, only to find that when confronted with arguments of evolution in science and contradiction in the Bible, they fall away? All because of a lack of foundation in biblical education!
Luke 8:13 "...and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away."
When the seed is sown among the thorns, the Word lands in the heart and starts to grow. But because the thorns were not removed, then they prevent growth of fruit. Jesus said those thorns are...
Matt. 13:22 "...the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth..."
Luke 8:14 "...and pleasures of this life..."
Mark 4:19 "...and the desires for other things enter in..."
A person who wants forgiveness for their sin, but also wants to be rich. A person who says, "I trust in the Lord," but then worries about the things of this world. A person who says, "I love being saved, but I also love my vices." These people will be choked out of ever bearing any fruit in the kingdom of God.
Some people ask, "What's so important about bearing fruit?" Remember what Jesus said back in chapter seven? Everyone that doesn't bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 7:19). Bearing fruit proves that you are a disciple (John 15:8).
Finally, there is the good soil. The heart that hears the word and receives it. The heart that has removed the thorns of sin. This is the person that produces fruit in his or her life. Asd Luke says,
Luke 8:15 "...these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
The word "perseverance" there means, "steadfast, constant, patient, enduring."
Saints, prepare the soil of your hearts to hear the Word. Make sure they're not hardened by bitterness. Make sure your heart isn't shallow because of a lack of Bible study. Make sure that the thorns of sin aren't choking your growth. Have an honest and good heart that receives and grows as you continue steadfastly in your walk with the Lord.