Staying with our context of the previous blogs, Jesus had offered the kingdom to Israel. He sealed the offer by healing a demon possessed man, revealing the King’s dominance over the devil’s domain. It was upon this very miracle that the Jewish nation’s kingdom teetered in the balance. The people asked, “Could this be the Son of David?” The false religious leaders of the day over-spoke the people’s question by shouting that Jesus cast out the demon by Beelzebub, their name for Satan. Most of the people followed the lead of the religious leaders. They rejected “the Christ” and gave the glory to “the Satan.”
The Pharisees, seizing the moment, asked Jesus for a sign showing who He really was. Jesus said that the only sign that would be given them then was the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. Where would they find the teaching of Jonah? In God’s Word! The King was saying to them – no more signs. Go search the Scriptures for they speak of Me. The King said that the men of Nineveh would ultimately rise up and judge that unbelieving Pharisaic clan (Matt. 12:39-41).
Jesus then went and stood by the seashore. A large number of people gathered to Him with the disciples. The crowd had grown so large that the King stepped into a boat and pushed it away from the shore to give Himself better acoustics for being heard (Matt. 13:1-2). In fact, the crowd had grown so quickly that the disciples must have thought, “This is it. The people are coming; the crowds are gathering. We must be ready to load the buses and head for Jerusalem and crown Jesus as King.” But Jesus jarred them with the words that drifted across the water, “A sower went out to sow.”
One can just hear the air, like a deflating balloon, leaving the disciples. “What!” What does a planter going out to plant have to do with going to Jerusalem, being crowned King, bringing in the kingdom, and being free from Rome? Jesus began to speak to the people only in parables. Parables! A parable is a literary tool, a part of speech, much like a metaphor. A metaphor is a method of teaching by saying that something is like something else, or someone is like someone else. For example: life is like a race, or she is as pretty as a sunset, or he is as big as an ox. In like manner, a parable is used to attach something that is familiar and known and place it alongside a truth that had not been familiar or known.
By introducing the terms sower and sowing, Jesus signaled that He was moving to parables. The disciples wanted to know why Christ spoke in parables. Because the Jews rejected Him, He told them that through parables He was going to reveal more truth to those who wanted to know more and hide truth from those who did not want to know (Matt. 13:11-15). According to Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, “Christ had no other clear words for those who had spurned Him and persisted in their unbelief.”
Kingdom Secrets Shown
Jesus’ parabolic words revealed mysteries or secrets of the kingdom. One must recognize that though the Jewish elite rejected the King and His kingdom, God’s kingdom came as promised. But it came not in the form that the Jews expected. The shape of God’s kingdom today is based upon the truth hidden in Christ’s parables. Jesus did not try to explain this hidden truth. He just spoke it. Jesus words “Behold a sower went out to sow” had a mountain of truth hidden in them. In the course of the parables, He made clear that He, the Christ, is the Sower of good seed. He is the Planter. Jesus said later, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (Matt. 13:37). Luke made the meaning of the seed clear. The seed is the Word of God (Lk. 8:11). Well then, what about the ground or the soils in which the seed was to be planted?
The different soils are the minds of those into which the Son of Man will sow the seed of the word of God. It would always be the same Sower and the same seed. But the difference would be the fertility and productivity of the soils (minds).
Jesus explained further His speaking in parables by saying “To you (disciples) it has been given (a gift) to know (to understand) the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest (everyone else) it is given in parables.” This is distinguishing grace. God made a choice, and He imposed His choice upon individuals. Why? In order that seeing they may not see. Jesus was obviously not speaking of physical sight but of perceiving. He was not saying that the hearers would not perceive. And hearing they may not understand. The religious crowd heard the words, but they did not get their meaning.
Carefully note the King’s next words. “In them (the Jews that had rejected Him), the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled which says, ‘Hearing you (unbelieving Jews) will hear and shall not understand and seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears. Lest they should perceive and understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that 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” (Matt. 13:14-17).
The disciples were blessed indeed. God gave them understanding of the mystery truths that the Old Testament prophets were not given (Eph. 3:5). What a rare privilege. Jesus, as the master teacher, first gave an illustrative parable, a parable that could be used as an example to interpret the rest of the parables. It was His first one.
“Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a Sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matt. 13:3-9)
Jesus explained the meaning of this one parable to illustrate how to untangle the meaning of the others. He said to them, “Hear the parable of the sower.” When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the wicked one comes (illustrated by the birds) and snatches away what was sown in his heart. Satan snatches the word from minds before it can be understood and acted upon (2 Cor. 4:3-4). This is he who received seed by the wayside, the hard ground, hard minds.
Next came the group receiving the seed in rocky soil, stony places. These are the ones who hear the Word and immediately receive it with joy, yet they have no root and endure only for a while. When tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word, immediately they stumble. Friends may shun them because of their faith. And when they try to explain Bible terms, they may be ridiculed and mocked. So, they stumble and fall away. No fruit!
Then comes the thorny, weedy soiled minds. These are those who at first love the Word but then the cares of the world, less invitations to parties, spurned by the elite group, not involved in drinking parties, or dances, or jobs paying the most money because the workers are called upon to compromise their faith, these events choke the Word, and no fruit is produced.
But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the Word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and produces. These are the believers who battle through the rocks, weeds, and thorns, and live for Christ. They become productive for God’s glory; some thirty percent, some sixty, and some one-hundred percent. Regardless of what Satan and the world throws at them they choose to live for Christ.