After a large crowd had gathered from the people who kept coming to him from town after town, Yeshua told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was stepped on, and the birds flying around ate it up. Some fell on rock; and after it sprouted, it dried up from lack of moisture. Some fell in the midst of thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. But some fell into rich soil, and grew, and produced a hundred times as much as had been sown.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!”
His talmidim asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God; but the rest are taught in parables, so that they may look but not see, and listen but not understand.
“The parable is this: the seed is God’s message.
The ones along the path are those who hear, but then the Adversary comes and takes the message out of their hearts, in order to keep them from being saved by trusting it.
The ones on rock are those who, when they hear the word, accept it with joy; but these have no root — they go on trusting for awhile; but when a time of testing comes, they apostatize.
As for what fell in the midst of thorns these are the ones who hear; but as they go along, worries and wealth and life’s gratifications crowd in and choke them, so that their fruit never matures.
But what fell in rich soil — these are the ones who, when they hear the message, hold onto it with a good, receptive heart; and by persevering, they bring forth a harvest.
“No one who has lit a lamp covers it with a bowl or puts it under a bed; no, he puts it on a stand; so that those coming in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nothing is covered up that will not be known and come out into the open. Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”
Then Yeshua’s mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get near him because of the crowd. It was reported to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and want to see you.” But he gave them this answer: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s message and act on it!”
This familiar parable is one of my favorites. Jesus teaches in parables, drawing off of real life illustrations that the people would be familiar with. Everyone would understand that the type of soil that receives seed would determine the outcome, and that only one type of soil – good, rich, fertile ground – would result in a harvest. But to His disciples He reveals the deeper meaning – the seed is the message of the Gospel and the soil is the heart of a person. Some may hear the message, but it is snatched away before it even has a chance to take root. These are those that have never made a decision for Christ, they likely have a very agnostic view of God, and don’t understand their need for salvation. LORD, open my eyes to see these people and give me a love for them that I might help to sow more seeds of Your message of salvation!
The second and third types of soil have always been the most interesting to me. The first is the rocky soil – someone who hears the message and receives it gladly, but when a time of testing comes they apostatize – fall away from the faith that they thought they had. This happened because they had no depth of soil in order for the seed to take root. Sadly, there are so many churches that offer up an alter call on a weekly basis, encouraging people to come a receive the free gift of salvation, but then they never take those people under their wings and disciple them. They don’t help them learn how to read the bible, the importance of prayer, and how to confront sin, confess it, and repent from it. These people are left with nothing more than an emotion-driven prayer which will not sustain them when times of trial and testing come and eventually they will fall away from faith in Christ.
The second, the soil that is thorny, receives the message (though it’s interesting that nothing is mentioned about how it is received…). It’s “part” of their life, but they allow the worries and desires of the world to crowd out the message so that the little seed never grows, never matures, and never produces fruit. I’ve heard some people say that this doesn’t necessarily mean that this type of person isn’t saved; however, it’s hard to justify this with what Jesus says in Matthew 7: “Likewise, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a poor tree produces bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire! So you will recognize them by their fruit.” And also what John the Baptist says in Luke 3: “If you have really turned from your sins, produce fruit that will prove it!… Already the axe is at the root of the trees, ready to strike; every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire!” It seems to me that these are “cultural Christians,” people who claim faith in Christ, but that faith has not affected anything about the way they choose to live. They are like the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 – “lukewarm.” In fact, Jesus’ message to this church is strikingly similar to the explanation He gives for this parable:
“I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth! For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked! My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eyesalve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see. As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins! Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”
These people think they are rich, but they have no idea of how wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked they are. They are those who have nothing, those they think they have something, and even that will be taken away if they don’t repent and recognize their need. But the good news is God is full of grace and mercy and is always willing to receive a repentant sinner!
And then we have the last type of soil – the rich, fertile soil that receives God’s message with a good, receptive heart, and through persevering bring forth a harvest. I think it’s important to not the use of the word persevering. This person clings to the Word of God, trusts in His promises and their faith perseveres through all sorts of seasons – through trial and triumph, joy and sorrow. They know the One in Whom they have trusted and believe that He is faithful to fulfill and accomplish all He has promised.
Jesus ends His explanation by telling His disciples to pay attention to how they hear. The Hebrew word for hear is shema and it means more than simply hearing something and accepting it – it is a call to action. This is why He says, “My mother and brothers (My family) are those who hear God’s message and act on it.” To those who do this Jesus promises that they will be given more – more understanding, more revelation, more joy, more intimacy with the LORD. The abundant life that He came to give! Jesus says in John 14, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
But to those who do not receive the message with a good, receptive heart – those who just hear it, accept it, and go on living their lives apart from the holy calling that Christ has given us, Jesus says that even what they think they have will be taken from them.
Could this be why the Church is in the state it is in now? Hmm.
LORD, give me a good, receptive heart – one that hears Your Word, receives it with joy, and acts upon it so that it does it’s transformative work in my life. AMEN!