THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
MATTHEW 13:1-9 MARK 4:1-9 LUKE 8:4-8 18 SEPTEMBER 2020
PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH
One of the greatest and most effective ways of teaching that Jesus used during his time on earth was his use of parables.
So, what is a parable? I have heard it said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And that is, in fact, a fairly accurate definition of what a parable is.
Some of the parables are called mystery parables because in the Word of God a mystery is something hidden or secret up to a certain time and then revealed.
According to this definition, the church is a mystery since it was not a matter of revelation in the Old Testament. It was revealed after the death and resurrection of Christ. There could actually be no church until after Christ had died and rose again.
Remember what Paul said in Ephesians 5:25 – “Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.”
These mystery parables show the direction of the kingdom after it had been offered and rejected by Israel. They reveal what is going to happen between the time Christ was rejected and the time that he comes back to earth as king.
So, these parables cover the entire period between his rejection by Israel and his return to the earth to establish his kingdom.
Let’s look at Matthew 13:1-9 --- it is here that we hear Jesus beginning to teach using the media of parables.
Notice a couple of significant things here. The crowd that had gathered to see Jesus was huge. Many were probably onlookers, curious to see this strange person who went about speaking strange notions and ideas.
But the crowd was so large that Jesus had to get into a boat to be able to speak so they could hear. And he began to speak – in parables.
Read: Matthew 13:1-9
There is some symbolism here in that he sat down, in the boat anchored by the sea. The sea here symbolizes the gentile nations. It is at this point Jesus is leaving Israel who had rejected him, and he is turning to the gentile nations.
This was a great change of direction and purpose taking place here.
It is here that Jesus begins to speak in parables. He speaks of the sower (farmer) going out to sow his seed, anticipating an abundant crop as the growing season ends.
Farming is a way of life; it is a way to make a living. A farmer must become an expert in applying fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides to have a good crop. He has to become a businessman who knows the cost of production, the value of his product, and how to market his crop.
The crowd listening to Jesus speak was likely very familiar with the work of a sower. In the agricultural society of the day, many of them were farmers or worked on a farm.
This parable – the parable of the sower is one of a few parables that appear in all three of the gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
In the preceding chapters (8 and 9). At 9:36 we see these words in Matthew’s gospel: “seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” They lacked spiritual guidance.
Jesus warned his disciples that they would face persecution and death because of their association with him, and because of their teaching.
The people in many of the places – like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum refused to believe Jesus’ words. The disciples would face opposition, endure hatred, and even lose their lives because of their teaching and affiliation with Jesus.
In Matthew 11:19 we find that the unfriendly crowds saw Jesus as a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
But, despite the misunderstanding of who Jesus was, and the seed he had sown had failed to produce a crop in so many, despite of all that, the kingdom of God had come and continued its advance.
The people who do the will of God are part of that kingdom. Jesus says it this way in Matthew 12:50 – “for whoever dies the will of my father who is in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Let’s go back now to the parable of the sower.
In Jesus’s day “to sow” could mean “to teach.”
The emphasis of the parable is not on the sower, but on the seed that is sown. Luke, in his writing, calls the seed “the Word of God. Mark, in his writing, just calls it “The Word.”
The imagery that Jesus used in the parable of the sower is also seen in 2 Esras 9:30-33. You won’t find that in the bible you are reading. But it is one of those extra-biblical writings of scripture not included in the canon of scripture.
Now, let’s look at the interpretation of the parable of the sower. Matthew says it like this in chapter 13:19: “when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”
The emphasis is on the farmer’s (or the sower’s) good times and his difficult times. He may lose his crop, but in the end reap an abundant crop.
In the same way, missionaries, evangelists, and other christian workers will meet with people with hardened hearts, hostile responses to the preaching of the gospel. They may become discouraged but, in the end, they reap an abundant harvest of souls, when they continue to preach the truth of the gospel.
The parable speaks of the seed sown on different types of soil. Seed sown on rocky soil those seeds may spring up quickly, but when the heat increases, the crop begins to wither and die because they have no root.
People, whose relationship with God is rocky and shallow, when trouble comes to them, they wither and die on the vine.
Seed sown on the thorny ground may have a little better chance to survival. They appear to be promising. But when the sun comes out and warms the earth, the thorns and thicket overtake the wheat plants, depriving the plants of moisture and soil nutrients and choking the plants to death.
So, what so often happens to people who are recipients of the word being sown in their lives is this: they hear the word, but the worries and care and desires of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires of other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Mark 4:18-19)
Some will begin to live a double life – religion on Sunday and anything but Christian during the week. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things take over so that their faith becomes weak and eventually non-existent.
Worldly interests choke out the message of the gospel, which then cannot grow and bear fruit.
But, all these possibilities don’t have to happen. The seed can be sown in good soil. And when it is, the good soil produces an abundant harvest, a bumper crop.
Matthew speaks of this outcome in 13:23 when he says to us: “and the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands t, who indeed bears fruity, some a hundred-fold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
The difference is that that person has a receptive heart to god’s truth. His whole being – his will, his intellect, and his emotions all are touched by the word of the lord.
Spiritual growth takes place, and the believer bears fruit as he does the will of god.
The bottom line is this: the faithful preaching and teaching of the gospel will never fail to bring forth fruit, producing a crop – 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown.