Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 13: 1-23

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Parable of the Sower

The
Parable of the Sower

General Idea: This passage is the "Third Great Disclosure" of Matthew (See Matthew Background Material!), and starts a series of parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, and how God works both in the Universe, and in our hearts. The Parable of the Sower is one of my favorite parables, as it explains how God is working in our lives, and, yet, how we try to keep Him out. In this parable, God is holding up a mirror to show us our real heart. What is inside of you? He is looking for faith, for authenticity, for Fruit, for a soul who cries out to Him, so He can grow His seed in us. God also desires to multiply His seed so He can be made known to others. He is looking to see where His Word has fallen on you. How is His Word being used?  

God scatters His Word in the world by planting it in our hearts. As with any agricultural endeavor, the goal is to reap the harvest, take the fruit, and let it be used. Yet, so much can stop the seeds from germinating; and, if they do germinate, their growth can easily be stifled by bad soil, weather, insufficient water and fertilizer, and negligence. The young plants can be trampled on, and, be pulled up, mistaken for weeds. Thus, when we are aware of what prevents a good harvest, we can work harder to remove the obstacles, and, be diligent to create a good harvest. It is the same with our Spiritual growth; when we know what holds us back, we can strive to push forward in our maturity and sanctification. Is His Word on His path, and, in nutritious soil, or choked off by the weeds? 

1.   Behold a sower. Jesus is probably actually pointing to a man sowing seed in a nearby a field. As the people watched him, Jesus explained how the Word of God works in their hearts. Very dramatic and real teaching!

a.   Sat by the sea. The calmness of the seashore acted as a parabolic dish to amplify sound, making the beach like an amphitheater. Jesus was easier to see, and hear. Jesus was not only concerned with His message, but, also, how to best deliver it!

b.   Palestine, at that time, was primarily agrarian. Galilee was a large agricultural trading village. Most of the people present were farmers, indentured to Roman masters, and forced to work their family land, with the proceeds going to Rome.

                                                  i.   This shows that Jesus ministered to the real people, literally, a grassroots ministry!

                                                ii.     Most farmers did not have the time or resources to plow first (iron instruments were extremely expensive, and only for the rich), so, they poked the soil with big sticks, and, using more seed, scattering it into the wind for equal distribution. It would fall all over, in addition to where it was supposed to go.

c.   The path was the "footpath" the farmer walked on so as not to walk on the soft soil, disturbing the crops.

d.   Stony places. This was not actual rocks that you could see; rather, the top soil. In many places, it was only a few inches deep on top of limestone bedrock. Thus, a plant would grow quickly; then, the roots would be stifled from further growth.

e.   Thorns were the roots of the weeds that the farmer did not see, or could not pull out. They would grow also, competing for water and nutrients, thus, strangling the crops.

f.    Thirty fold and sixty fold were considered good, bountiful harvests, as the average was ten to twenty fold.

                                                  i.   A fold means the multiplication of the effort, so, ten fold means when one seed is planted ten seeds are given; sixty fold means when one seed is planted, sixty seeds are harvested.

                                                ii.     A hundredfold was considered the maximum that the land, under ideal conditions, would produce. This was not an exaggeration, but real numbers (Gen. 26:12; Amos 9:13).

g.   He who has ears let him hear, refers to the frustrations of the Prophets who spoke to those who refused to listen, choosing to be deaf to God's call (Isaiah 6:10; 43:8; 44:18; Ezek. 12:2). Listening is the quintessential way to learn. A good disciple will actively listen to his/her teacher, not interpreting instructions just to affirm his/her own wants and desires.  

2.   Parable, in the Greek (parabole) means "to throw alongside;" it is where we get our word for ball. It is using everyday objects to teach eternal matters which most people could never grasp otherwise (Matt. 13:52). A parable does not hide the lesson; rather it teaches in such a way that it can be grasped better by those open to understand. It is the intangible wrapped in the tangible. It is beyond logic, metaphor, allegory, or abstract reasoning, stimulating the person's interest to open his/her eyes and ears, and engaging his mind to seek truth, rather than himself, as a means of grasping the lesson God has for him.

a.   This was a common literary and speaking device for Rabbis, in Jesus' time, to communicate the point.

b.   Mysteries refers to the prophecies and metaphors in the OT pertaining to the coming of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:10-16). It was clearly given, but, few chose to understand it. It was sometimes referred to as being clear by hindsight what was unclear with foresight.

c.   Seeing they do not see. Parables contain comparisons, and narratives with a central point, that are enlightening to those who avail themselves to it and its truth. It is concealed from those who do not believe, who refuse to see, or hear.

d.   Parables are also instruments of judgment, because, people refuse to listen to God!  We are responsible to receive the seed, and if we throw it away, we lose in a big way-for eternity! They have clarity, but, also depth, that through careful study will produce even more insights. But, they never teach what is not there. We are able to comprehend more as we listen, open our hearts, mature, and develop our relationship to God.

e.   This is also apologetically strong evidence that these were Jesus' authentic teachings, and not made up centuries later, as only first century Jewish Palestine used such literary devises!

f.     It was common, in Jewish and Greek cultures, to ask questions of a teacher, and, students were encouraged to do so until they understood the lesson.

g.   If someone did not hear the parable, it would just be an allegory they did not understand. Remember, Jesus used every day object lessons they would understand, even though it may not make sense to us, two thousand years later (John 14:26; Col. 3:1-3).

h.   Isaiah's contemporaries refused to listen to the signs of the times. They did not recognize that their sins and willful disobedience to God would lead them, as well as the next two generations, into captivity. Even though every prophecy of Isaiah came true, they denounced his current prophecy, and refused to listen (Isaiah 6:9-10).

                                                  i.   Many today do the same with the Gospel-and many Christians do the same with the Word!

                                                ii.     We have to be disciples who are willing to hear, to bend our will down, so He remains in control, and so we remain on His path. God gives us the ability to listen and to understand, as well as the ability to respond.

                                              iii.     God's sovereignty and election is clearly spelled out here.

i.     Jesus tells them how lucky they are to hear Him in person, and how much the OT saints, as well as those of today, would passionately love to be there!  

3.   We have the choice to do as we please with the Word when it reaches out to us! The seed is given, His grace is given, our sins can be declared clean, we can have eternity, and all we need to do is accept it, by faith. So easy, so simple; yet, so few will.

a.   Rabbis, in Jesus' time, said people will be either consumed with the Law (things of God) or the cares of the world (themselves). Human nature has not changed, has it?

b.   Do not be the one who chooses to harden your heart!  Embrace His Word with passion, so you take His truth, understand its clarity, and believe with conviction, so it endures; in that way, you can also make it known to others in the same way.

c.   Being fruitful is to multiply the seed given to you. We are to make disciples of His Word. We are to point to Christ, never to ourselves! We make disciples of Christ, not of people like ourselves!

d.   The Word to the non-Christian is the Gospel; for those who are in Christ, it is the Word of God. It is the Bible, prayer, discipleship, and our growth in Him.

e.   In Jesus' time, disciples were to become teachers, and teach others so the message was multiplied many fold, just as Christianity had its start with One, then twelve, then 120, then several thousand to perhaps a billion over the last two thousand years.

f.     Faith, that leads to Obedience, is the key to providing nutrients to the soil of your life, so His seed produces a hundredfold in you!

g.   Deceitfulness of riches. Money is also a gift and tool from God. It is for us to use wisely, but not to become our obsession or our trust! If it does, money will quickly lead us astray to be choked and scorched (Matt. 6:25-30).

h.   Hears the word of the Lord and understands refers to implied obedience. We can only serve God by being people of God. We can only bear fruit by the indwelling of His Spirit, and our faith and obedience working together. Ultimately, there are only two types of soil-good and bad; in one, the seed dies, and in the other it multiplies. Which kind of dirt are you in? God wants everyone to receive the light of His Word (Luke 8:16-18; Rom. 8:35), but He knows "free will" chooses to push it aside; He has to interdict, with His Spirit, unto us for us to receive it. Yet, even then, it is never forced; we still have to receive it by faith-a choice we make, for an election He gives, that is predestined. If we do not obey what He gives us, we cannot receive more. The small things matter to God much more then the big things matter to us.  

The Kingdom of Heaven contains us all. It is not just the perfect, true Church; rather, it is all of humanity where God weaves His love and plan of redemption though us all. It is the real, authentic Christian, and the reprobate, the good plants, ripe for harvest, and the weeds; it is the good, and the evil.  It is Christ, taking our sin and reworking us, as Romans, chapter 8 proclaims, for the perfection of eternity. We are not perfect now, but, one day, only those who are in Christ will be with the Perfect!  

God's Word has life and power! Make sure you have received it; keep receiving it, so God can use you to reap a hundred fold harvest 

 

 
Questions:  

1.      Do you like to garden? Why or why not? How is gardening like growing in Christ?

 

2.      What does the term seed mean to you?

 

3.      Where is your seed in this parable?

 

4.      How does this parable explain how God works in the Universe and in our hearts?

 

5.      If God held up a mirror to your heart, what would it show? What is inside of you? What is Christ looking for?

 

6.      Jesus was not only concerned with His message, but, also, how to best deliver it! So, what can you learn from our Lord's example about how you come across to others in personality, character, sharing the seed…?

 

7.      Explain what the Path, Rocks, Thorns, and Good is in your life and experiences?

 

8.      Read Matthew 7:23-26. Do you know Him? How authentic is your passion for Christ? How real is your faith?

 

9.      What blocks the Word of God from being received in the hearts of some people? What about yours?

 

10. Why is Listening the quintessential way to learn? Why should you be a good disciple, who will actively listen to God's Word, good teachers, and not interpret instructions just to affirm your own wants and desires?

 

11. How would you explain a Parable to someone who never heard of this term?

 

12. Many today refuse to listen to the Gospel, and many Christians do the same with the Word! Why? What are the Paths, Rocks, and Thorns that choke His Word from taking root in people?

 

13. If you lost everything, as Job did, would you remain in Him, or would you be the one who is on the wayside, the one who is scorched, and remains lost, set in the soil's bitterness, and not the soil of our Lord?

 

14. What has God planted in you that you have ignored, taken for granted, or feared?

 

15. Read John 12:23-29. What does God need to plant in you?

 

16. How have you been fruitful? What does it mean to you? What should it mean?

 

17. What are the key ingredients, as in the metaphors of plant care of water, good soil, fertilizer, pruning, cultivating, weed control, insect control, disease control, and such, to providing the nutrients to the soil of your life and faith so His seed can produce fruit-a hundredfold-in you?

 

18. How can you make sure that you do not choose to harden your heart? What can you do to embrace His Word with passion, so you take His truth, understand its clarity, and believe with conviction so it endures, in that way, also make it known to others in the same way?

 

19. God is looking for faith, for authenticity, for Fruit, for a soul who cries out to Him so his seed can grow in us. What can you do to help make this happen? Remember, God also desires to multiply His seed, so as to make Him known to others. He is looking to see where His Word has fallen on you. How is His Word being used?

 

20. How can you motivate yourself, and your church, to be real disciples who are willing to hear, and to bend your will down, so He remains in control, and so your church remains on His path?

 

© 2003 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org  

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