Responding To The Gospel
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
And 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 sprung up, and choked them:
But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. (Matt. 13: 1-23)
Jesus often used parables to teach the crowds. A parable is a way of comparing a difficult concept with an easier, familiar, everyday event. Some define a parable as "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning". Jesus used events from their daily lives to illustrate the great concepts He was teaching.
This time, Jesus was teaching about those who hear the gospel, and how people respond to it differently. He used a parable about a sower, sowing seeds--- something they all could relate to, as it was a natural part of their lives. His focus was not on the one who sowed the seeds, however, but rather on the soil. He described four different kinds of soil, which represent four different responses to the gospel, or four different attitudes.
The first response Jesus described as seeds that fell by the wayside; the fowls came and devoured them. The seeds did not fall on fertile soil, but on the hardened, compacted path beside the fields. This describes the response of a hardened heart--- one who hears the word, but will not allow the seed to take a place in their heart; in other words, unbelievers. Because the ground is too hardened to receive the seed, the birds can easily devour it. Verse 19 explains that the wicked one, or Satan, catches the seed and will not allow it to remain in their hearts; a dire warning that one who only hears the word becomes easy prey for the wicked one.
Do you know anyone whose heart is so hardened it will not allow the word of God to penetrate? Someone who has closed their eyes, ears, and mind to the truth? What might you do to help them understand God's message?
The next response Jesus described is a very superficial one; an emotional but rootless response. He said these seeds fell on stony ground; they came up, but the hot sun soon scorched them and they withered away, because they had no roots. Jesus said this was the person who heard the word, and received it with joy, but soon gave it up when tribulation or persecution came, because the word hadn't taken root in their heart. They get caught up in the emotion of a good message, but never even consider what it might mean in their life. They are attracted to the outward benefits, but basically remain uncommitted to the Lord. God's word has only a superficial place in their hearts and their lives.
How does a person without roots respond when trials come into their life? How do YOU respond to times of difficulty and persecution?
Next, Jesus taught about a divided response. He said this is the seed that fells among thorns; the seed sprouted, but the thorns and weeds choked them out. These seeds produced tiny, weak plants, with no fruit. This may represent a genuine response to the gospel, but the cares and worries of this world and the deceitfulness of riches combine to choke out this person's fruitfulness. They have too many other committments to allow the word of God to control their life, consequently, they never mature and bear fruit, a sign of genuine faith.
Examine your own life for "weeds" and "thorns". What are your priorities? Do you cast all your needs and cares upon Jesus, knowing that He cares for you and will provide for all your needs?
The last response Jesus taught about was a true and genuine one. He described this as seed that fell into good soil, and brought forth fruit in varying amounts; some brought thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some even brought forth a hundredfold! Jesus said this is the person who hears and understands the Word, applying it to their life to bear fruit. This person's heart is not hardened, shallow, or preoccupied with the cares of this world. The message gets through to them and makes a change in their life and the lives of those around them.
What is YOUR response to the gospel? Have you made a real committment to Jesus, and rooted yourself in His Holy Word? Has it produced a change in your life?
The first three kinds of soil in Jesus's parable are all inadequate to bear good fruit. The fault lies not in the seed, but in the condition of the soil; not in the Word, but in the condition of our hearts. A true Christian must stand the test of time, persevering despite difficulties, avoiding the cares of this world and the concerns about money, to be able to bear good fruit. Is the gospel of Jesus Christ bearing fruit in your life?
(See also Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15)
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