Parables | Parable of the Sower | Matthew 13:1-23

July 26, 2020 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Parables

Topic: Gospel Passage: Matthew 13:1–23

Christopher Rich – July 26, 2020

Parables: Small Stories, Big Ideas, Great Jesus 

Parable of the Sower | Matthew 13:1-23


Introduction | We are all converting others to something…

Good Morning! Welcome to Mercy Fellowship where we are Saved by Jesus’ Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’ Mission. Mercy Fellowship exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love people.  Today we are continuing our summer series Parables: Small Stories, Big Ideas, Great Jesus.  


We are all trying to convert other people to how we see things. Masks, Race, Candidates, Economics, Policing, education, economics, the virtues of the musical Hamilton. We get incredibly frustrated when we simply explain our point of view, drop some ‘facts’ or science and data, our that they can’t see what we see. If we could just be clearer, or louder, or more persuasive maybe then they would change their mind. So we post more online, keep texting, send people books (or links) to read… and it never works. We all assume that we have the perspective that needs to be adopted. We rarely consider that we might be the one who is lost, misunderstands… or wait for it…. Might even be wrong. What if WE need to be the ones who are converted, illuminated, taught, for our own flourishing and joy and to fruitful bless others. Today we’re going to look at a familiar teaching of Jesus that seems simple but has some big ideas. Let’s go. 


PART I | Jesus Teaches | Matthew 13:1-9

Matthew 13:1-9 | That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Jesus is near the water a crow show up around him (high fiving with reckless abandon) so He social distances by getting in a boat. He begins preaching from the boat. I love this idea; I saw it done on a Netflix show and assume this is the best way to do distanced services. Jesus tells the crowd many things in parables. Parable literally means to “throw alongside” Jesus is a great communicator He “throws in” these restatements and illustrations of truths to help people see challenging concepts and ideas presented though familiar contexts. Sometimes no explanation is needed because the truth conveyed is so clear to all, other times Jesus own disciples needed greater explanation. Here we have a sower sowing seed. It hit the path lays there on hard ground doesn’t sink in a is snatched up. Some hits the rocks, springs up but then fades in the heat. Some hits thorny ground and is choked out by weeds, and some hits good ground and is fruitful.   For those in the crowd who heard it without additional illumination they would have gotten birds, rocks, weeds, and seed. They likely were a little confused. We get the benefit of the full teaching. We have a unique challenge today. For those of us who have grown up in church and listened to preachers preach on this parable. We are VERY familiar with this parable, I think we are too familiar with it, so much so that we assume we know what it means and too quickly move to application.  Your challenge today will be to recognize that you may not know or understand this story as well as you think you do. My challenge is not to bring something new to the table, but merely to uncover and hold up what is already here.

PART II | Jesus Purpose | Matthew 13:10- 17

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Why teach this way? The disciples and us both at times say “We don’t get it!” Yet sometimes people hear and understand. It’s about all of our hearts. To show/reveal a spiritual reality that is not easily seen and understood. Jesus says for those who have hearts that are able to understand the things of God receive deeper meaning and appreciation of the truth of who God is and how we are to respond. While those who reject God even what little they do perceive will fade away as Jesus teaching leads to greater ignorance, confusion, and opposition. Jesus can communicate truth perfectly, but our imperfect hearts can fail to receive, process, and live based on these truths. The Bible teaches us that because of our sin we are born predisposed to ignore God and not include him in our thinking and world view. Our hearts are active in our rejection of God in favor of what we think will give us happiness. Jesus uses a passage out of Isaiah 6 that describes the condition of our hearts and how it affects how we engage with the truth of who God is.  Our hearts are “Dull” it means fat, insensitive, content. We are not to be content with a world as broken as ours, or intoxicated to believe this is as good as it can get, or terrified that things will only get worse. There is a blessing for those who have a holy discontentment, who desire more. Not more material wealth or just greater experiences, but recognize without a real meaningful relationship with the Creator, our experience and interaction with creation is missing something essential to our joy and ultimately our life. 

We have to recognize a spiritual reality that not everything spiritual is good, and not everything worshiped is worthy of our worship. Right now we a world so unsettled by fear, so ununified by division, that all us are fortressing up our hearts for a long haul of us verse them and finding comfort by engaging in conflict with others idolizing our ideologies. When what we are truly longing for is communion and union. Seeing, hearing, understanding, have a purpose and that purpose is to turn. It means repent. Turn from sin, turn towards God. Repentance leads to healing. No repentance, no healing.  Why won’t we? Because we don’t want to. I hear just enough and see just enough to know God’s kingdom is greater than my own so I plug my ears and close my eyes so as to not recognize the implications of what is clearly around me. We can make a similar error as Isaiah talked about when we assume the parable of the sower is the parable of the soil. What is being sown isn’t about an ideology, but is the identity of the King of the Kingdom. The story is not about us, but is for us. It’s about a different kingdom with a different king. It is about Jesus. 

PART III | Jesus Reveals | Matthew 13:18-23

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Jesus isn’t a small group leader facilitating a discussion. He doesn't ask the disciples “what do you think the story means to you?” He is teaching, He tells them the truth the story has one meaning; it is the meaning the storyteller assigns it. Jesus is the storyteller. Jesus knows our interpretation of his words can easily lead us astray so he graciously holds our hands and shows us what we cannot see clearly on our own.

Seeds – Jesus has a purpose in choosing seeds.  These seeds sown are going to make wheat, which sustains life. There is a beauty in a wheat field because it holds the potential of life; no one takes pictures of fields full of dirt. The seeds are the Gospel that brings life, sustains life, and gives the promise life with Jesus. What’s wrong with the seed? Nothing! It’s the condition of the ground that matters. Four types of Hearts: 

Sinful Heart - Path – A hardened heart. It’s been trodden by the world, the sun, It isn’t prepared for seed it doesn’t want seed. The gospel hits it and never penetrates below the surface. No impact is the same as rejection. This is all of us from the beginning, we don’t want the truth of God’s love in Jesus or God’s rule in their life. There is also an enemy “evil one” that opposes the work of the kingdom of heaven. He comes in and takes away any possibly of Gospel life. He devours the person in lies about God and His Kingdom. It is that same lie we have talked about that we don’t need to worship the God who made us. It is fruitless. 

Shallow Heart - Rocks – There a people who hear and receive the Gospel with Joy, but they have no real roots, no sustainability beyond their initial emotional charged experience. They are initially excited about what life with Jesus looks like and likely love the promise of eternal life with God, but have no depth in their understanding of the Gospel. They are relying on themselves (the had no roots) So the jump from fad to fade base on what might give them some quick growth. They’re expecting their “best life now” so when the life of following Jesus meets resistance, trials or even persecution, they tap out. “This is not what I signed up for!”  Or “I liked it when it was convenient our suited me but not when I might have to suffer for it. We all know the zealous guy who seems on fire of the Lord but a few year later is fast to fade away. God doesn’t plant morning glories, He plants wheat that grows tall and strong. A shallow faith fades

Strangled Heart - Thorns/Weeds – Watching “Down To Earth and they went to a hippie commune that said “weeds are just plant that haven’t found their purpose yet. No! They’re not, they do not produce life, they only consume it. Flowers exist to bring beauty and joy to the world, weeds exist to consume and choke out that which brings actually beauty and life. Weeds can promise beauty, but the reward is death. No one has ever invited someone into their yard and said “Hey, look at all my great thorns.” These weeds go into two categories: Worrying about the “cares of the world” is what happens when we assume that all we see is all there is. We become overly concerned with all that is wrong in the world and get discouraged and defeated. We forget the promises of God to achieve ultimate victory ushering in a new heavens and earth free from all sin and brokenness.  There is also the deceitfulness of riches. It is when we buy the lie that our life here and now is as good as it can get so we pursue wealth pleasure at the expense of joy and eternal life. We may be plants but we will not bear fruit as we are intended too, wheat that does not produce grain is worthless. What is choking you out right now? Where is life being taken from you or is keeping you from being fruitful? Is it too much comfort or too much conflict? This is a heart driven by fear or feasting. 

Soft Heart - Good Soil – It’s soft, it’s been prepared and is ready to receive the seed. We can easily begin applying this parable wrongly telling ourselves to be good soil and not bad. We can’t. What makes it good? The sower! Good ground it does not happen on accident it is a result of someone intentionally making something lifeless and turning it into something they can produce life. God loves us and He knows we cannot prepare or change ourselves any more than Soil/ground can change itself. It just is what it is. If there is going to be real transformation it is going to require a farmer/gardener to actively engage with the ground, get his hands dirty, be willing to pull weeds.  Be willing to remove rocks, willing to fight of birds that seek to devour what the sower intends to bring life. This is what our God does in Jesus. That is the mission God the Father sends God the Son, Jesus on. God shows His love for us in Jesus clearing the path, knocking back birds, removing the rocks pull the weeds, the Holy Spirit preparing good ground. Jesus suffers for this mission, he sweats blood in a garden the night before his crucifixion, Jesus suffers a brutal death on a roman cross in our place to remove the penalty of our sins. Even sin of previous rejection. 

There are ultimately only two type of ground and two types of hearts, those who receive the message and bear fruit and those who do not.  If you can see your life apart from God isn’t a beautiful perfect garden but we are broken ground full of rocks, thorns, and an enemy seeking to devour what can bring us life, is the work of the Holy Spirit giving you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand. Turn from sin, turn to God, and be healed. God does more than merely remove barriers and obstacles to life with Him, He has both vision and power to bring about so much more.  A beautiful garden and life sustaining farm requires vision. The existence of something good is evidence of someone with a vision, somebody thought of this, and the power to make it reality. It requires an overturning of what was previously here. It requires a removal of what impeded growth, but it also included intentional development to make something new, useful, and unrecognizable beautifully from what previously existed. 

The Gospel of the Kingdom is not merely removing our sin and making us “good ground”. Jesus died for our sin, but he also rose again showing he is providing new everlasting life. Jesus has a kingdom, He knows what it looks like, and has the power to make it real. The sower WILL have a life giving harvest. When good ground produces an abundant harvest no one should be surprised. We should recognize and give glory to the famer/sower who prepared it. Jesus does not call this the parable of the soil, he calls it the parable of the sower. This isn’t about us, this is about Him. The work He is doing to prevent the enemy from devouring us, the work he is doing to turn the ground of our heart to let the truth of his kingdom sink deep into our hearts. The work he is doing to remove weeds/thorns seeking to compete for our energy and affections choking out the life He seeks to produce in us. Life for us, but also life through us, that provides life and spreads life for others and to other places. 

Jesus has prepared the soil of our church and intentionally placed us in our county to grow and spread so others can know the sower who brings abundant rich life where previously there was only dirt, rocks, weeds, and predators. That is why Mercy Fellowship is sown, along with other gospel centered seeds to bring new abundant life to an area that has been allowed to grow wild and hostile for far too long. We are here worshiping Jesus, because Jesus made it so. It is beautiful for us to gather together to see evidence of growth harvest.  However, the sower is clear;  seed is not to be gathered it is to be scattered and sown so that it can multiply and make a new life over and over again. Our city, region, and county need Jesus. 

Our hope can never be in our ability to change ourselves. If we could produce life on our own we wouldn’t need a sower. Our hope cannot be that we will prepare ourselves better for God. No amount of working on ourselves will produce fruit/life. Our hope has to be in our desperation for God to work in us, so that He can work through us to grow and flourish. We want to be fruitful… so Trust the sower, Trust Jesus!