The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) is about several themes:
• How Jesus demonstrated teaching God’s Word.
• How the Word germinates in each of us.
• The kinds of persons who hear the Word.
• The evil forces that rob us of God’s Word.
But verses 11-12 put the parable into a different perspective. These verses bring the message of this parable home to me. What kind of “soil” is my heart when God’s Word is planted there?
The disciples asked why Jesus taught in parables. His answer seems cold: that the disciples could understand the secrets of the kingdom of God and so that others, like the Pharisees, could NOT understand the secrets of the Kingdom. Jesus was selective in calling disciples and He was selective as He taught. The separation of the goats and the sheep (Matthew 25:33) had already begun.
Parables, we say, are “earthly stories with heavenly meaning.” Jesus tossed down a story about familiar things so His disciples would also grasp the truth He was communicating. Just prior to this passage in Matthew, Jesus encountered accusations of blasphemy and breaking the Sabbath, Pharisees and scribes chided Him for signs, and his own family, his mother and brothers, rejected Him. Are not all these examples of the same soils in this parable: hard soil, rocky soil, weedy soil, and good soil?
But a parable also caused one who wanted to understand its meaning a moment to pause, the encouragement to reflect, the nudge of curiosity to find more. A parable provided a seeker of God to spot the glint of truth as a gold miner seeks the glistening of gold in the matrix rock deep in the ground. The sparkle of the potential of striking gold urged the miner on. A parable causes tiny bits of truth to glitter in God’s light. A parable must be examined closely as a miner might roll a bit of gold ore around in his hand. A parable is a tease to the mind. A parable teases out thought. A parable activates the mind of one willing to inquire.
But the disciples’ question about teaching through parables unlocked a precious truth. Jesus said, “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 (v. 12).
What one “has” in this parable is not money or material riches as we might surmise in our 21st Century mindset. But in the context, what one “has” are those secrets of the kingdom. What one has is the truths of God. And, like a miner searching for more gold, a disciple searches out more truth. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek for Him (Prov. 8:17) so while a miner’s search for gold may never pan out, the disciple’s search for truth is always richly rewarded. Later in Matthew 13, Jesus continues this explanation in other brief parables: when a man who found a treasure hidden in a field, sold all he had to buy the property (v. 44) and a pearl merchant who, when he found the greatest pearl of his career, sold everything to buy it (v. 45). So, this abundance in verse 13 is an abundance of truth. It is the wealth of knowing God. It is riches beyond imagination.
In the parable Jesus said that the seeds that fell on good soil yielded an unbelievable bounty, an abundance of grain, one hundred times and sixty times and thirty times what was planted. In the first century if a farmer sowed a bushel of grain and harvested ten bushels at the end of farming season, he had a bumper crop. Imagine the astonishment of the crowd contemplating a crop yielding thirty, sixty, and even one hundred times what was planted. Then, in his explanation of the parable Jesus repeats this claim. For those who hear the word and understand it, they will bear fruit, astronomical results of thirty and sixty and one hundred times what was planted in their hearts.
Let that tease your thoughts. Someone may say, “I only have six in my Sunday School class. What good am I doing?” Faithfully sowing the Word, into the lives of those who will receive it and understand it will yield a harvest of amazing results. Notice again that the kingdom grows, not through addition but through multiplication. Multiplication is the only math used in kingdom work.
This semester I have a Pastoral Ministry class with four students. All four are wonderful young men who are already doing significant work for the kingdom. I have invited a number of pastors and church leaders to speak in my class. However, I enlisted all the speakers with the caveat: “I only have four students so this may not be worth your time.”
But one invited speaker, a WBC alumnus who is also doing amazing kingdom work, shot back an email to me and took me to the mat. “How dare you,” he chided me, “how dare you think that only having four students makes the class less significant. You have no idea how many churches will be served, how many will hear the gospel, how many will be saved, how many marriages and families will be strengthened because of these four young men.” I deserved to be taken to the mat. And I got back up off the proverbial mat, determined more than ever to sow the seeds of God’s truth into these four young men.
Sunday School teacher, be faithful. Sow the seed. An abundant harvest is coming.
Small group leader, keep studying and leading. An abundant harvest is coming.
Pastor, keep preaching with all the scriptural insight and love you can muster. An abundant harvest is coming.
An ABUNDANT harvest is coming!
Scripture: Read John 4:35. Look around you. Can you see that the fields are ready to harvest?
Dig Deeper: I remember an old, old hymn from my childhood, “Bringing in the Sheaves” by Knowles Shaw (1874). Read the lyrics and use this hymn of encouragement to meditate on Matthew 13:1-23