The Parable of Parables

Matthew 13:1-23

Our hearts need to be humble, sincere, and dedicated if they are to produce the fruit of the kingdom. How do you tell this to farmers? You tell them that their hearts need to be like soft, deep, rich soil – the ideal place to grow a harvest. That’s what Jesus did when he used the Parable of the Sower. He was speaking to a Galilean farming community and he spoke about a farmer throwing seed on four different types of soil: a hard path, soil covered rock, a mound of weeds (thorns), and a patch of good soil.
I can imagine all the farmers nodding in agreement. They knew how seed responds to different types of soil. But as soon as Jesus finished giving this exposition on seeds and soil he said “He who has ears, let him hear,” and he got up and walked off. He did not bother to explain the parable!
Later his disciples asked him why he spoke in parables. The crowd had been big and many must have walked away without any idea what the parable meant. Jesus explained that he used parables to distinguish between the people who were hearing and the people who were not. He said some will be “ever hearing, but never understanding” and “ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s hearts has become calloused.” In other words; all would hear with their ears, but only some would hear with their hearts; and Jesus believed that those who heard with their hearts were given to him by the Father. Parables revealed who Jesus’ sheep were.
Now since this particular parable was about the seed of God’s word being sown into the soil of people’s hearts, it is a parable that explains the use of parables, or is the Parable of Parables. Jesus said that if they did not understand this parable they would not understand any parable (Mark 4:13).
So let’s unpack what Jesus was saying about the seed of God’s word and how it came into contact with four types of soil – or four types of heart. But as we do so it will help to remember that God’s word conveys his heart for the world. The central part of God’s word is, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (John 3:16). So when we talk of the seed of God’s word coming into contact with the soil of human hearts we are speaking of how the human heart responds to God’s heart, or how the human heart responds to the message of God’s love.
Here are the basics of the parable and its explanation. Jesus said a farmer threw seed and some landed on a hard path. It could not sink into the soil and birds came and ate it. This is a picture of a hard heart, the kind that says, “Oh, don’t tell me about God’s love, where was he when I needed him?” This person immediately rejects the message of God’s love; an evil perception has caused the message to be stolen.
Then some seed landed on shallow soil covering a slab of rock. The plant grew briefly but soon withered because the soil was shallow and the sun dried up any moisture in it. This is the shallow or superficial heart. The person responds to God’s love but gives up when challenges emerge. So many people respond well initially but don’t last because their understanding of the gospel doesn’t run deep. It happens a lot in big churches where it is hard to disciple everyone that walks in the door.
Then some seed fell on a ground of thorns (or weeds) and as the crop grew it was choked by the thorns – the thorns took all the nutrients from the soil and the crop produced little to no fruit. This is a picture of a distracted heart. The person receives the gospel, but ‘the worries of this life’ and ‘the deceitfulness of wealth’ (the thorns) distract the person from walking in the fullness of the gospel. This is the person who doesn’t have the time or energy to respond fully to the call of God because they are giving it all to the things of the world. The love of God is received but the heart soon finds other things to love more and the message of God produces little fruit.
Finally some seed falls on good soil. The good soil is the opposite of the three bad ones. It is soft, deep, and uncontaminated. This speaks of someone who is humble (not hard), sincere (not shallow), and dedicated (not distracted). This is the perfect soil, and it produces a harvest a hundred, sixty, and thirty times what was sown. This could mean the person leads a hundred people to Christ. It could mean a worship leader teaches thirty to become worship leaders like him, or a Bible study leader disciples sixty students in his life time, or a children’s minister teaches a hundred children and thirty of them become missionaries. The flavour of fruit will depend on the seed that is sown, but in all cases good soil is required for a good harvest.
So how is your heart? Has the love of God impacted it in such a way that you are producing, or are you distracted? Hard ground needs to be ploughed, shallow ground needs to be dug, and thorny ground needs to be weeded. With God’s help we can work on the soil of our hearts to make sure it’s good for the seed of his love. Why not take some time to inspect your heart today? Do a little digging or weeding. Make your heart a place where God’s love is supreme and his kingdom is first.

Other Illustrations used: Installing our church sign | Our church- a parable to visitors | Thorns – the best leaders are sapped by the world | Which soil describes Kenya?

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