Stories, Sowers, and Soils
“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.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 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. 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. 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. 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.” 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.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 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. “Hear then the parable of the sower: 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. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 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. 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. 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.” He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
(Matthew 13:1–30, ESV)
(Matthew 13:1–30, ESV)
Explain And Conceal
Imagine the scene: Jesus steps outside and makes his way to the sea. A crowd quickly gathers around him. He then boards a boat on the water's edge and begins telling stories that convey profound messages about God's kingdom. These parables captivate everyone on shore—some are confused by them, others frustrated, but many find clarity in these illustrative tales of faith.
Same Message—Differing Results
Jesus used the standard practices of agriculture to tell his parable. Agricultural rhythms and practices were something that everyone in Jesus' audience was familiar with, making it easier for them to understand His message. The seed is always the same; however, each soil will yield a different result. Some seeds are taken away immediately while others grow quickly but have no depth or root system—these plants eventually die out due to worldly concerns or riches. But some grains take root and flourish, producing much fruit. The rewards of righteous living are revealed over time. Jesus urges his disciples to be aware that resistance is likely, with some immediately rejecting God's message and others exhibiting enthusiasm yet losing faith when challenged by tribulations. Unfortunately, many show initial determination but eventually succumb to the distractions of worldly desires or interests.
Don't You See?
Parables are not just stories that emphasize Jesus' teachings; they form the core of his message and draw attention to a single theme: The Kingdom of Heaven. While preaching, Jesus wants us to understand that an inexplicable element is associated with the kingdom, which can bring forth faith and disbelief at once. Through his parables, he brings awareness about this grand mystery. Jesus' teachings about the kingdom are like a ray of light, melting away those who refuse to acknowledge Him and hardening the hearts of those that remain. His words bring understanding and hope to some while solidifying resistance in others. The parables can act as gateways for some while becoming insurmountable walls blocking out others from passing through them.
Jesus taught another parable about sowing, in which even the good seed is tainted. An enemy secretly infiltrated the field and scattered weeds throughout it among the wheat. Although aware of what had happened, when His servants proposed that they pull out all the weeds immediately, He replied that this should wait until harvest time for proper separation. The spiritual children of God and the devil are intertwined in this world without discrimination. When Judgment Day arrives, however, angels will gather up those who belong to Christ unto salvation while weeding out the wicked. The outcome is severe; those who have gone astray will suffer greatly, but for believers, a joyous eternity awaits them—they will be aglow like stars through all of creation's ages.
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