January 23, 2022 The Sower

The Sower

January 23, 2022



Scripture: Matthew 13:1-23.


In chapter 13 Jesus teaches in parables. When his disciples ask him why he speaks in parables he gives them two reasons. One reason is to hide the truth of what is being taught. It is hidden from those to whom it has not been given. Otherwise, they would be healed in their troubled souls. But God does not heal all.


The other reason is in order to reveal the truth in the parables to his chosen ones. “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom.” Whether we understand the parables or not depends upon whether it has been given to us. There are some practical steps we can take in order to understand the mysteries of the kingdom, but our hearts must still be opened by the Lord. To the disciples it was granted, but not to others.


Jesus says that those of his day were like the people that Isaiah wrote about 700 years earlier. The reason they did not understand was because they were “dull” (vs. 15). This does not mean stupid or unintelligent, as if the understanding of God’s word depended upon our intellectual ability. No. It does not mean this because, both in Isaiah’s day and in Jesus’ day, there were learned men who refused to hear. “Dull” means not willing to understand.


What causes a person to be dull in this sense? There are two main causes of this dullness. One cause is laziness. There were then, as there are today, those who would rather find other things to do rather than apply themselves to understanding God’s words. Why? It does take intentionality and some work to understand Scripture. Some are too lazy. Even those who labor at a job may have this motivation because physical work is often less demanding than mental work. The other cause is pride. The scribes and Pharisees thought they had it all figured out. There are Christians today that are like the scribes in that respect. They were taught something at one time and now they are not willing to consider that what they “know” is not correct. We need grace to be saved from our laziness and our pride! If we have been given the mysteries of the kingdom then these sins will be overcome.


The mysteries must be given to us. However, there are some practical things that we can do in order to be in a position where we are the given ones. Here are three things that we can do so that we will understand the truths of God:


  • Be in a place where the truths of God are taught. Who received the mysteries of the kingdom in this chapter? The disciples of Jesus. They were with Jesus and heard him teach these things. Likewise, today, truths are being taught in the local church. Even if the church gets some things wrong (as all will), there will be much truth taught that we need to hear. We must not absent ourselves from the meetings of the church.
  • When we are being taught, concentrate on what is being said and ask questions if we are uncertain of what is being taught. Daydreaming is a problem that most people have. Be aware and focus on what is being said.
  • As important as the teaching in the local church is, it is still only one or two hours per week. This is not adequate to prepare our minds and hearts. We must also spend time in the Scriptures on our own or with another brother or sister (husband or wife, if married). As we read and study God’s word the Spirit will grant understanding. If we have difficulty, we can ask the teachers in our church for help. This is why the Lord placed them there (Eph. 4:11-16).


To put it simply: be at all the meetings of the church, pay attention, and read your Bibles at home. As simple as this is, it is surprising how many Christians do not do one or more of these things. We are in such a privileged position! Enjoy it!


Hear what Jesus said to his disciples!


But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.[1]


Do you realize that is you attend a local church where the teachings of the Lord and the apostles are taught, that your eyes are blessed? Do you know that your ears are blessed? It is a fact! Jesus said it! Be in the place of blessing! Remain in the place of blessing!


The book of Matthew is mostly about the kingdom. Matthew presents the teachings of our Lord about the kingdom in three phases. In chapters five through seven he presents the constitution of the kingdom. He reveals what kind of life qualifies for the kingdom. If we live this life now then we are those who constitute the kingdom in the present and who will inherit it in the next age.


Here, in chapter thirteen, he unveils the mystery of the kingdom. This is how the kingdom appears in the present age. It is called a mystery because this phase of the kingdom was barely revealed in the OT. Then, in chapter 25, Jesus will reveal the manifestation of the kingdom. That is, the kingdom that is coming in its fullness in the future.


The Parable of the Sower is one of the most important parables that Jesus taught. It is important because we will find ourselves in it. It is a parable both for the lost as well as for the would-be disciple. I say “would-be disciple” because this parable deals with those who believe that they are disciples but are not. This parable acts as a test for each one of us.


It is good and right for us to test ourselves:


Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test![2]


The reason we need to test ourselves is because there are so many false conversions. There were false conversions during the days of our Lord as well as during the days of the apostles. There have always been false conversions and there will be until the Lord returns.


Ray Comfort once reviewed the data on those who made a profession of faith through Billy Graham’s ministry, that is, through attending one of his many crusades and then going forward and making a profession of faith.[3] He revealed that as many as 95% of those who made a profession of faith were not part of a local church, which is strong evidence of an unregenerate state (I John 2:19). This is disconcerting because, by and large, Billy Graham preached the true gospel. He did not emphasize discipleship enough, yet his gospel presentation was still accurate.


The alarming thing is that almost all false disciples believe that they are true Christians. We need to test ourselves!


The Parable of the Sower is our test!


It is also important because, when we sow (and all Christians are called to sow!), this parable will help us ensure that those to whom we speak understand what is entailed in following Christ. It saves us from inadvertently proclaiming an easy-believism kind of gospel – a fact-only gospel.


The sower is anyone who sows, or proclaims, the word of the kingdom of God. The word of the kingdom that is coming, and that we can be made ready for it by the grace of God, is the gospel (Matthew 24:14).


The seed is the word of God. Those who sow are speaking the word of God! If you belong to Christ, not only can you speak the word of God, you are called to do so.


We come to the soil. The soil represents the heart of the hearer. Our Lord speaks of four types of soil – four types of human hearts.


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.[4]


The first soil is the path or road (NASB). Because it is hardened by the traffic of the road, it is difficult for the seeds to penetrate it. This kind of wayside signifies the heart that is hardened by the worldly traffic and does not open to understand, to comprehend, the word of the kingdom (v. 19). The birds signify the evil one, Satan comes and snatches away the word of the kingdom sown in the hardened heart.


So, one kind of human heart is one that fails to understand the gospel. We must truly understand the gospel in order to be changed by it. What little understanding the hearer may have had is then snatched away by the birds…the demons. Do you wish to ensure that you are not the soil by the side of the road? Then understand the true gospel. It is the gospel that calls for complete allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, not a so-called gospel that only calls you to believe certain facts (Matt. 7:21; Mark 1:15; Luke 6:46; 9:62; 14:25-33; John 20:28; Romans 6:2; 14:9).


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.[5]


The second kind of soil is the rocky ground. The rocky ground means that the word cannot penetrate the soil, that is, the heart. It begins to seemingly grow, but persecution causes it to die. This persecution has to do with the communication of our faith. As soon as there is resistance to one’s own gospel speaking, the person withers away. Practically this means that, if we neglect the sharing of the gospel because of resistance or persecution, this is a sure sign of an unregenerate state.


The way to avoid being in this category is similar to avoiding being the soil along the road. That is, having an understanding that the gospel that is more than believing facts. It is a commitment to follow a Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the realization that the gates of hell may come against you will prepare you for the difficult journey.


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.[6]


The third soil is one that has many thorns growing in it. Matthew mentions two kinds of thorns, but Luke adds a third kind of thorn:


And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. [7]


This third category of soil is slightly different than the first two. All three synoptic gospel authors mention that the plants grew up with the thorns and the thorns choked the plants. This indicates that the people represented by these growing plants lasted longer than the seed sown by the wayside or those who wither away.


Have we not known some Christians like this? They seemingly walk with the Lord for a while. They attend church regularly. They may have even been active in the Lord’s work. Then they face problems in life. “The cares of this life.” Life has many cares, many problems. We will encounter cares with our spouse, cares about our children, cares about debt, cares about our job…the list is nearly endless. These problems take up the minds and the time of the person experiencing them so that they neglect the Lord. It begins with missing church here or there. Then they neglect studying their Bibles. After a while you no longer see them and they become fruitless.


Others are choked by the desire for wealth. They too, start out seemingly strong. But they seek a better house, a better car, more income. Soon, they are prioritizing their possessions, or at least the obtaining of them, over the Lord and his people. It does not even matter whether they are successful in their seeking of wealth or not. Some become wealthy and some do not. Even the ones who do not can be captured by the thought of it and devote their time and energy in becoming well off.


I had a friend who was like this. He was continually dedicating all his time and energy to being successful in business endeavors. First it was sunglasses. He invested in these sunglasses and spent 18 hours per day promoting them for months and months. That endeavor never went anywhere. Then he promoted something else. I think it was some kind of insurance. Again, he spent every waking hour trying to make it successful. But that did not work either.


The apostle Paul warned Timothy about this trap:


Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. [8]


See that the desire for wealth is more deadly than we would imagine. Paul says that it leads to ruin and destruction. It is not wrong to seek prosperity. But, we must always put the Lord, his people, and his work first and not permit our time to be stolen by continual seeking of financial success.


The third kind of thorn is likely the most common. Luke calls it “the pleasures of this life.” All three of these “thorns” have something in common. It is this. There is nothing wrong with these three things in themselves. It is not wrong to be concerned about a problem (a care) and then try to work through it. It is not wrong to seek to be successful. And, it is not wrong to seek lawful pleasures. The deceitfulness of these things is when we allow them to direct our time and energy.


Consider the many kinds of pleasure that beckon to us. They are too numerous to mention. It could be something as simple as always seeking comfort. For many, it is more pleasurable to sit in a chair and do nothing rather than to work. There is the pleasure from food. Catering to our own pleasures can make our life fruitless.


Here is a sobering reality: those who place their pleasures above the Lord’s commands show that they have not been born of God. I do not mean if we do so occasionally. We are weak vessels. I mean seeking pleasure above the Lord’s commands as a pattern. A person who prioritizes their comfort, their food, their bodily desires, shows that they have not been planted by the Lord.


How do we avoid being choked out by thorns?


We do so by putting the Lord first in our lives. His will, as expressed by his commands, is gladly placed above our cares, our pleasures, and our striving for success. But this cannot be done in our natural self. Unless we have been born from above we cannot stop putting our desires above the Lord’s. Thus, we see that those who have thorns in their lives have not been born again.


Even an unregenerate would-be follower of the Lord can, for s short period of time, deny themselves. But they cannot do it gladly. The person who has been made alive by the Spirit of the Living Christ finds enjoyment in doing the Lord’s work.


Therefore, whether thorns are in our garden is a test for us. If we have failed the test, we must fall on our knees and plead for mercy, for we are lost.


“Pastor, this is too hard! God can’t be this strict!” These are not my teachings! They are the Lord’s. Indeed, they are strict. And, God describes Himself as an “exacting” Master (Matt. 25:24; Expanded Bible) or a “demanding” Master (Amplified Bible). But, again, these teachings only seem strict or exacting to those who have not been regenerated or, possibly, those who have lost sight of their true calling. The one walking in the spirit is happy with the teachings of our Lord. In fact, they cannot get enough. The desire to please the Lord is like a burning flame in their breast!


Now comes the good news! If we are not by the wayside, and if we are not rocky, and if we don’t have thorns in our garden, then this means that we are the good soil! We will produce grain.


The phrase bear grain in the ESV is a verb that, elsewhere, is translated “bear fruit.” (6x)


We saw before[9] that, when the New Testament uses the word fruit, it can mean one of three things. It can mean virtues, such as joy, peace, love, etc.. It can mean good deeds, including bringing others to the Lord. Or, it can mean the words that we speak. What does our Lord refer to in this parable?


In chapter 12, our Lord used the word fruit to refer to the words that we speak. He could still be referring to such. However, if we see the big picture of what the parable is communicating, we will receive a larger view.


In this parable the Lord shows that the seed, the grain, is multiplied. Elsewhere, the Lord likens Himself to a grain of wheat:


Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.[10]


Our Lord taught that, if he dies, then more grains would be produced. The Lord is multiplying Himself! Christ came as the Sower, sowing Himself as the seed of life. This seed of life enters humanity to bring forth fruit, the sons of the kingdom. This is the multiplication of the seed.[11]


Thus, in one sense the seed is the word of God (small “w”) and, in another sense, it is the Word of God (capital “W”). Both meanings are intended by the Lord. Both are true.


Because the grain, or the fruit, is the increase of Christ, his reproduction includes all his positive attributes. It includes his virtues, the gathering (reproducing) of his elect, and his healthy, life-giving speaking.


What does this mean for us? It means that when we produce a crop it will include virtues such as love and joy. It will include bringing others into the kingdom. And, it will include speaking the word of God. It will include all these kinds of fruit because these things are nothing less than the life of Christ manifested!


Allow this parable to be your test! Ensure that you understand the true gospel, not a fact-only gospel. Bear up under mockery and persecution. And, pull out those thorns! Then see the life of Christ grow and produce fruit!


This parable reveals the mystery of the kingdom! By virtue of you being in the church, you have received the unveiling. “To you have been given the mysteries of the kingdom!” The question is: what will you do with this mystery? Will you waste it or apply it?



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 13:5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Chronicled in his book, Hell’s Best Kept Secret.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:20–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 13:22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 8:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:9). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] See the sermon, Bearing Fruit, earlier this month.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 12:24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] This paragraph is from the Life-Study of Matthew, Message 37, by Witness Lee (Living Stream Ministry, Anaheim, CA).