The Parable of the Sower
AN EXPOSITION OF MATTHEW 13:1-9;
1 The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
2 And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
The Parable of a Sower who went forth to Sow: Matthew 13:3-9
A Message About the Sower
3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
This parable is given in the context of answering the question, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?” (Matt. 12:48). Jesus said that His true family consists of those who do the will of God. Part of the will of God is to be a hard working sower.
As will be explained in verse 13, what the sower sowed is the good gospel seed. It is the Word of God which must be sown, not the vain philosophies of men, or the false religions of the world. It is the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ which individuals need to hear in all of its fulness.
A Message about The Soil: Wayside Soil
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Four Types of Soil: Matthew 13
Wayside soil (a beaten path) v. 4
Stony soil v. 5, 6
Thorny soil v. 7
Good soil v. 8
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
As there is a message for the sower of God’s Word, so there is a message for the soil, the hearers, those who receive the seed sown. The message that is sown is accepted by what Jesus describes as “good” soil. Since every person is some form of spiritual “soil”, the question comes: “Am I good soil?” “Do I receive the Word of God?” “Does the seed sown bear good fruit in my life?”
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold.
Some seed fell by the wayside.
Some seed fell upon stony places.
Some seed fell among thorny places.
Some seed fell into good ground.
It is possible for people to hear the gospel, and then immediately trample on the message. It is possible for people to hear the gospel with a stone-cold heart. It is possible to hear the gospel with some joy, but then the cares of the world choke out the message. It is possible for the good gospel seed to fall into prepared soil, softened by the work of the Holy Spirit.
10 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Spiritual ears are needed to hear gospel truth, and to understand, for the ears of the natural man are deaf.
Ears to Hear: Study the following verses
hear (akouo), to hear. From this word comes the English word acoustic. The word for obedience in Greek is hupakoe (hoop-ak-o-ay’), which means to attentive hear, i.e. (by implication) compliance or submission (Rom. 1:5). The word hupo is the English word, “hyper” or, “super”. The Christian has “super hearing”.
The Reason why Jesus Spoke in Parables: Matthew 13:10-17
10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
Up to this point, Jesus has not spoken to the people in parables. Now, a new form of teaching will be used showing that teaching methodology can be flexible. Jesus will speak in parables to convey spiritual truths. Of particular concern to the Lord, was for His disciples to understand the true nature of the kingdom of heaven, while concealing the mysteries of the kingdom from others.
Parables were Spoken to Conceal and to Reveal
A Message About the Kingdom of Heaven
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
When the Word of God is taught, the Spirit will reveal spiritual truth to those who are the heirs of salvation, while concealing it from others. God administers distinguishing grace. He gives to some, and withholds from others.
In context, Jesus has something new to say about the nature of the kingdom of heaven, a concept which needed some explanation.
The general idea of the kingdom, whose origins is in heaven, was familiar to Jewish thought and culture. When John the Baptist came and said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, no one asked, “John, what is the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 3:2). People had an idea of the rule of heaven in their lives. Many Jews built their hopes and dreams on the Jewish kingdom becoming dominate among the kingdoms of this world, ruled by a Messiah. As a result, over the centuries, many false hopes and expectations became associated with the Messianic King, His kingdom, and the kingdom of heaven.
Little by little, the Lord would begin to help His disciples understand the true nature of the kingdom of heaven.
When the thirty-two verses in the New Testament, which uses the phrase, the kingdom of heaven, are collected and considered, the following points are derived.
Doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven
John the Baptist proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and so men should repent. “And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).
Jesus also preached the present reality of the kingdom of heaven and commanded individuals to repent. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).
The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).
The kingdom of heaven is for those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).
A person’s position in the kingdom of heaven is determined by faithfulness to the commandments of God. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19).
It is an imputed righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, and not one’s personal righteousness that shall allow an individual to enter into the kingdom of heaven. “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
Some people will be surprised they are not allowed into the kingdom of heaven. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
The kingdom of heaven includes Gentiles as well as Jews. Christ saves all men without distinction, if not without exception. “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8:11).
Every Christian in general, and every minister in particular, is to preach the kingdom of heaven in the same manner as John the Baptist and Jesus. “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7).
Greatness among men is not the same as greatness in the kingdom of heaven. “Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt. 11:11).
Only the humble shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4).
Passion to the point of violence is to characterize those who are citizens of the kingdom of heaven. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12).
A true disciple of Christ can know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. “He answered and said unto them, because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. 13:11).
The Lord presented word pictures to explain what the kingdom of heaven is like.
The kingdom of heaven is like a sower of seeds. “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field” (Matt. 13:24).
The kingdom of heaven is like a tiny seed. “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field” (Matt. 13:31).
The kingdom of heaven is like hidden leaven. “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:33).
The kingdom of heaven is like a buried treasure. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matt. 13:44).
The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls” (Matt. 13:45).
The kingdom of heaven is like a net used for fishing. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind” (Matt. 13:47).
The kingdom of heaven is like a king overseeing his servants. “Therefore, is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants” (Matt. 18:23).
The kingdom of heaven is like a creative householder. “Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old” (Matt. 13:52).
The kingdom of heaven is like a trusting child. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).
The kingdom of heaven is like a householder hiring laborers. “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard” (Matt. 20:1).
The kingdom of heaven is like a marriage banquet. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son” (Matt. 22:2).
The kingdom of heaven is like wise virgins. “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Matt. 25:1).
The kingdom of heaven is like a travelling man. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods” (Matt. 25:14).
The keys to the kingdom of heaven were entrusted to Peter.
“And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).
Some people will find it difficult, though not impossible, to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Among this group are the rich, not because they are rich, but because they trust more in their wealth than in the Lord. The Pharisees are also shut out of the kingdom of heaven.
The rich. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:23).
The Pharisees. “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matt. 23:13).
A Spiritual Principle
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
To use spiritual truth, is to possess it. When spiritual truth is appropriated, more truth is given.
Parables were Spoken to Conceal
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14 And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:
15 For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Isa. 6:9, 10
16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.
Some generations are more spiritually blessed than others.
17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.
In other ages, righteous men prayed to see the Messiah. Some of the prophets had visions of the Messiah. But the people to whom Jesus spoke enjoyed the presence of the Messiah in their midst.
Parable of a Sower who went Forth to Sow Explained: Matthew 13:18-23
18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
Jesus did not invent the use of a parable. Parables are found in the Old Testament (Num. 23:7, 18; 24:3, 15, 20-21, 23; Job 27:1; 29:1; Psa. 49:4; 78:2; Prov. 26:7; Ezek. 17:2; 24:3; Micah 2:4; Hab. 2:6). The Pharisees used parables to explain the revealed Law. Jesus used parables to provide new revelation that was before unknown. The most familiar parable in the Old Testament was the story told to King David by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-7).
There are no parables in the New Testament outside the gospels.
The word, parable (parabole, par-ab-ol-ay’), is from, para, alongside; bole, a similitude, i.e. symbol. The word bole comes from paraballo (par-ab-al-lo), to throw alongside.
A parable is a gospel truth thrown down alongside a story. Ministers use illustrations to simplify, clarify, and heighten people’s ability to understand what is being said. Sometimes, Jesus used a parable to conceal information. A parable, for those who do not have ears to hear, is a form of judgment. “And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11).
As Jesus gave forth this first parable, He spoke of a Sower, primarily a reference, no doubt, to Himself (v. 37). By way of application, the Sower refers to anyone who faithfully sows the Word of the Kingdom, or the Word of God, which is the seed.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
The Wicked One is a reference to Satan who takes advantage of seed sown by the way side. In the ancient world, the seed was sown first, and then it was plowed under. Some that did not get plowed were left by the way side. There are those who hear the preaching of the gospel, but it takes no root in their lives. This was true in the life of Pharaoh. It was true in the life of Felix and Drusilla.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. John 6:66
There are people who enjoy listening to the gospel, but they have no root that takes hold of them from the gospel seed, and so, in times of pressure, they are offended. The joy of the gospel is gone. Christ is not precious to them anymore. There is a spurious response to the gospel. Judas Iscariot was numbered among these people.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
The third category of hearers of the gospel are those who receive the seed outwardly, but are unfruitful because the attraction of the world is too great for them to care for spiritual matters. They become spiritually unfruitful, like Demas, who forsook the Church, having loved the present world (2 Tim. 4:10). There is no spiritual fruit.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
There is a fourth category of soil. There are those who receive the gospel seed and bear much fruit.
A seed is a powerful item. A single seed can multiple itself in a magnificent way, which is to say the Word of God is powerful, and must be stressed by the Church above all else. It is the seed of God’s Word which does wonderful things for the good of men, and the glory of God.
In Mark 4:13, the apostle states that in order to understand all other parables, this one has to be understood. There are two reasons why this is true. First, this initial parable identifies some of the symbolism Jesus uses in His teaching. Second, without being good soil, without having a good heart, gospel truth will never be understood. So, the question comes, “Are you good soil?” “Has the Word of God entered into your heart, taken root, and is bringing forth fruit?’