Welcome to Parable #1.
That’s right! In this PODCAST, we begin in earnest now to understand Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13.
Oh, you’re in for a treat. Because this first parable, just like the eight that will follow it, speaks directly to our lives at this time, in this place, in our day, today.
This is as personal as it gets.
Jesus now shifts His focus completely, from talking to the crowds of His day, about the many challenges that they faced, to talking directly to us in our day, about the many challenges that we each face today.
I cannot stress enough the absolute importance of understanding these parables. Neither could Jesus, who begins this first parable with the word, “Listen.” And then ends the parable by referencing those of us who do indeed “listen and understand.”
In this podcast, we will do both — listen and understand.
So, lets start off by reading Matthew 13:1-3
Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. 2 A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore.3 He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds.
I find it very interesting that Jesus begins this portion of His teaching with the word, “Listen!”
Then, in verse nine, when Jesus ends the parable, He closes with these words:
”…Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
He bracketed His first parable, beginning and end, with the word, “Listen”. Which should be no surprise, given the context of the scene: He was surrounded by people who had recently rejected Him: the crowds, the religious leaders, even His own family. Other than His disciples, He was basically surrounded by people who had stopped listening.
Another unique shift in Jesus’ teaching is the tense in which He taught. Prior to the parables, He taught the people in present tense – regarding their lives then. With the parables, He teaches about us in our day. So, when He says, “Anyone with ears to hear…”, He means ANYONE, including US TODAY.
This came as a shock to those who were close to Him, as we see in verse ten:
His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
He answered them:
“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
You see, His teachings up to this point was Old Testament based. But, from here on, He introduces brand new material – messages that the people hadn’t heard before.
So, what exactly did He say? Here is His first parable:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
The problem, at the time, was that no one in that crowd did understand. They understood the concept of a farmer scattering seeds, but not the eternal lessons that applied to them as much as you and I today.
So, Jesus had to explain it for them (and, thankfully, for us, too):
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
In each of these four scenarios, the farmer is the same and the seed is the same. The only difference is the condition of the soils. The seed is the Bible – God’s Word. The farmer is Jesus, and He would pass the baton to His disciples, and they would pass the baton on down to even us. The variable – the condition of the soils – is the condition of our hearts.
Now, at any given moment, each of our hearts is represented by each of these four soils. The good news is that each of the soils are not static. They are fluid. They can change from one to another and even to another or back to the first again. Therefore, this message is not condemning those who have the heart condition of the first three soils, but an encouragement that we can and should all pursue to change our hearts to the fourth soil type.
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