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Sow What? (Matthew 13:1-23)

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

“Sow What?”

(Matthew 13:1-23)

Series: God’s Fulfilled Promise [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

August 4, 2019

The Passage

Matthew 13:1-23

1 On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. 4 As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it grew up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. 6 But when the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it. 8 Still other seed fell on good ground and produced fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown. 9 Let anyone who has ears listen.”

10 Then the disciples came up and asked him, “Why are you speaking to them in parables?”

11 He answered, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. 12 For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. 14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You will listen and listen, but never understand; you will look and look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back—and I would heal them. 16 “Blessed are your eyes because they do see, and your ears because they do hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see but didn’t see them, to hear the things you hear but didn’t hear them.

18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”

Introductory Comments:

We’re continuing our series in the book of Matthew. Today will be our last time in Matthew for a few weeks as we’re going to take a short break while we consider a series on the Church.

Chapter 13 begins a section where Jesus begins a series of parables. A parable is an earthly story which communicates a heavenly meaning. It’s also been said that a parable compares something familiar with something unfamiliar. These parables helped Jesus’ followers then, and us today, to understand what He’s communicating.

Today we’re going to consider a famous parable concerning four groups of seeds. We’re going to learn how these seeds take root based on the conditions of the soil in which they are planted.

Let’s pray and ask God to speak to us as we study this parable. 

(prayer)

Illustration: You’ve heard me talk about my tomatoes before. I bought three grape tomato plants and I was having trouble getting them to grow, so I changed the condition. I replanted them in larger pots with more soil and they started to grow quickly. As time went on, I saw the little buds develop, which I knew would produce fruit. Low and behold the tomatoes started to grow. The first few developed cracks, so I started picking them sooner, not waiting for them to turn all the way red. I had more and more start cracking so I did what any good farmer does, I checked Google to see what was going on. I learned that hot weather and lots of rain will both cause tomatoes to crack. Well, in case y’all didn’t know, we’ve had a lot of hot weather and a lot of rain. So, I have to pick my tomatoes really early and let them ripen in the windowsill. You see, the condition matters when trying to grow tomatoes.

So also, the condition of the heart matters as to whether or not someone will receive the message of the kingdom of God. Jesus will share with us this parable today about these seeds. Although He doesn’t always do this, Jesus will also share with us the meaning of the parable. Further, Jesus will share with us the reason He teaches in parables. 

Let’s get into this and learn these three sections from Matthew 13.

First, . . .

I. The Parable (vv. 1-9) [on screen]

Jesus gives us this famous parable. Many of you have heard this parable time and again. Some of you perhaps have never heard it. In either case, we’re going to look at it this morning.

Look at verses 1-9.

1 On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “Consider the sower who went out to sow. 4 As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil, and it grew up quickly since the soil wasn’t deep. 6 But when the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it. 8 Still other seed fell on good ground and produced fruit: some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown. 9 Let anyone who has ears listen.”

First of all, we see that even though Jesus has ratcheted up His rhetoric against the Pharisees and even though He’s started to address hard hearts, people are still following Him. In fact, so many people are following Him that He chooses to get in a boat in order to teach all the people who had gathered on the shore.

As He begins to teach them, He does so in parables.

He gives us this first parable, which is called the parable of the sower or the parable of the seeds.

In this parable, Jesus talks about four groups of seeds: (1) the seeds that fell on the path and were eaten by birds; (2) the seeds that fell on the rocky soil, grew quickly, and later were scorched by the sun; (3) the seeds that fell in the thorns and couldn’t grow; and (4) the seeds that fell on the good soil and grew good plants.

We’ll walk through these different seeds a little later in the sermon, but for now, we have the seeds and the soil where they fell. 

This first section is pretty straightforward and simple. Jesus simply gives us this parable. 

Jesus then says, “Let anyone who has ears listen.” 

Well, what in the world does that mean? 

Jesus really wants us to pay attention to what He’s saying. He also wants us to want to listen to Him. Remember, Jesus warned the Pharisees against having evil hearts. Jesus wants us to have ears and hearts that want to learn from Him. We should listen to what He’s trying to teach us.

Do you want to hear from Jesus, church? Well, we must listen. 

He’s trying to teach us through this parable. But, why parables?

Well, second, Jesus gives us . . .

II. The Reason (vv. 10-17) [on screen]

Jesus’ disciples wanted to know why Jesus was teaching in parables. Why didn’t He just teach in an obvious way? Why didn’t He just say things directly?

Check out the conversation. Look at verses 10-17.

10 Then the disciples came up and asked him, “Why are you speaking to them in parables?”

11 He answered, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. 12 For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. 14 Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You will listen and listen, but never understand; you will look and look, but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are

hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back—and I would heal them. 16 “Blessed are your eyes because they do see, and your ears because they do hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see the things you see but didn’t see them, to hear the things you hear but didn’t hear them.

This is kind of a confusing answer from Jesus to the disciples’ question. However, by God’s grace and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can understand it.

Here’s what Jesus is saying: 

The disciples understand the things that Jesus is saying to them because they want to understand it and God has given them the power to understand it. Jesus says, “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know.” That is, they have been given by God!

Others do not understand it because they do not want to understand it and God has not given them the power to understand it.

The reason some don’t understand it is because they don’t really love God and His ways. Their hearts are hardened against God.

Jesus says, “Whoever has, more will be given to him.” He’s essentially saying, if you open your heart up to what God is teaching you, God will teach you more and more and more.

Jesus even says that Isaiah prophesied about this very situation.

First, we see from the prophecy that people are looking and trying to understand. We might think, “Well, they’re trying; they have the right hearts.” Keep looking at the prophecy!

Isaiah says their hearts are calloused, their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes. Of course, we’re talking spiritually here. These people are shut off to what God is saying to them. They have spiritual hearts which are hard. They have spiritual ears which are deaf. They have spiritual eyes which are shut. They don’t learn God’s ways because they don’t want to learn God’s ways. They’re looking and listening for something, but it’s not the truth of God. 

When Jesus teaches in parables, those who truly want to learn from Jesus can learn by the power of God’s Holy Spirit teaching them. We must have soft spiritual hearts, hearing spiritual ears, and open spiritual eyes.

Are you open to being taught by God? Are you open to the words of Jesus in your life? Are you open to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit?

If we really want to learn from God, we can ask Him to really teach us and He can and will do it! 

Jesus wants us to know more about Him and His teachings, so we must ask the Holy Spirit to teach us!

Thankfully, with this particular parable, we have the meaning of Jesus’ teaching.

That’s our third point:

III. The Explanation (vv. 18-23) [on screen]

Jesus doesn’t always give a full explanation of what a parable means. Sometimes parables are straightforward and easy to understand. However, in this case, Jesus tells us in detail what this parable means. Let’s check it out! Look at verses 18-23.

18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground— this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”

Ok, let’s look at the four groups of seeds again:

Group #1 – the seeds that fell on the path and were eaten by birds. Jesus says these are the people who don’t understand the Word of God because the devil confuses them or convinces them that what they heard about God isn’t true.

There’s plenty of deception happening out there in the world right now when it comes to the Gospel. Some of this confusion is happening because well-meaning preachers will tell any ol’ person who raises their hand or walks down an aisle that they have been saved.

Some of this deception is happening because false gospels are being preached and taught in churches and on televisions all across the world.

The devil works through this lack of clarity, this confusion, these incomplete presentations of the Gospel, and these false gospels, to try and prevent the seed of the true Gospel from taking root.

Group #2 – the seeds that fell on rocky ground. Jesus says these are the people who believe the message at first but later do not because they are not committed when things go badly for them. They turn their back on the teaching of God when things get tough in their lives.

These are the people who profess allegiance to Jesus, but they don’t really consider the type of commitment that it will take. Perhaps they just wanted to be a part of a church. Perhaps they just wanted a “Get out of Hell free” card. Nevertheless, when they realized things aren’t always hunky-dory when it comes to following Jesus they jumped ship.

They had no root in their walk with God. 

Group #3 – the seeds that fell in the thorns. Jesus says these are the people who don’t accept the Word of God because they are too distracted with the other things in the world. They are so distracted that they miss out on what’s most important, the message of Jesus!

These are the people who can’t see the beauty of the kingdom of God for what it really is because they are too distracted by the cheap substitutes offered by the world. They’re settling for the beef jerky when they could have the t-bone. They’re happy with the Yugo when they could have the Ford Mustang. They’re focused on looking for a few nickels in the alley because they don’t know there is  a chest of gold around the corner. They don’t see the kingdom of God for what it is, so its message is choked out.

Group #4 – the seeds that fell on good soil. Jesus says these are the people who hear the Word of God, receive the Word of God, and produce good fruit. These people are blessed by God because they hear, understand, and do what God wants them to do!

These are those who truly receive the Word of God. These are those who have open eyes, hearing ears, and soft hearts to hear what God is saying. God has spoken to them, He has worked in them by His Spirit so that they can understand and receive the message, and the seed of the kingdom of God has taken root and produced work in their lives.

Notice the amazing fruit that they bear.  Jesus says they produced fruit, “ . . . some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times what was sown.” They were bearers of great fruit!

Here’s the question for all of us to consider: which group of seeds am I in?

Concluding Thoughts:

In this parable, the only factor that changes is the place where the seeds fall. It’s the condition of the soil that matters. So also, it’s the condition of our hearts that matters. Our hearts must not be hardened against the things of God. 

We must be open, we must be moldable, we must have hungry and humble hearts to receive the Word of God. 

That takes us to our bottom line for today:

Bottom Line: We are blessed when we hear, understand, and obey the Word of God.  [on screen]

(repeat)

We see that when the message of the kingdom of heaven is received and obeyed that fruit is multiplied thirty, sixty, and one hundred times!

When we receive the Word of God, when we obey the Word of God, when we live the Word of God, we are blessed beyond our wildest imagination! Not with the cheap rewards of the world, but with the heavenly rewards of God!

Do you want to be blessed? Hear, understand, and obey the Word of God. 

Challenge yourself to live this out this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Immerse Yourself in God’s Word.  [on screen]

I have a profound piece of wisdom for you: in order to hear, understand, and obey the Word of God, you must know the Word of God. In order to know the Word of God, you must read the Word of God. 

Take in the Word of God. Immerse yourself in the Word of God. 

Some of you may be challenged with reading. Well, listen to the Word of God. There’s a lot of different ways to listen to God’s Word as well. Listen, read, do both, immerse yourself in the Word of God. 

As a side note, if you need help with any resources in doing this, please email me or fill out a connection card with a comment that you need assistance with this. If you need help reading more, let me know that as well. We’ll help you. 

Second, . . .

  1. Pray that God will help you understand His Word.  [on screen]

If God is the One who helps us see, hear, and understand, we must pray that He will teach us! We must pray that He will help our hearts be soft, help our eyes be open, and help our ears hear. 

In theology, we call this “illumination.” We need God to illuminate, or light up, truths so that we can understand them. 

Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you crave more. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you obey. 

Pray before, during, and after you immerse yourself in God’s Word. Pray throughout the day. Pray at all times that the message of the kingdom of heaven would penetrate your mind, heart, and life. 

Closing:

It’s all about the heart. Is your heart open to receive the Word of God? Is your heart growing with the Word of God? To which group of seeds do you belong?

Now, there’s also an evangelistic angle to this parable. 

As we share the Gospel, we must remember that a majority of people will not respond with a lasting decision to follow Jesus. We must be aware of and prepared for this. 

Our job is not to bring about results when we share the Gospel. That’s God’s business. Our job is to share the message of the kingdom of heaven. So, sow that seed, and let God handle the rest. 

The danger of looking at this parable in terms of evangelizing others is that we could potentially neglect to look at our own hearts!

Where are you with God when it comes to your heart?

(Gospel presentation)

(closing prayer)

Invitation Song – Pass Me Not

Benediction:

If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or any of our staff and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

Be sure to be here tonight at 5:30 PM for evening worship. We will have a special time of prayer as it’s the first Sunday of the month. I look forward to seeing you. 

After evening service tonight we will have a special time to say thank you to Barbara Johnson. We are thankful for her leadership over the last year and we look forward to seeing how else she will lead at our church. We’ll celebrate tonight with cake and pizza immediately following evening worship. 

Don’t forget that our Back to School Bash is coming up on Wednesday, August 14th from 5-7 PM. Be sure to get some invitation cards on your way out. They’re near the doors as you exit.

Finally, all the ladies out there, don’t forget about the WonderFull World retreat for ladies on August 23 and 24. You can see Jan Chancey or the church office for tickets to that. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(sing Doxology)

COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: The text contained in this sermon is solely owned by its author. The reproduction, or distribution of this message, or any portion of it, should include the author’s name. The author intends to provide free resources in order to inspire believers and to assist preachers and teachers in the ministry of the Gospel.

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