Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. 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. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 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! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables,
For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.
This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,
‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.
“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 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. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 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. 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. 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!” Matthew 13:1-23 NLT
My Thoughts: Let’s begin by looking at the definition of a parable.
Parable: usually a short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.
Our verses today are the parable of seeds told by Jesus which ends with a clear explanation of the story’s meaning for his disciples.
We all learn differently and Jesus knew a large part of his listening audience would be captivated by the stories and consequently be able to understand and apply them to their own lives. I believe the same truth applies today, don’t you? If someone tries to impart knowledge to me in a monotonous voice with boring details, my mind wanders or the temptation to yawn becomes overwhelming. On the contrary if the story begins with a situation that is interesting, I am hooked and it helps me apply what I learn to my own life.
However, what I find to be the most interesting portion of our verses are these words:
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, for they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.” Matthew 13:11-13 NLT
“You are permitted to understand…” Isn’t that an unusual choice of words? Have you ever considered that God actually allows us to understand his words…, or not?
I remember an incident in my life when someone challenged me to read God’s word. I was not a believer and I decided to take the challenge but my heart was not sincere. I picked up an old Bible given to me by my grandmother and attempted to read from the beginning.
I made two mistakes: first the Bible was a King James Version which is not in a ‘voice’ that we speak today so it was difficult for me to follow and understand. Next I read while I was lying down in bed. Within an hour I was sound asleep and when I eventually awoke, I didn’t understand or remember a thing I read.
These two things aside, I also believe I had no understanding because the Lord did not permit me to understand and took what I read away from me. Why? My heart was hard against God and my intentions for reading the Bible were not honorable (I’m not proud of this, just being truthful).
If you recall my testimony (“The Power of Words,” a two part blog from July 2018), I refused to have a relationship with God because of an alcoholic and abusive father. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God, I was just very mad at him!
What was the most interesting to me is how Jesus explains the parable of the seeds and how much that definition mirrored my own walk with the Lord. Let me show you:
- Seeds on the footpath-I first heard the message of Jesus when I was seven years old but I misunderstood the message and became hurt and angry. I believed that Jesus didn’t love me or my family. Therefore, I purposefully walked away from Jesus without going deeper and asking questions or attempting to learn more about him. I intentionally hardened my heart to Jesus.
- Seeds in shallow soil-I had a mature, but young mom share the gospel with me when I about nineteen years old and also a very young mom. She couldn’t change my heart for Christ through his grace, so she attempted to lure me with the fear of the Lord by sharing stories about the Rapture from the book of Revelation. I misunderstood the entire message she was trying to communicate to me and only saw it as God taking my baby through the rapture because he was ‘innocent’ and I would be left behind. I loved my child, so I went through the motions of getting saved and baptized but it was nothing more than checking an item off of a list of things to do. I thought it was my ticket out of hell. Once I was baptized, I walked away from God and the church. I didn’t understand I needed to go deeper with God so my heart remained hard.
- Seeds in thorns-There was a time I really did consider turning to God. My first marriage ended in a divorce and after intentionally spending time with just myself and my two children for a few years, I met the man of my dreams (he still is by the way!). It was in the late 1980’s and he was also divorced with two children. Being a man of faith, he talked about starting our blended marriage together in church. Naturally, I didn’t share my past baggage with him (people, don’t do this! It’s truly a miracle our marriage survived the many secrets I kept from him!). For the first time I knew my heart was beginning to soften towards having a relationship with Jesus. Even I recognized that in order for our blended marriage to be successful it was going to require we have the LORD on our side. We visited multiple churches and instead of being embraced by the church, we were shunned because we had a blended family. (I’m not making this up!) The ‘thorns’ we encountered from church and the difficulties we faced in our blended marriage were too much for this broken woman to handle. I hardened my heart again, but not just against God, against the church.
- Seeds in fertile ground-In late 1998 through a series of events we found ourselves in church and my husband broke down and cried saying “this is what is missing in our lives.” I was clueless that anything was missing but I trusted my husband. Because of our past difficulties, my husband’s brother directed us to a contemporary church. We were not only accepted in spite of being a blended family, the pastor taught life applicable lessons, very much like parables. As someone who had never read the Bible his lessons helped me apply the Word of God in my own life and that created a hunger for learning more about the Word of God. In March of 2000, I really surrendered my heart and life to Jesus, and was baptized again. Now I am not just a Christian I am a follower of Jesus, and my daily goal is to mirror and share Jesus in my life. Sometimes I succeed, but sometimes I fail miserably. But I get up, dust myself off, and keep trying again and again. In addition to my goal of mirroring Jesus in my life, I have served Jesus in many ways, but I currently serve through my writing and in these blogs.
I am so grateful that my eyes have been opened to Jesus Christ and the gospel, but wow, do I regret the years I chose to have a hardened heart. My choices have caused a lot of pain and strife in my life and in the lives of our children.
Maybe you have a similar story? If so, please reach out to me today and let’s talk. I’d love to help you understand why choosing Jesus is the best decision I have ever made, and I believe it will change your life for the better too!
Closing Prayer: Father God, I thank you for this very important parable that teaches how important our words are when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ. My seeds may have been scattered, rocky, and thorny in the beginning, but I am so blessed they are fertile for You now. May I continue to keep my garden fertile by sowing first in Your Word so my heart and mind are prepared before any word ever leaves my lips. Lord, if there is someone reading this blog and they need eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to know you, I pray they surrender right now. If they need more information, I pray that they contact me or go to a Bible believing church to get their questions answered so they too can be a part of your Kingdom. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen