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This sermon is based on the parable told by Jesus in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 about the four kinds of soil upon which the seed of the Word has fallen. The message uses the interpretation Jesus provided regarding each of the soils and applies them to the present day. Emphasis was given for listeners to do what is necessary to make sure the soil of their own hearts is properly prepared to produce a good harvest.
The passage of Scripture we will be looking at today is one of the parables that Jesus gave to teach an important point about salvation and the kingdom of God. Parables were usually realistic stories about different facets of life that included a life lesson. They were not necessarily real incidents, but they were reflections of real life. They always brought out a vivid bit of truth to illustrate key principles of the Kingdom of God.
Today’s parable is a story that clearly relates to farming or gardening. Any farmers/gardeners here? This is a teaching story that shares some great insights about the effectiveness of God’s Word in the lives of people who receive it.
I want to turn our attention first of all to the Sower and the Seed because they are constant amid a description of soil that is changing.
1. The Sower – In the parable itself, every hearer would understand the sower to be a farmer, gardener, or some other tiller of the ground.
The sower is not identified in the parable or even in the explanation of the parable provided by Jesus. The closest we find to any kind of identity for the sower is given in the parallel passage of Mark 4:14, “The sower sows the word.”
Who sows the word? Pastors, Evangelists, Missionaries, teacher, and every disciple of Jesus. All followers of Jesus are called to make disciples. That includes spreading the word.
2. The Seed – The seed represents the Word of God.
Luke 8:11 (NKJV) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Just a couple of weeks ago I spoke about the Word of God. It is authoritative; reliable; and effective.
It is given by inspiration of God – literally “God-breathed.”
It is an instrument of conviction – Heb. 4:12, “quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.”
It is an instrument of instruction and enlightenment. Ps. 119:105 “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
It is forever established. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my Word shall never pass away.”
When we talk about this story and the effectiveness of the seed, we are not just talking about today’s newspaper or headline news, but we are speaking about the infallible and all-important word of God.
3. The Soil – When Jesus gives the explanation of the parable, He describes the condition of the soil and how it reacts to the seed.
There are four different kinds of soil that Jesus describes for us that represent the four different kinds of reactions the Word of God has in the hearts and lives of individuals who receive the Word.
A. Wayside Soil – The first kind of soil mentioned is described in the KJV as along the “wayside.”
Some other translations use the word “path” or “road.”
This description highlights the fact that Jesus was probably describing a sower that is “broadcasting” seed; not planting it under the surface of the soil as we normally would do in our culture.
In Matthew’s portrayal of the parable, Jesus says the seed by the path/wayside represents the Word that is heard but is not readily understood. In Mark and Luke’s reports, it emphasizes the fact that Satan comes and snatches the Word before it has a chance to get down into the ground.
There is the implication of “hardness” because of the path/road that has been traveled so much it has packed the earth. So the seed cannot penetrate the soil before the birds/devil comes and snatches the seed away before it can take root.
The “soil” of this heart needs to be plowed, dug up and softened in order to take the Word in.
B. Stony Soil – The heart of a person who hears the Word and receives it with joy (gladly). To him it is good news!
There is no depth. Stones haven’t completely prevented the introduction of seed into the earth, but they prevent the seed from getting any roots deep after germination.
The stones would represent all those things that rob a person of the amount of time and attention it would take to dig deeply so the roots of faith can grow deeper and stronger.
Jesus says the thing that destroys the seed/Word in this person’s life is persecution and opposition.
C. Thorny Soil – This soil is described as soil that has something else growing alongside the seed of the Word.
The soil isn’t hard, and it isn’t shallow apparently, but it is producing thorns and thistles right along with the good seed.
Jesus said that the thorns represent two/three different things:
1) Cares of life – Everyday cares, burdens and pressures of life. Anything that seems legitimate, but it takes our focus and vision off of spiritual priorities and onto material/physical matters.
2) Deceitfulness of riches – Just a little bit more will be enough.
I’ll just postpone attending to spiritual needs for a little while until I acquire… / until I accomplish…
Every time a decision is made to neglect the attention needed for spiritual development and growth it becomes easier to do it again. Procrastination is contagious.
3) Desires for other things/Pleasures – Matthew does not add this third category, but it is mentioned in Mark and Luke.
Things that appeal to the desires of the flesh and can be bought with the deceiving riches.
The effect of these thorns is fruitlessness. The plant has grown, but it is bare. It is good for nothing. It has produced no fruit to bless and benefit anyone.
This is the person that lasted much longer than the ones who encountered persecution and tribulations and died out. But over the course of time allowed other priorities to choke out the attention to the Word and the fruit that it should naturally bear.
(JFB) They still have the form or profession (the plant) but it doesn’t bring any fruit to ripened condition.
D. Good Soil – The implication is that the good soil has the opposite conditions and qualities of the previous three.
Not hard. Not stony (has depth). Not overrun with thorns.
Fruit – the proof of good soil and proper nurture of the seed and plants.
Which kind of soil are you? Which kind of soil am I?
We can rely on the work of the Spirit to help us properly prepare “the soil of our hearts,” but He won’t do it for us.
There is some responsibility on our part to tend to the heart soil. God won’t take away the stones and cause us to have some depth. He won’t remove the thorns that choke out the plant life, so we stay focused on spiritual things rather than worldly things.
Those are our responsibilities. May the Lord help us to take care of our heart life.
The seed is powerful and wonderful if we give it the proper attention and care.
Closing song: Wonderful Words of Life