Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
IN the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, our Lord reaches a turning point in His teaching. He had come to the Jew first, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and had presented Himself as the Messiah, and they had refused Him. He then presents in parable form the mystery of the gospel in the Church age—a truth that had not been revealed to the prophets, having been kept secret from the beginning, as our Lord plainly stated (Matt. 13:35). He spoke in parables that His disciples might catch the deeper meanings, while blinded Jews—as Isaiah had prophesied—would hear but not understand.
These parables do not teach world conversion but rather the saving of a few, and a final judgment and separation. The parable of the sower, interpreted by our Lord Himself, shows only one-fourth of the sown seed of the Word taking permanent root. Four types of human soil are presented: the superficial, upon whom no lasting impression is made; the emotional, making a fine start but not persevering; the preoccupied, soon choked out by earthly cares; and the truly receptive and productive. Here is encouragement in preaching, for at least one out of four will receive the seed and bear fruit. Yet here is warning against expecting universal acceptance of the gospel, for the three other types will last until the end.
The Word of God will not return void, for it will accomplish His purpose; but we must ever remember that it does not profit unless it is mixed with faith (Heb. 4:2). Seed falling by the wayside indicates that there are those who do not understand the message and who do not care or even try to understand it. They give no earnest heed to the things which they have heard; they go to church and sit politely as did the people before Ezekiel (Ezek. 33:30-33). They hear but heed not, and the devil, ever watchful, snatches away the Word before they get home from church.
Then there are those of the stony ground, who go further than the first group. They receive the Word, a good beginning is made, but they do not hold fast that which is good. They taste the good Word of God, but while they endure for a while, they do not endure until the end. When trouble—which works for the faithful a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory—arrives, these fall away.
The third kind also springs up; there is a beginning made, but worldly cares distract—as they did to Martha, so that she neglected the main thing. The deceitfulness of riches, the love of money which is the root of all evil, soon chokes the Word, and the young inquirer goes away grieved, having great possessions—and having nothing! It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom because of the exceeding danger of earthly cares and fortunes.
The true believer hears the Word and understands it, being taught of the Spirit. He is also a fruitful believer although there are degrees of fruitfulness. Their hearts are honest and good, and they “bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). Therefore we should take heed how we hear; for “whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have” (Luke 8:18).