THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
[How the Kingdom of God grows]
We saw last week that as Jesus began his public ministry when he was 30 years old – he started out annoucing “The kingdom of God in Near. Repent and believe the good news” [Mark 1v15]
The crowds of people had high hopes of what this young teacher from Nazareth would do for them. He had perfromed many mircales – he spoke with authority – they came from every town and village to here him teach. News of him had spread like wild fire. He was on the front page of the “Nazareth News” and “The Capernaum Chronicle”
We would expect the people who heard Jesus to accept his teaching with unbridled enthusiasm but we find that some were sceptical, others half-hearted and some openly antagonistic.
If you were Jesus trying to usher in the Kingdom of God. – How would you do it?
I expect most of us would resort to great displayed of might and power!
Certainly many in Jesus day expected the Messiah to establish the Kingdom by force.
What does Jesus do?? Does he have a message they want to hear? Not a bit of it!!
NO! He tells them stories – parables – The words of the stories are simple enough – stories about everyday things BUT the meaning of his stories is a riddle at best! What on earth does he mean?
1. THE PURPOSE OF PARABLES [V10 – 14]
The idea that parables are nice simple stories with an underlying moral point is nonsense! They are not simply stories with a moral.
Jesus did not use parables to make it easier to understand but to make it harder.
Many people heard Jesus – but few understood. They came because they were curious! They came because they wanted to be entertained! They came becuse they wanted to see more miraculous signs and wonders! BUT Jesus is not impressed with crowds as we usually are!! We are prone to judge success by the standards the world sets. The big Church is the successful Church !! — Is it? Is it safe to assume that because a Church is successful it is pleasing to God and following his agenda??
Why do you come to Church?? Out of habit? Out of duty? Curiousity? Do you have nothing better to do? Do you like the music? Why do you come??
If these are your motives for coming then the secrets of the kingdom of God are going to remain a secret BUT if you are prepared to come with and openness to follow Christ and to know him personally THEN secrets will be revealed secrets and you will understand and enjoy the blessing of God.
Those who want to be genuine disciples are the one’s to whom the secrets of the kingdom are revealed.
The idea that parables are easy to understand – and the suggestion that Jesus used this method of teaching to make things simple for these 1st century hearers is unsubstantiated. If it was so easy to understand this parable of the sower why was it necessary for Jesus to explain the meaning to his disciples.
The parables then are for those who have open hearts and minds – who by God’s grace have had the “eyes of their understanding opened”.
But what are these secrets / mysteries of the kingdom about which Jesus is speaking??
A mystery is something that would remain unknown had it not been revealed. One of the mysteries that the disciples were now being let in on was the fact the Jesus’ appearance on earth was the start of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Another mystery whauch Jesus was revealing to his followers was that this presence kingdom was was mixed in with the prsent earthly kingdom and would only at a future stage be consummated in beauty and purity.
All these matters are mysteries / secrets and cannot be understood by unaided human reasoning. The bottom line in the understanding of the things of the kingdom of God is a matter of grace.
These are revealed mysteries!! We do not discover them!! Unless God in his grace and mercy reveals himself and his ways to us we could never comprehend the matter pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Do you realise how privileged we are to live this side of the cross!!
To have the understanding that we have! While our understanding id still very limited we still known far more than the OT saints.
So what of this parable in front of us.
There are 3 main elements within this parable
– The seed
– The Sower
– The Soils
2. THE SEED [God’s word is essential for the establishment of His Kingdom]
v18 seed is ” … the message of the Kingdom…” In the parallel passage in Mark 4 Jesus says “The farmer sows the word.”
“The seed is the word of God.”
When we consider the expectations of the 1st Century Jew it probably is not surprising that this was difficult to understand – they expected a glorious conqueroring Messiah.
He had already performed many great signs and wonders so we can’t blame them for thinking that he would usher in the kingdom is a very dramamtic fashion.
It that not how many today stiil want God to work – they get very exited about signs and wonders – they chase after the spectacular. If only God would do these things then the people would flock to church. Yes! Just like they flocked to see Jesus’ miracles in his day BUT how genuine would be their faith in him.
ILLUS.: I watched, with a certain amount of emotion, in April last year  the inaugaration of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa. There was a sense of history and a new begin for my country. It was a great occassion and was done with much pomp and ceremony. The new society had arrived. That for which the majority had waited long. Had prayed for and even fought for.
So too the coming of the Messiah had been longed for. Prayed for and even fought for. BUT unlike president Mandela’s inaugaration it didn’t get Worldwide TV coverage. The kingdom of God was not to be established in one single event.
First there was to be a time of planting / sowing. [the word into the hearts of people]
Second there was to be a time of growth [where the farmer leaves the field – he does not neglect it but the seed must grow}
Third a time of harvest. [Christ will return – the whole world will know – and he will gather to himself those who are his]
The preaching of the gospel – the word of God – is what will establish the kingdom of God in the world.
We can’t organise the KoG – the modern church has sometimes fallen into the trap of thinking that if we are well structured and follow the latest marketing techniques then we will be successful. The church need to be more “user friendly”
Well- of course there is place for being relavant to the society in which we live – but making God’s word relavant not using gimmicks.
Some have tried to use the gospel as a crutch for their political ends – liberation theology – esp. in South America and Africa has been very popular. The terrorists and freedom-fighters have preached this message for years. There were those like that in Jesus day – the zealots – BUT Jesus rejected that method of bringing in the KoG.
Again this does not mean that the Church has nothing to say about political issues – all too often Christians – evangelicals esp. – have not wanted to get involved in politics. We need to be concerned about these things.
On Thursday evening we saw the CARE Trust video – they deal with exactly these issues and rightly so!!
BUT social action is not the means of establishing the KoG.
There are many areas in which Christians should be involved – BUT “The seed is the word of God” It is this word of God and this alone that has the power to changes the hearts and minds of people. When people’s hearts are transformed by the power of God’s word then social structures changes.
ILLUS.: What was it that save England from disaster in the 18 C – was it social action or education??? NO!! It was the preaching of the word of God by John Wesley and George Whitfield and others …
Seed might seem insignificant and vulnerable but without it there will be no harvest.
3. THE SOWER [Jesus – and by extention those who are his]
“The sower is the Son of Man” – It is clear that the establishment of the kingdom of God is God’s work from beginning to end.
BUT Jesus have committed to us the Gospel –
… He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,
as though God were making his appeal through us [2 Co.5v19-20]
We are also sower – we have a responsibility to be distributing the word of God.
Two things are very obvious if this is what we are going to do – Firstly, we need to have the seed and secondly we need to be sowing it in the field. That is preety plain isn’t it??
Do you have the word of God – do you know it? Do you study it? Do you consider it to be the only means by which the kingdom of God is going to take root in this
What is my most important function as the pastor of this church. Organising the running of the church? Visiting? Counselling? weddings and funerals ?
ALL necessary BUT the my main task is teaching and preaching the word of God.
That is why I ask not to be disturbed in the morning between 9 am. and 1 pm. not because I think your phone calls and visits are unimportant but because the Word of God is most important and if I don’t study in the week I’ll have nothing to say on a Sunday / Home groups/ etc…
It is not my eloquence or lack of it – it is not the techniques of preaching – it is not the style of worship – it is not using and OHP – it is not having interesting illustraion or telling tear-jerking stories. It is none of these BUT it is the WORD.
That doesn’t mean there is any excuse for slap-dash, anything-will-do approach to preaching and teaching. We are responsible to Gof to present the message of the gospel in the best possibly way. Form the Pulpit, in small groups, 1-2-1. We will all answer to God for the way we use our talents.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation – the secrets of the kingdom.
4. THE SOILS [The failure and success of spreading God’s word]
These soils are the four responses of people to the message of the KoG.
THE SEED SOWN ALONG THE PATH.
There were many in the crowd who heard Jesus that day who reject his words.
The sceptical “No! I don’t buy this”
The self-righteous “Me! a sinner?”
The “Tolerant” “Hey! Live and let live! There is more than one way to God.
We can all worship God in our own way – we don’t have to come this way”
These are the one’s who are hard-hearted. BUT notice who is responsible for snatching away the seed. The evil one. [v19]
Unlike many people, Satan knows the power of the Word of God. He was beaten by it in the wilderness when he tried to tempt Jesus.
Satan will use every possible trick to snatch the word away. And wherever the word of God is being taught he is there to grab it away.
Where is the Devil?? He is right here trying to hinder the word of God getting into some hearts and minds.
He knows the power of the Word – do you?
The pathway represents the unresponsive, insensitive and callous!
THE SEED THAT FELL ON ROCKY PLACES. [v20]
This characterises those who start well!
BUT the song is right “It’s not how you start but how you finish”
There is an initial enthusiasm. An excitement. Often people like this start with a great flurry. They are into Baptismal classes, Bible studies…. the enjoy the worship and are carried along on the newness of it all. They thought it would be all wonderful – never any problems. Always happy. BUT when the realities of life are still there. When youe old friends are not excited about your new beliefs and start to mock. When testing comes.
“Well, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all” “Maybe I was just going through a phase” “It was just a flash in the pan” “I don’t think I’ll carry on being a Christian”
The seed has taken root and strouted quickly BUT when the heat of trouble and persecution comes it withers and dies. We have all seen it and it is very sad — but true.
The rocky ground represents the inplusive with no staying power!!
THE SEED THAT FELL AMONG THE THORNS [v22]
These are those who appear to commit themselves to Christ – who may even go to church regularly. BUT the have become estranged from Christ. Just like a bad marriage. They live in the same house but live separate lives.
Other things are more inportant…
….. the children’s education, advancement at work, maintain the house and garden, finacial difficulties, sporting achievements, PLEASURE, material possession, …..
These call themselves “Christian” – but their lives belie the fact.
Let me ask you this morning – are you like that?? Do you come to church week after week and warm that seat and yet Christ really makes no differnce to your life!! Who are you fooling?? You can fool me!! That easy! You can fool others!!
Even yourself but not God.
Just because a person at some stage in life has made a profession of faith does not mean that he has a ticket to heaven.
Jesus warn that not everyone to says Lord! Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven
The letter of jude warns against apostasy and falling away.
I pray to God the he would save us from this kind of mediocrity and nominalism.
The thorny ground represents those who are preoccupied and distracted by other things.
There have been many interpretation of these differnt soils BUT these first three I believe are not true recipients of the word at all.
These first three also teach us that there is disappointment and discouragement in the work of evangelism and that we should not be surprised that people reject the message of Christ. The rejected it from his own lips.
BUT there is encouragement and sowing the word of God is not in vain.
THE GOOD SOIL [well-prepared] [v23]
This is the soil that actually produces a crop. What is the point of sowing if you don’t expect a harvest. What good is wheat if it grows half way and dies either because its roots are shallow or because its life it choked out by weeds.
I don’t think we should make too much of the 30, 60 and 100x. The point is that a crop is produced. There is fruit. What did Jesus say about the branch that didn’t bear fruit “It will be cut off and thrown into the fire”
Good soil receives the word and fruit results – conversion, love joy peace ….
When the word of God is received and takes root in a life it is not a temporary thing. It is not a faith that is here today and gone tomorrow. It is not a nominal nod of the head as you recite the creed. It is not paying lip-service to God by coming to church on a Sunday and forgetting him te rest of the week.
It is not saying “I made a decision for Christ when I was 14 so I’m alright”
Unless there is fruit that endures – long lasting growth – a faith that perserves under trials and difficult circumstances. A faith that says “I will follow Christ no matter what” That is committed to making Christ known in this world. Unless there is this kind of fruit we are not good soil.
I am not saying that Christians can’t have set backs and that sometimes our faith wavers and is weak. BUT only those who endure to the end will be saved.
See to it, brothers, that none of you
has a sinful unbelieving heart that
turns away from the living God…
… We have come to share in Christ IF
we hold firmly to the end the
confidence we have at first [Heb.3v12,14]
The kingdom of God is established when the seed [the word] is roots in the lives of people who are fully committed to Christ.
How have you heard the word of God this morning??
Hear but not listened – the seed on the path.
Have your emotions been stirred but by tomorrow the pressure of life will have caused it to wither and die.
Is what you have heard going to be killed off by the weeds of worry in the coming week.
OR have tyou responded with and unconditional commitment to receive and obey the word. Then as the word take root in your life it will bring glory to God.