“Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
But others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold.
Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
The sower is Jesus Christ. That is, in the strict sense of the word. Mark 4:13, where Jesus explains this parable, tells us that, “The sower soweth the Word!” We must emphasize that last word of this quotation: The Word! And that Word is the voice of Jesus Himself. At another occasion He said: My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me! And that Word of Jesus is recorded for us in the Holy Bible. And even today it is really Jesus and Jesus alone who is able to sow the seed of His own Word in the hearts of the people of God.
Oh, I agree that in the instrumental sense of the word, also men are used by Him to sow the Word of God, but we must remember that they are mere instruments in the hand of Christ Jesus. First, the preachers who are real preachers are chosen by Jesus and called by Him; second, it is Jesus who determines their audience; third, it is Jesus Who gives them the message they must speak; and, finally, it is Jesus Who preaches to the hearts while His servants stand on the pulpit. He it is that goeth from ear to ear and from heart to heart, and He “preaches to His people in the full and real sense of the word.
This brings us to the second idea under the subhead of sowing. The seed is the Word of Jesus, as we have seen. This brings up the interesting question of the word of the preacher. Attend to this, dear reader: every word which the human preachers utter is not the Word of Christ. Oh no, there is much contraband in this respect, and you must always check the sermons you hear with the infallible record which Jesus has left us in the Holy Bible.
And the third matter is the field.
The field is not the world. I agree that ultimately this will become the field, but as long as there are large tracts on this sorry earth where the Gospel has not been preached as yet, so long you cannot say that the field is the world. The field is the place where the preacher brings the Word of Christ. And therefore it is the sphere of the Kingdom of God on earth. It is the realm of the church of Jesus Christ in the broadest sense of the word.
So there you have the fitting introduction to the process of the sowing of the Word of God and its fruit, or lack of fruit. Jesus Christ sows the Word of God through His servants in the church at large. And in as far as the human preachers bring that Word they preach He either applies it to the hearts of His elect children, or He hardens the reprobates unto their eternal condemnation. Such is the picture we see.
There are three kinds of people which are portrayed here in this parable.
There are first those who are likened unto seed which is sown by the way side.
Let me call your attention first to the fact that in the instance of this parable, we have the explanation by Jesus Himself. And we will, of course, follow His exegesis of the parable.
And here is what Jesus says about the people that are likened to the seed which falls by the wayside, and I quote: “When anyone heareth the Word of the Kingdom, and understandeth it not then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.”
These are the hardhearted people which also come to church and which also hear the preaching of the Word of Christ. It even comes into their heart, that is, they do consider it to some extent. Intellectually they know what you are talking about. But the last words of the human preacher have hardly died away, and they are the prey of Satan, who comes and takes away the Word that was preached. The Word of God went in one ear and out the other, and they are not changed for the good one whit. Notice, the seed is taken away by Satan, so it is entirely proper to infer that they let go of the Word of God with wicked deliberation, such as: Well, why should we worry? The sun is shining and all is well. It will be time a-plenty to think of these things when I am old and grey. Let’s enjoy the world; let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die! And they continue on their foolish pathway.
Of course, there is no, fruit. That is, there is no praise and honor of God in their heart or in their mouth.
The second kind of people are pictured in the seed which fell in stony places where it had no deepness of earth.
They are the superficial people.
Of them Jesus said, and I quote: But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended.
You see the picture.
The seed fell into a slender layer of soil. Underneath, the ground is as hard as the rock. The sun ariseth, and because of the excessive warmth, the seed sprouts at once and there you have the rich foliage. But no, we rejoiced too easily. When the heat of midday comes and burns upon this foliage, it is withered and dies away.
And so it is with superficial people. They hear the Word of the Kingdom of God and at once they are moved in the superficial and shallow region of their feelings. They shout for joy: Hallelujah! I have received the Word.
But wait! Persecution and tribulation because of the Word comes. You see, the Word of Jesus Christ is entirely contrary to the thoughts, the imagination, the purposes and the enjoyments of the flesh, and of the world. So naturally, when you harbor the Christ and live the Christ, you run counter to the whole world of man and of flesh, of the sinful and corrupt practice of the children of the world.
And in such a fight the superficial singer of the songs of Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom cannot stand. He is at once offended, and dies away. He falls back into his former life, and there is no fruit unto the praises of the name of God.
I am afraid that there are many sown in stony places today. It is oh so easy to attend a revival meeting and to shout hallelujah. But it is not easy to live the life of the Kingdom in self-denial and self-sacrifice. It is very difficult to sing the hallelujah’s of the kingdom while they hate you and persecute and say all manner of things against you falsely for Jesus’ sake. It is oh so difficult to crucify your own nature and do the things that are against you. It is difficult to serve Jesus in the heat of the day, when hatred and malice are your daily portion.
Remember, if you desire to walk with Jesus, you must bear the reproach of Jesus. And we reproach a thing when we abhor it, and throw it from us. And that is the way in which the real Christians are treated. For the sake of the fact that Jesus is in their heart, their walk and conversation, they are killed all the day long, they are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
In order to stand the heat of day, you must have deepness of earth.
In order to walk with Jesus in the midst of an hostile world, you must have the seed of Jesus’ Word down deep within your inner heart and soul.
The third kind of people are those that are sown in thorny places. Jesus says of them: He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word: and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
Can you not see them?
They are the nominal Christians who love themselves rather than God. They are the people who are very deliberate. They do not jump before they look. They weigh Jesus, God, and the eternal salvation very carefully over against the things of this world, the pleasures and the treasures which this world can give them. They like a good time now, rather than presently in heaven.
Oh yes, they have gone to church. They gave Jesus a hearing. And they went into the matter rather thoroughly. They are deeper people than the first two categories. But while they are considering the Word of God, the thorns and the thistles of the other things which I mentioned also grow up. That is, they will consider the things of Jesus Christ indeed, but they will also consider the-things and the pleasures of this world.
And the inevitable result is that they say: It is nice to go to heaven, but it is nicer to have a good time now. Therefore, come on: we are going to enjoy the kingdom of men which is round about us and within us while we may. I like to have a thrill and enjoy myself. The parable of the rich fool is a wondrous commentary on these kind of people.
But there is no fruit unto the praising of the name of God.
Finally there is the sowing with fruit, abundant fruit.
And of those people the Lord said: But he that received into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty fold and some thirty fold. I also like to call your attention to Luke where we find the same parable. There Jesus says of these people: But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Those people are very blessed. Their heart is called good and honest. It is likened unto soil that is well cultivated, soft and ready for the seed.
You will note that the whole parable turns on the question: what sort of heart have you got?
These people have a good heart. It is a heart which is made fit to hear the Word of God and to receive it in the depths of that heart so that they understand it. Oh no, they do not at once joyfully accept it. Far from it. When the Word of God in all its sharpness of condemnation of sin comes to them, they are first of all sorry. They weep in the very depths of them, and they turn to God for redemption. Then they are led to the cross of Jesus, and in that Jesus and in that cross they see all the medicine for their ills, all the redemption for their load of sin and guilt, all the means for a happy life and a blessed eternity. They see in that Jesus the only way to the Father in heaven. He is the Mouth through which they can praise and glorify God in heaven, and this last is the very purpose of creation.
Oh yes, it is a question of the utmost importance: with what kind of a heart do I listen to the Word of God!
And they bring forth fruit. Some more than others, but those which by the grace of God through regeneration and conversion, have received a new heart, they all bring forth fruit. And this fruit is the praising of the name of God, in their heart, their mouth, and their life! That is the life that counts!