Matthew 13:3-9,18-23 (The Parable of the Sower: Part 1)

What does Mat 13:18 indicate about how willing Jesus is to explain His parables to those who are willing to forsake their lives in this world to follow Him?  Cf. Luk 8:16-18 and think: what is the lamp, who has lit it, and what must one do in order to see its light?  In this parable, who is the sower, and what is the seed?  See Mat 13:19, Luk 8:11, 1Pe 1:23.  What were people’s expectations about the Messiah in regard to how He would be received by all Israel?  Did Jesus understand that everyone would receive the kingdom message He came to preach?  What apologetic value would this parable have for those to whom Matthew was writing who were being swayed by the argument that Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because He was not universally accepted by the Jews as such?  In what sense are we also sowers?  What does this parable teach us about what our expectations should be as we share the gospel with others?  Given these expectations, should we in our spread of the gospel expend large amounts of energy and resources sowing seed along the road, or on rocky places or among thorns?  Where should we sow?

What is it about a road that makes it almost impossible for seeds to grow there, and how is this an illustration of many people’s hearts where the seed of God’s word is sown?  See Mar 3:5, Luk 8:5.  Is it possible that our own hearts remain hardened in certain areas so that the seed of God’s word cannot take root there and completely sanctify our hearts in holiness?  What must happen to a hardened soil in order for it to become fertile so that seeds will take root?  See Jer 4:3, Hos 10:12.  In light of God’s great love even for those who have been hardened by sin, by what means may He break up the fallow ground of men’s hearts?  See Jer 1:10, 31:27-28.  What does this teach us about God’s purpose for affliction and suffering in our lives?  See Pro 13:24, Heb 12:5-11.  Considering that the very hairs of our heads are numbered by God and not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His consent, when we experience suffering and affliction, should we suppose it is just our unlucky moment and a random happenstance, or should we consider that perhaps God is trying to get our attention and break up the fallow ground of our hearts so that the seed of His word can have a place to take root and grow up to bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness that is the substance of eternal life?  See Rev 9:20-21, 16:9-11.

Who does Jesus say the birds in the parable represent?  See Mat 13:19, Luk 8:12.  What insight does this give us about the “birds that fly in mid-heaven” that are assembled for the great supper of God in Rev 19:17-18?  When planting a garden, a gardener must be careful to bury the seed in the soil so that the birds do not eat it; in the same way, what must we do when sowing the seed of God’s word?  I.e., is it enough for the seed to only touch people superficially on the outside?  Some birds are adept at finding and eating even seeds that have been buried in the soil, so that the gardener must take additional measures to protect the seed, such as a net or something to scare the birds away; in the same way, what must we do to protect the seed sown in people’s hearts, including our own, from being snatched away by Satan and the powers of darkness?  See Mar 14:38, 1Ti 2:1-4.

Who does the rocky soil represent in Jesus’ parable?  See Mat 13:20-21.  What does Jesus say in Mat 13:5 allowed the seed to sprout up quickly that had fallen on rocky soil?  What does this teach us about where those ministers are sowing who are superficial in their preaching and teaching and push for a quick decision for Jesus?  Contrast Luk 14:28-33.  What does Jesus say in Mat 13:21 does not develop because of such shallowness?  Although the seed does sprout and for a time there are promising signs of life, what is the final result for those whose faith has no depth?  See Mat 13:6,21.  What is it that causes those who are like seed sown on rocky soil to eventually wither and fall away?  Why does Jesus say that affliction and persecution come?  Is it any different today?  Before the sun has risen and there is no affliction or persecution because of the word, how do those seedlings with no root compare to those sown on good soil?  In the terms used by many churches today, would they say, and would those who are like seed sown on rocky soil be led to believe, that because the seed has sprouted and the plant is growing that they are “saved”?  But did Jesus teach that it is those who “sprout” who are saved?  See Mat 10:22.  What does this teach us about the notion common in many churches today that salvation is a punctiliar event that happens once and then is over, so that one is either “saved” and will absolutely go to heaven, or is not saved and will absolutely be damned?

After the sun has risen, how might the number of true Christians in a “Christian” country like our own compare to the number of Christians in many “non-Christian” countries where persecution now abounds?  When affliction and persecution increases in our lives because of the word, will we be like the seed sown on rocky soil?  Are we deeply rooted in the living water of Jesus so that even if we were to suffer economically and perhaps lose our homes, or families, or be put in prison or even put to death, we would not deny Him?  Are we, in fact, willing to forsake everything and give up all our possessions to follow Jesus as His true disciples, or is our faith so shallow that we would quickly waffle and compromise what we say we believe in order to avoid suffering in the flesh because in our heart of hearts we love this world and things in it more than we love Him?  In what way were many of those to whom Matthew was writing in danger of falling into this category of seed sown on rocky soil?  How would the reminder of this parable have helped them to remain steadfast?  How should it help us to remain steadfast?

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