By Rony Kozman, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, Samford University
Trust God to Work
Matthew 13:3–8, 18–23
Throughout Matthew 13, Jesus tells a number of parables. These parables are fictitious stories meant to illuminate the nature of the Kingdom of heaven. We hear the repeated refrain, “the Kingdom of heaven is like …” (vv. 24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52). These parables illustrate different aspects of the Kingdom of heaven such as the future judgment when Christ returns (vv. 37–43, 47–50); the great growth and diffusion of the Kingdom of heaven (vv. 31–33); and the superior value of the Kingdom of heaven (vv. 44–45). The various analogies clarify the Kingdom of heaven.
Let us look more closely at the first parable in this chapter — the parable of the sower, which explains the varied responses to the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven. Why do some receive the message, and why do others reject the gospel? Let’s look more closely at this parable.
Share the message of Christ wherever you are. (3–8)
Who is the farmer who sows the seed? The seed sown is the word or message about the Kingdom of heaven (vv. 19, 20–23). The farmer who sows the seed may refer to Jesus Himself since the disciples indicate that Jesus is the one speaking parables about the Kingdom of heaven (vv. 10–11, 37). But the farmer who sows the seed may also represent anyone who speaks the good news of the Kingdom of heaven — the gospel of Jesus.
The farmer sows the seed widely. Many different types of people hear the message of the Kingdom. The seed lands “along the path,” “on rocky places,” “among thorns” and “on good soil.” This teaches us that as the message of the gospel goes out to different kinds of people, it will receive different responses, depending on the conditions in which the word lands.
Not everyone is transformed by the gospel. (8–22)
The parable prepares us to expect different responses to the gospel. First is the seed that falls on the path and is eaten by the birds. This represents those who hear the gospel but do not understand it because the message was snatched by the devil. This reminds us that evil powers conspire against the gospel taking root in someone’s heart.
Then there is the seed that falls on rocky ground, which sprouts a little but then is scorched and withers (vv. 5–6). This represents those who first receive the word joyfully but then fail to continue following Christ because they receive “trouble or persecution” (vv. 20–21).
Then there is the seed that fell in the thorns, which represents those who hear the word but their fixation on this world and their present life — their anxieties and concern for wealth — choke out the message (vv. 22–23).
There are many reasons why people do not receive the gospel and why they depart from the gospel — and these are not in the farmer’s control. We should be ready for these negative responses to the gospel that we sow.
Those who accept the message and follow Christ experience abundance. (23)
Some of the seed the farmer sows will land on good soil. The good soil represents the person who both “hears the word and understands it.”
Jesus’ disciples understand the gospel because God has revealed to them “the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven” (v. 11). The result is flourishing and bounty (v. 23).
This flourishing and bounty does not mean financial and physical prosperity. Such people flourish even if they are struck by suffering and devastation.
They continue to follow Jesus, serve God and love others because they understand the Kingdom of heaven is much more valuable than the prosperity and security that they can have in the present world.
The Kingdom of heaven flourishes and prospers in and through those who receive the gospel.