THE POWER OF THE PARABLE
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 5, 2014
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
— Matthew 13:1-23, ESV
Jesus preached many sermons in many ways, but His favorite way of preaching sermons was to use a parable. Matthew recorded about thirteen of Christ's parables in his Gospel, over half of which are found in chapter thirteen. Matthew's aim in writing was to present Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the King of the Kingdom of God. Parables are a powerful way of teaching us who is in Christ's kingdom and who is not included. There is power in this parable, and the power of this parable is the secret of salvation.
The Method of the Parable
Jesus is my kind of man in more ways than one. First of all, He is the God-man, which makes Him my Lord, my Savior, and my King. Furthermore, the man Jesus liked things that this man likes. He liked the sea, the beach, boats, and Bible study. Amen.
Christ's favorite method of Bible study, as revealed in this text and many others in the Gospels, was to tell a parable. A parable is a simple story that draws parallels to point out spiritual truth. It takes scenes from every day life and infuses them with profound, important, eternal truths.
Always perk up your ears when you hear a parable of Jesus Christ, especially this one. It is told in all three of the synoptic Gospels (ref. Matthew 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15). It contains a key to Christ's Kingdom. The power of this parable is the secret of salvation.
The Message of the Parable
The parable itself is simple to grasp, especially if you lived in Galilee. Having been there myself, I can testify to the great diversity of the soil. In certain places you can stand on a hill and see roads and trails, fields with rocks too numerous to count, hillsides with thorns thicker than thieves, and in the distance some of the most fertile farmland you've ever laid eyes on.
Jesus capitalized on this condition to lay down His most popular parable, “Behold, the sower went out to sow.” He sowed indiscriminately on the four types of soil and got four different outcomes. Those with ears to hear knew immediately that their lives were sunk into one of these four diverse fields of dirt.
The Mystery of the Parable
The mystery of the method of parables is that not everyone has spiritual ears. Most people miss the message. While everyone understands the simplicity of the story, not everyone gets the spiritual side. As Jesus said in verse 11, “you” get it but “them” don't.
The ability to hear and understand the word of God is a blessing, and a blessing is always a gift from God. The blessing that enables a person to hear and respond to Scripture is called faith (ref. vs. 11; Matthew 16:17; Acts 16:14; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Peter 1:1). Disciples have it in ever increasing abundance, while others do not; therefore, they will not understand.
Jesus spoke in the mystery of parables to explain “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (ref. vs. 11). Heaven is for people who hear the word of God and do the will of God (ref. Matthew 12:50). Frankly speaking, a few do, but most do not.
When Isaiah preached, when Jesus preached, when Matthew preached, when preachers preach today, some get it but most people don't. Those who get it want more. Those who don't, don’t even want what they hear. Those who love the Bible and the gospel love those who preach the Bible and the gospel. Those who don't, either ignore them or make trouble for them. It's a mystery, solved only by the meaning of this parable.
The Meaning of the Parable
The Gospel writers recorded many parables, but few contain an explanation in Jesus' own words. This one does, in all three of the Gospels into which it was written. Our Lord's teaching here is very simple and absolutely spiritual.
The sower is anyone who proclaims the gospel and the word of God (Isaiah, Jesus, Matthew, your pastor, any of you who teach or witness the gospel and the word of God). The seed, of course, is the “word,” the message of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the written word, the Bible, which bears witness to His name. The soil is mankind, to whom the Word and the word has come.
The soil, of course, takes on four varieties: the road, the rocky places, the thorns, and the good soil. Notice one and only one is given the designation “good,” and for good reasons.
People who hear the word of God and ignore it are lost.
People who hear the word of God and make a phony profession of faith fall away when they realize that discipline and difficulties are part and parcel of the Christian life. They, too, are lost.
People who hear the word of God and make a phony profession of faith fall away when they determine that what the world has to offer is better than being a follower of Jesus and a committed member of His church. They, for the third time, are lost.
The good soil is the good profession of faith that practices what is preached. The good soil bears fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of perseverance, the fruit of family and friends won to Jesus Christ, the fruit of salvation.
The power of this parable is that it reveals the secret of salvation.
We're all dirt. From dust we came, to dust we shall return. We have all sinned and suffered separation from God. Such sin has only one remedy, found in the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We're all different kinds of dirt. We're not only red and yellow, black and white, but we are also roads and rocks, thorns and good dirt. We all respond the to word of God and the gospel differently, and the lives we live show what kind of dirt we are. Making a profession of faith can be done without possessing faith. Those who truly possess faith practice faith. That’s the way it works, and the different kinds of dirt tell the story well.
We're all different kinds of dirt destined for a different place. Make no mistake about it, the first three kinds of dirt are digging a dangerous grave for eternal death. It does not matter if you are an Arminian who believes a person can lose their salvation, or if you are a Calvinist who believes that perseverance springs from the tulip's soil, all spiritually intelligent commentators agree that the top three soils are layers of lost people. Only the good soil gets the gospel and gains eternal life.
So, what kind of dirty person are you?
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org