How’s Your Garden?
July 24, 2011
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23 – parable of the Sower/soils
How many of you here like to garden? Gardening of any kind – whether it’s decorative gardening – flowers, annuals, perennials, etc – or you may be the vegetable gardener type who has a back yard garden – what my grandfather used to call a ‘truck patch’ & he didn’t even have a truck!
I was impressed when I learned that here at the church people adopt-a-garden – and take care of a section of the church’s flowerbed – that is a GREAT idea! And, the flower beds around the church look SO nice! However – I have to tell you – I will NOT be adopting a section – for alas – I am NOT a gardener. My grandfather was – my mother was – but I did NOT take after them. While I appreciate beautiful flowers – AND fresh fruits & vegetables – I am content to look at others’ flower beds – and their beautiful landscaping – and to buy my fruits & veggies from those who DO have that ability.
My seed-sowing is more along the lines of Jesus’ parable for today – where it was a metaphor, as he put it – for “the word of the kingdom.” That’s what we’re going to look at today.
I learned years ago – and I NO idea when/where – probably Sunday School – a good definition for a parable; “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” With Jesus – his parables were often literally “earthly” – using illustrations and ideas from the agrarian culture they lived in. They all knew about planting seeds – they knew about the weeds – the rocky soil – and what would produce a good crop. People obviously loved Jesus’ stories – they came out in droves to hear him speak.
In today’s lesson the scene has Jesus sitting in a boat – just offshore – while the crowds sat on the shore and listened to him teach. Commentators often wonder if when Jesus used these common scenarios for illustration – might he have actually seen a farmer out in a nearby field – sowing seed – he may have pointed right at him as he told the story – what a visual aid that would be, right? That may or may not have been the case – but even if not – the people could immediately get a mind picture anyway because it was familiar to them and Jesus described it so well.
Let’s see what Jesus has to say to US through this
great story he told to quite a crowd by the
Since Jesus actually explains the meaning – it’s not too hard for us to ‘get’ what he was saying – but its interesting that he only explained it to the disciples – the rest of the crowd was left to take the story home with them – to discuss and figure out for themselves!
Since Jesus gives us the basic meaning of the 4 kinds of soil – we are left to make connections to our own lives and experiences – as to who/when/where each of these apply to us.
First, a little thought about the overall meaning. Jesus is talking about 4 different responses to hearing “the Word of the Kingdom” – or “the word of God” - which is the gospel – the story of the salvation available through Jesus Christ.
When I read this it sends me back to ideas I learned in college – where 1 of my majors was Speech communication. There is SO much more to what happens when people communicate than what you think – obviously – if they can turn it into a “major” and come up with at least 8 different courses I had to take in that field.
Interestingly – in the basic “Speech” class everyone in college has to take – where you have to get up & give speeches in front of the class – they teach you a real simple understanding of how communication works; there is a sender – a message – and a receiver. EASY, right? Then – as a Speech major you take Intro to Communicology - and you quickly learn there is a LOT more to it. There’s the sender – who encodes the message – the medium – decoding the message – by the receiver – and there’s several other steps - the whole area of semiotics [signs] – that gets really complicated. I learned all this about 15 years ago – my point is – Communication is complex – and Jesus understood that on a very Important level – and told this parable as a way to help the hearers look at themselves and how they/WE are receiving the message – AND to understand what might be getting in the way.
Let’s look at each vs of explanation – and see what Jesus wants us to learn;
We’ll see that in all of these scenarios it is the ‘heart’ condition of the person that makes the difference
SOIL ON PATH – HARD - SEED SNATCHED AWAY – NO FRUIT!
19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
There are many in Matthew's story who "hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand." There is more to this than just lack of understanding. Luke’s gospel parallel vs;[Luke 7:5] some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.
There are 2 clues here;
1st – this seed landed on a HARD path – where people walk continually – making the ground as hard as concrete; there is NO chance of the seed penetrating the soil and being ‘planted.” That indicates hardness of heart of those to whom the word was spoken. I take the metaphor of ‘trampling on” the Word to indicate disregard/disrespect toward it. They were opposed to the message – and ‘the evil One/the devil/Satan snatched the Word away – giving it NO CHANCE in these people. Whether Satan was the one who caused their hearts to be so hard – or whether he took advantage of their opposition to snatch away any chance of them opening up to the Word – the effect is the same – they remained closed to the Word and to Jesus’ saving grace!
The prime example of hardheartedness in the gospels is the Scribes/Pharisees/Teachers of the Law. These religious leaders antagonize Jesus' ministry from the beginning to the end. We can just back up to the previous chapter - Matt 12 to see their opposition. Crowds were flocking to hear Jesus and to see his miraculous healings – and here in 12, he had been healing people and they kept bringing more & more
Matt 12: 22 Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him,. 23 All the crowds were amazed and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons."
Jesus is demonstrating the power of God in all these healings – and the Pharisees wonder if he is LITERALLY in league with the Devil – talk about hard-hearted!
All through his ministry the Pharisees/religious leaders followed Jesus around – asking him questions – trying to trip him up – accusing him of blasphemy - their hearts were SO hardened against Jesus – nothing would penetrate them and soften them to receive God’s love and salvation!
sown on rocky ground – NO ROOT – NO FRUIT
20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.1
The crowds respond positively to Jesus, especially to his miracles of healing. In Matt 9: 2 ff “And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." 3 Then the scribes said, "This man is blaspheming." . . . Jesus replied; 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he then said to the paralytic -- "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." 7 And he stood up and went to his home.
8 When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
In Matt 15: 30; Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. … and he cured them,
31 so that the crowd was amazed - - - - . And they praised the God of
These same people – who thought Jesus was the greatest – hailed him as Messiah on Palm Sunday in Matt 21: 8 A very large crowd1 . . . went ahead of him and shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Then, only 4 days later, in chap 27, they turned against him - that quickly they went from HOSANNA! . . . To Pilate asking who they wanted released from prison - 17:, Jesus1 Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?" . . . And they said, "Barabbas." 22 Pilate said to them, "Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?"1 All of them said, "Let him be crucified!" 23 Then he asked, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified!"
Even Jesus closest friends – his disciples who lived with him for over 3 years – who pledged their lives and allegiances to Jesus – even they - "when trouble or persecution arose on account of the word"– they deserted Jesus to save their own skins.
In Matt 26: 50ff
Judas, … arrived in
22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
One example of the cares of the world choking the word is in Matt 8 – Jesus is describing the cost of following him – Matt 8:19ff 19 A scribe then approached Jesus and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." 20 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." We don’t know if this man followed Jesus – or turned and went home.
21 Another of his disciples said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead." Again, we have no record of whether he stayed – or left.
In the parallel in Luke 9, there’s one more statement
Matthew left out; Luke 9 61 Another said, "I will follow
you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." 62 Jesus said to him, "No one
who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the
There is one example where we DO know the outcome:
The rich young man unable to part with his possessions (19:16-22) provides a clear cut example of this vs. 16 A man came to Jesus and said, "Teacher, what … must I do to have eternal life?" 17 And he said to him, … If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." . . . 20 The young man said to him, "I have kept all these;1 what do I still lack?"
21 Jesus said to him, "… go, sell your possessions, and give the money1 to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 14:04
Right here come the thorns – wrapping around this young man’s mind & heart . . . but you have a secure future with all the wealth you’ve saved . . . but . . . if you give it all away – then how will you live??? And when the weeds had done their work on him; 22 … the young man… went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.
NOW – before we hear about the GOOD soil where the Word produces an abundant harvest – let’s think about these impediments to fruit-bearing. Sometimes these descriptions are thought of as people who exhibit these characteristics – and they are considered in only 1 of the 4 groups. I think it may be more accurate to consider that any one of us could fit any one of these descriptions at different times in our lives – depending upon our life circumstances at the time.
For this reason – I suggest that each of us honestly evaluate how we are responding to God’s Word at THIS moment in our lives – because THIS moment is the only moment we can change. How we responded in the past is history – how we respond in the future is not even discoverable – NOW is what matters: so let’s stop for a moment for a word of prayer – as we ask God’s Holy Spirit to, in the words of LAST week’s Scripture:
Search me, O Holy Spirit, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (NLT) Show me where and how I am allowing your Word to be snatched away, withered at the root, choked out by the world – help my heart to be open to You and your Holy Word – so I can be fruitful for you –IJN, Amen.
The 1st soil – the hard path – where the word is trampled & snatched away by the ‘evil one.’
NOW – honestly ask yourself – is your heart HARD toward God’s Word? Do you resent the idea of surrendering your freedom and autonomy to Jesus – as Lord of your WHOLE life? DO you hold back 1 area – ‘that is mine’ – I need SOME freedom, Lord – surely this ONE area is OK – I’ve given everything else to you . . .
That very thought – is from ‘the evil one” – the Father of Lies, who from the beginning has tried to lure us away from total allegiance to the Lord – he did a great job with Adam & Eve – which paved the way for him to get to us, too. DON’T buy into it – don’t let the pure Word be snatched from you
The 2nd soil – on rocky ground – no root – no fruit - trouble or persecution arises
Do you enjoy coming to church – hearing the word – maybe even getting excited about it – but when you go out into “the world” – where people don’t look too favorably on Christianity – you keep your faith to yourself – you don’t mention anything about Jesus. Have you even gotten to the point where you’re questioning your belief in Christ – even in God – because of some tragedy in your life?
Have you lost a dear loved one and you feel distant – or angry at God ever since?
Have you said – If THAT is what you’re like God – I don’t WANT ANYTHING to do with you?
Do you feel betrayed by God because he didn’t answer your deepest heartcry prayer?
Do you feel NUMB – and uncertain if God was EVER really there?
That’s rocky ground – the bumps in the road of life - that don’t allow the Word to take root and grow –
It’s time to let God remove those rocks – ask him to reveal himself and his love to you - ask him to help you follow the prescription of Phil 4:6-7; Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. (Phi 4:6 NIV)
3rd soil - cares of the world - lure of wealth choke the word – NO FRUIT
While all of these scenarios can describe what goes on in our lives – this one – deals with what I think are the MOST COMMON and deceptive enticements that pull us away from our primary allegiance to Jesus Christ – and consequently limit our ability to bear fruit.
First of all – our lives can become SO busy – with ALL kinds of things – work – family, especially if we have kids who need to go here – and there – and everywhere – church – friends – hobbies/sports – it’s head-spinning – AND Spirit-numbing.
Add to all that activity the priorities that our culture tries to tell us are ‘right’ – achieving in whatever form we’ve found works for us; wealth, good job, nice house or cars or whatever, the ‘right’ friends . . .
Put all this together and it is SO easy to choke out our 1st love – Jesus. It starts small – seemingly innocent – less time for those mid-week Bible studies – that’s OK – I can read the Word at home when I have time . . . Oh, I don’t think I’ll get to Sunday School this week – I’ve has a real busy schedule lately – I’ll be at church for Worship. WOW – I just realized I haven’t had my devotional time – haven’t read my Bible all week! When is the last time I spent time in prayer – not those “on-the-run’ prayers – but actually asking – AND listening for God’s answers?
These are all Dangerous weeds growing within your heart/life and are choking out the Word. NOW is the time to weed these things out of your life, and begin to sow things like godly sorrow, humility, repentance, renewed commitment, obedience and a single-hearted love for God.
John the apostle wrote with caution in Rev. 2 to the Ephesian church – and his words can be for us, too – who have let SO many things crowd God’s Word and his will out of our hearts;4: I have this against you, that you have aleft your first love. 5 'Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and arepent [turn back to me] and bdo the 1deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your clampstand out of its place-- unless you repent. (Rev 2:4 NAS)
What we WANT – what Jesus wants for us – the point of Jesus’ parable is that the sower – God/Jesus sows the WORD everywhere – to ALL kinds of people. Some will bear fruit – others will not – vs 23 describes what we are shooting for:
23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
Luke’s parallel vs in Luke 8:15 says; NRS But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
We need to understand that - just as successful gardening requires effort & hard work - there is effort and commitment involved in the Christian life, and those who listen, take in and apply the Word will bear fruit for God’s kingdom – and a beautiful harvest will result!.
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