THE MINSTRY OF MESSIAH (21)
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
As we have said in earlier studies, Luke records in order those things which Jesus said and did whereas in the other gospel records, the incidents are not necessarily in chronological order. We believe that there is reason under the power of Inspiration for the accounts not to be in sequential order. In this respect the following extract from “Guide Book to the New Testament” by brother HP Mansfield is of interest. He wrote concerning the four Gospel records:
“why were four given and not three or six? What was the objective that each of the writers had in view?
It will be seen that there was a plan and purpose in all that was recorded. Each of the four writers had a specific viewpoint of Christ in mind, and wrote accordingly. Thus Matthew wrote to reveal in a systematic manner the teaching and miracles of the Lord, and the reaction of the people to them. With that in mind he outlined his subjects in order, and was not particularly concerned with the exact chronological sequence.
On the other hand, Luke wrote for the Greeks, and sets the facts of Christ’s life in proper sequential order.
The outlines of the four Gospel records provided, should help clarify each record of the Lord’s life, and provide a complete record of his ministry on earth” (Page 56)”.
In our last study we went back to Mark and Matthew to fill in some of the incidents which are missed out in the chronological account in Luke.
We noticed in our last study how the opposition against Christ was mounting, in their blasphemy in attributing the good works that Jesus was doing in healing the sick to Beelzebub, the Lord of the dung heap. As we said this was blasphemy against Yahweh. Even his own family were caught up in this, accusing him of madness, and his poor mother was placed in the compromising position of being with his brethren when they came to him. This must have been very distressing for Jesus, but he was not thereby deflected from the work they came to fulfil. It was the second year of his ministry, and this opposition possibly led to a change in his style of teaching, namely by using parables. Brother Carter in “Parables of Messiah” makes the following observation:
“That the parable of the Sower introduced a new style into his teaching was observed by his disciples. They asked him, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables? … The parabolic form of teaching (he continues), provides a test to those who hear. The humble-hearted store it in their minds and its meaning is understood. The critical, the prejudiced, the bitter, the opposing, by their very attitude do not take to heart the lesson, and the teaching becomes more misunderstood and their attitude to the teacher one of great bitterness and antipathy” (Page 86-87).”
By using parables, Jesus was sifting out those who loved the word from those who did not. When the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke in parables, he replied in Matthew 13:11-16:
“Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given … therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they heard not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive. For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed … But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”
May we be among this number of the disciples, brethren and sisters.
PARABLE OF THE SOWER EXPLAINED
In this study, we are to consider the parable of the Sower. Its importance is shown in that it is recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Before we do so it is of interest to see how the theme of this parable is rooted in the Old Testament. The word ‘sow’ in the Old Testament is of great significance. It is first used in Genesis chapter 1, verse 11, where we read:
“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding (or seeding) seed, and the fruit tree yielded fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself upon the earth: and it was so.”
What is of interest, is that the Hebrew word for seed, zara, corresponds to the word for seed where it is used of the seed of Abraham, i.e. the words in Genesis 13:15:
“For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.”
The word “seed” here corresponds to the word for “sow”. What is of further significance is that we know that Christ is the seed spoken of in these words. Christ is therefore both the seed and the one who sows the seed. The Hebrew word zara is rendered “sow” for the first time in Genesis 26:12, where we read:
“then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold, and Yahweh blessed him.”
We know that Isaac was a type of Christ (i.e. “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”). As Isaac sowed in the land, so Christ sowed the seed of the word in the land. Another place where the word “sow” is used is in Hosea. The word “Jezreel” in Hosea 1:5 means, “God will Sow”, and there is a play on this word in chapter 2:22-23:
“And the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel. And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy, and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.”
The word also occurs in Hosea 8:7, and 10:12. In 8:7, the idea of judgment is associated with the word. There we read:
“for they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”
This is very true, as shown by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 6:7-8:
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. But he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
With these thoughts in mind, let us consider the parable of the Sower. Jesus was becoming more and more known, for people had come together from every city—so we see from Mark 4:1:
“And he began to teach by the sea side: and there were gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine …”
The first figure Jesus uses is of the seed being sown by the way side, and of the fowls of the air coming and devouring them up. Luke adds that it was trodden down. This is explained in Mark 4:15, where we read:
“The Sower soweth the word. And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.”
Matthew, instead of Satan uses the words “wicked one”, and Luke uses the word “devil”. An example of this is shown in the rich young man, who we read of in Matthew 19:16-24. The young man came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” In response to Jesus’s question, he showed that he has kept the commandments from his youth up. But when Jesus called upon him to sell all that he had, and give to the poor, and “come and follow me”, he was very sorrowful for he had great possessions. Hence Jesus’s comment in verse 22-23.
“then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
There are two classes in the world. We are either under the power of Satan, or the adversary, or we are under God. This young man could have turned to God, but he chose to remain under the power of Satan. So his covetousness, the devil in him took away the word which was sown in his heart.
Returning to the parable, Jesus next spoke of the seed falling upon stony ground, and it sprang up because it had not depth of earth, and was scorched by the sun, because it had no root and withered away. He explains this in Mark 4:16:
“and these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground: who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness: and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.”
THE EXAMPLE OF ISRAEL
Luke adds the words “in time of temptation”. The best example of this is that of the children of Israel. They came out of Egypt, arrived at the other side of the Red Sea with joy, and sang the song of Moses. Then as soon as difficulties came, they were offended and fell away. They had stony hearts and as a consequence perished in the wilderness. The Apostle Paul never let persecution or affliction deflect him from his mission, but he realised that his sufferings could discourage his brethren and sisters. When he was at Lystra and Derby, he was stoned outside the city, and they thought him to be dead. But he had the courage to rise up and go back into the very city which had stoned him—no doubt he was concerned because they might be discouraged because of his sufferings. He later returned to Lystra and Derby, as we read in Acts 14:21-22:
“they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God”.
How important it is that we are rooted and grounded in the Truth! Hence the Apostle Paul’s words in Colossians 1:23:
“If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel, which we have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minster.”
In the next part of the parable, Jesus speaks of the word being sown among thorns, and of the thorns growing up and choking it, so that it yields no fruit. This is explained in Mark 4:18-19:
“and these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word and it becometh unfruitful.”
Luke adds the words the “pleasures of this life” and says that it “brings no fruit to perfection.” An example of this is found in Moses’s prophecy concerning Israel when they went into the land which we read of in Deuteronomy 32:15:
“But Jeshuran (a symbolical name for Israel meaning “upright one”) waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.”
So the Apostle Paul speaks of those who fell away in his days, in Hebrews 6:4-8):
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain which cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth the blessing of God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, whose end is to be burned.”
Finally, returning to the parable, Jesus speaks of the seed which fell on good ground, and did yield fruit and increased some thirty, some sixty and some an hundredfold. Luke says “an hundredfold” only, and seems to be an echo of Isaac sowing, which also refers to an hundredfold. Let us turn to Luke 8:8:
“And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.”
Let us note that Luke says that Jesus cried out, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”. This parable covers all stages of Christ’s ministry, and that of the Apostles. How important it is therefore, which no doubt is the reason why Christ cried out. An example of the Word falling on good ground is found in Colossians 1:3-6:
“we give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel: Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doeth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.”
Our fruitfulness is manifested in our faith and in our love to all the saints. This is the contrast to bearing briars and thorns as is shown in Hebews 6:9-12:
“but, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Furthermore, our fruitfulness is shown by our manifestation of the Truth. Hence Jesus’s words in Luke 8:16-18, which follows the parable of the sower:
“no man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but sitteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest: neither anything hid that shall not be made known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.”
These words seem to link with the honest and good heart of verse 15. An honest and good heart will manifest the word in his or her life, they will keep the word and bring forth fruit with patience. It can take a long time, which requires patience to bring forth fruit. Jesus cried, “He that hath ears, let him hear.” How important it is therefore that we hear this parable and have fruit!
As we said at the beginning of this article, opposition to Jesus was growing, and even his own brethren thought he was mad. His poor mother was we said, was compromised by their attitude: but we find it hard to believe that she had lost her faith in her Son of whom Simeon had said in Luke 2:34-35:
“And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also).”
Mary was seeing the truth of these words—so we read in Luke 8:19-20:
“then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.”
We need to enter into the situation. Jesus was surrounded by the scribes who had come from Jerusalem to catch him out. They were bearing down upon him, making evil accusations. Now to add to his grief, his own brethren had been affected and were trying to lay hold on him. Jesus must have felt alone. But he was not alone. He used this situation to bring out a very important lesson which we read of in Mark 3:33-35:
“And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold, my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”
But this situation brings out the greatness of the Master. In the midst of this most trying situation, Jesus was in complete control and used it to bring out a most important lesson.
May we be among the number who hear and understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God, do the will of God, and bring forth fruit with patience.