Title: The soil of our heart
Main Point: Our eyes and ears are the gateway to our hearts.
Passage: Matthew 13:1-23
- The Deceived Listener (V19)
- The Lazy Listener (V20-21)
- The Distracted Listener (V22)
- The Good Listener (V23)
Questions to consider:
- What kind of listener are you?
- What do you do with what you hear?
Read Matt 13:1-2
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
Jesus has just come from a long debate with the religious leaders. In fact, Jesus had just condemned that whole generation because, although he had repeatedly tried to reveal who He was to them, they had refused to believe in Him. He had performed miracle after miracle. He had preached sermon after sermon. He had clearly said He was their Messiah, and He had demonstrated to them the very thing even their scholars had taught and prophesied that the Messiah would do.
But, because Jesus did not follow their traditions, they rejected Him. And because the leaders rejected Him, the people followed in their unbelief!
Jesus had just left the house where that whole conversation took place, and he and his disciples walked down to the sea.
As He and His disciples sat there by the sea talking through the events that had just taken place, a crowd began to gather around Jesus. As the crowd grew, Jesus recruited the help of a local boat owner, and sat down in the boat where he had a good view of the crowd on the shore. From the boat He began to speak.
Read Matt 13:3-9
And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 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, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”
It appears that this is all Jesus said to the crowd that day. Not too long ago, they had witnessed the sermon on the mount. They had heard Him teach and expound the scriptures for hours. They had never heard someone teach with such authority! But today, all they heard was a story that didn’t make any sense to them.
What had happened? Why was Jesus now speaking in parables and riddles? Even His disciples were confused by what they heard.
Read Matthew 13:10-12
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11And 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. 12For 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.
After the crowd disperses, Jesus’ confused disciples came to him and asked? “Why are you speaking in parables? What do you mean with this story?
Jesus answered by saying “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to them it has not been given.”
Jesus has already given these people every opportunity to hear the truth about the kingdom of God, and they have rejected it. For months Jesus has been doing things to authenticate His Messiahship, healings, casting out demons, raising the dead, etc. There were at least 2 things He did that their own scholars had taught would only be done by the Messiah:
- Healing of the Jewish leper (Matt 8:2-4)
- Healing a deaf mute from demon possession (Matt 12:22-24)
In response to the clear, unquestionable sign of His Messiahship, instead of recognizing it and accepting what they saw for what it was, they attributed His actions to the work of the prince of demons.
“To the one who has, more will be given.. but for the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” In the end of chapter 12 Jesus had described them as being empty. They were filled with tradition and religion, but they were empty. Now, by their own choice, what they have been given will be taken away. (Matt 12:44-45) The truth Jesus tried to give them would be worthless. That truth would never produce fruit and therefore, they will lose even the truth they were given.
Read: Matthew 13:16-17 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17For 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.
As Jesus turns now to focus on his disciples and to help them understand the meaning of this parable, he takes a minute to encourage them and to commend them for their faith. Jesus had spent a lot of time and energy trying to help the religious leaders to turn from their unbelief and to accept who He was. While they would not, Jesus disciples had. And Jesus says, “many prophets and righteous people longed to see, do and hear what you have experienced.” You have seen these things and have believed.
Blessed are your eyes, because you accepted what you saw.
Blessed are your ears because you heard, and you believed!
Read: Matthew 13:18-19 Hear then the parable of the sower: 19When 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.
In this story, Jesus is the gardener, and he is sewing or planting seeds. Jesus seed was the words that He spoke. He is throwing seeds out hoping they will find prepared ground, good listeners with open hearts and open eyes, where they will hear His word and take heed, so that His word will take root and grow.
Throughout Israel, there were a lot of different kinds of ground. Think about your work in your gardens. As you have had to work in your gardens on Saturdays, you have probably found places with lots of karanas, or places where the bush grows really fast. There are many different kinds of ground to try and plant in.
This is how Jesus was describing the people of Israel. Jesus wanted everyone to know who He was and to believe on Him. No matter what kind of ground He encountered, he tried to plant seeds!
Each of the different kinds of ground Jesus mentioned in the parable represent different kinds of listeners. As the seed is sown (Jesus words) and the people hear, the ground determines what they do with what they hear.
The gateway to the heart is through our eyes and ears! Jesus started his story in Matthew 13:9 with saying, “9He who has ears, let him hear.” What we hear from Jesus, and what we do with that will determine what kind of harvest we will see from His Words (His seeds) in our hearts!
The Deceived Listener
The first type of ground Jesus explains is the foot path. What does a well trodden path look like? Do you plant seeds in the path that leads to grace place? Why not? Do people plant where everyone walks? Why not? Because you know things won’t grow there because people will walk on them.
Well, Jesus still tried to plant seeds on the path! Why? Because He knew that they were deceived! If He could just help them to not be so strong, not be so hardened, help them to soften enough for his seed to take root, then they would believe in Him.
This is the picture of the religious leaders. The hearts of the scribes and Pharisees, were so hardened by their tradition. Their hearts were packed hard by the proud feet of their own righteousness. When Jesus spread the seed of His Words to them, they refused to listen. They were so strong in believing their own traditions, their hearts were so packed down by their own religious system that they refused to open up, refused to soften to anything else.
Does that sound like people you know?
Jesus says, these are those who “hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand it, so the evil one comes and snatches it away.”
Jesus still desired for them to understand, for the seed of His Word to take root and produce fruit of faith. As we saw just earlier, he had done all he could to help them see, to help them hear, to help them understand. But, their hearts were so trodden down by their traditions, packed hard by their proud hearts trying to maintain their own righteousness. The Words that Isaiah prophesied had come true, “seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” In fact, the way Matthew describes them, he says it’s as if they covered their ears and closed their eyes so that they wouldn’t be able to hear what Jesus was saying. (Matt 13:15)
The Lazy Listener
Read Matthew 13:20-21
As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21yet 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
The second kind of ground Jesus talks about is rocky ground. Have you tried to plant where there are a lot of stones? If you were to try and plant along the nambis at Machine gun beach, how well would things grow? You may get something to come up, but how long would it last?
I like to call these people “Lazy Listeners.” They are those who hear and embraced the truth, and sprouts of spiritual life spring up quickly, like flowers after a rain. But with only a shallow commitment to the truth, their roots never grew very deep. And under the heat of testing, their faith withers.
This describes people who show interest when you are at church, or at school. But, it is not something that is important enough to go any deeper. They listen. They do hear and believe. But, it’s only on the surface. They can give the right answers and do the right things for others to see, but it is not something that has made deep roots in your heart.
Watch out! If this is true of you, Jesus is giving you a warning! If your faith does not have deep roots, it will wither when the storm comes. When tribulation or persecution comes, you will be tempted to walk away.
This was the case for many in Israel. When persecution started, instead of sticking with Jesus, and continuing to follow Him, many turned away. They were lazy. They weren’t willing for the seed He was giving to really take root, and get a hold of their lives.
The Distracted Listener
Read Matthew 13:22
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.
The third soil, or type of listener Jesus illustrated are those who have been taught. They have heard the truth. They have even embraced it for a time. But, when something “better” comes along, they abandon the truth. “The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches.. choke out God’s Word. The other things become more important to them, and they eventually over grow the Word. Just like a garden that is not tended or kept up. The bush will take over!
What we see and what we hear is the gateway to what controls our heart. These were people who did hear what Jesus said, but there was something they listened to more. They did think about what Jesus said, but they thought about the cares of the world more.
The desires that you feed are the desires that will control your actions. These people fed their desire for riches and worldly things. Eventually those desires took over, and choked out their desire for God’s Word. Instead of cutting back the bush, and keeping the worldly desires trimmed, they let them grow, and eventually totally took over the seeds Jesus had planted.
As Jesus worked in His garden, He encountered many kinds of ground, many kinds of listeners. He never stopped trying to plant seeds, but it was only those who had ears to hear, that His seeds, His Words were able to start producing fruit.
Read Matt 13:23
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.”
This is the kind of ground every gardener loves, right? Would you love to plant in a garden plot that was already cleared of all the stones, the bush is cut back, the ground is already turned over, it’s ready for you to plant! This is the kind of heart Jesus is looking for!
- Not Deceived Listener: Deceived by their traditions and their customs. Instead someone whose heart is soft and open for Jesus to plant His Words.
- Not a Lazy Listener: Not someone who only follows Jesus on the surface, but someone who takes what he hears and is willing to do the work of planting deep roots that will last.
- Not a Distracted Listener: Not someone who is not going to allow the bush of the world and desires for possessions to over grow the garden.
If our hearts are fertile and receptive to the truth, cleared of any obstacles that distract and weeded of any competing desires, then when we hear God’s Word it will be planted in us, and it will have the freedom to grow deep roots, and begin to produce fruit. It may only be small fruits that are displayed in our words or attitudes, or the way we treat other people. But, as that fruit grows, God will be able to make us into something truly great for Him!
Questions to consider:
- What kind of listener are you? (Deceived, Lazy, Distracted, or the garden that is all prepared and ready to receive what God has to say to you?)
- What will you do with what you hear?