The parable is explained by Jesus himself. The "seed" is the teaching about the Kingdom of God. The four types of soil - dirt - represent the types of hearts of those who hear the message. Let's walk through this objectively and examine the types of dirt Jesus describes.
(Matt. 19:1-9, 18-24)
A. Playing in the dirt has never been the love of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I like to see flowers and gardens, but I don’t like to do the work it takes to get them. I am an admirer of beautiful landscaping and gardens.
B. There are many people who do enjoy working outside in the yard, working in flower or vegetable gardens and seeing the fruit of their hard work during the summer and fall.
C. Farmers have a very different point of view than home gardeners. Farmers understand size, fields, and volume. They realize that you can’t bend down and plant every kernel of corn in the ground and water them with a watering can. They understand that when you plant seed not every seed will produce.
D. One of the methods Jesus used in his ministry was that of storytelling. He was a great storyteller. We call them parables which simply means that there is an underlining meaning of the story which is different than the story. Many nursery rhymes and fables had a deeper meaning, often a political meaning to them, but the story was told so that only those who understood the meaning would get the real point that was being made.
E. One of the stories Jesus told was read to us just a few minutes ago. We often call this story the parable of the sower. The deeper meaning of the story is given to us by Jesus himself. When the disciples questioned Jesus about the meaning he explained. Listen to the meaning given by Jesus (read Matt. 13:18-23)
I. The Heart That Is Hard
A. The first soil is not really soil. It is described as “the road” or “the path.” It is not a place where you sow seed and expect to reap a harvest. The reason Jesus uses this analogy is simply because of the hardness of what most people understand about a pathway. When seed falls upon it, the birds quickly and easily pick it up.
B. When we examine this heart we need to realize what we are seeking to understand is a person’s mind, not emotion.
C. So a person hears the good news of the kingdom of God, but either they don’t comprehend it or their heart is so hard they won’t take the time to try and understand it. The end result is Satan work to keep this person from letting the message germinate.
D. We see this heart frequently in society. I can tell you stories of good people, people who you want as your neighbor, people who are kind, generous, hardworking, fun, bright but refuse to have a discussion about the Bible for whatever reason. I know too many people who act like Christians but would never wear the name of Christ. They are simply morally good people who see no need for God in their life. The sad part is, it is very difficult to try help these people come to understand the good news of Jesus because they simply refuse to listen. To them, “church” is about what you get, “religion” is for those who have a need and being a “Christian” is for those who don’t know how to live in the real world.
II. The Heart That Withers Away
A. The second type of person that Jesus talks about is a person that does want the blessings of Christ. They love the idea of grace and forgiveness of sin. These are people with whom when you talk about Jesus cry when you talk about the cross and get excited when you talk about the risen Lord and eternal life.
B. These are people who claim the message of the kingdom, they receive it was great joy and we are all excited for them, but then the reality of being a Christian sets in and life is not as easy as they believed it would be.
C. You see, living a Christian life is demanding. It requires a willingness to give up self, change the way we think and talk, examine our relationships and be willing to stand up for what we believe. But when you do that you often face difficulties. Not everyone likes the new you. Some downright dislike the new you. The laugh at you, tell you it will never last, that you aren’t good enough, that your past is too great all to get you to quit you walk with the Lord and sadly, too many people simply wither away.
D. Jesus says, “They fall way.” The lost the joy they had and the reason is they were not grounded in truth. Their spiritual roots were shallow and problems were too great. How sad it is that such a person never realizes the greatness that comes by holding on, but instead is so self-centered that walking away from Jesus and his church becomes more desirable and digging deep in prayer.
III. The Heart That’s Distracted
A. Excuse me just a moment, I got a text.
B. Distractions happen to all of us. The very word means to “pull us away.” You see, of all the types of hearts that Jesus mentions, this is the one where I struggle the most. I am easily distracted. I have become tethered to my phone. When I don’t have it on me and someone tries to reach me, they get upset. When I have it on me and someone texts me, I feel I have to look at it, which demeans the conversation I am having with you at the time.
C. Distractions come in many forms. Jesus simply states two obvious: (1) cares of the world (2) deceitfulness of riches. Jesus had another encounter, one that I believe fits this soil perfectly. We read it in Luke 9:57-62.
D. This heart is one that is unfruitful. It is not that things of this world are evil; it is that they distract me from my real purpose in life. If I am to be a light to the world, a living sacrifice to God, to be holy in all I do and to worship God always then all this “stuff” I do either helps me accomplish that or distracts me from my real purpose. I challenge us today to NOT let this heart define us.
IV. The Fruitful Heart
A. The last one is where Jesus desires all disciples to be. We need to be disciples that bear much fruit. Jesus tells his disciples that only happens when we are connected to him, the vine, then we can bear fruit. When our heart and mind are rooted in Jesus, the soil of our heart and mind can do more than we ever believed was possible. Why? Because we are changed people.
B. The difference between this soil and the previous three is what we do the message of the kingdom of God. Jesus started this story by telling us that the seed message of the kingdom of God. The first soil Jesus describes hears the message and does not understand, but this soil, this deep rich good soil, hears the message AND understands. The idea of “understands” is really about application. This heart hears the messages, receives it with joy, who is steadfast through the trials and their life becomes fruitful to God. Fruitful means personal growth and bringing others into the kingdom of God. Some 30, 60, 100 fold. Not all are the same.
A. No one was paying much attention until the mother asked where the little girl was. One of the kids said they thought she went into the woods. Soon everyone was yelling her name, calling, trying hard to listen to hear any sound that the girl might be yelling back. The child was lost, alone in the woods.
B. Everyone from church began to look for the little girl. Soon the entire small town was involved. Shops closed, people left work, and mother’s left their dishes dirty to join the search. Darkness was coming and bad things can happen to children lost in the woods.
C. Then came a shout. The town was excited, someone found the child. She was safe and back in her mother’s arms. Joy was felt in the hearts of everyone, especially his parents.
D. Now that little girl is all grown up, but she is lost again. Few people seem to care this time. Mom and dad are busy and don’t want to sound judgmental. The church has its own problems. But this time a far worse fate awaits. This time the girl is lost in sin and darkness is all around her. This time, if she dies, she dies outside of Christ. I have one question: do we care?
E. Most of us here today would consider ourselves a Christian. So come to this story, this encounter with Christ, and go home today reflecting upon our own heart, and the hearts of people we care about. My job is not to cultivate good soil, it is to tell others about the one who can transform the soil, the heart.
F. If you are here today and find yourself in one of the first three descriptions, that can change – you can change. Do you want to live a spiritually productive life? The invitation is offered to allow you an opportunity to either commit or recommit to the Sower of the seed – Jesus himself. If you need to do that, then come as we stand and sing.