Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23
What happens to the seeds?
1. Fell on the wayside; birds eat them
2. Fell on stony places and sprang up quickly; scorched in the sun
3. Fell among thorns; choked by the thorns
4. Fell on good ground; yielded a good crop
What's interesting is that, when Jesus explains this parable, the seeds are planted in each case. The seeds start to grow whether thrown on the wayside or on good ground. What differs is whether or not those seeds continue growing.
Thus, this story gives me hope! It also gives me an excuse to defend my own personal interest in apologetics. But I digress . . . more on that in a moment.
What do these seeds and each of their circumstances symbolize?
The seeds thrown on the wayside represent the person who hears the Word but does not understand. As birds came and ate the seeds, so the Devil comes to snatch the seeds away. The seeds were sown in the hearer's heart, but then, they’re gone, because of little more than a lack of understanding.
These appear to be the people who need to get the nuts-and-bolts of salvation. They need to be given reasons, have things explained, debate a few things out. Without understanding, the Gospel cannot take root in their hearts.
The next group is represented by the seeds sown on stony ground. This represents the person who first receives the Word with joy. The problem? “He has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (vs. 21). So this person is really excited about the Gospel at first, but since he didn't get some roots in the solid theology and foundation of the Bible, he withers away in the heat of trials.
These are the people who need someone to train them on what the Bible teaches, what Jesus said, and especially information and encouragement about the Christian walk and the troubles Christians are basically guaranteed to face. God promises blessings to His people; no where does He promise an easy life! Without an opportunity to dig deep roots in this (and other!) Biblical truths, their faith is apt to faint away in the heat. And “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10)
The seeds thrown among thorns represent the person who hears the Word, receives it, but gets caught up in the hustle and bustle, the glitz and the glamour. This person may want to be a good Christian (at least at first), but gets distracted by worldliness: the deceitful allure of riches, fame, beauty, pleasure.
Some people, after hearing the Gospel, after appearing to receive it, need mentors to keep them accountable. They need to be reminded of the much truer joys to be found in Jesus. Because you know what? The pursuit of riches, fame, beauty, and pleasure can really be rather stressful. A relationship with a godly mentor can go a long way in helping such a person learn to keep focusing where they should.
The fourth person hears the Word, receives it, and bears fruit. Praise God! What are some ways that they can bear fruit, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (vs. 23)?
Perhaps by helping the other new converts! Based on my impressions from this passage, other new converts may need:
1. Explaining. Training in apologetics, of science, logic, ethics, other religions, politics, social issues, or whatever else might serve as a stumbling block to their faith.
2. Root-growing. Training in the Bible, what it teaches, practical theology. They need to grow some deep roots in biblical history, God's promises, the story of God's faithfulness to Israel, the historical significance of Advent, Jesus' life and teachings, the teachings of the early church, and some important Biblical figures that serve as models and warnings for us today.
3. Thorn-weeding. Training in accountability, in forming relationships and groups to help each other realign their focus on the riches of the Gospel. They need mentors, people they trust enough to share weaknesses with, and who they respect enough to receive advice from. They need solid friendships with godly people who never tire of reminding them how good God is.
So there you go. As much as we need evangelists, we need apologists, Bible teachers, and mentors/counsellors. Yes, we are all called to reach the lost, to evangelize to the unsaved. We are also called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Don’t just scatter the seeds of the Word – invest in where they fall! God has said what He casts out will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:11).
What a privilege to be a servant of God in carrying out His will on this matter!