Church of Christ
at
Locks Cross Roads
1) Matthew 13:1 and following - Parables, parable of the sower
This is the first time recorded but not the first time addressing in this form of teaching, it would have only tended to
distract.

Indeed, the expression of Mark, "as they were able to hear it" (Mark 4:33) - seems to imply a gradual and
non-continuous course of teaching, which would have lost its value if it had given to the listeners more than they
were able to remember and understand.

How to approach the parables.

1) Approach the parables, not with a self spy mentality that would seek to discover meaning in all the minutest fibers
of the narrative, but with a conviction that God's purpose for all Scripture, including the parables, is to make men
holy through the truth, not to encourage them to exercise their vaunted ability "of dubious value" to discover hidden
meanings where there were none intended.

2) Determine the one central truth which the parable intends to proclaim.
      a) How much of the parable did Jesus Himself interpret?
      b) On what occasion is the parable introduced?
      c) With what explanations is the parable introduced?
      d) How is the parable applied in its own context?
      e) Is there a similar parable in the context illustrating the same central point?
      f) How do the historical and cultural circumstances indicated in the story help to underline the central thought
          being illustrated?

The function of the parables is to illustrate these doctrines to the disciples of Jesus, so the illustrations themselves
are valid only insofar as they perform this function: Doctrine does not lean on parables; parables lean on doctrine.

(Matthew 13:36; see Mark 4:10)
1) The reason for parables (Matthew 13:10-11, Mark 4:10-11, Mark 13:1-9 and 18-23, Luke 8:9-10)
2) Revelations are for publication (Mark 4:21-22, Luke 8:16-18)
3) Responsibility for the proclamation (Mark 4:23)
4) Rewarding of the perceptive (Matthew 13:12; Mark 4:24)
5) Recollection of a prophecy


Explanation of the Sower Parable (Matthew 13:18-23; Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15) Parable of the Lamp given
here?  (Mark 4:21 and following; Luke 8:16 and following; Luke 8:18)

Notice how naturally the situation evolved: having left the house with His close disciples, Jesus found a suitable
position along the lakefront where He could be comfortably heard by a small group of listeners.  His lesson had no
sooner gotten underway when the number of new faces around the listening circle got to be too great for the limited
teaching situation.

Mark and Luke assure us that the crowd began to swell surprisingly quickly, not merely with local townspeople from
Capernaum out walking along, but people kept coming together "from town after town" (Mark 4:1; Luke 8:4).

Again, if the fundamental function of the Kingdom's citizens is to be salt to the earth and light to the world, it follows
that one must expect an abundance of worldlings needing the proclamation of this Kingdom Gospel, many of whom
would remain, unconvinced.  The continued presence of evil in the world will be noticed under the Parable of the
Weeds, but hints of it in the Sermon on the Mount indicate that reactions to the Kingdom's proclamation would be
varied, exactly as taught by the Parable of the Sower.

The picture here is of shallow topsoil covering a slab of rock: because, if it were soil mixed with rocks, the seed
would have found little difficulty finding a crack between the stones to reach down into good humus, were that the
case.  The point of the apparently rich soil covering the layer of rock is its deceptive superficiality, a fact that leads
naturally into the interpretation.  Matthew 13:20 - some easy, surface culture softens some people, making them
seem open-hearted and good prospects for conversion.  In fact, upon hearing the message, they receive it
immediately with joy.  There is real joy in knowing that we have been forgiven, real joy in the assurance that God
has adopted us.  Many genuinely admire Christ, but mistake all this for faith, for attachment to Jesus, for depth of
godliness and for patient maturity.

"He . . . straightway with joy receives it . . Straightway he stumbles," (Matthew 13:7).  What will grow thorns will also
grow wheat!  Here is soil with real potential, but already occupied:  it could produce a great harvest.

There is no denying that the thorny heart is that of a Christian, once a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, but now
in danger of falling away for many reasons before arriving at maturity.

It takes time to suffocate the Word, if it is going to be done by cares, pleasure, wealth, etc.  So this happens
gradually as these go through life, but before they reach the goal.  Even the thorns needed time to grow up with the
seeds (Luke 8:7).  His good intentions to make an honest, all-out, positive response to Jesus and begin the life of
faith are frustrated, since divided loyalties usurp his highest loyalty and so strangle his spiritual life.

On human free will - Matthew 13:9.  He that hath ears let him hear.  But ears are standard equipment!  This
observation turns us aside to consider the fact that, although everyone normally is furnished with a pair of ears, he
may not actually be listening with interest and understanding to Jesus.  Consequently, his ability to grasp the kind of
Kingdom of God that Jesus is revealing depends greatly upon the concentration of his heart, upon his attitude, upon
what he wants in life, because all these determine greatly whether he will be convinced by the truth when he hears
it.  If translated as an imperative, Jesus orders: "Pay attention!"  Either way, He helps men to see that the real point
of His story is to show how vitally each individual's concentration affects how the Word is received and retained,
(Mark 4:24-25; Luke 8:15).
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