“To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”
-spoken by Jesus in Matthew 13:12 NLT
A Family Devotion on The Parable of the Four Soils (Matthew 13:1-23 )
Writer: As you might have guessed, the book of Matthew was written by the disciple Matthew who was previously known as Levi. He had been a Jewish tax collector before Jesus called him to become a disciple. His book forms the link between the Old Testament and New Testament because of its emphasis on the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It was written between AD 60 and 65.
Context: Matthew wrote his book as a letter to the Jews of his time, to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and true Son of God. See, in that time, the Jews believed that their Messiah would rescue them from the oppressive tyranny of the Roman Empire and establish a new kingdom. They ignored the prophesy that said he would be humble and suffer and die for the cause. To prove his point, Matthew included 53 direct quotes and 76 additional references to prophesy from the Old Testament that show how Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises.
Matthew did not necessarily write his book in chronological order. Rather, it is intended to build a case for Jesus as the Savior of the world with real evidence from events he personally witnessed or heard about from others. He talks about miracles and His defeat of Satan in the wilderness. He recounts conversations and parables and other teachings. Finally, he tells in great detail the story of the last days of Jesus, as He rode into Jerusalem with fanfare, prepared The Last Supper, was tried, crucified, and buried. But the story doesn’t end there, as we well know, and Matthew ends with Jesus’ victory over death as He appears to Mary Magdalene and the disciples.
Connect the dots: The Parable of the Four Soils (also sometimes called The Parable of the Sower) appears in the Gospel of Matthew as well as in Mark 4:10-25 and Luke 8:9-18.
In this parable, Jesus tells of seeds scattered among four different types of soil:
- Seeds that fall on the footpath and get eaten by birds.
- Seeds that fall in shallow soil with rocks underneath and grow initially but soon wither and die.
- Seeds that fall among the thorns and grow, but soon get choked out by the other bushes.
- Seeds that fall on fertile soil and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted.
These different soils represent the condition of the hearts of human beings when they hear the messages of Jesus. The seeds that fall on the footpath represent the message falling on deaf ears. Okay, not literally deaf, but ears of people whose hearts are hardened to the message, people who have no desire to understand or know Jesus Christ. They hear the message but don’t understand it, and the enemy soon comes and wipes the message from their minds and hearts. They are no better than before.
The seeds that fall on shallow soil represent people who hear the message and receive it with joy, but have such a shallow faith, they forget as soon as they are tempted, persecuted, or challenged.
The seeds that fall among the thorns represent people who hear the message and receive it, but ultimately allow it to get lost among their day to day worries and the lure of wealth.
Finally, the seeds that fall in fertile soil represent believers who truly hear and understand God’s Word. They take that Word and run with it, creating a fruitful harvest in the world, spreading the Good News to unbelievers they encounter.
The crux of this parable is to encourage spiritual farmers, those people who teach, preach, and lead others to The Lord. The farmer in the parable sowed good seed that were capable of growing and producing a healthy harvest, but not all the seeds took root and grew.
It is the same with the message of Jesus. We can spread the message, and our words can be pleasing to the Lord, but not all the people who hear or read our words will accept them and come to Jesus.
Or maybe, the seeds will lie dormant for many days, months, or even years, before God grows them into a harvest; we have no way of knowing. We can only spread the seeds and allow God to do with them whatever is in His plan.
- Are you spreading seeds for Jesus?
- Who can you reach out to today to talk about Jesus?
- Could you encourage a new believer whose seeds are just starting to grow, to help her develop and reap a harvest?
Pray: Heavenly Father, Thank you for your great and unfailing love. Thank you for sending Jesus to save us from what we deserve. Please help us to spread seeds widely for you. Help us to talk about you in all our conversations and not to get discouraged when the message falls on deaf ears. Forgive us our prideful feelings and know our hearts are eager for you when we get a little overzealous with your message. Give us bravery and wisdom to share the Good News. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen
How are you encouraging your children to sow seeds of faith?