The multitudes of crowds came to follow Jesus and see His amazing miracles. These were the powerful signs God had given in the Old Testament about the coming of His Kingdom. But as Jesus travelled to the cities and villages of Galilee, many of the people did not repent of their sins. It was the one command that God required for those who wished to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Meanwhile, instead of coming alongside their Messiah and His message, the religious leaders were plotting to have Jesus killed. His own family tried to take Him away because they thought He was going insane.
This is how far the human heart is from understanding the great glory and beauty of the Son of God. Sin had tainted their hearts so severely that when Perfect Love and Goodness walked among them, they turned against Him. They closed their eyes to the Truth and hardened their hearts against His wonderful offer. They were meant to be a holy nation of priests that would be a blessing to all the nations of the world, but they had rejected their own Messiah and King. And so Jesus honored their choice. He would take His glorious message and the privilege of God’s royal favor elsewhere.
The day of great confrontation between the Lord and the religious leaders from Jerusalem was a huge turning point in the ministry of Christ. The crowds of people would continue to come, and the hateful religious leaders would be among them. Yet they would no longer be privy to hear the precious truths about God’s Kingdom. His message was a sacred one, it was full of eternal life, and it was no longer meant for them.
And so Jesus began to tell about the Kingdom through little stories called parables. These stories would make the things of God very clear to everyone who had repented and followed Jesus with a true heart. The Spirit of God would be at work in their softened hearts to give them eyes to see and ears to hear. Yet for those who were in hard-hearted rebellion against God, the parables would disguise the true meaning of what Jesus said. The rich things of the Kingdom would remain a total mystery to them. They had chosen separation from the Kingdom, and the Lord, in His righteous judgment, agreed with them.
Jesus left Peter’s house and went down to the shore of Galilee. He sat down by the sea and began teaching once again. There was a great mob of people from all the cities of the region. So many people came that He got in a boat and floated out a little way into the water. Then he began teaching them in parables:
“‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had not root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on the good soil, where it produced a crop0a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”
The Lord’s disciples asked Him why He had started speaking in parables. The crowd didn’t understand what He was saying, and neither did they! Jesus explained:
“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even that will be taken away from him.”
What do you think Jesus meant about the people who would be given more? And who would have everything taken away?
As Jesus told these parables, the secrets of the kingdom would be poured out to His faithful followers. Their understanding of God’s ways would grow and grow. But to those in the crowd who showed no faith and even came against the Lord, the time of their learning was over. They had heard His preaching and it did not move their hearts, and so now even the richness of what they had already learned would be a mystery to them. The Lord went on by quoting the Old Testament:
“‘Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand
“‘In fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah:
You will be every hearing but never understanding;
You will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’”
The Lord had offered them the most precious gift of all time, but they hardened their hearts against him. It is a very dangerous thing to reject sacred Truth. Imagine what the sun is like on a very hot day. Now imagine two things sitting under the heat of that blazing sun. One is a piece of butter, and the other is a soft piece of clay. What will happen to the butter? It will become soft and easy to use. What will happen to the clay? It will just get harder and harder until it is of no use at all! The crowds and Jewish leaders had chosen to have hearts like clay. But to those who had repented, whose hearts were like butter, Jesus said:
“‘But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’”
Imagine the prophets of old that told the ancients about Jesus but never got to meet Him. Imagine being Peter or John. They grew up learning the stories of the prophets. They were their heroes! Their messages had been repeated for hundreds of years! But now Peter and John were the ones walking and talking with the Messiah.
Then Jesus explained the parable of the sower. He said:
“‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed down along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on the rocky places is the man who hears the world and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who receives the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on the good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.’”
Stories are meant to provoke our hearts. As we hear about each character, we naturally compare ourselves to their lives. We almost can’t help it! It is a powerful way to help people think deeply about their lives. It is probably one of the reasons Jesus used stories so much.
Which kind of person do you want to be in this parable? Are you like the seed that landed on the path or the rocky place? Are you the seed among the thorns? These seeds represented the people who rejected the Lord. But Jesus had gathered His own disciples around Him, and they were like the good soil. When they heard, they understood, and God would use them to be an outpouring of blessing!