A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus used parables to describe spiritual things in a language borrowed from the things of this life.
If you are teaching a class on this lesson, have your students create their own parable based on one of the following openings.
1. There once was a man who owned a cow...
2. Three men decided to buy a boat and sail around the world together.
3. There once was a wedding....
1. This same story is also found in Mark 4:1-9; Luke 8:4-8, almost word for word.
2. Why did Matthew frequently use the term "kingdom of heaven" whereas Mark, Luke, and John used only "kingdom of God" and never "kingdom of heaven"? Some scholars answer that "heaven" was a softened reference to God by Jews who, out of reverence, avoided saying the word "God."
3. We learn nothing about the farmer who spread the seed. However, we can note that he did not discriminate. He cast the seed on all four types of soil.
4. Concerning the roadside soil: The problem is not a lack of understanding, but an unwillingness to receive. It is the attitude of Mark Twain who said, "It is not the parts of the Bible I do not understand that bother me, it is the parts I do understand.".Reflections
1. An epiphany
is a moment of realization when you stumble across a new truth. Have you had any spiritual epiphanies lately?
2. What has God been doing in your life to help nudge you into His truth?
3. Read Romans 1:19-20
and respond. More Reflection
1. How does Romans 1:22-23
reflect the same attitude of those who reject God's grace?
2. What do you think it means to bear fruit? The following passages may help you to draw some parallels.
Rich Soil Grows Great Crops
Read the story to the right of this column..
1.What strikes you the most about this story?
2. How did God work in the lives of the missionary as well as the Lahu natives long before God's Word was shared?
3. The story had a beautiful ending because the missionary was obedient and the people were ready. How did the missionary know these people would come to follow God? What do you think would have happened if the Lahu people would have ignored their first conviction that God had a wonderful plan for their lives?
4. Have you ever had a sense that God had something special in mind for you? How do you feel about that? What are you doing in order to be prepared?
A Little Lesson
Because the ability to grow one's own food was a matter of survival in His day, Jesus was very familiar with the ways of farming. Therefore, it was natural that He would use an illustration that was common for His contemporary culture in order to teach a very important life lesson to His disciples.
In Matthew 13 we read Jesus' parable of the sower and the seed. In this lesson we will discover how Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to seed that is planted in various types of soil. You will also have an opportunity to discover ways in which you can take the seeds God has planted in your life and produce fruit that is pleasing to Him.
Jesus Tells the Story
In Matthew 13:1-23 Jesus tells the story of a farmer who sows grain. The seed falls upon four different kinds of soil, producing four different results.
a. Roadside soil (13:1-4): This seed is soon devoured by the birds. b. Shallow, rocky soil (13:5-6): This seed springs up quickly but soon withers, being scorched by the sun. c. Thorn-infested soil (13:7) : This seed is quickly choked by the thorns. d. Fertile soil (13:8) : This seed produces a thirty, sixty, and even hundredfold crop!
Rodney Buchanan wrote, "Fields in biblical times were not like our fields today which have been prepared by modern machinery with the crops planted in neat rows. In those days, the farmer would cast the seed all over the ground and then plow it under. The fields were in long strips with paths between them so that people could pass through. That was important in a culture where everyone walked. Sometimes the Romans built their roads next to a farmer's field. Sometimes the land next to the field was allowed to grow wild and it was full of thorns and weeds. In the ancient process of sowing it was impossible not to have some of the seed fall, or be blown by the wind, onto these areas."
The Disciples Ask
an Unrelated Question
Strangely, instead of asking Jesus the meaning of the parable, the disciples wanted to know about his teaching methods. Why do you tell stories? Why do you teach in parables? While parables leave vivid impressions, they can often have more than one meaning. Wouldn't it have been easier for Jesus just to get right to the point?
The use of parables was a very common way of teaching that was used, not only by the Jewish rabbis, but by the Arabians and teachers from other eastern religions. On the other hand, this is the first time the author Matthew records Jesus speaking in parables. Perhaps Jesus was introducing a new way of teaching and the disciples were just curious as to why.
Jesus' response is a little difficult to understand. (Matthew 13:10-17) Here are some simple interpretations and additional commentaries:
- "To create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight." --The Message
Unless someone explains it in simple terms, they will never understand.
"I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again"-The Message (Is. 6:9-10)
Matthew 13:34-35 tells us that in using parables Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah the prophet.
It could be that Jesus spoke in parables to hide the truth from unbelievers. The secrets of The Kingdom would be given to the disciples, but would be hidden from the religious leaders who rejected Him.
a. The seed (13:18-19a): The seed represents the Good News about the Kingdom. b. The roadside soil (13:19b): The hard soil represents those who hear the message but refuse to understand it, thus allowing Satan to steal it from them. c. The rocky soil (13:20-21): The shallow, rocky soil represents those who have no depth and thus drop out upon encountering any trouble or persecution. d. The thorn-infested soil (13:22) : The thorny ground represents those who allow the lure of the world to snuff out the Good News. d. Fertile soil (13:23) : The good soil represents those who truly accept God's message, producing an abundant harvest.
More Than Just a Story
Jesus makes it clear that different people will respond to Him in different ways.
Some will flatly reject all that God has to offer through Jesus Christ. The attempt has been made and duly rejected, leaving this person without excuse.
Others are easily infatuated. They accept the Kingdom of God with joy but do little to cultivate their faith. It looks like they are "super Christians" on the outside, but they really haven't done much to establish roots.
Some will become easily distracted and ultimately be choked out by the cares and concerns of the day.. Their experience is genuine, but casual.
Finally, there will be those who accept Christ into their lives, nurture and develop their relationship with Him, and remain determined and faithful even through difficulties and persecutions. Through their openness, sincerity, and discipline they produce genuine disciples of Christ.
1. Who are you in this parable?
a. I don't really think much about godly things. It may be good for some people, but I'm just really not that interested.
b. I am pretty casual about my faith. I like what Christianity has to offer, but I'm really just not that into it.
c. I feel like my faith is like a roller coaster ride. I keep trying, but it seems like the commitments I make don't last very long. It seems like there is always something standing in the way.
2. What does it mean for you to remain open to God's working in your life? What habits and disciplines are important for your own spiritual formation?
3. Identify areas in your life that distract you from God. What can you do to remove these distractions?
4. Where do you find support in your walk with God? What can you do to stay connected to that support?
A Story of
Don Richardson, in his book Eternity in Their Hearts, tells an amazing story of spiritual harvest. In an area once called Burma, which is now modern Myanmar, lying between China and Thailand, and touching the border of Laos, there lived about a quarter-million tribal people called the Lahu.
For many centuries, the Lahu had a tradition which said that the Creator of all things, whom they called Gui'Sha, had given their forefathers his law written on rice cakes! But a famine came, and the forefathers ate the rice cakes for their physical survival. The elders defended their actions by saying that Gui'Sha's law was now inside them! But the Lahu could not know and obey their Creator perfectly until he would again give them his written laws. The Lahu people had prophets of Gui'Sha, whose mission it was to keep the expectation of the Creator constantly alive in the hearts of the people.
And so the prophets would teach the people with proverbs like the one which said, "If a man had ten armloads of walking sticks and walked until every walking stick was worn to a stub, he would still not find Gui'Sha [the true God], but when the right time comes, Gui'Sha will send to us a white brother with a white book containing his laws - the word lost by our forefathers so long ago. That white brother will bring the lost book to our very homes!"
Some Lahu even wore cords around their wrists symbolizing their need for a divinely appointed deliverer who would one day cut those cords from their wrists! In the 1890s, a young missionary named William Marfus Young, was appointed to take the gospel to the Shan people in the eastern extremity of Burma. He established a base in Keng Tung city, capital of the Shan region.
One day Young went to the marketplace and was preaching among the Shan people, most of whom were Buddhists. He read the Ten Commandments from the Bible. Then holding his Bible aloft - with the sun gleaming on its white pages - he began to preach about the laws of the True God. As he preached, he noticed some men coming toward him out of the throng in the market. He could tell by their dress they were not Shan people. Later he discovered that they were Lahu men who had decided that day to come down from the far mountains to trade in the market of Keng Tung. They completely surrounded William Young and stared incredulously at his white face, the white interior of the book in his hand, and listened to his description of the laws of God contained in that Book.
When he had finished, they pleaded with the missionary to follow them up into the mountains. They said, "We have been waiting for you for centuries. We even have meeting houses built in some of our villages in readiness for your coming." They showed him the bracelets of coarse rope hanging like manacles from their wrists that their people had worn for many generations.. The ropes symbolized their bondage to evil spirits as a result of not having God's Word. They said, "You alone, as the messenger of God, may cut these manacles from our wrists - but only after you have brought the book of the true God to our very homes."
Young could not believe what was happening, but he went and many of the Lahu people became Christians. In 1904, Young and others baptized 2,200 Lahu converts who had learned the basics of the Christian faith. From then until 1936, when he died, still working among the Lahu, he saw at least 2,000 Lahu give their lives to Christ every year. (Article by Rodney Buchanan)