The Gospel News
earth, and makes it bring forth and bud,
and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so shall My word be that goes
forth out of My mouth: it shall not return
to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do. For you shall go out with joy... Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree; and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree". The words
I?ve put there in bold are all picked up in the Lord?s parable of the sower. There are so many connections that I suggest His parable was a kind of midrash, an expanded commentary, upon that passage in Isaiah 55. The simple point is - response not only is possible in the face of every kind of distraction, but response will be achieved - such is the power of God?s word.
The Context of the Sower Parable
Mt. 13:1 prefaces the parable with the comment that it was given "The same day". The Gospel records give more information about that day than concerning any other in His ministry, with the exception of the crucifixion (Mt.12:22-13:23; Lk.11:27; Mk.4:10). The preceding chapter 12 has recorded how the Lord now changes His position regarding the Jews. Instead of the positive tone of the Sermon on the Mount and the hopeful appeal to Israel, from now on in Matthew there is much talk of condemnation to come, of Israel?s rejection of the Gospel, and of how they were an adulterous generation for whom judgment was reserved. The Kingdom principles which He had so clearly expressed in the Sermon on the Mount now become "mysteries" of the Kingdom (:11). From now on, the Lord started using parables - hence the shock of the disciples and their question ?Why
parables ?? immediately after He had
finished the sower parable (:10). And He explained that He now spoke in parables exactly so that from now on, the masses would not understand. The mission of John had been largely unsuccessful, despite the good initial response. The Jewish religious leaders and the hopes for an immediate Kingdom in this world had led Israel to
reject the message, and their last state would be now worse than the first. The parable of the sower speaks of seed which initially grew (Israel?s response to John?s message) and then went wrong - with some responding amazingly.
Three Types Of Bad Ground
By The Way Side
The birds came - Lk. 8:5 adds that first of
all, the seed was "trodden down" before the birds came. The impression is given of something, someone or a group of people hindering the growth of the seed - and that is a theme explaining the failure of the seed to grow in the other cases of ?bad ground?. The Lord has in mind the damage done to the growth of the word in the hearts of first century Israel by a group of people - and those people were the Jewish religious leaders. On a wider level, it?s true that in practice it is the attitudes and pressures from others, conscious and unconscious, which stops people today from responding to God?s word beyond an initial interest. Birds were symbolically understood in Judaism as the Gentiles - and the Lord is applying the symbol to the very religious leaders of Judaism, whom He saw as Gentiles in that they were consciously trying to stop people responding to the seed of God?s word of Christ. And yet His later parable in the same chapter speaks of the birds coming and dwelling in the branches of His Kingdom (Mt. 13:32). I see in this His hope, even His fantasy, that His worst opponents would come into His Kingdom. And some did - for some Pharisees did later repent and were baptized, even the apostle Saul. And this is a great example to us, of wishing the very best, the Kingdom, for even the worst.
The way side - The Greek hodos means
simply ?the way?. It is the very word used about John the Baptist seeking to prepare the way for the Lord Jesus (Mt. 3:3). If Israel had responded as envisaged in the Isaiah 40 passage which speaks of this, then the way or road would have been prepared and the glory of Yahweh would have