The subject of the chapter is the beginning of a new revelation, the introduction to the mysteries of the kingdom. In the preceding chapters, Israel has refused her king. The Lord said to them as He turned from them nationally, “I have piped unto you, but you have not danced; I have mourned, but you have not lamented” (see Matthew 11:17). At this point in His ministry, the Lord introduced a new message. In Matthew 11:28 He says, “Come unto Me all ye that labor…” He no longer bids His disciples “to go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” (see Matthew 10:6). The sphere of their service is expanded to the world.
The nation had put itself beyond the point of “no return” when they gave Beelzebub the credit for the miracles which the Lord had performed. The Holy Spirit was the power, and in refusing to acknowledge this, they committed the unpardonable sin (see Matthew 12:31-32). The result of this total rejection was that Israel was set aside, and a totally new order was introduced. This new order, with its fresh revelations from God, had been hidden from the patriarchs and prophets (see Matthew 13:17). In its fullness, these revelations included the mystery of the Church composed of all born again believers.
Paul was the chosen vessel by which God revealed this sublime truth in its entirety. Prior to Paul’s revelation of the church, the Lord revealed the “mystery of the kingdom” in this first parable in Matthew’s Gospel. From this point on when the “kingdom of heaven” is mentioned, it is not related to its absolute or final form. It rather depicts conditions in Christendom during our Lord’s absence from the earth culminating in His second coming.
Note how the history of the professing church or the “kingdom of heaven” is revealed in this chapter:
1. The seed of the Word sown in the world and its results.
2. Satanic imitation—the tares among the wheat.
3. The kingdom of heaven as a great world church sheltering evil as well as good.
4. The professing false church inserting the leaven of corrupt doctrine into the spiritual food of God’s people (the true church).
5. Israel, God’s peculiar treasure, purchased with the world, but hidden away among the nations during this present age.
6. The church, the pearl of great price, for which the Lord impoverished Himself.
7. The dragnet—the events and conditions at the end of the world.
Wherever the Gospel is preached, the seed of the kingdom is being sown. The results of the sowing are twofold. A great body of people is being gathered. This body consists of those who recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and as earth’s rightful King and give Him heart allegiance. Then there are the millions more who, when they hear the Word, give Him lip service, and in an outward way seem to own His authority, though their hearts are far from Him.
The kingdom of heaven in its present form includes both the true and the false. At the end of the age they will be separated (see Matthew 47:50). At first glance, the parable of the sower appears quite simple to interpret, but the true meaning is hid from many. The multitudes did not understand it and neither did the disciples.
Let us now consider the parable. It begins in Matthew 13:3 with, “Behold, a sower went forth to sow.” The sower is the Lord and the seed is the Gospel. In Matthew 13:4-7, notice the unproductive soil upon which the seed fell:
- It fell by the wayside and was devoured by the birds.
- Some seed fell on stony ground, and it looked as if it might produce fruit. Green shoots appeared, only to wither away quickly.
- Other seed fell among thorns, which choked the tender shoots.
- Some seed fell into good ground, took root, sprung up, and bore fruit.
- Then significantly, the Savior draws attention to the amount of fruit produced, totaling some thirty, sixty, one hundred fold.
The meaning of the parable is of tremendous importance. Jesus says, “He who hath ears let him hear” (see Matthew 13:9, 16-17). Matthew 13:18-23 gives us the Lord’s interpretation of the parable. Matthew 13:19 describes the seed that fell by the wayside. This describes the attitude of those who reject the blood; though they hear, they are indifferent.
The ground is so Gospel-hardened that the seed cannot take root, so Satan and his emissaries snatch it away (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Hebrews 3:7 “Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart…”
Proverbs 29:1 “He that being often reproved”… “I’ll take the wages”
2 Corinthians 2:16 “Savior of life or death. Wax and clay.”
In Matthew 13:20-22, we have the professors, who are the stony ground hearers. [Describe those who make a profession, but who soon collapse under persecution. See Matthew 7, and describe those who say, “Lord, Lord.” Note also Simon the sorcerer and the ten virgins.] In verse 22, the unfruitful Christian is described as the seed among thorns. These Christians hear the Gospel and accept it, but their lives are not fully surrendered. They become entangled with the world’s pleasures; they are obsessed with riches and burdened with cares. Their temporal responsibilities choke the Word. On the other hand, the fruit bearers are described as the good ground hearers. They are the ground that the Spirit has prepared. Real conversion and real fruit mark their lives.