An Attentive Heart – Matthew 13

INTRODUCTION


    The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive. “Tell me whom you love,” Houssaye wrote, “And I will tell you who you are.”

“Tell me who you love,” it says, and “I will tell you who you are.” The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive.  What was the central theme in this story I just shared? The man stayed true the heart and soul of the woman that he discovered in their letters, and he fell in love with her, and didn’t let distractions take him away from the woman he met in those letters.  Today we have 66 letters from Christ to us.  Let’s allow our hearts, each and every heart in this room, to be good soil that the word of God can be deposited into.  Today we are looking at the Parable of the Sower, in Matthew’s Gospel, the 13th Chapter.

Matthew 13 (NLT)

13 Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

     In this parable Jesus describes both the hidden nature of the kingdom of God in the present and the mixed response of people who hear about it.  The first thing I thought about in studying this is, what exactly is a parable? A parable is that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.

For a time in His ministry, Jesus relied heavily on parables. He told many of them; in fact, according to Mark 4:34a, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” There are about 35 of Jesus’ parables recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and then John is completely different from the other three. 

In today’s parable in Matthew 13, Jesus is the person scattering the seed of the Word of God, representing his preaching.  He believed the reception of the Word would fall into different categories, based on the heart condition of the hearers.  Today my friends, what is the condition of our hearts when we hear the Word of God?

Let’s always prep our hearts to delight in the Word of God 

 Let’s look at our verses again, starting at verse 3 where Jesus says to listen.

Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 

These seeds are devoured as soon as they hit the ground. We must protect the Word that is spoken over us, that we read, and that is deposited in our hearts so that it can grow.

Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.

See… sometimes have to dig deep, and go beyond a surface level understanding of scripture.  This is where we might have to spend some time wrestling with a text.  Have you ever prayed about a passage of scripture that you are reading? I have found myself praying this passage:

Psalm 119:18New Living Translation (NLT)18 Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.

You know, the Bible is a spiritual book, and I believe it is a very good idea to pray before you even crack it open, and the Lord will reveal things to you:

I pray that as we study the Word that you see it in new ways and I see it in new ways!  But in order to do this, we cannot have rocky ground, or thorny ground beneath the surface layer of our hearts when we hear the Word of God! I pray that you will come to the realization that God is God, and we are not, and bow our hearts towards him in surrender.  Let’s look at verse 7 again…

Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants

—- Thorns.  Thorns hurt, don’t they? Our savior wore a crown of thorns, didn’t he? So when I thought about this, I thought about how pain might affect us in the way we receive the Word of God.  What gut-wrenching heartache has done this?  Does guilt over our sin make us feel like God can’t use us? Does our background and our history lie to us and say God doesn’t want us? Let it not be so!

See, our Savior didn’t see fit to end our suffering….but what he did was enter into our suffering with us.  Can you imagine the excruciating pain Jesus was in? You know, the crown of thorns penetrated his skull…so when I think about the seed being scattered and thorns rise up and choke the tender plants, I think of those thorns assaulting the mind of a believer, just like that crown of thorns on Jesus’ head gave him physical pain in his head.

Remember, that whenever you are suffering, and whatever you are suffering, know that your Savior suffered with you, and he suffered for you.

 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! —— This one is easy to decipher! These are seeds that fell on fertile soil! I pray ever heart here is fertile soil, meaning that you hear these words, and go home and pray to the Lord about them.  We can ask the Holy Spirit what he would require of us in this life, and where he would send us.  Then in verse 9 he reminds us

Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

This is a double reminder for us to perk up, to listen and receive….

So Jesus has given parables to the people and not just to the crowds, but to his future leaders he is training.  He begins to explain to the disciples further…

10 His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” 11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. 12 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. 13 That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand.

14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says,‘When you hear what I say, you will not understand.  When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. 15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes—so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.

     Jesus explains that they have been chosen to understand the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven, and others are not.  He then explains that for those who listen to his teaching, more understanding will be given.  The parables are for those who aren’t listening.

     I think that it would be important for us to take a quick look at Isaiah 6 because Jesus quotes it and it is the background for this parable.  Isaiah 6 says that in the year that king Uzziah died, about 700 years before Christ, Isaiah had a vision of God.  And in this vision of God, Isaiah’s mouth was purified so he could preach, and then he received his commission to preach.  And the rest of Isaiah is 66 chapters of Isaiah remaining true to that original commission he received.  That word to go to the nations that was given to Isaiah is something that stuck with him for the rest of his life.  Isaiah made the Word number one.

Make the Word number one in our daily lives 

       To put it in context…..look at the situation in America today.  The elections are crazy, there is violence and racial tension and many other things, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that Christ is not honored and His Word is not honored.      My prayer is that the U.S., the Japanese and the Chinese and many other nations would see that the Gospel, and the principles of being fruitful and multiplying and these other things in the scriptures would help to heal the land.  “If my people,” the scripture says (2 Chronicles 2:14).

God can literally heal the land, but we have to take his word seriously! Don’t be like this lady in this video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mqm9EJ4UGfo&t=6s (How Not To Study The Bible)

     Now, Jesus talks about the crowds and tells the disciples that he speaks in parables to test people like the Pharisees and some of the miracle-chasers in the crowds, who only followed Jesus because it was entertaining or because they wanted him to do something for them.  But then he celebrates and commends his disciples, the ones who are taking the initiative to draw close to him and ask him questions, in verse 16…

16 “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.

18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

OBSERVATION: Original Meaning 

So Jesus is breaking down the meaning of his own sermon for us! First he says that the disciples are blessed because many prophets and righteous people longed to see the miracles and power of the Messiah but didn’t live in the time in history when he would come.  They longed to hear his words. Then Jesus goes on to describe the meaning of the seed that fell on the footpath, the seed on rocky soil, and the seed on thorny ground.  And finally, Jesus explains the good soil.

So if the disciples who heard the message are blessed, then we who are reading the message are blessed! You remember in the Gospel of John, at the very end, where the Apostle Thomas doubted whether Jesus had been resurrected? What happened next?

John 20:29 (NLT) 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

You see…Jesus was pointing to our time! He was predicting the time when we, in 2016, would read about what Thomas and the disciples experienced, and even though we weren’t there to see it, we believe because other people have told us about Jesus, and we’ve read the Gospel.  See, when people truly follow Christ, they truly subscribe to a sacrificial, crucifying Christianity, they are forever changed, and they long to change the world around them. It’s all about Jesus, the one sowing seeds.

It’s all about the sower

   See we are blessed by the story of doubting Thomas.  We are blessed by the story of the disciples…. Jesus told them a parable and he explained it to them at the end of this chapter of Matthew that we’ve been covering.  And even though we weren’t in the conversation, we are reaping the benefits of that conversation being written down.  So in a way, through the Gospels, we each get to share in the conversations the disciples had with Jesus.  This message is all about having an attentive heart.  Will we do the same as the disciples? When they didn’t understand the preaching they took initiative and followed up with Jesus so he could explain it further.  What is our choice today? The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

God has written love letters to us, to bless us, encourage us and heal us.  Sunday mornings when the church is gathered together are design for you to encounter God.  All other purposes for us coming to church fall short.  We come to be refreshed in God, revitalized, rejuvenated, renewed and restored.  Sam Storms quotes:

  • “You weren’t created for boredom or burnout or bondage to sexual lust or greed or ambition but for the incomparable pleasure and matchless joy that knowing Jesus alone can bring. Only then, in Him, will you encounter the life-changing, thirst-quenching, soul-satisfying delight that God, for His glory, created you to experience.” 
  • Sam Storms 

When you trust in the Lord, His Spirit and His Word, times of refreshing and strength will come!

Acts 3:19-20New Living Translation (NLT)

19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.

Again, we can’t expect things in our lives to stay the same if we come to church and we don’t expect to encounter God.  We have the faith to believe that every Sunday could be a Sunday where Jesus himself might walk through the door!

I go to the Bible for comfort, for encouragement, for strength, for guidance and wisdom.  Let’s pray that you all will have the courage, the grace, the desire and burden to do the same!

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