Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matthew 13 highlights a teaching style Jesus used often. He mastered the use of parables, an art form we call the short story. He used real-life stories as comparisons to make spiritual points. About 28 of His parables are recorded in the Bible. A children’s song rightly says, “Jesus was a story-tellin’ man” (Boice).
Why parables? One, stories capture attention. Boring is failure. Satan loves dull preachers. They make good martyrs–so dry they burn well (Spurgeon).
Two, stories hold attention. Distractions kill focus. The devil encourages distractions, a baby crying, a dropped book, someone whispering, etc. He opposes our being focused on God. Stories help us stay engaged in what’s being said.
Three, a parable, being in compact, portable form, aids memory by being easy to remember. A story well told lingers in the mind like a catchy jingle.
Four, a parable disarms and wins by forcing people to oppose themselves. Without a story, we sometimes win the debate, but lose the listener. No one likes to be humiliated by losing an argument. A story lets the hearers get the point and agree with it, before they realize it applies to them in a condemning way.
Nathan’s use of a story to rebuke David illustrated this. Before Nathan said, “You are the man,” David was angry at hearing of a rich man who killed a poor man’s sheep. In Matthew 13 Jesus used this effective teaching tool several times.
Rick Warren’s first sentence in his wildly successful book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” is “It’s not about you.” Ultimately, it’s always about God, not us.
We live to honor Him. Pleasing God must be our obsession. It’s not about us, it’s about God. Under God, it’s still not mainly about us. Once we know Jesus, our salvation is secure, and the chief emphasis of our efforts henceforth should focus not on us, but on winning those who don’t know God. It’s not about us, it’s about them. This is the lesson Jesus taught at the start of Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:1-2 (Holman) On that day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around Him that He got into a boat and sat down, while the whole crowd stood on the shore.
In our text, Jesus’ popularity was nearing its zenith. Hounded by crowds, Jesus could have been tempted to become self-absorbed, to believe all the press reports about Himself, to start caring about others less and about Himself more.
He refused to do this. When it came to fulfilling God’s plan for ministry, Jesus knew it wasn’t about Him, but about them, those who needed to know God.
Our text brings us to the middle of one of the longest recorded days in Jesus’ ministry. This morning had been hard on Him. In His debate with the leaders, they had verbally assaulted and slandered Him, saying He was demonic.
After the stress, no one would have thought less of Christ had He retreated somewhere to be alone, to nurse His wounds. Jesus had to have been exhausted, but refused to quit for the day. He would not let the leaders’ opposition keep Him from blessing others. Jesus knew it wasn’t about His ease, it was about them.
Rather than hide and rest, He spent the latter part of this hard day teaching the crowd. He mingled more than ever with common people who longed for God.
No one was ever mean enough to Jesus to make Him quit caring for people, including those who did not know Him. When He first came from Heaven to live among us, we pushed Him aside into a stable, but He never stopped loving us.
In our text Jesus, muscled out of town to a seashore, continued to love the lost–them. His exile from Synagogues and the Temple proved a blessing. It enabled Him to speak to much larger crowds, as when Whitefield and the Wesleys took to fields, Billy Sunday to tents, Billy Graham to stadiums. Satan can be too crafty for his own good. What He sends to stymy the Word often proliferates it.
Our Savior had no house to live in, no church to preach in, but refused to stop blessing people. To Him, it was about them. He taught people on mountains, city streets, in fields, by seas, at a well. Anywhere, everywhere was His platform. No pulpit displeased Him (Trapp). Every spot was a convenient platform.
The leaders of His day should have let Him have the Roman Forum or a city amphitheater. He should have been invited to speak at the Parthenon in Athens, but He was humble, refused to pout, denied Himself any extraordinary laurels due Him. All He wanted was a place to bless unbelievers. He knew it’s about them.
Matthew 13:3 Then He told them many things in parables, saying, “Consider
the sower who went out to sow.”
The words “went out” appeared in verse one. They are autobiographical. This parable is prediction, telling what Jesus will expect His followers to do in the future, but is rooted in history, in what Jesus did to show it’s about them. This is Christ’s story, and should be ours. He’s the great Sower. We follow His example.
When Jesus came to Earth in His incarnation, He “went out” from Heaven to sow seed, to broadcast the good news of His kingdom. In our text He was still going out, He “went out” from a house in town to bless people. It was about them.
Note two requirements from Jesus’ example here: we are to go forth, we are to sow seed. Both are essential. Some go forth, but don’t sow seed. They don’t share the Gospel. It’s easy to slip into ministry for ministry’s sake.
When this happens, we receive the honor. We need to make sure Jesus gets the credit. Jewelry, a Bible nearby–these and other creative ways can sow seed.
Some sow seed, they tell the story, but don’t go forth. This is my Achilles’ heel. I love Christianity 101 because it lets me sow seed among those who need it.
We are sent forth to sow seed. Our church buildings are granaries, bins to store seed. The wild unsown fields are out in the world, where we are to sow seed.
To prechristians, those who matter most, Jesus’ cross and empty tomb have no voice till we tell of them. We must proclaim Jesus, a Name I’m jealous for.
“God” and “Biblical” are good words, but “Jesus” is the best of all. Tell it every way we can to everyone we can: radio, TV, tracts, DVDs, Bibles, books, talk at home, school, and work. I plead for you to join me in being jealous for Jesus.
For His sake, and for their sake, Jesus’ name deserves to be voiced on every square foot of this planet. In our parable, there was, as there still is, an abundance of seed. The sower cast it indiscriminately. Sowing with reckless abandon, His concern was not limited to one spot. His goal was 100% total saturation of a field.
Let us be clear. We will be judged not on how many we won, but on how far and wide we scattered seed. Conversion is God’s work, broadcasting seed is ours. When we cast seed, we pass responsibility for lostness from us to them.
Every believer is capable of casting seed. We all can speak of Christ. The issue is always desire. Any who truly want to spread the good news about Jesus, and know it’s about the lost, them, not us, can find a way to get the Word to them.
Jesus was bent on blessing people, rescuing the perishing, however tired, harassed, or oppressed He was. Our attitude should be the same, but we often fail.
When time comes to help, we often say, “I’m tired.” Maybe so, but it’s not about us; we’re safe. We whine, “I’m needy.” I don’t argue the point, but it’s not about us. We’re going to Heaven whether we like to admit it or not. We contend, “I’m disappointed in people.” I am too, but it’s not about us. It’s about them.