Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 13:18-19 (Holman) “You, then, listen to the parable of the sower:
When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t
understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was
sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path.”
The Disciples, having asked, received on the spot an explanation of the parable of the sower. Seed sown on the beaten path pictured what happens when the Gospel is heard by a calloused listener. Satan immediately breaks the hearer’s concentration, snatching away the spiritual truth. A hard heart is Satan’s highway.
Our text raises a vital question: does the devil really exist? C. S. Lewis said Satan’s most effective deception is convincing people to think he does not exist.
Christ believed. More than anyone else in Scripture, Jesus was mindful of Satan. It is contradictory to say we believe Jesus but question Satan’s existence.
Believers battle Satan constantly. Anyone who seeks to draw closer to God can sense a living force pulling the opposite direction. Too many temptations are thrown against us for it not to be orchestrated. A sinister brain is behind it all.
Jesus called Satan “the evil one.” The devil is the first and worst evil one. As the first evil one, he started evil among us, and is thus the murderer of all. Without him death would not exist. Satan was the first evil one. He is also the worst, having only one goal: to multiply evil by thwarting God and His people.
Whenever Gospel seed is sown, Satan is an especially busy bandit, a thief stealing the word instantly, before it sprouts. He strives to be sure the helpfulness of the message is snatched away immediately, almost during the hearing itself.
He tries to make sure a hearer’s focus is elsewhere. The salvation message is forgotten before the sermon ends, much less before the car leaves the parking lot. As they pull onto the street they drive off into the traffic of secular thoughts.
If the seed had penetrated the soil even a little it would have at least had a chance to live, but the surface is as cement. Often, the hardened make up their mind before hearing. No matter what is said, they had already decided to reject it.
They have a deep-seated prejudice against believers and our message, fearing the change becoming a Christ-follower might require. When they hear of being born again, some have visions of being struck by lightning, expect fantastic signs in nature, or fear fireworks might go off. They imagine sudden changes like those that resulted in the mutant creating of Spiderman and Incredible Hulk.
They fear if they follow Jesus they’ll become Geeks, freaks of nature, wear pocket protectors, stop watching sports, sing Gregorian chants, speak King James English, and begin to enjoy only roller skating, hay rides, and G-rated movies.
No doubt, becoming a believer requires a born again experience, and does result in a changed life, but in most cases the transition is not as radical as feared.
Conversion alters the will; decision-making comes under new management. Many things change, but you are still you. No changes in DNA occur. You do in certain settings act differently, but your essential personality stays the same.
Many have a skewed perspective of the Christian life. Satan tries to keep it this way. Don’t be fooled by him.
Matt. 13:20-21 “And the one sown on rocky ground – this is one who hears
the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root
in himself, but is short-lived. When pressure or persecution
comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles.”
The seed failed when cast on the hardhearted, and on the shallow. Even Jesus did not get everyone to believe. If people reject us, don’t be discouraged. We have not failed. Receiving cast seed depends on the hearer’s disposition.
A shallow hearer does not have the stability of a tree, but bounces up like a mushroom. They are Portobelo, not oaks. J. Vernon McGee called them Alka-Seltzer listeners, fizz and fizzle. They take off like rockets but never get into orbit.
Shallow listeners grab the Gospel without taking time to consider its nature. The privileges sound good, but persecution becomes more than they bargained for.
Living to win God’s smile inevitably brings the frown of people. “All those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 TM 3:12).
When the going gets tough, the shallow may dodge, duck, and delay, but the committed take abuse. Early believers were persecuted not for being Christians as much as for being bold witnesses. Nothing was shallow about their commitment.
For the superficial, church is a ceremonial activity. They go because friends and family are there. As long as attending church is a sideline, a club as it were, a Sunday-morning-only requirement, they are all for it.
But if pressure and squeezing (as the word means) come, they are squeezed right out of the church. They quietly disappear off the radar; slip away after a time of shallow loyalty. They felt good and cared a while, but could not endure scorn.
Matt. 13:22a “Now the one sown among the thorns – this is one who hears
the word, but the worries of this age . . .”
For many, Gospel seed is choked out by the living of life. Life gets tough, “lify,” Ed Meyer says. Worries, like all thorns, are fruitless and make all around them fruitless. Worries chew up vigor that should be spent in spiritual pursuits.
Christ-followers are not kept from human disasters. We get sick. Fire, burglaries, accidents, car wrecks, bills–these are our lot. Tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes don’t zig-zag to by-pass believers while hitting unbelievers.
This having been said, let’s be sure we read Christ’s words aright in our text. These afflictions in and of themselves are not the thorns that choke out faith.
The stifling thorn is our worry about them. We can be so mentally obsessed with the problems of life that we don’t have energy left to focus on anything else.
If deep in thought, it’s possible to drive from here to National Avenue and upon arriving say, “What happened to Glenstone?” It is also possible to be so occupied with cares that we miss along the way chances to find spiritual strength.
An illustration from Indeed magazine (July 23-24, 2007) helps us here. When Jesus at age 12 was missing for three days His parents panicked. When in a tomb for three days, His disciples were paralyzed. Those around Jesus let both cases become a thorn, but to Him neither was as critical as it seemed to others.
We tend to panic, catastrophize, make trials into choking thorns, yet all the while Jesus calmly awaits our discovery that God is sovereign and Jesus is Lord.