Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
18 April 2021
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
The disciples cried out, “Lord don’t you care if we drown?” When things go wrong we immediately call to the Lord for His help. No wonder the Lord allows it so we can draw near to Him and He draws near to us. Problems and difficulties shape our character if we ask His help, follow His advice and obey Him with patience. The result is that we will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit and be made more into His likeness, changed from glory into glory.
Reading: Matthew 13:1-23;
“… when anyone hears the word of the kingdom …”Matthew 13:19
A vital part of us regularly praying, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is that we also ‘sow the seed’ to put it in the language of the parable of the sower. The phrase “sowing the seed” refers to ‘the word (or ‘message’ NIV) of the kingdom’, i.e. the word, or message of the rule of God and this is the key phrase in the parable of the sower. As we have previously noted, it is this message which Jesus has been proclaiming since Matt. 4:17:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near”.Matt. 4:17
And we can see that it has had a mixed reception e.g. see chapters 11 and 12. As important as it is to ‘sow the seed’, to proclaim the good-news of the kingdom of God, what happens next is of equal importance and it all centres on whether the recipients understand the message. They have heard the message, but have they understood it? Regarding this, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10:
This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand“. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them”.Matthew 13:13-15
(1) Not understanding: The evil one snatches away the seed
In Matt. 13:19 we see that the seed, the message of the rule of God, has been sown in the hearts of the listeners, but because they don’t understand it,
… the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their hearts.Matt. 13:19
Jesus explains this as the seed that fell along the path which the birds came and ate up.
(2) Not understanding: Lack of roots
Although this group hears the word and immediately receives it with joy they still don’t understand the word and as soon as difficulties, trials and tribulations come, because of the word, they quickly fall away. Such seed is likened to seed falling on rocky ground which has no root (Matt. 13:20-21).
(3) Not understanding: The worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth
Thorns are used to depict the hazard to a person’s spiritual life of the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. Such, like thorns that choke the seeds, choke the word. We can see this at work in the life of the young ruler who had great wealth (Matthew 19:22) and sincerely wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus told him, rather than rejoicing and receiving the gift of eternal life, we read:
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.Matt. 19:22
Contrast this to the response of the disciples:
Peter answered Him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”Matt. 19:27
(cf. Matt. 4:20, 22; 9:9). As Billy Graham succinctly put it:
“There is nothing wrong with people possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess the people.”
Jesus has already taught them about ‘worrying’ being in conflict with the ways of the kingdom:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matt. 6:25-34
Such will be vital to heed at all times and especially in the last of the last days,
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.Luke 21:34-36
(4) Hearing and understanding: Good Soil
Up until now there has been a lot of hearing but no understanding accompanying it. Here however, the soil is good,
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.Matt. 13:23
The literal translation of ‘produces a crop’ in 13:23 above, is ‘bears fruit’. What do we know about bearing fruit? Jesus taught that if we abide, remain, live, in Him we will bear much fruit, fruit that will last,
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples …John 15:5, 8
A vital part of Jesus’ teaching here regarding remaining in Him is to remain in His love and such leads to a fruitful Christian life.
John the Baptist urged the people:
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”Matt. 3:8
Such a repentant life is not simply one of words, but of the actions and deeds of a life transformed by Jesus and the Spirit:
“It is by what we do in response to God’s demands rather than by what we hear or say that we will be judged”
“By their fruit you will recognise them.”Matt. 7:20
And finally the passage that always searches us deeply and challenges us and causes us to throw ourselves afresh on the mercy of God,
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was ill and in prison and you did not look after me.”
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or ill or in prison, and did not help you?” He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.Matt. 25:31-46
(5) With God all things are possible
Such may leave us perturbed and wondering where we stand. For sure it is by faith alone that we are saved, but that faith is evidenced by such fruit as Jesus taught. The disciples were also perturbed,
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”Matt. 19:25
The answer is still the same,
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.Matt. 19:26
Each one of the 4 headings above may represent phases in a person’s spiritual development or lack of development. Many of us can probably relate to all phases. That time when our hearts were as hard as a concrete path or rocky ground and nothing spiritual would take root; those times when we felt the reality of the cross and fled in the opposite direction; those times when the thorns of the cares and wealth of this world so gripped us that there was no place for anything else or anyone else. But then, by God’s grace, things changed, our hearts were ready, the soil was good and the word took root and started to bud, blossom and bear fruit, All praise and glory to God the Father in Jesus Christ.
This parable highlights the fact that the problem is with the soil, the heart of the hearer. It is important to keep sharing the word of the kingdom and not to become too downcast at the lack of fruit. Let’s keep praying for the hearts of people to be prepared, to be turned into ‘good soil’. Let’s ask ourselves also what is the condition of our own hearts. Have we become hard-hearted or allowed some thorns to grow? What about worries? Is making money more important than Jesus? Be honest with the Lord and ask for His help, for with Him all things are possible, Amen!
Questions for Discussion
- What are some of the central themes of this parable?
- Share a time before you became a Christian when you heard the word but didn’t understand it?
- Can you identify with any of the phases above –
(a) The devil snatching away the seed?
(b) Shallow soil – lack of roots
(c) Worries of life and deceitfulness of wealth
(d) Good soil.
- Share about people you know, without naming them, who are not believers – where would you place them in terms of the “soil” in the parable of the sower? Let’s pray for them to become ‘good soil’.
- How do you see God preparing the ‘soil’ of your heart turning it into even better ‘soil’?
“It’s not what you do, but how much love you put into it that matters.”
Verse of the week
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.John 15:16
Our loving, gracious, heavenly Father, all praise, glory and honour to You. Thank You for Your great work of love that’s taken place in our hearts, that You prepared us to receive Your Son, Jesus Christ, into our lives, such that we now abide in Him, and He in us. Thank you that even though our hearts were hard towards You, You never wrote us off and finished with us, but by Your grace made us anew in Him by the work of Your Holy Spirit. Pray continue Your good work in the hearts of all Your people, Your Church, until the day of Christ Jesus, when we shall see You face to face, in Him, Amen!