4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?14 The sower sows the word.15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Can you imagine their quizzical looks? They probably happened every day. Jesus would speak, or teach, or discuss, and then the disciples would glance at each other. With eyebrows raised, silently mouthing, "What does that mean?", they would whisper among themselves. Shrugged shoulders and wonder were often the shared answer. Sometimes they would ask the Lord Himself, at which point the Lord would explain His words to them. He would illuminate and clarify what had been shadowy and opaque.
The parable of the sower and the seed is one of the teachings the Lord specifically details to His disciples. Their question had been oblique, the kind you and I might ask. "Why do you speak to them in parables?" they asked, really meaning, "Why do you speak to us in parables?" And Jesus, in His kindness, makes clear the primacy, and the purpose and the power of God's Word for the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
For God's people, God's Word is the very foundation of their identity and their hope. In God's Word, God's Son, our Savior is made known. Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the preeminent source of wisdom and strength for those who are Christ's Ones. Those often befuddled disciples heard Jesus quote the Old Testament dozens of times. For Jesus, the Scriptures were both from His lips and on His lips. God's Word was the foundation of life and work for God's Son!
God's Word also sheds light on hearts that are hardened to the things of God, or distracted by the cares of the world. Jesus says the seed of God's Word is often choked out by the thorny brambles of life, and the stunted, wealthy sprouts never quite produce expected fruit. But the purpose of the Word of God is to grow abundantly in the lives of believers, and bear much fruit for the Kingdom. God's Word, in many, many ways serves as a winnowing sieve.
The expert Old Testament scholar, Saul of Tarsus, was apprehended by the Lord and put to work for The Kingdom of Heaven. It was the power in Paul's thorough understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures that informed his preaching and writing. The Scriptures had prepared him for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, as he completed the good work Jesus gave him to do.
Years ago, a wise pastor friend had a saying that has rung in my memory through the decades. He would hold up his Bible, lean over the pulpit and (sort of) shout, "If God's Word is closed, God's mouth is closed!" Today, ask the Lord just like those disciples did. He has promised, in His Word, not to leave or forsake those who are His. He will make Himself known, and, with Him, you will bear much fruit.