Through the Bible Day by Day
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
SOWING IN DIFFERENT SOILS
The varying results of gospel preaching are due, not primarily to the sower or to the seed, but to the ground. Four classes of hearers are described in this parable. (1) The wayside or path, trampled hard as the sower goes to and fro. It was once soft, rich loam like the rest of the field, but in the course of years it has been trodden down by passengers and traffic. The seed falls on the surface, but cannot penetrate. When our heart reaches that condition, we need to ask God to drive through us the ploughshare of conviction or sorrow. (2) There is the superficial soil, very light and thin, beneath which lies the rock. How many are easily moved and touched, but refuse to allow God’s truth time to root itself and are as quickly moved by some other appeal. (3) They are the rich with their luxuries, and the poor with their cares, in the thorny ground of whose divided hearts there is no chance for the struggling ears of grace. (4) A fourth part of our hearers will receive the implanted Word into true hearts, and their hundred-fold will amply repay our toils and tears.
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
TEACHING FOR THE TEACHABLE
Jesus defended His use of parables. He said that He carefully avoided stating the truths of the Kingdom too plainly, so as not to increase the condemnation of those who could not or would not accept them. But where the disciples cared to penetrate below the husk of the story or parable, they would reach the kernel of heavenly significance. It is given to meek and teachable hearts to know the secrets of God. Let us draw near to the great teacher, the Holy Spirit, asking Him to make us know the kernel and heart of the Word of God. See 1Co_2:6, etc.
Note these points in our Lord’s explanation of His parable: (1.) Beware of the evil one, who comes surreptitiously as soon as the sermon is over. (2.) The joy of the young convert must be distinguished from that of the superficial hearer. It is joy in Christ, rather than in the novelty and beauty of the words about Christ. (3.) Expect tribulation where the gospel is faithfully proclaimed. (4.) The cares of poverty hinder as well as the riches of wealth.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
OTHER PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM
The tare was a species of rye grass, which in its earlier stages, closely resembled wheat. In this world, and in the Church, professors are closely mingled with possessors. But there come great times of revealing, in the trials and difficulties of life, and in fact Satan and his angels never sleep. Let us beware of them, but be not afraid: Christ is stronger.
The mustard seed and the leaven represent the extensive and intensive, the outward and inward, the objective and subjective, aspects of Christianity. Sometimes when the Church is reaching its branches to the farthest, its heart is being corrupted by the slow spread of evil. See 1Co_5:7-8. See what stress our Lord lays on unnoticed beginnings! What seed is smaller than the mustard! Yet it may be the gateway through which Nature may pour her inner energies, forcing the rootlet down and the green shoot up. And it requires but a very small amount of leaven to permeate a large quantity of meal. Bigness is not greatness. Watch the first speck of sin; cherish each grain of holy impulse.
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
GENUINE AND COUNTERFEIT
Throughout the Synoptic Gospels-Matthew, Mark, and Luke-a consistent distinction is made between the outer ranks of the people, or disciples, and the inner circle of Apostles. May we not emphasize the same distinction still? We have among us many who are clearly disciples. They cannot as yet formulate or endorse the full creed of the Church, but if they are true to their convictions and follow the gleam, the Master will bring them to the decision of Peter, Mat_16:16.
This world is God’s field. All the good in it has reached it through Jesus Christ. Fundamentally there are but two classes, for the disciple belongs to Christ, though He has not yet come into the perfect light. Notice that the people who cause stumbling are placed with those who do iniquity, and each class is thrown on the rubbish heap. Ponder the despair with which we shall view wasted opportunities, as we look back on them from eternity-weeping for softer natures, and wailing for weaker ones. Let us not trifle away the golden chances of life!
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
SECURING TREASURE; REJECTING THE BAD
The parables of treasure and pearl are a pair. They describe the various ways we come to know God’s truth. Some happen on it suddenly. They are pursuing the ordinary vocations of life when suddenly the ploughshare rings against a box of buried treasure. The husbandman is suddenly rich beyond his dreams.
But in other cases religion is the result of diligent search. Man cannot be happy without God. He goes from philosophy to philosophy, from system to system, turning over the pearls on the dealer’s trays; but suddenly his listlessness is transformed to eagerness as he discovers the Christ. Here is the pearl of great price. He has sought and found, and is prepared to renounce all. See Php_3:7. Is there not, too, a deep sense in which Jesus has renounced all, that He might purchase for Himself the Church, His bride? He is the merchant, and we the pearl, though only in His eyes-the eyes of love-could we be held worthy of all that He surrendered to win us!
Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord.
HOW UNBELIEF HINDERS
God’s truth is always new and always old. It is as fresh as the morning breeze for each coming generation. But however stated, the fundamental facts are invariable. Let us store our minds and hearts with holy and helpful thoughts, so as to deal them out as the occasions serve.
Compare Mat_13:53 with Luk_4:16-30. The question His townspeople put is stated a little differently in Mar_6:3. Till He left home, at the age of thirty, for His baptism, our Lord evidently worked with His hands. Perhaps the full wonder of His nature was not realized even by Himself. But surely none can despise manual toil when the Son of man wrought at the bench, making, according to the old tradition, implements of husbandry.
Sons and daughters were born to Joseph and Mary, whose names are here given. Alas, that we do not see the glory in common, familiar people and circumstances! Never forget that the absence of expectant faith does more to limit the progress of the gospel than the lack of funds!