The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.
Our Lord's popularity is now at its height. Crowds throng him wherever he goes. But he is not dazzled by the blaze of public favour. On the contrary, be sees how unsubstantial and delusive it is. Multitudes follow him for the charm of his words and the fame of his miracles; but of these large numbers do not truly accept his message and profit by it. It is necessary that he should sift his disciples, separating those who are in earnest from the superficial and indifferent. The method employed with this object in view is parabolic teaching (see vers. 13-16). By means of such teaching those who are only amused at a tale will not see the truth which they do not care to have, while those who are awake and alive to the gospel of the kingdom will be prompted to think and inquire, and to get a better hold of Christ's teaching. It is natural that the transition to this more veiled method of instruction should be made in a parable that illustrates the different classes of hearers.
I. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE PARABLE. A great principle underlies the whole parable, and is revealed in all its parts, viz.: That the success or failure of preaching is partly dependent on the character and conduct of the hearers. In the present instance the Sower is Christ - the greatest of preachers; and the seed is the word of his gospel - the best of all teaching. Yet there are no uniformly good results, but a variety of issues, from utter failure to a bountiful harvest. Then the preacher is not always to blame if his preaching is barren, and the doctrine is not to be accounted false simply because in some cases it does not produce good effects. The hearer is responsible. He has freewill, and he may reject the highest truths of the greatest teacher, or he may receive them with different degrees of profit.
II. THE BAD SOULS. These represent three characters.
1. Dull indifference. Instead of being receptive soil for the seed of truth, the heart of the worldly man is hard. The hardening is the result of the traffic of innumerable earthly interests. Troops of these secular concerns trample the heart into a highway. They may be harmless in themselves and even necessary, but the full surrender to them is ruinous to the spiritual life. The heart that is given up to the world is a prey to the ravages of Satan.
2. Sentimental fervour. The rocky ground is hot, and it provokes quick growth. Sentimental people show a passion of devotion. But they have no reservoirs of strength. When circumstances are adverse they are weak and they yield.
3. Stifling worldliness. In the third case more progress is made, and yet there is no harvest. Here we have not the gross worldliness which produces indifference from the beginning as in the first case. There is a competition between the spiritual and the worldly, and the latter wins by reason of its rank vigour.
III. THE BAD SOILS.
1. A common fruitfulness. All the good soils bring forth fruit. This is the one result looked for. If it appears, we have the joy of harvest. Christ's preaching was. not a failure, though many, failed to profit by it. If no good comes from preaching, the fault may not lie wholly with the hearers. The gospel of Christ brings in a rich harvest of souls.
2. A variation of productiveness. All who profit by the truth of the gospel do not profit equally. It is not enough that some fruit is obtained. The aim should be for an abundant return. The seed is capable of enormous productiveness; there is no limit to the possibilities of Divine grace if only we will let them be realized in our own lives. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side.