Jesus frequently left people scratching their heads, trying to figure out what He meant. But when He told the parable of the sower (see: Sow What) he explained what it meant:
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)
Jesus was talking about you – “anyone,” He said, anyone who hears the message about the Kingdom. And that’s you. The message of the Kingdom is the message of Jesus, how He came to give people eternal life. But there’s a couple of things to pay attention to. First, it’s not simply hearing the message, but how you process it that makes all the difference.
Next, it’s important to realize that when the message is not understood, it bounces off hearts have become hardened to it. But it does not simply lie there. Jesus said it is “snatched away” by the “evil one.” There is a very real battle going on over your heart and soul. Another name for the “evil one” is “the father of lies.” If you turn away the truth, you open yourself up to believe lies.
Thirdly, receiving the message with an emotional rush – perhaps joy – is frequently ineffective, because sooner or later the joy wears off. Trouble comes (because of the real battle for your heart) and the joy fades. If you latched onto Jesus because you think He will always make you happy, you will inevitably be left empty and disillusioned. This is important to know, since so many people try to use emotionalism to convince people about Jesus. Watch out for that. The message of the Kingdom makes sense when you truly understand it. You don’t need to be manipulated into believing it.
You should note that some receive the message but the “deceitfulness of wealth” and various worries of life choke it. Jesus said you cannot worship God and money. Again, there is a battle going on, and the evil one wants you to think you will be happy if you are rich. Some people have a tenuous grasp of the truth but they let go of it to chase money. Pay attention.
The only seed that matters to a farmer is the one that grows, matures and produces a crop. The only “planting” of the message about Jesus that makes any difference, ultimately, is the one that results in life (the birth of the Holy Spirit in a soul), growth (heartfelt changes that emerge from the Spirit’s life inside) and a “crop” (new life in Christ is infectious, it rubs off on others.)
There is a lot to ponder in this parable and its explanation. Taking the time to understand it is well worth it.