Sept 13 = The Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-23)

The sermon is available on PDX Parables of Jesus

Sermon: The Fruit of Discipleship


Theme = Discipleship, endurance, bearing fruit/lifestyle, witness

Matthew’s parable of the sower and Luke’s account differ in the following ways:eg-9parables2sowerweb1


  • Matthew suggested that Jesus went out in the boat to teach from the shore. He taught in parables. He moves from house to sitting by shore, to boat to sitting in boat. Crowds on the shore.
  • This is in the midst of resistance to his teaching. First plant hear and not understand. People not able to be saved. Seed falls on road.
  • Second plant grew for short time but with persecution and trouble it falls away. Seed falls on rocky ground.
  • Third plant overcome by worries and deceitfulness of wealth. Falls upon thorns and choked.
  • Final plant hears and understands and noble and good heart, 30, 60, 100. Falls on good earth.
  • Then he launches into discussion of why they get to hear. In the interpretation the point is that the enemy “snatches it away,” while the other things try to distract the plant/disciple.


  • Luke seems to set this after the discussion with the sinful women and eating with sinners. He gives a shorter explanation of the seeing and not hearing speech.
  • First, fell on road, trampled, devoured. Devil takes away so not be saved.
  • Second, have joy in beginning but fall away during time of testing.
  • Third, choked by worries, riches, and pleasures and not mature.
  • Final, hear word, retain it, and produce through perseverance.
  • Seems to be more of an emphasis on evil killing the spirit and discouraging people. Matthew possibly focused on evil taking the salvation away and causing the people/believer to give in.

Matthew’s story occurs in the midst of 7 parables and is in the teaching section delivered to the disciples. The section ends at 13:52 with v53 beginning the common phrase, “When Jesus finished teaching these things…” that occurs 5 times in Matthew—forming 5 teaching sections.

The previous section of Matthew highlights the 10 miracles and discipleship. Matthew 13 forms a section concerning discipleship but offers a focus on endurance. The parables discuss endurance and remaining in the faith and producing fruit. While it is not certain that the early Christians who read Matthew were being oppressed by their Jewish families and friends, it is clear that these Christians were having a hard time deciding between the Jewish history of their faith, and the new reflection presented by Jesus. This also included welcoming the many Gentile converts joining the Christian movement. For the early readers of Matthew, Jesus was asking them to take bold steps in their journey with him.

There is motion in the story. Jesus was in a home teaching and moved outside. While outside he moved to the lake, and then into a boat to speak to the people. This motion was from safety/family to chaos (outside, and the lake). It is fitting that Jesus discusses faithfulness in the realm of chaos, uncertainty, and vulnerability.

There is a break in the action after Jesus told the parable of the farmer/sower. During this break they went into the house and he explained the parable of the weeds (not back in the safety or safe area of the home). This reinforces the idea that the stories communicate a deep truth to those who know Jesus.

Key Point = it is interesting that Matthew quotes the Isaiah 6 text. In this story the prophet was called by God to turn the leaders of the nation of Judah (those who were corrupt) back to their God–yet Yahweh told him that they were so caught up in sin that they were not able to hear the prophet’s message (and therefore God’s message). Their sin also affected those they were leading as the nation fell prey to other powerful kingdoms. In the passage (Is 6:10) some were so hard hearted that they could not/would not repent (Hebrew word for “turn”) to be saved. In Matthew’s text he uses the word for turn which also meant change their conduct or reorient their lives. The parables were simple stories, not complex secrets. However it was not that people could not cognitively “understand” the stories, they could not “spiritually” understand or embrace the stories because of the sin in their lives and hard heartedness. As the parable suggested, most of the people had so much in their lives that they could not embrace these simple stories and be saved.

How often have we met people that feel they are too steeped in sin, too far gone, or too lost to be saved? Do we ever feel like the missionary in the Pirates of the Caribbean prequel who told Blackbeard–” You are not able to be saved”? The parable is hauntingly simple, yet the issue is not understanding the meaning–it is being willing to accept the meaning, repenting of the things that get in the way, and allowing Jesus to save us. Over the years I have taught my Pastoral Counseling students that we live in a time where people tend to resist counseling, especially if the counselor offers a “prescription for healing.” In the past, people came to ministers and counselors for advice, and in many cases listened. Now, we have to work to help guide people to see their issues and confront them. This teamwork is difficult, especially when the individual has become calloused, numb, or resistant to becoming healthy. This is why so many of us admit that the majority who come to the office do not find solutions to their dysfunction, sin, or pain. Its not that they are bad, nor is it that they want to suffer. They produce a list of reasons why they “can’t do the work” or “can’t become healthy.” I’ve shared with parents that their children are crying out for attention, and tell me they miss “the old days,” only to have mom and dad state, “The reality is that it is not going to happen.” While we don’t judge we know too well that sometimes we become bogged down in thorns, shallow soil, or a hard path only to respond to the message of the Kingdom with, “Yeah, but…”

However, I remind my students that many times counseling is as much a lesson for them as it is those in their care. We can decide that we will bear fruit, we will bring glory to God, and that we will not only listen to advice–but remove the weeds that may clutter our lives. While we do not judge others, we first judge ourselves, so that we can help others bear fruit. The fruit is not always the same. Some are 30, some 60, others are 100. It doesn’t matter how much, it only matters that we let our lives honor God

Are there people we can pray for and help who need to turn to God?

Are there things in my life that make this simple message too hard for us to turn and be saved?

Questions for groups and discussion:

  1. What does the parable tell us about our walk with Jesus and length of Christian life?
  2. What was the key to bearing fruit?
  3. What did it mean when the plant didn’t “mature’?
  4. What does it mean to have a “good heart” or “good soil”?
  5. Who do I know, and can pray for, who needs to know they can turn to Jesus and become a follower who brings fruit to the Master?
  6. How does this parable help me in my spiritual growth with Jesus, myself, and other people?