This chapter begins with our Lord’s sobering parable of the sower, and relates several more parables, along with their interpretations.  This was a sermon preached to a great multitude, who pressed Him so closely against the lake that He found it necessary to enter into a ship, and from thence to preach to the throngs who crowded the shoreline.  But this sermon would not be so plain and straightforward as that delivered on the mountainside in chapters 5-7.  Instead, our Lord spoke to them in parables, which must have astonished and mystified the hearers.

He begins with what I would consider the most striking and the most important of the parables recorded in the gospels, the parable of the sower.  It was a simple picture, one which would have had a very familiar ring to the agrarian society of that day.  The seed sower went out to his field and broadcast the seed high and low, hoping and praying for a good harvest.  But the careless sower did not get all his seed into the freshly plowed furrows.  Some of it fell into good ground, but much of it fell by the way side where it was devoured by birds.  Others fell into stony ground, where it sprung up quickly, but was quickly scorched by the hot Oriental sun and withered.  Some other fell among thorns, where the life was choked out of them. 

The picture was a familiar one, but the interpretation was not so easy to discern.  Even Christ’s own disciples were mystified, and asked their Master why He spoke to the crowd in parables.  The answer Jesus gives them is a startling one, and must certainly astonish the casual American who has been born and bred into a culture which teaches the universal love of God, Who wants all men to be saved if only they will allow it.  Jesus, rather than espousing such a sentimental doctrine, instead tells the disciples that He intentionally cloaked the truth He was teaching in a parable so that His hearers would not understand.  The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven had been given to the disciples to discover, but to the hearers on the shoreline, it was not given.  Is not this a plain instance of sovereign discrimination?  It is God Who reveals the truth to the hearts of men, and He sends it to whomsoever He pleases.  Because the Jews had hardened their necks against the truth of God, God chose to have them spoken to in mysteries which they could not unravel.  Only to a select few was the puzzle revealed.  The others fell under the same condemnation of the wicked Israelites in Isaiah’s day.  They heard with their ears, but understood not.  They saw with their eyes, but had no perception to the spiritual realities all around them.  They themselves had blinded their own eyes and hardened their own hearts.  Therefore, God gave them up to judicial blindness, and ordained that the truth of the Gospel be hidden from them, lest they should see and hear, believe, and be converted.  When we see the frightening justice and wrath of God revealed in this passage, it brings home all the more forcefully the Lord’s words to His disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”  There was nothing in those eleven humble believers by nature that made them better than their blinded brethren.  It was God Who gave them a spirit of understanding, and a heart to embrace the truth of Christ.  And so it is with us who believe.  The reason we are not blind and deaf to the truth as are others is because Christ has been revealed to us by the Father in heaven.  This is a pride-slaying doctrine, a truth which strongly emphasizes that great principle of the apostle Paul, “Let him that glorieth glory in the Lord.”

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