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Matthew 13:18-23 – Parable of the Seed and Soil

|| Mark 4:13-20; Luke 8:11-15

MT13:18 “So, you [disciples], listen [to the meaning] of the parable[1] of the Sower. MT13:19 Anyone hearing the kingdom message[2] and failing to understand,[3] the Evil One[4] comes and steals[5] those things sown in the heart[6] – this is the seed sown beside the road. MT13:20 Now, the seed sown on the gravel – this is a person who at first hearing accepts [the message] with joy.[7] MT13:21 But, because of having no inner roots nothing lasts,[8] for as soon as oppression or persecution[9] occurs because of the message[10] the person stumbles.[11] MT13:22 Now, the one sown among thorns – this is the person who hears the message[12] but the anxieties of that Period[13] and deceptive riches[14] choke the message[15] and the person is unproductive.[16] MT13:23 However, the seed sown in good soil – this is the person who hears the message and understands and actually is productive:[17] one person a hundred times, another person sixty times, and another thirty times.”

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[1] Listen [to the meaning] of the parable: Or, WEY: I will explain the parable. Evidently only directed to his disciples.

[2] Kingdom message: TCNT: the Message of the Kingdom; KNX: the word by which the kingdom is preached. This is the “word” (LOGOS) about the Realm of Heaven: the opportunity for membership within the realm of profession.

[3] Failing to understand: Or, NJB: without understanding; KIT: not comprehending; NWT: does not get the sense of. It is difficult to accept that the literal words carry the exact meaning. It is possible the Nazarene’s intent is: ‘hearing the message without attempting to understand it.’ Mark 4:15 omits the part about failing to understand. Luke 8:12 merely has “heard.”

[4] Evil One: The Greek is PONEROS. Or, KJV: wicked one.

[5] Steals: The Greek is HARPAZEI which means to “snatch” or “grab.” Or, GDSP: robs him; KJV: catcheth away; ASV: snatcheth away. The word is related to that one in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 and the Rapture. Compare also Philippians 2:6.

[6] Things sown in the heart: GDSP: sown in his mind. Something has germinated but likely this person only shows a cursory interest without the inner person being moved to further effort. There is an initial interest but for a variety of self-rationalizations the kingdom theme does not strike a cord in the heart.

[7] At first hearing accepts [the message] with joy: Or, KJV: and anon with joy receiveth it; TCNT: at once accepts it joyfully; MOF: with enthusiasm. There is some follow through by this person who hears and “receives” the kingdom message – but without conviction. Luke 8:12, “they may not believe and be saved.” There may be a degree of interest resulting in joyful gladness. How far this disciple matures is not explained (Luke says there is no belief) but it appears this is a neophyte about to face realities.

[8] Having no inner roots nothing lasts: Literally, this may read: “but he has no root in himself but is transitory.” (UBSInt) Or, KJV: hath not root in himself; GDSP: takes no real root; NEB: strikes no root. Whatever initial joy the person had in the kingdom message no serious effort was forthcoming to cause the “word” to take hold. Some take up Christian discipleship but within a short time run out of enthusiasm. “Nothing lasts” may also be rendered: KJV: dureth for a while; TCNT: stands for only a short time; RIEU: he cannot hold out long. Mark 4:15 has it, “they continue for a time.” And, Luke 8:12, “they believe for a season.” The Christian walk is not a sprint but a marathon. It has been observed that many Christians “last” only three years before slowing down with some grinding to a halt. Consider word studies on endurance.

[9] Oppression or persecution: The Greek for “oppression” is THLIPSEOS (Matthew 24:20, 21) and here related to “persecution.” Or, WEY: when suffering comes. Luke 8:13 has this, “a season of testing.” From the very beginning Christianity knew only persecution and oppression. Despite the joy of accepting the kingdom message the high cost of discipleship takes its toll.

[10] Because of the message: The reason for the oppression or tribulation is not that caused by Life itself. The difficulties are related to the kingdom message.

[11] The person stumbles: Or, KJV: is offended; WEY: turns against it; MOF: at once repelled; RIEU: promptly recants; NOR: at once gives it up. The Greek is SCANDALIZETAI. Luke 8:13 has it, “they fall away (or, stand off).” A word study, stumble or stumblingblock.

[12] Hears the message: This disciple listens but will come against other problems.

[13] The anxieties of that Period: The Greek may also mean “overly concerned.” The word “period” is rendered from the Greek AIONOS which is also rendered: KJV: world; RHM: age; TCNT: life. Each age or period of human history and existence has its own particularly anxieties or concerns. Those of Jesus’ period may not be the same as in the modern period. On the matter of anxiety or being overly concerned see notes on Matthew 6:20-33. GDSP: the worries of the time. Luke 8:14 has it, “by being carried away by anxieties.”

[14] Deceptive riches: Or, KJV: the deceitfulness of riches; TCNT: the glamour of wealth; LAM: the deception caused by riches; MOF: the delight of being rich; RIEU: the lure of riches. The word “rich” describes that person with a surplus and the leisure time that goes with it. Jesus uses the words often and it is worthy of a word study on rich, riches, or, money. The word “rich” is also an interesting one to explore in an unabridged dictionary. Compare 1Timothy 6:17-19. Luke 8:15 adds, “pleasures of this life.” And, Mark 4:18 includes, “the desires for the rest of the things.” (Compare 1 John 2:15-17)

[15] Choke the message: Or, strangle, smother; BAS: put a stop to.

[16] The person is unproductive: Or, KJV: unfruitful; TCNT: it gives no return. Compare John 15:1-10; 2 Peter 1:5-8. What fruit or produce is Jesus expecting? Surely the main emphasis is on what a person does with the kingdom message regarding others. It would seem likely that it would also involve “fruitage of the spirit” and its manifestations (Galatians 5:22, 23).

[17] Hears the message and understands and actually is productive: There are three parts here: listening to the kingdom message, achieving some understanding or comprehension, and then bearing fruitage or evidence the message has taken root. Or, TCNT: really yields a return; BECK: goes on producing good things. Note, however, that this production or fruitage is not the same for all genuine Friends of the Nazarene (John 15:14). Like the “widow’s mite” it depends on individuality and circumstances, as well as a heart driven by faith. Perhaps one of the most outstanding examples of producing a hundred-fold is the apostle Paul (Romans 1:13). Paul defines Christian fruitage: Sharing (Romans 15:27, 28; Philippians 1:22); holiness (Romans 6:21); goodness, righteousness, truth (Ephesians 5:9); good work ad knowledge (Colossians 1:10); praise and charity (Hebrews 13:15).

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Preceding

Matthew 5:38-42 – 5. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 21:24

Matthew 13 – Parables on Kingdom mysteries

Matthew 13:1-9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable: the Soil and the Seed

Matthew 13:10-15 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Why Speak in Parables?

Matthew 13:16-17 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Happy Eyes and Ears

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