Matthew Chapter 13:1-23


Matthew 13:1-2. The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat, and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

He had thus a little breathing space between him and the people — a better opportunity for his being both heard and seen. A noble instance of open-air preaching. And if our climate would permit, what a blessing it would be if we could turn out of these houses and sit in a boat or stand on the sea-shore.

Matthew 13:3-9. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched: and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them; but other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Upon the very surface of it, this parable teaches those of us who have to sow that we must not expect to have our choice of the ground, and that we are not even to make a choice of the matter, but we are bound to go, as this sower did, and cast a handful there upon the hard trodden road, and a handful there among the thorns and nettles, and a handful here again where there is no deepness of earth, and God be thanked if a handful shall fall on good ground. Still, for us to suppose that we are to sort out the characters, and to select the ground, is a very great mistake. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” A distinction will soon come. The seed will be the grand detective of the soil. It will show what the soil is. Just as Christ on the cross is the discerner of men thoughts, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed, so is the preaching of Christ crucified the test of human condition. You shall see now who it is that has the honest and good ground, and who has not. Not by a geological inspection, but simply by throwing a handful of seed on it. That will soon discern between the precious and the vile.

Matthew 13:10-16. And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

A judicial blindness and deafness of heart had come over the nation of Israel, so that even when the sun shone in its strength in the person and teaching of Christ, they could not see. And when God spake more plainly than he ever spoke before, by his Son, yet they could not hear so as to understand. And I sometimes fear that some measure of this judicial blindness has happened unto many in our Land. Those who take the metaphors of Scripture, and interpret them literally, and dare to take out of the old law excuses for ritualistic observance — what can we say of them but that this people’s hearts have waxed gross? God has done very much for our country. He has seeded it with the blood of martyrs. The scars of martyrdom have hardly passed away, and, after all this, if men will go back to the fooleries of popish ceremony — if they will put from them the blessed light of the gospel of Jesus Christ — depend upon it God will give them up to some kind of hardness of heart, so that they will plunge from one superstition to another, and their last end shall be worse than the first. But blessed are they who, being taught of God, can perceive the spirit beneath the letter, and do not confound the emblems which the Saviour used, but suck out the meaning from them as bees do the honey from the flowers.

Matthew 13:17-19. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

Do you notice here the importance of the word? But when it is heard, but not understood, you would suppose that the devil might as well let it stop where it was, for what hurt could it do to his kingdom for the man to hear it and not to understand it? But he is so frightened at the word of God that he comes, like an evil bird, and takes it away for fear lest lying even in the dull heart without understanding, yet, somehow, it should breed an understanding in the heart. And so he takes it away from the thoughts and the memory, so fearful is he of it. “Nothing quakes the devil tremble like the gospel,” said Martin Luther; and I do not doubt that all the churches in the world, with all their ceremonies, are less feared by the devil than one single doctrine or text out of the Word of God; so he comes, like an evil bird, and catches away that which was sown in the heart. You must expect to lose a good deal of your teaching. As farmers drop several beans in the hole and say, “That one is for the worm; this one is for the crow”; then there is another which they hope will spring up, so must we expect it to be with our teaching, much of which will be lost.

Matthew 13:20-21. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

A straw fire blazes fiercely, but lasts not long. And so there are some that we hope are converts who show an extraordinary zeal, and you would fancy that, surely, they would outrun all Christians, but they have not breath. They are not good stayers. They soon cease in the race. They are soon hot — soon cold. And we may expect to have many disappoint meets from persons of this character, and all the more so among children —readily impressed, but easily do they lose the impression.

Matthew 13:22. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

Dear friends, who have to teach the young, you have, in their case, less danger in this respect. They have not yet come to the time when the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches will choke the word. You have some advantage over us, though even the little things of a child’s play may make nettles and thorns. Things which we could not consider to be cares that seem too trivial — are cares to them. It may be that our heavenly Father thinks of our cares very much as we think of our children’s cares, and as we should smile to see them distrustful, so it may be that he smiles and grieves whenever he finds us so, for, mark you, even among God’s own people, God’s Word cannot grow in our hearts at the rate it should, for we have the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches. We must cry to be lifted above these — delivered from the evil influences of the world in which we dwell — or else our good Lord and Master will waste many a handful of good seed upon us, though, I trust, that yet out of us he will get some harvest.

Matthew 13:23. But he that received seed into good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

For all Christians are not alike fruitful. Would God they all reached to the hundredfold, and went beyond it! Such seed, and such a sower, and such fruitful seasons as he has given to some of us, and such ploughing, and such tilling, and such manuring, and such watering, and such sunshine, and such dew — oh! we ought to bring forth a hundredfold. Let us chide ourselves, and whenever we have to complain that we do not get harvest from our sowing, or as much as we could desire, let us look within and say, “My heart, thou art like the field I have to sow. My Master, I fear, gets as little out of thee as I get when I go unsuccessfully to my work.”

This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 13:1-23; Matthew 15:13-28. 1Co 3:17-23.



Matthew 13:1-23

Matthew 13:1-2. The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.

I think I can see the little ship at a convenient distance from the shore so as to keep off the multitudes of people, in order that the Saviour might speak the more freely, there he sits with a boat for a pulpit. There were no conventionalities about the Lord Jesus when he was upon the earth, he was willing to speak to the people anywhere from any pulpit whatsoever

Matthew 13:3. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

It was probably at that season of the year when the sowers were going forth to sow their seed, so Jesus pointed to them as to a living text. He was always wide-awake to make use of everything that occurred round about him. “A sower went forth to sow.” For what else should he go forth? Yet some sowers that I know of do not go forth to sow, but to exhibit themselves, and to show how well they can do their work. This man aimed at sowing and nothing else. Oh, that all preachers did the same!

Matthew 13:4. And when he sowed, some seeds feel by the way side,

He could not help that; he was not sent to pick the soil, that would be too much responsibility for him. If we had to preach only to certain characters, we should be taking up all our time in picking out those characters, and probably we should make many mistakes while trying to do it. Our business is to scatter the good seed broadcast. We are not to dibble in the Word, we are to throw it as far as we can, and to let it fall wherever God pleases. “Some seeds fell by the way side,” — on ground trodden hard by the passers-by.

Matthew 13:4. And the fowls came and devoured them up:

Those fowls are always ready to devour the good seed. Wherever there is a congregation met to hear the Word, there are always plenty of devils ready to do their evil work. “The fowls came,” they had not far to fly. The birds know a sower by the very look of him, so they hurry up, and come wherever the seed may be cast that they may devour it. O Lord, keep the fowls away; or, better still, break up the soil so that the seed may enter, and not lie upon the surface!

Matthew 13:5. Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth:

There was a pan of unbroken limestone an inch or two below the soil, but there was no depth of earth where the seeds could grow.

Matthew 13:5. And forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

They seemed to be converts, but they proved to be worthless. They were enthusiastic, carried away with excitement, but all was soon over with them “because they had no deepness of earth.” Everything was superficial, there was no depth of character, or feeling, or emotion.

Matthew 13:6. And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away

They seemed to be alive at the top, but they were really dead below. How many there are of that sort still; they make a bold profession, but it is only for a while, and then they wither away.

Matthew 13:7-8. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but other fell into good ground, —

Thank God, we do not lose all our efforts. If one in four succeeds, it is great deal for which we ought to praise the Lord. So, brother, sister, —

“Sow in the morn thy seed,

At eve hold not thine hand;

To doubt and fear give thou no heed,

Broadcast it o’er the land.”

Matthew 13:8. And brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

There are degrees even in fruitfulness; Christians are not all alike. Oh, that we had a hundredfold return for our sowing everywhere! We do not get it, and can scarcely expect it; let us thank God if are have “some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.”

Matthew 13:9-12. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciple came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. 

It is so even in common things, the man of intelligence, who has a good groundwork of education, picks up something everywhere, but the ignorant man learns nothing anywhere. He only finds out more and more of his own ignorance till there is taken away from him even that which he had.

Oh, that the Lord would give us a good groundwork of saving knowledge, so that we might go on learning more and more under the Holy Spirit’s teaching!

Matthew 13:13-16. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

It is an awful thing when God gives men up to spiritual blindness, and dullness, and hardness, but it does happen. If you hear the Word, and refuse to receive it, you do to that extent harden your heart; and if you continue to do so, you will by degrees lose the capacity for understanding the Word. Take heed what you hear. O my dear hearers, I am afraid that many of you are not aware of the solemn responsibility of hearing the gospel, and of the terrible peril of having your ears made dull and your heart made hard! I am responsible for preaching to you faithfully, but you are equally responsible for hearing what is preached. Let us not waste any opportunity that we have of hearing the Word, but use it wisely and well that we may be able to give a good account of it before God in our fruitfulness. Now, if the Saviour’s main design, in the use of parables, had been that men should not understand him, he could have answered that end better by not speaking at all. But see how mercy blends with justice, and gives them another opportunity of hearing the Word. They might have come to Jesus even as his disciples did, and asked him questions, and he would have explained the truth to them. If any of you today hear anything which you do not understand, go to the Lord about it in private prayer, and he will explain it to you. I tremble lest any of you should hear the Word and not receive it, and yet be contented. That is the worst state of all for anyone to be in may God save you from it! But as for you who know the lord, “blessed are your eyes, for they see.” Those are blessed eyes that can really see, eyes that cannot see are a trial, but “blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.” It is nothing but the grace of God that can make our ears spiritually hear. He that made the ear can alone make an open passage from the ear to the heart. If you have received this blessing, be very grateful for it, and bless the God of grace for giving it to you.

Matthew 13:17. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

To you Christian people, there is given a very full revelation of the truth of God. You live in the mid-day glory of the gospel, but the “prophets and righteous men” of old lived in the morning twilight. Be the more grateful, and bless the Lord with all your hearts

Matthew 13:18-19. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

There are many such hearers, thy just hear the Word, and that is all. They are very like the countryman, who said that he liked Sunday for it was such an easy day, he had nothing to do but go to church, put up his legs, and think of nothing. There are far too many hearers of that sort who think of nothing, and therefore they get no good out of what they hear.

Matthew 13:20-21. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it, yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

He soon ceases even to profess to be a Christian, he jumped into religion, and he jumps out again. Revival always produce a large quantity of such people, and yet, if there is one soul truly saved, the revival is a success so far as that one is concerned.

Matthew 13:22-23. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; —

Knows what it means, thinks it over, takes it in as the good ground takes in the seed, and keeps it; —

Matthew 13:23. Which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

I say again, — Oh, that we had a hundredfold return for our sowing! Yet let us not forget to give God thanks if we have sixtyfold or even thirtyfold.


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