Rejection or Acceptance
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
2And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.
4And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,
6but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.
7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
8Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
9He who has ears, let him hear.”
10Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.
12For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
13This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
17For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
18“Hear then the parable of the sower:
19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.
20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,
21yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
23As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
As our march through Matthew has progressed, we have watched as Jesus heals the sick, raises the dead, calms the storms, and casts out demons. Those following Him saw all of this and yet very few have become ardent disciples. Many are simply curious observers. They have not made the trip from unbelief to faith. They are willing to eat the food He creates, receive the healing of physical pain He can bring, and marvel at His command over nature. But they are unwilling to trust in Him as the Messiah. These are the people Jesus discusses with His Disciples in our passage for today.
The Disciples wonder aloud about the change in Jesus’ approach to the people. Now He speaks in parables? Why the change? Jesus takes a few moments to teach the disciples about the different between the casual observer and those who are willing to believe. The parable of The Sower fits perfectly into Jesus’ explanation. Although the Word is cast out to everyone without regard for race or color not everyone one becomes a believer. God graciously extends to all the forgiveness of sins, but only a few respond with faith. This faith is created by God, lest we believe we had anything to do with it and God alone is responsible for our belief. For Matthew, the difference between those who embrace the Lord and those who reject is stark. He has three groups to observe. First, there are the Disciples; those who have been called by the Lord Jesus to follow Him. (It bears pointing out that even among the Twelve was Judas, who ultimately rejects Jesus and His Lordship.) Second, there are the crowds. Among these people we find some who believe and become the makings of the early church. Third, there are the Pharisees who stand directly in the path of Jesus and His message of salvation with hatred and rejection. For Matthew, the difference between those who receive Jesus and those who reject is fairly plain.
Just as the Old Testament prophets were largely rejected and persecuted, so is Jesus. Thus we have the recitation of Isaiah 6:9-10. As the message of Isaiah and Jesus are the same, so are the responses. Jesus ministry seems to be bearing little fruit! Note that in the parable of The Sower, only 25% of the seed actually grows into fruit bearing plants. As Jesus spreads the message of the Kingdom of God there are relatively few who actually want to follow Him.
It is important to note here that while Isaiah’s ministry was doomed, for few heeded his voice, He carried on anyway. Even though Jesus didn’t have thousands falling at His feet during His three year ministry, He still fulfilled His role as our Savior. And even those listening to and embracing His teaching (who go on to become The Apostles) were all martyred, save one (John-although he was persecuted). The Kingdom of God is difficult. But God doesn’t give up as is evidenced by those of us who love Him still today.