VARYING RESPONSES TO THE WORD OF GOD HIGHLIGHT FRUITFULNESS AS THE KEY EVIDENCE OF GENUINE DISCIPLESHIP
Warren Wiersbe: This chapter records the events of a crisis day in the ministry of Jesus Christ. He knew that the growing opposition of the religious leaders would lead to His crucifixion. This fact He had to explain to His disciples. But their logical question would be, “What will happen to the kingdom about which we have been preaching?” That question is answered in this series of parables. So, He first explained the truth concerning the kingdom, and then later explained to them the facts about the cross.
Our Lord’s use of parables puzzled the disciples. He had used some parables in His teaching already, but on that day He gave a series of seven interrelated parables, then added an eighth. The word parable means “to cast alongside.” It is a story, or comparison, that is put alongside something else to help make the lesson clear. But these are not ordinary parables; Jesus called them “the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11). In the New Testament, a “mystery” is a spiritual truth understood only by divine revelation. It is a “sacred secret” known only to those “on the inside” who learn from the Lord and obey Him.
In this series of parables, Jesus explained the course of the gospel in the world. If Israel had received Him as King, the blessings would have flowed out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. But the nation rejected Him, and God had to institute a new program on earth. During this present age, “the kingdom of heaven” is a mixture of true and false, good and bad, as pictured in these parables. It is “Christendom,” professing allegiance to the King, and yet containing much that is contrary to the principles of the King.
Why did Jesus teach in parables? Two reasons were given:
- because of the sluggishness of the people ( 13:10–17) and
- because it was prophesied in Psalm 78:2 ( 13:34–35).
Jesus did not teach in parables to confuse or condemn the people. Rather, He sought to excite their interest and arouse their curiosity. These parables would give light to those with trusting, searching hearts. But they would bring darkness to the unconcerned and unrepentant.
John Walvoord: Chapter 13 faces the question, What will happen when the rejected king goes back to heaven and the kingdom promised is postponed until His second coming? The concept of a kingdom postponed must be understood as a postponement form the human side and not form the divine, as obviously God’s plans do not change. . .
This chapter, accordingly, does not only introduce a new subject and a new approach but also involves a new method of teaching, namely that of parables. . . As Tasker expresses it, “Jesus deliberately adopted the parabolic method of teaching at a particular stage in His ministry for the purpose of withholding further truth about Himself and the kingdom of heaven from the crowds, who had proved themselves to be deaf to his claims and irresponsive to His demands . . . From now onwards, when addressing the unbelieving multitude, He speaks only in parables (34), which he interprets to his disciples in private.
David Thompson: JESUS CHRIST USES PARABLES TO TEACH WHAT GOD’S PROGRAM WILL BECOME ON EARTH UNTIL HE COMES BACK AS JUDGE TO ULTIMATELY SET UP HIS KINGDOM.
If you read most commentators, they will suggest that there are seven parables in this chapter. . . However, if we carefully look at the chapter we discover that technically there are eight because verse 52 presents the “Householder.”
In these parables, Jesus describes what will happen on earth in the arena of religion until He comes back to eventually establish His kingdom.
Daniel Doriani: Although the seed is the same, the results vary. The controlling factor is the character of the soils. The farmer does his work, but the results hinge on the nature of the soil on which the seed falls.
Walter Wilson: The action stops so that the audience can hear Jesus deliver another speech, this time employing figurative language to portray the profound—and often mysterious—impact that the arrival of the kingdom is having on the world. On a more specific level, the speech provides the audience with a series of pictures that explain the unresponsiveness Jesus has experienced from “the world” up to this point, the emphasis throughout falling on the dual images of contrast and separation. Accordingly, before beginning the discourse, Jesus is seen physically separating himself from the audience, sitting in a boat while the crowds stand on the shore. In the first part of the speech, acceptance of the kingdom message is likened to bearing fruit, while non-acceptance is visualized as different kinds of agricultural failure. Despite the lavish manner in which the farmer sows seed, three of the four soils yield no harvest, though the good soil seems to compensate for this series of setbacks by producing a bumper crop. Before describing the meaning of this imagery to the disciples, Jesus shows to them why he is using parables in the first place, that is, by describing the people he has been trying to reach as having closed ears and hardened hearts. He then shifts the viewer’s attention to those who do hear and do see, namely, the disciples themselves, who are the beneficiaries of Jesus’s ministry because they have been gifted with divine revelation. The interpretation of the imagery, then, reveals that it is to be interpreted symbolically, inasmuch as practically every detail of the description is assigned meaning. Jesus’s final (and perhaps most important) point is that a great harvest awaits the disciples, thanks both to the work of the sower and the generosity of God, the ultimate source of all growth. . .
In the parable itself, the sowing of the seed has the effect of revealing the nature of the different kinds of soil upon which it falls, either good or bad. According to the parable’s internal logic, the reason for success or failure is attributable neither to the sower nor to the seed, but entirely to the condition of the soil, which cannot be altered. By the same token, the soil is incapable of producing fruit on its own but for this relies on the initiative of the sower. Without his seed, even the good soil lies dormant. The fact that three of the parable’s four scenarios report failure with respect to productivity communicates a pessimism that accords with the basic narrative trajectory observed in the previous section (chapters 11–12). The “sower” encounters mostly non-acceptance, though there are still some who produce “fruit” by obeying the will of their heavenly Father (cf. 12:50).
Van Parunak: The main purpose of the parable, revealed in the interpretation, is instructing those who sow what they should expect in their ministry. We are not to be discouraged because of lack of response. The nature of the field in which we labor is that it is beset by birds, stones, and thorns, and we are to expect this full range of responses.
(:1-3a) TRANSITION IN TEACHING APPROACH
A. (:1-2) Teaching Environment
“On that day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea.
2 And great multitudes gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole multitude was standing on the beach.”
Michael Wilkins: Local tradition locates the place of this discourse at a distinctive inlet called the “Cove of the Parables.” It lies approximately a mile (1.5 km) southwest of Capernaum, halfway to the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount near Tabgha. The land slopes down like a natural, horseshoe-shaped amphitheater around the cove, providing environmental acoustics for Jesus’ voice to have carried over one hundred meters from the boat to a crowd of perhaps hundreds gathered on the shore. Israeli scientists have tested the acoustics in modern times and found them to be realistic for Jesus’ parables to have been heard.
John MacArthur: “On the same day, He went out of the house and He sat by the seaside.” Now, I know that’s just a geographical footnote, and I know it doesn’t convey any profound spiritual truth.
And I suppose I stopped at that point and said to myself, “Why is all that there? Why does it even bother to say that. It doesn’t even really matter?” You could have started in verse 3, “He spoke many things unto them in parables.” You don’t even need one and 2, because 1 says, “He went out of the house and sat at the seaside,” and 2 says, “Great multitudes were gathered together unto Him, so that He went into a boat and sat, and the whole multitude stood on the shore.” Is that important?
Well, I think it’s important if for no other reason than just as an interesting way to remember the transition here. If we can extend ourselves a little bit and use this as an illustration or a symbol…though that is not its purpose or intention…it can serve as an illustration for us. We could liken the house to what group of people? Israel.
And throughout Scripture the sea is likened to what group of people? Gentiles. And we can remember the chapter’s transitional nature by remembering that as Jesus went out of the house and to the sea, at this point He turns from Israel to the Gentiles. Something new is happening. He’s left the house. This serves as an illustration, a symbol of a sort.
B. (:3a) Teaching Methodology = Parables
“And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,”
Michael Wilkins: Parables have distinctively different purposes for the crowd and for the disciples. Jesus has already given several parables, but this is the first time that Matthew uses the term “parable” (parabolē). Underlying the term parable is the Hebrew māšāl, which refers to a wide spectrum of ideas based on comparison or analogy, including by-word, proverb, wisdom sayings, and story. As used by Jesus, the parable is a way of communicating truth through a narrative analogy in the service of moral or spiritual argument. They are often deeply, even frustratingly, perplexing. The analogies or comparisons Jesus uses to make his point come from everyday experiences, but they press the listener to search for the intended meaning. That is why in popular preaching Jesus’ parables are often referred to as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.”
Daniel Doriani: They are like jokes: they catch us up in a story, then spring a surprise, a punch line, at the end. They are like illustrations: they make a lesson memorable by engaging the imagination. They are like allegories: the surface meaning may not be its deepest or final meaning.
Walter Wilson: The reader of chapter 13 knows that Jesus’s words are intended not only to instruct but also to divide. From this perspective, the discourse can be seen to blend elements of wisdom discourse, with its emphasis on fruitfulness of speech and action, with elements of apocalyptic discourse, with its emphasis on the problem of evil, the revelation of transcendent mysteries, and the “gathering” of God’s holy people.
John Walvoord: The first paragraph does not have the precise formula of the later paragraphs: “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto,” but is, rather, an introductory parable, serving as a basis for all that follows.
Van Parunak: Parables do not simplify the truth. They are actually a means of hiding the truth from those who are not really interested, and forcing the hearer to think more closely about what is being said. This role of parables explains why this is the first time Matthew uses the term of our Lord’s teaching. Matthew reserves the term for enigmatic sayings that the Lord begins to employ at the Great Schism, when the Pharisees have made up their minds to destroy him.
I. (:3b-9) PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND THE SOILS
(:3b) Prerequisite to the Variety of Responses to the Sowing of the Seed
“Behold, the sower went out to sow;”
The bottom line is that there will be no response to the gospel message apart from the sowing of the seed of the Word of God. This must be the starting point.
Michael Wilkins: Jesus’ listeners are well aware of farming techniques, because most everyone took care of his own fields and gardens or worked the fields of his landlord. We are not certain of the type of seed that the sower (NIV “farmer”) was sowing, but we may think of wheat to help illustrate the scene, since wheat was one of the most important crops in Israel, and it appears as the subject of a later parable (13:24–30).
A. (:4) Hard Hearts — Paved Road – Word Snatched Away
“and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”
Michael Wilkins: Seed was sown “broadcast” style by scattering it in all directions by hand while walking up and down the field. The average rate of sowing wheat varies from twenty pounds per acre (22.5 kilograms per hectare) upward, which allowed for wasted seed. Fields were apparently plowed both before the seed was sown and after, plowing across the original furrows to cover the seeds with soil. The desired depth of plowing under wheat seed was usually one to three inches (2.5 to 7.5 centimetres), but it could be less in certain areas where the topsoil was shallow. In the rabbinic listing of the thirty-nine main classes of work, plowing follows sowing (m. Ṣabb. 7:2). It was common for seed to be scattered on the hard paths that surrounded the fields. Birds would swoop down as the farmer walked on and eat the seed.
John MacArthur: Now, in Palestine which was just literally crisscrossed with fields, the fields were usually long, narrow strips and men could’ cultivate those fields. The strips were separated from other strips and other fields by paths, the paths being about three feet or so wide, narrow paths.
Those were used by the farmer to get in between the fields to get to whatever field he wanted to reach. They were also used by the travelers who were going from one part of the country to another. We find even in Matthew chapter 12, that the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples were walking through the fields of grain. And no doubt they were walking on those little paths that were for that purpose. There were no fences around the fields, there were no walls surrounding the fields, just these little narrow paths for travelers and for the farmer to get around in his area.
And no doubt this is what the Lord has in mind when He talks about the wayside. The dirt would then be packed down, beaten hard, uncultivated, never turned over, never loosened. And by all of the continual pounding and pounding, and because of the dryness of that part of the world it would be compacted to the point where it was like a road. It was as hard as pavement. . .
God does not call on us to create our own message. God says, “Take that which has already been sown and sow it again.” We are not to produce a new supply of information. We are to build upon the revelation of the Word of God and we are utterly dependent, then, upon divine revelation as much as we are dependent on God creating the seed in the first place which reproduces itself and brings to us the fruit that we eat even today. So, the seed is the Word. The seed is the Word.
And may I just add as a footnote, that the Word encompasses the written word but inside of it is the living word. It’s as if the Bible is the husk and the living Christ is the seed within the husk. So, initially, it’s Christ sowing the Word of God containing the seed, which is Himself. He is both sower and seed. We are the sowers who sow the seed. The husk is the Word of God and in it contains the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. (:5-6) Shallow Hearts — Rocky Places – No Root – Superficial Interest Only
“And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.”
Michael Wilkins: Conditions for farming in many areas of Israel were not favorable. The hardships that many people experienced included insufficient amounts of water and soil. The terrain in most cases was uneven and rocky, with only thin layers of soil covering the rock. Seed that landed on this shallow soil could begin to germinate, but it couldn’t put down deep roots to collect what little moisture was in that parched thin layer of earth. Sprouting seed would soon wither and die in the hot sun (13:6). James gives a fitting commentary: “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed” (James 1:11).
John MacArthur: And so right beneath the soil is this hard rock bed and as the seed falls in and begins to germinate and tries to shoot its roots down, they hit the rock bed. They have nowhere to go. All of the moisture and the sun that’s there generates life upward so they spring up, probably higher than the other grain and the other seed which is going both ways and using its energy to go both ways. This flourishes immediately, but when the sun comes out, it dies because its roots are not strong enough to maintain moisture or to find moisture, and the rock bed hinders them and it dies in the heat of the summer. . .
This is the person who hears the Word and immediately with joy receives it. And the indication is that there’s not a lot of thought involved. It’s just sort of a quick response, a wow, you know. It’s sort of emotional, sort of euphoria, sort of instant excitement without counting the cost, without understanding the real significance.
C. (:7) Distracted Hearts — Thorns – Word Choked Out
“And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.”
D. (:8) Receptive Hearts — Good Soil – Fruitful Disciple
“And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
(:9) Exhortation to Receptivity
“He who has ears, let him hear.”
Donald Hagner: The phrase “who has ears” refers to a receptivity concerning the underlying truth of the parable. It amounts to an appeal to hear positively and to respond appropriately. The same exhortation is found verbatim in v 43 and 11:15.
Van Parunak: Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. — Here is our first clue that the Lord does not intend his words to be understood by all. He is picking up a consistent theme throughout the Scriptures, that begins in the Pentateuch, runs through the prophets and the Psalms, and extends into the Revelation, where it ends each of the letters to the seven churches. As with other cases of such repetition throughout Scripture, it is worthwhile to trace the development of the idea.
The command to hear lies at the root of God’s covenant with Israel. Through Moses, God gave Israel their basic confession, which they were to write upon the doorposts of their homes and bind upon their foreheads and their hands, begins with this central command:
Deu 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
This command is called the Shema, which is the Hebrew word with which it begins, the command “Hear.” The Lord alludes to it repeatedly in this chapter.
Note two features of this command. They are to hear attentively, and they are to love the Lord exclusively. If you love the Lord with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your might, there isn’t any part of you that’s left to love anything else.
Now let’s recall two characteristics of the Babylonian captivity, when Israel ceased to be a nation. The history of Israel is one of repeated failures to hear, and when the major prophets come to warn of the coming captivity, each of them speaks of ears that do not hear. Jeremiah and Ezekiel in particular use a phrase very like our Lord’s (chart):
Jer 5:21 Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:
Eze 12:2 Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house.
So the nation violated the first part of Deut 6:4. They did not hear. They also violated the second part, the command to love the Lord alone. The captivity results not only from a failure to hear, but also from Israel’s infatuation with pagan gods, going all the way back to the golden calf in the wilderness, the failures in the book of Judges, and Solomon’s support of his wives’ deities. The captivity was a graphic enforcement of the people’s choice of other gods:
Jer 16:10 And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? … 11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, … 13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.
Because they chose to serve other gods, the Lord put them in a totally pagan environment where they could experience the depravity of those gods to the full.
I’ve called your attention to two features of the eighth century prophets: their reference to the ear that can’t hear, and the idolatry against which they preached and that ultimately led the people into the captivity of which they warn. There is a connection between them. We have seen that already from the Shema, which warns against them both. This same connection is made evident in scriptures that were probably written after the captivity.
The fifth book of the Psalter (107-150) contains many psalms that by their content give evidence of being written during or after the exile. The most notable example is Psalm 137,
Psa 137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
Two of these psalms, 115 and 135, draw a striking connection between idols and ears that can’t hear. Here is the passage in Psalm 115; 135:15-18 is very similar.
Psa 115:4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6 They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7 They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. 8 They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.
These Psalms contain a very deep insight. If we have made up our mind to follow our own idols, we are not willing to understand the Lord’s commands. It’s not so much that we cannot hear, as that we will not hear. Spiritual hearing problems can often be traced to a divided loyalty, to something else in our lives that we are not willing to give up, that is pulling us away from the Lord.
Our Lord uses the exhortation of v. 9 three times in Matthew: here, again in v. 43 after the parable of the tares, and once previously in 11:15 after describing John the Baptist as Elijah. The next time we see it is in the Revelation. It concludes the warnings to each of the seven churches:
Rev 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; [also 2:11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22]
When we remember that these are Gentile churches, planted in idolatrous communities, the warning is particularly appropriate. Believers in an unbelieving world are particularly susceptible to being seduced by the idols worshipped by their friends and neighbors, and need to remember their first loyalty. The final occurrence is when the beast out of the sea appears in ch. 13. Again, the encouragement to hear is in contrast with the worship of a false deity:
Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.
Not everyone who hears words actually understands what they say. The response to the Lord in Matt 12 suggests that many who might be thought most likely to understand, actually are dull of hearing. And the OT background of the Lord’s warning in 13:9 suggests a reason for this hardness: pre-commitment to an alternative god, in this case their own pride and prestige. Here is a sober warning to us not to confuse knowledge of the words of Scripture with understanding and obedience.
II. (:10-17) PURPOSE OF PARABLES IN GENERAL – TIED TO THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
A. (:10) What’s the Point?
“And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’”
Donald Hagner: Parables function in a dual manner. For those who have responded positively to Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom, the parables convey further insight and knowledge, while for those who have rejected Jesus and his message, the parables have the effect of only darkening the subject further. Thus belief and commitment lead to further knowledge; unbelief leads to further ignorance.
B. (:11-12) Purpose of Both Revealing and Concealing at the Same Time
- (:11) Sovereign Election Reflected in Revelation and Illumination
“And He answered and said to them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.’”
John Walvoord: Mysteries . . . refers to truth that was not revealed in the Old Testament but is revealed in the New Testament. . . It is not necessarily a reference to a truth difficult to understand, but rather to truths that can be understood only on the basis of divine revelation.
The Old Testament reveals, in clear terms, the earthly reign of Christ when he comes as King to reign on the throne of David (which truths are not mysteries). Matthew 13 introduces a different form of the kingdom, namely the present spiritual reign of the King during the period He is physically absent from the earth, prior to His second coming. The mysteries of the kingdom, accordingly, deal with the period between the first and second advent of Christ and not the millennial kingdom which will follow the second coming.
Homer Kent: The glories of the Messianic reign were clearly sketched in the OT. But the rejection of Messiah and the interval between his first and second comings was not understood. These parables describe the strange form of the Kingdom while the King is absent, during which time the Gospel is preached and a spiritual nucleus is developed for the establishment of the Messianic reign (Co. 1:13; Mt 25:34).
- (:12) Receptivity / Accountability Tied to Divine Initiative in Revealing / Concealing
“For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”
C. (:13) Purpose of Veiling the Truth
“Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see,
and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.”
Daniel Doriani: Jesus says he veils his truth from his foes as punishment for their unbelief (13:13). Jesus speaks in parables because seeing they do not see and hearing they do not hear and understand. That is, because they failed to heed the evidence they had, Jesus’ parables now hide the word, taking it away from people even as they stand before Jesus.
Amos says it this way: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). It is an acute judgment for God to remove his word from people who have heard it and rejected it. They are left with the silence of God.
D. (:14-15) Prophetic Support from Isaiah
“And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15 For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes Lest they should see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I should heal them.’”
E. (:16-17) Purpose of Blessing Believing Disciples with the Mysteries of the Kingdom
- (:16) Receptivity of Kingdom Mysteries = Sign of Divine Blessing
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.”
- (:17) Revelation Coupled with Illumination = Blessing of Great Privilege
“For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
III. (:18-23) PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND THE SOILS INTERPRETED
(:18) Exhortation to Receptivity
“Hear then the parable of the sower.”
A. (:19) Hard Hearts — Paved Road – Word Snatched Away
“When 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 the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.”
B. (:20-21) Shallow Hearts — Rocky Places – No Root – Superficial Interest Only
“And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.”
C. (:22) Distracted Hearts — Thorns – Word Choked Out
“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
John MacArthur: “And the care of this age – ” Worldliness, folks – “and the deceitfulness of riches – ” which is the heart and soul of worldliness. Living for the mundane, living for the things of this world, the cares of this age. Your career, your house, your car, your job, your wardrobe, your prestige, your looks.
D. (:23) Receptive Hearts — Good Soil – Fruitful Disciple
“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”
J. Ligon Duncan: There is a final soil that the Lord Jesus speaks of and it is the only soil which is believing. Don’t be fooled! There are people who will preach this parable as if it describes three kinds of Christians and one kind of unbeliever. Don’t you believe it. The Lord Jesus Christ has already defined for you what a believer is: “One who does the will of Him who sent Me.” And in this final soil, in verse 8 and verse 23, we see a fruitful heart. This is the person who hears and obeys and lives and blesses others by the kingdom message. One thing and one thing only distinguishes the good ground, the good soil, from the rest: fruitfulness.
John Walvoord: As this parable makes plain, there is no anticipating in the present age that there will be universal reception of the truth, as postmillenarians teach. Most of those who hear the message of the kingdom will reject it. Some, however, will receive the message, cherish it in their heart, and believe in the truth of the kingdom. This first parable establishes the basic character of the present age, awaiting the return of the rejected King. The age will include some who believe, many who will not believe.