Exactly How Did This Sowing Work on the Ministry of Jesus?
By Richard Allen – December 11, 2023
No discussion of the Parable of the Soils would be complete if I fail to observe what Sowing the seed looked like in the Life of Jesus. Make no mistake, Jesus was the Sower whom Psalm 126 spoke of:
“He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).
If we review the Gospels from a purely human perspective, we see Jesus indiscriminately sowing the good seed of the Kingdom to all groups and kinds of people: The poor, the rich, the sick, the healthy, those who were participating in open sin, and those whose sin was masked by an outwardly moral life. He preached to men and women, slaves and free men, suffered the “little children” to come to Him and didn’t flee when confronted by a group of Lepers. Jesus took special interest in those who were broken by their sin, including a woman caught in a sexually immoral act and a demon-possessed man running around naked in a graveyard. Also noted by Jesus was a collector of Roman taxes who was too short to see Jesus over the crowd. There were also distressed parents who wanted Jesus to heal their sick children. He fed the hungry who were with Him all day and had no food. He even dialogued with religious leaders who came to inquire who He was and who had authorized Him to speak for God. Jesus altered His communication style as well. He rebuked the hypocrites – yet to the downtrodden and poor He was merciful and kind. He even showed great patience conversing with a young ruler who had worldly wealth, and received a religious leader fearful of being seen with Him. This man approached stealthily by night. It’s clear that Jesus sowed the good seed far and wide to everyone. These examples align with the supposed picture of “indiscriminate sowing” that the Parable of the Soils presents.
More important, we learn from the Gospels and New Testament Epistles there was another “discriminate and intentional sowing of the seed in the hands of the Holy Spirit.” Nothing else explains the varied responses from Jesus’ different hearers. Many of the poor received him gladly; others were intent on forcibly removing Him from their city and throwing Him off a cliff. Others still stood dumbfounded as Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in their Synagogue – questioning “is this not the Carpenter’s son whose family we know?” Jesus sowed the good seed to Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles, showing great patience to a Syrophoenician woman who was hurting and in need of relief. He even showed great deference toward a Roman Centurion wanting his servant to be healed, recognizing that “Jesus was also a man in authority,” ruling over the physical world of sickness and health. While He spoke the Gospel indiscriminately to all different kinds of people, we would be mistaken if we thought their outward standing and differences somehow equated with the different kinds of Soils – they do not! Among all types of people, races, stations, genders, classes and behaviors, we see the same variety of Soils as in our Parable: 1.) The Hard-Hearted Hearer, 2.) The Shallow-Hearted Hearer, 3.) The Divided-Hearted Hearer, and 4.) The Good-Hearted Hearer. We must remember that only Good-Hearted Hearers were souls whom God the Holy Spirit “discriminately” drew to Christ using the Plow of Regeneration!
It’s here we witness the Parable of the Soils from a “divine perspective” as Jesus interacts with a variety of people, some we might not think worthy of Jesus’ attention. One moment He takes time to sow the seed to despicable souls who’ve descended to the depths of human depravity, and in the next moment, Jesus, showing no favoritism, ignores those in positions of authority and power. God is certainly “no respecter of persons.” Again, we see Him go out of His way to visit a sinful, broken Samaritan woman, too ashamed to draw water in public. And then we see Jesus rebuke the Ruler of a Synagogue for his snooty pride and condemnation of another woman of ill-repute. And to the Ruler’s face Jesus commended this woman’s love and devotion over the Ruler’s snooty religious pride. The point I’m making in all these examples is, in the real world of fallen men and women it's hard for us to determine or predict God’s purposes in the life of other fallen sinners. There are times when the apparent outward behavior belies God’s Sovereign workings in the hearts and minds of people. One of my favorite examples is:
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:28-32).
There is a Psychology to human responses to the sowing of the seed, or the Call of the Gospel. Some Bible teachers are convinced that the Call to Repent and Believe is an invitation to a “better life, healing of all your physical and relational problems and giving you prosperity and success in whatever endeavors you are seeking in life.” I’m not trying to say that God doesn’t bless His Children and put our lives back in order, but I will contend that the offer of forgiveness for sins in the Gospel is not meant as a “pitch to enjoy your best life!” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Not a marketing pitch to offer us a “successful life in the flesh,” but rather “a command to repent and believe.” And the results are exactly the same as The Parable of the Soils has taught us. Some wouldn’t hear, others followed for a while, others still were divided because they had many worries and cares that drew their affections away from Christ. And yet we see a hardy group of men and women who follow Jesus, sometimes at great cost. The Gospel Call is not an invitation to a better life, it’s a command to die to sin and self, and live a new life unto God! Here’s how Paul, the Apostle, explains the Call of the Gospel to secular Gentiles in Athens. Acts 17:29-31 states:
“Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed; and of this He has given assurance to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Wow, God “commands all people everywhere to repent!” This doesn’t sound like the old sentimental Fanny Crosby hymn: “Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling.“ To be honest, that old hymn is completely apropos when it’s addressed to believers. But often we make the “sowing of the seed,” that is the “Call of the Gospel” to unbelievers, sound like God is “begging and pleading for poor sinners to just give Jesus a chance.” I’ve even heard these namby-pamby preachers say: “He loves you so much and wants you to have the ‘good life’ so badly that He’ll do almost anything to get you to receive the Word and believe.” That is not the sowing of the seed we see in the Scriptures. In our modern presentation Repentance is mostly removed. And we never make any mention of “counting the cost” of discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran Pastor who resisted and then was executed by the Nazis in 1945, refers to this faulty “sowing of the seed” as not the presentation of the Gospel Call, but rather as Cheap Grace:
“That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sins departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him. Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must the asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” [https://bibleportal.com/sermon/Dietrich-Bonhoeffer/cheap-grace]
If we stop to contemplate the very Call of the Gospel, that is the Sowing of the Seed, we hopefully see that it’s a call to which none of us, no not one, can respond in our fallen state. God is asking us to renounce this present world and flee to His Son Jesus Christ for life! He’s asking us to trust Him who is “invisible to our naked eye,” and “live our lives in devotion to Jesus and the cause of the Gospel.” Let me leave you with several verses from John’s Gospel, where the Apostle explains “who it is who receives the seed, and why it is that it produces a harvest.”
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to his own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in his name (i.e. received the seed), He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13).
There’s no way around it. John tells us that the only ones who received the Seed were “Born of God.” This ties in well with our next installments in the Parable of the Soils. We’ll be looking at John’s Gospel and Nicodemus’ visit!
Soli Deo Gloria!