A Message from the Master Broadcaster

Matthew 13:1-23


Broadcasting is the communication of a message through various forms of media.  You might find it interesting to note broadcasting took place years before radio and television.  In fact, the concept of broadcasting has an agricultural meaning.  According to one dictionary the term “broadcast” can mean “To sow (seed) over a wide area, especially by hand.”

Dr. Kenneth O. Gangel (1935-2009) explains, “The word ‘parable’ comes from the Greek word parabole, which literally means to cast alongside.”[1]  We see the image of broadcasting in this particular parable of our Lord.  This parable found in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, is known as “The Parable of the Sower.”

Dr. Robert Duncan Culver shares in The Life of Christ, “In His own time, Jesus was not thought to be doing anything unusual when, as a Jewish rabbi, He employed many parables in His discourses.  The Old Testament itself furnishes a good many literary pieces which would fall into that category.  If we regard the parable as an extended figure of speech, we may rightly say it is part of the genius of the Old Testament poets and prophets.  The rabbis in Jesus’ time were adept in the use of parables.”[2]

Dr. James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) explains, “Parables are different from fables in that a fable is not a real situation.  An example of a fable is any of Aesop’s [620-564 B.C.] stories, in which animals talk.  In these stories the animals are simply people in disguise.  Parables are also different from allegories, since in an allegory each or nearly each detail has meaning.  C. S. Lewis’ [1898-1963] tales of Narnia are essentially allegories.  In the parables of Jesus not every detail has meaning.  Indeed, to try to force that meaning produces strange and even demonstrably false doctrines.  Parables are merely real-life stories from which one or possibly a few basic truths are drawn.”[3]

Permit me to share three points from the passage.

I. First, we have the parable publicly expressed.  (Matthew 13:1-9)

Jesus proclaims a parable in His communication.  There are four types of soil.  He says, “He who has ears to hear let him hear” (Matthew 13:9).

Whitney T. Kuniholm shares in The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through The Bible’s Greatest Story, “Perhaps the most famous of these parables is the first, about ‘the sower’ (vv. 3-9).  Jesus’ description of a solitary farmer spreading seed by hand has been the subject of great paintings by Jean-Francios Millet (1851), Vincent van Gogh (1888) and many others.  And even though most of us don’t live in agrarian societies today Jesus’ reflections on where the seed fell still communicates an important truth about the Word of God: it must be received and nurtured in order to bear fruit in our lives.”[4]

II. Second, we have the parable plainly exposed.  (Matthew 13:10-17)

Jesus provides a straightforward, guileless expose of His use of parables.  We find the principle of parables in Isaiah 6:9-10, where we read, “And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people:  ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; / Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’  ‘  Make the heart of this people dull, / And their ears heavy, / And shut their eyes; / Lest they see with their eyes, / And hear with their ears, / And understand with their heart, / And return and be healed.”

Jesus’ parables could conceal or reveal the truth.  He mercifully employed this method to communicate His message.  Peter preaching on Solomon’s Portico, said to the Israelites in Acts 3:17, “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”  The multitudes of Israelites merely followed the commands of a few religious leaders.  Therefore, Jesus prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 2:7 and 8, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960) tells of two men who robbed a jewelry store.  One had a law degree.  The other hadn’t finished high school.  The police arrested the men, and a judge found them guilty, sentencing the high school dropout to three years in prison.  But the lawyer received a ten-year sentence.  When asked why, the judge replied, ‘Because the one who knew the law is under greater responsibility to keep it.’  We read in Luke 12:48b, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

Whitney T. Kuniholm asks and answers, “Why did Jesus rely so much on parables (v.10)?  The answer has to do with our willingness to receive his message.  To learn from Jesus’ parable with humility and faith, which is something many of his listeners lacked (v. 58).  By quoting Isaiah (vv. 14-15) Jesus is saying that those who understand with their heads only, that is, without believing, don’t really understand it at all.  To enter the kingdom of heaven requires knowledge and belief.  That’s what it means to ‘understand with your heart’ (v. 15).”[5]

III. Third, we have the parable privately explained.  (Matthew 13:18-23)

Jesus produces a detailed explanation of His intention in the parable to His disciples in private.  Remember, Jesus proclaimed this parable in public.

Jesus explains the seed is the Word of God.  We read in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

We are called to be faithful not successful.  Jesus shares “the divine law of percentages”.  He explains the four types of soil illustrate the response of four types of hearers.  Jesus reminds us that some hearers demonstrate hardness like the beaten path of packed earth.  Jesus further characterizes others by their shallowness using the picture of a stone ledge beneath a thin layer of soil.  Still others receive the seed of the Word with the thorns of worldliness that choke out the Word.  Thankfully, some hear the Word and receive it productively and have a measure of fruitfulness.  Jesus mentions that some of these have a 100 fold yield, others 60 fold, and still others 30 fold.

Dr. Ken Keathley, Senior Vice President of Academic Administration and Dean of the Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently preached a message on the Parable of the Sower.  In it he shares the following descriptive designations, “Sidewalk, Rocky Top, Kudzu, or Garden Plot”.[6]  What type of soil best describes the condition of your heart?

Some are “a flash in the pan” as we think of prospectors panning for gold.  Just because you see a yellow flash of light does not mean it is gold.  See Acts 24:24-25, where we read, “And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.  Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’”

Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs (1907-1995) explains in his commentary on The Gospel of Matthew, “The things of God cannot be comprehended by men with fleshly minds, for they must be spiritually discerned.  To some even the gospel is a stumbling block and foolishness.  But to those who believe in Christ, it is the power and wisdom of God.  If men do not understand it, they have not one to blame but themselves.”[7]

Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost warns, “Many find no profit in the Word taught in Sunday school or preached Sunday morning because of what they did Saturday night.  They thought they were having a time of entertainment or relaxation, not realizing Satan was preparing them to ‘hear’ a sermon with deaf ears.”[8]


From Hebrews 1:1-4, we read, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,  has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.”

We have a message from the Master Broadcaster to broadcast to the world!  We read in Psalm 126:5-6, “Those who sow in tears / Shall reap in joy.  He who continually goes forth weeping, / Bearing seed for sowing, / Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, / Bringing his sheaves with him.”  Paul the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”  We read in Acts 8:4, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”  This is proclamation evangelism a fulfillment of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20, where we read, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’  Amen.”

Remember, a disciple is a learner and teaching is doctrine.  Every truly grateful disciple boldly declares, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  Paul defines the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Do you remember the song titled, “Let the Whole World Know”?  As believers we are to be broadcasters not salesmen.  Dr. Kenneth O. Gangel reminds us “Most commentators accept the image of a single farmer who, with a bag slung over his shoulder, is using the broadcast approach to fling seed to the wind as he walks through the field.  The point is that the gospel is to be proclaimed to all men.  Each then becomes responsible for what he does with it.  Certainly, the same is true of the communication of God’s truth within the more narrow realm of church teaching.”[9]

This parable reminds us many times the problem is with the receiver not the sender of the message.  May each one of us properly receive a message from the Master Broadcaster.

[1]Kenneth O. Gangel, “Text for Teachers: The Parable of the Soils” (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

[2]Robert Duncan Culver, The Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976, 1988), pp. 151

[3]James Montgomery Boice, “The Seed And the Soil” (Matthew 13:1-23)

[4]Whitney T. Kuniholm, The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through The Bible’s Greatest Story (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect, 2007), p. 108

[5]Whitney T. Kuniholm, The Essential Jesus: 100 Readings Through The Bible’s Greatest Story (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Connect, 2007), pp. 108-109

[6]Ken Keathley, “Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:1-23)

[7]Herschel H. Hobbs, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972) [Cited by Kenneth O. Gangel, “Text for Teachers: The Parable of the Soils” (Matthew 13:1-23)

[8]J. Dwight Pentecost, “That Unseen Struggle” (Matthew 13:1-24)

[9]Kenneth O. Gangel,  “Text for Teachers: The Parable of the Soils” (Matthew 13:1-23)


Franklin L. Kirksey
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