Eyes That See

“I Once Was Blind”

“The Parable of the Sower”

Today in our Sunday School class that is going through the book of Matthew, we discussed Matthew 13:1-23.  This passage was the reason for naming my blog “Eyes That See” when I started blogging back in the fall.  Shortly after my conversion, I read through the book of Matthew, and chapter 13 struck a chord that resonated with the strings of my heart.  My conversion was definitely a process of God gradually blessing my eyes, ears, and heart until I saw, heard, and understood things that I didn’t before.  My conversion, full of reluctance as it was, took place because God revealed things to me that I didn’t want any part of at the time.  My conversion was not the final result of a search for truth, at the end of which I stood triumphantly because I had figured everything out.  I knew that my conversion would require some sacrifices, most notably that I wouldn’t be able to live my life the way that I wanted to.  My conversion was the final result of seeing things that I wasn’t looking for, at the end of which I was on my knees before a holy and perfect God, the living God who I had turned my back on to pursue my life, my way.  Because God revealed things to me that meant that I could no longer suppress the truth, there is no doubt in my mind that my conversion was the result of His work in me, of His transformation of my eyes, ears, and heart; not the result of anything that I had done.  To my surprise, that transformation is a process that is still going on, rather than one that stopped at conversion.  One thing that is becoming increasingly obvious is that my understanding has an inverse relationship with my reluctance:  the more I understand, the less reluctant I am.

So, I decided to blog about this passage because of the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head since class.  These thoughts have all resulted from the teaching and the comments of the other minds in the class.  In the Bible that I am looking at right now, the passage is broken into three parts, so I will follow that division here.  Verses 1-9 give the setting and the parable, 10-17 is a discussion between Jesus and His disciples over the use of parables, and in 18-23 Jesus explains the parable of the sower.

Jesus is sitting by the sea, and a crowd of people gather around Him.  He “got into a boat and sat down.  And the whole crowd stood on the beach.” (v2)  Then Jesus tells the crowd the parable of the sower:

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (vv3-9)

When the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke to the crowd in parables, His answer was remarkable.  The disciples’ question is very understandable, and you and I might ask the same thing.  This is the Son of God, with infinite and perfect wisdom.  Could He not have dazzled them with His understanding of scripture and constructed the most compelling argument that has ever been made, at the end of which could He not have given an altar call and baptized every hearer?  Instead He spoke to them in parables.  The reason that Jesus gives for His use of parables has implications for the way that we ought to evangelize and the general way that churches ought to function:

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” (v11)

Then Jesus quoted a passage from Isaiah:

“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For 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.” (vv14-15)

He then tells his disciples:

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 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.” (vv16-17)

The truths in the immediate context are these:  It was “given to know” to the disciples, but it was not “given to know” to the crowd that gathered to hear Jesus.  And the eyes and ears of the disciples were blessed, while those who did not see, hear, understand, or return to God/Jesus to be healed, did not have blessed eyes or ears.  Jesus explains that in the parable the “seeds” refers to “the word of the kingdom” (v19), a.k.a. the Gospel, and the success or failure of those seeds in the parable corresponds to the true or false conversion of those who hear “the word of the kingdom.”  Just as the disciples were blessed and chosen to walk with Jesus, and they received the explanations of the parables, we are blessed that they recorded those words for us and we have access to them in the Word. 

I said earlier that Jesus’ reason for using parables had implications for evangelism and churches today.  There are numerous things to draw from this passage, but I think that two that are both important and overlooked are that this passage encourages us to spread the Gospel and to depend on and trust God.  As God incarnate, Jesus knew who it had and had not been “given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.”  We do not have that knowledge, but that is why Jesus gave us this parable.  Even without that knowledge, we can follow Jesus’ lead in the rest of the parable.  As God incarnate, He also had the luxury of the fact that every word from His mouth was the Word of God.  Although that is another luxury that we do not have, the Word of God is available to us in the Holy Bible.  So Jesus’ pattern was to spread the seed- the Word of God- and trust God to do the rest.  The apostle Paul both followed this pattern and encouraged others to do the same, i.e. his admonition to Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).  In Acts 13, we see an example of Paul practicing what he preached, so to speak.  He preached the Word, and verse 48 tells us that “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

The reconciliation of all this is, I believe, that we do the sowing of the seed- sharing the Gospel- and we trust God to do the choosing, the blessing, and the appointing to eternal life.  I also think that we must be careful with this.  Just as it is possible to fall off of a horse to either the left or the right, there are two ways to err with this concept.  To fall off on the other side, so to speak, would be to use God’s sovereignty as an excuse to either not sow the seed or to sow the seed with minimal effort.  We are to trust God and depend on Him, and know that unless He circumcises a heart (Deut 10:16, 30:6; Jer. 4:4, 9:26; Rom. 2:29), the seed will surely fall along the path, on rocky ground, or among the thorns.  Jesus gives us great encouragement in this in John 15:16:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

And in John 14:13-14:

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

In short, we spread the Gospel, ask the Father in Jesus’ name, “that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” God circumcises hearts and it is given to them “to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven,” their ears and eyes are blessed to hear and see, their hearts understand, and the seed thus falls on good soil and produces grain/bears fruit.  As great as understanding of scripture and compelling arguments are, without God they are nothing and will not result in seed that falls on good soil. 

Some may argue that more than the Word of God combined with trust in and dependence on God is necessary in evangelism and/or churches.  To that argument, I would counter that we serve the same living God who used a rock in the desert wilderness to bring forth water for His people; a boy, a sling, and five stones to fell a giant; and horns, trumpets, and shouting to demolish the mighty walls of Jericho.  The mighty arm of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not need to use the means that look good in the eyes of the world.  He has established a pattern of using things that don’t look like they will work, in the hands of people who trust in and depend on Him; and He is greatly glorified in this.

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February 24, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. Amazing word…as usual 🙂

    Comment by tankster | February 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks Tankinger!

    Comment by bigham | February 25, 2008 | Reply


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