Book Reflection // August 6, 2022
The Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice
Chapter 1 // Matthew 13:1-23
In this book by Boice, he classifies this parable as one dealing with the Kingdom of God. In particular he marks this particular parable as unique in this category since it is dealing more so with the origin of the Kingdom. Meaning that this specific parable is focused more on the beginnings of the spreading of the grace and gospel of Christ throughout the world. The uniqueness of this parable is that Jesus uses the picture of seeds being scattered and planted in different types of soil to represent the different stages of readiness to receive the gospel message of hope and salvation – hard heart, shallow heart, strangled heart, and an open heart.
The Hard Heart
Jesus begins this parable by introducing us to the hard heart of an unreceptive soil. The soil along the path has been trampled down and is densely compacted and unreceptive. This soil has been walked on and trampled over for years and years. It is like a well-worn path on a trail through the woods or a meadow. There may be growth and plant life to the sides of the path, but the path itself is just hard worn soil that is more like concrete than potting soil. This type of soil is a picture of the hard-hearted person that is so steeped in sin and hostility toward the things of God, that there is no room for the gospel to take root. This heart is completely unreceptive and closed off to the things of God and the scattering of the gospel seed upon their heart is similar to tossing seed on asphalt. It just sits on top of the soil and is never able to take root. It is only fit for the birds of the air, the enemy of the gospel, to come and snatch it away. This heart completely rejects Jesus and wants absolutely nothing to do with him.
The Shallow Heart
The second type of soil is located on rocky ground. This soil is indeed fertile but is very shallow. There is an appearance of fertility and cultivation that readily shows but hidden just underneath the surface is hard unforgiving rock. The analogous heart condition to this type of soil is the person who quickly and easily receives the gospel. This person immediately joins in the excitement and joy of the church and fellowship. This person joins in the blessings and praise and fellowship that happens in the church. They quickly join in the celebration, but just as quickly abandon the gospel and Jesus when the inevitable persecution and tribulation arrives in their life. Because their root was not in the gospel of Christ but in the experience around them, these shallow hearted people quickly fall away and leave. The trials of life will inevitably come and test the depth of every person’s heart. The shallow hearted will only stick around as long as it is fun and exciting. As long as they can get an emotional or spiritual high. Once the struggle arrives that requires them to dig deeper, they will move on to other more simplistic, exciting, non-heart challenging endeavors.
The Strangled Heart
The third type of soil is the one filled with thorns. These thorns represent the cares of the world like riches or honor or possessions. The seed that falls on this soil will grow and develop and begin to take shape. The thorns will grow up alongside and eventually choke out the good seed that was planted. These thorns grow faster and thicker and will eventually take over all the soil and leave no room for growth that is not the thorns. This is the strangled heart. This is a heart that receives the gospel and begins to grow, but this heart is double-minded. This heart cares too much for the riches and possessions of this world. This heart allows the cares of this world to strangle out the good word of the gospel. This strangled heart nurtures and cares for the thorns among him. This person may say the right thing. They may even appear to do the right things but in their heart, they are only focused on themselves and accumulating more and more things. This is usually not a quick turn. This is typically a slow and gradual process as the world whispers into the life of the strangled heart and they slowly turn and embrace the deception of accumulation and importance. It is a casual moving of the line you will not cross. Continually moving this line inch by inch until one day the person looks back and sees how far they have moved from their original starting point. So far away now that they can’t imagine ever returning to that previous gospel filled life.
The Open Heart
The last type of soil is the good soil. This soil is ready to receive the gospel seed and then flourishes and produces fruit. This is an open heart of a receptive person. This is a person that not only receives the gospel but embraces it whole-heartedly. The seed of the gospel not only grows in their heart but produces fruit. This is the key indicator of all the soils. The evidence of true faith is fruit. The fruit of the Spirit will readily show in the heart of a changed person. How do I know if I have an open heart, if my heart is this good soil? You will see the evidence – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The open heart will receive the gospel with joy. The open heart will persevere during times of trials and adversity. The open heart will fight back the thorns of riches and possessions. The open heart will embrace Christ as its own and will completely and fully trust in him alone to provide. The open heart will grow in the fruit of the Spirit each and every day. This is the mark of the good soil of an open heart. Preach the good news of the gospel to yourself each and every day. Fight and struggle to ward of sin and temptation. Dig deep into God’s Word and let it take root in your heart. Cultivate the good soil of your open heart with God’s precious Word. Embrace Jesus each and every moment of each and every day. Be open and honest with yourself and with Jesus about your sin and failure and weakness. Let your repentance come before your loving forgiving Savior. He will bring grace and mercy into your life, and you will see an abundance of fruit being produced in and through your open heart.