Jesus Teaches in Galilee (4:1-2)
Parable of the sower (4:3-20)
Seeds sowed on four types of soil
Parable of the sower explained
Parable of the Lamp (4:21-23)
Parable of the Measure (4:24-25)
Parable of the Growing Seed
Parable of the Mustard Seed
Jesus Explains the Parables Only
to His Own Disciples (4:33-34)
Parable, understand, seed, soil,
root, thorns, crop, word, light, ear, hear, kingdom of God,
1a. Seeds, birds, soil, wayside/road, stony ground, thorns, lamp, stalk,
head, kernel, sickle, mustard
garment (Mk 2:21), wineskins (Mk
2:22), leaven (Mk 8:15), salt (Mk 9:50), camel, eye of a needle (Mk 10:25), fig
tree (Mk 11:20-22), vineyard (Mk 12:1-9), sheep (Mt 18:12-13)
1b. Paul writes about accommodating people’s weaknesses and
different customs for the sake of saving their souls (1Cor 9:19-22). As long as
it does not weaken our own faith in God, it is important to know what is going
on around us. Knowing current world events helps us understand biblical prophecies
and the world under the devil’s control. Knowing what teenagers face in school
(what they do for fun, what music they listen to, what TV shows or movies they
like, etc.) helps us counsel them by speaking at their level instead of talking
down to them. Jesus knew His audience. To some, you need to talk about deep
spiritual teachings. To others, it is better to tell a story in simple
2a. God chooses to reveal His truth in His time, when we are able to
accept it. Until this time, Jesus had commanded others not to tell anyone who
He was (Mk 1:34, 44; 3:12); it was not yet time for His identity to be
revealed. He prophesied that the truth will be spoken in parables (Ps 78:2).
Those who did not have the heart to seek the truth would not understand. But
Jesus has compassion on those who want to learn. In this passage, “His
disciples” does not refer only to the twelve disciples, but also to those who
stayed behind and asked Him about the parable (10).
There are many things we still
don’t understand. Some biblical passages still confound us. But our job is to
strive to learn “what is acceptable to the Lord” (Eph 5:10) and do as much as
we know. Ultimately, when we go to heaven, we will “see Him as He is” (1Jn 3:2)
and understand everything.
2b. Verse 13 implies that the parable of the sower was the easiest to
understand. Jesus explained everything to His disciples because they were not
equipped to learn on their own. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the disciples
continued to misinterpret Jesus. They did not truly understand until after
Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and they received the promised Holy Spirit.
The Bible does not give us an
explanation to the other three parables because we also have someone to help us
explain them: the Holy Spirit. The spirit of Jesus helps us think through the
word of God (Jn 16:12-15). The thought process is as important as the answer.
(That is the purpose of these Bible study guides).
2c. God’s word is alive; we constantly discover new teachings in the
same passage. At the same time, a new idea or interpretation that sounds
logical (at least at first) is not necessary correct. We can never understand
the Bible through human reasoning alone (1Jn 4:5-6). The only way to learn
God’s word is to be filled with the Holy Spirit (1Cor 9-16) and to know the
Bible well (2Tim 3:14-17). The truth is always confirmed by the Holy Spirit and
When listening to sermons or
reading a Bible study guide, analyze the message and keep the word of God in
your mind. Pray over what you read and hear. Discuss it with church ministers
and members (Col
3. The kingdom of God is not only
the heavenly kingdom. It is also on earth today, in the church, and in our
hearts (Lk 17:21). Jesus even taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will
be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10).
1a. Wayside/along the path—none; the birds ate it up before it could
grow at all.
1b. On stony ground—the seed sprang up quickly, but withered easily
because it had no root.
1c. Among thorns—the seed grew up, but did not bear grain because it was
choked by the thorns.
1d. On good ground—the seed came up, grew, and produced a crop of 30,
60, or 100 times.
2a. Sower—Jesus (cf. Mt 13:37)
2b. Seed—the word
2c. Wayside/path—person who hears the word, but the word does not have a
chance to take root.
2e. Stony ground—person who hears the word and receives it with joy, but
the faith has no root.
2f. Sun—trouble or persecution because of the word
2g. Thorns—worries of this life, deceitfulness of wealth, desires for
2h. Good ground—person who hears the word, accepts it, and produces a
2i. Crop—the word of God manifested in our lives; the kingdom of God
(30-32); fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)
3. Worries of this
world—job/financial security, becoming successful, peer pressure
Deceitfulness of riches—the more
money, the better; money will improve my life
Desires for other things—new
clothing, new car, bigger house, physical lust
4. Good ground; hear the word;
accept the word; the seed must die; understanding God’s word means
understanding and accepting the sacrifices necessary to our faith
to the Lord Jesus, the purpose of parables is to conceal the mystery of the
kingdom of God. However, when quoting the prophecy from Isaiah, Jesus had in
mind those who were callous in their hearts (“those who are outside”), not
everyone in general.
Those who are unbelieving may see
but not perceive, hear and not understand. As a result, their sins remain. In
other words, the inability to understand the mystery of the kingdom of God
is the result of man’s callousness. Through the use of parables, God conceals
the truth from the hard-hearted. But God does not intend to withhold the truth
from those who humbly and sincerely seek His will (cf. Mt 11:25). Instead, He
lets them know the mystery of God’s kingdom, as He did for the followers
mentioned in verse 10.
7. Jesus quoted Isaiah, saying,
“they may hear and not understand” (12). He spoke the word of God through parables,
“as much as they could understand” (33, NIV). It implies that some people
understood the parables more than others. Some took the time to ask Jesus about
the parables (10). When Jesus was alone with them (34), He explained everything
about “the mystery of the kingdom
of God” (11). So “he who
has ears to hear” refers to those who are willing to open their ears to learn
about God’s spiritual teachings. We must dedicate time for our spiritual
cultivation, to be alone with Christ. Only then can we grow in faith and
knowledge (Heb 5:12-14), like the seed on good ground.
The same expression also appears
in the letters to the seven churches. In those letters, the Holy Spirit
addresses the virtues and shortcomings of each church. The passage in
Revelation describes what happens once the word of God (the seed) takes root in
the different churches.
8.1. Jesus Christ and His word (Jn
1:4-5,9; Ps 119:105).
8.2. The believers (Mt 5:14-16;
Rev 1:20)—Like a lamp that is placed on a stand to give off light, we believers
must walk in the light and shine as lights in the world by living out Jesus’
example and teachings (Mt 5:14-16; 1Jn 1:5-10; Php 2:15-16).
9.1. Our Lord Jesus and His word bring to light our deeds of
darkness, even the secret thoughts and intentions. Nothing can escape from the
light of God, which searches our hearts and convicts us of our sins (Eph
5:11-14; Heb 4:12-13). One day, God will also judge the secrets of men through
Jesus Christ, and everything will come to light (Rom 2:16).
9.2. Believers, in turn, serve as
lights in this dark world. By imitating the examples of Jesus Christ, they lead
good lives among unbelievers and thereby expose and condemn the wickedness of
this world (Eph 5:11; 1Pet 2:12, 15; 3:16; 4:4).
10. Measuring represents giving. In this context, it means devoting
ourselves to hearing and practicing the words of Christ. The more we put into
living out God’s word, the more God will enable us to understand and benefit
from His word (cf. Mt 13:12; 25:29).
11. The parable of the lamp teaches us that God’s word is so pervasive
that it exposes man’s secrets. Thus, the parables of Jesus Christ will reveal
the hearts of the listeners. Those who are humble and sincere will understand
the truth behind the parables and come to the light. But those who are
hard-hearted will be confounded and keep away from the light.
The parable of the measure teaches
us that the more eager a person is to seek God’s will and to practice it, the
more he understands the parables of Jesus. Through the use of parables, God
measures to each person according to his heart.
12. If the seed represents the word of God, then the sower represents
the person who preaches the gospel. The first parable focuses on what happens
to the seed, while this one focuses on the worker. The sower does not know how
the seed grows; he simply does his job, night and day. The kingdom of God
is advancing, with or without us. We decide whether or not we want to be part
of the mission. Today, it might be hard to comprehend how the gospel can be preached
to the ends of the earth, but we just need to preach (as Jesus commanded us to
do); it is up to God to make the seed grow (1Cor 3:6).
13. The word of God grows in the hearts and transforms us so that we
might be saved. Many have worked before us (sowing the seed). Today we reap the
fruit of their labor (Jn 4:37-38). We continue the work of the early workers.
In the last days, Christ will harvest the earth (Rev 14:14-16, 18).
14. This parable focuses on the seed that takes root and grows to
produce a crop. The kingdom
of God might appear small
and lowly at first. The first church also appeared weak and small. It was even
viewed as a small sect of Judaism. However, when the believers were scattered
due to persecution, the gospel was preached to other parts of the world, and
the church grew rapidly.
God continued to carry out His
salvation plan. He established the True Jesus Church to take up the task. Now
the church is small compared to other Christian denominations, and some
Christians fiercely oppose our doctrines. However, when we humble ourselves and
submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we recognize that the church preaches the
perfect gospel, which has been hidden to so many.
15. Birds find shelter beneath God’s altar (Ps 84:3), so it might
describe God’s kingdom as a refuge.
However, if we draw a parallel
between this parable and the parable of the seed, then the birds represent
Satan (1Jn 2:18-19). When the church grows and prospers, Satan tries to corrupt
it from within (1Jn 2:18-19). However, the parable of the mustard seed tells
only part of the story. The parable of the weeds (Mt 13:24-30, 38-42) tells us
that God will weed out evil from His kingdom.