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Matthew 13:1-23

The Soil of the Heart

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Weekend Messages
  • December 16, 2018

Why do people respond to the Gospel they way they do? Some have no interest, while others seem to have interest for a moment only to have their interest fade away. Then there are those who are forever changed by the message of God's grace and love and can't wait to share the good news with others. In Matthew 13:1-23 Jesus connects the dots for us with the "Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils."

  • Sermon Notes

The Soil of the Heart

Matthew 13:1-23


ILLUS – Planting small trees in my parent’s backyard

1. Working with soil is fascinating. There are certain types of soil where the condition of the soil is obvious; you know what you are in for before the shovel hits the dirt.

2. There are other types of soil where the condition is not so obvious; you must dig beneath the surface to know what kind of soil you’re working with.

3. The same is true with the heart. The human heart is fascinating, not just the physical ticker, but the soul of a woman or man.

4. In Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus connected the human heart with four types of soils to reveal the different responses people have to Jesus and God’s Word.

5. Jesus made the connection so that we may take a careful inventory of our lives and know the condition of the soil of our hearts.

Matthew 13:1-23


1. In Matthew 13:1-3, we’re told that Jesus got into a boat on the Sea of Galilee and taught the crowds many things using parables. What is a parable?

2. The word parable comes from two Greek words, para and ballō, which together means “to throw alongside”.

3. A parable, like a story or an illustration, makes a comparison between a known truth and an unknown truth. It “throws them alongside” each other.

4. A parable teaches one main truth, though there might be many parts or different characters used to develop the main truth further.

5. Jesus used familiar things like sowing seed to reveal spiritual truths that had never been revealed to Israel in the Old Testament, truths about the kingdom of God.

6. Because parables use something familiar in story-form to make a point, the parable draws the listener into the story in order to bring them to a point of decision!

7. Why did Jesus shift His approach to teaching and use parables?

8. Context is helpful to answer the question. In Matthew 12, the scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus of using Satanic powers to heal people and deliver demoniacs from evil spirits. Their accusation was an official rejection of Jesus by the religious establishment. In essence, they declared that Jesus was not Israel’s Messiah, the promised King of the kingdom of God. He was from hell.

9. Now, their final rejection occurred when the Jewish leaders asked Pontius Pilate to release Barabbas so that Jesus could be crucified (Matthew 27:20-22). Nevertheless, the lines were drawn in Matthew 12 for the nation of Israel had officially rejected their King.

10. This context helps us understand what Jesus meant in Matthew 13:10-17. Here Jesus gave two reasons for His use of parables:

a. First, parables reveal spiritual truth about the kingdom of God to those who earnestly seek it. At the same it, parables conceal spiritual truth about the kingdom of God from those with rebellious hearts. Thus, parables reveal and conceal spiritual truth.

b. Second, by using parables, Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy. Here He quoted from Isaiah 6, but also note Psalm 78:2.

Psalm 78:2, I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old…

Transition – Now, let’s look at the first of the seven parables in Matthew 13, The Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils.

I. Some Hearts are Hard like a Beaten-down Path

  • Let’s identify some key elements of this parable.
  • First, according to verse 37, the “sower” is the “Son of Man”, Jesus.
  • In verse 19, the “seed” is the “word of the kingdom”, meaning the Word of God and the “evil one” is Satan.
  • In that day, seed was sown one of two ways:
    • Some farmers would walk through their fields with bags of seed and scatter the seed by hand.
    • Others, lazy farmers, would simply place a bag of seed on the back of a mule, slice a hole in the bag, and walk with the mule as the seed fell out of the bag.
  • This information was familiar to all who were listening to Jesus from the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
  • But here, Jesus links the sowing of seed to the four ways people will respond to the message of the kingdom of God.
  • The first soil is likened to a heart that is so hard it is like a beaten-down path (19).
  • God’s Word is shared but it does not understand it.
  • In other words, this is the heart of the one who will not receive the Word of God at all. And because they won’t receive it, they won’t receive any blessing from it either. 

A. The good seed can’t penetrate hard soil

1.Using a seed is an excellent illustration of the Word of God. A seed is full of life and if it takes root and begins to grow, it will bring forth much fruit.

ILLUS – Human DNA has over 3 billion base pairs containing 750 MB of information. Did you know that wheat DNA has more than 15 billion base pairs?

2.But the Word of God cannot take root unless it penetrates the heart. This soil is hard.

APPL – What makes a heart hard? There are several possibilities:

Arrogance: This is the condition whereby someone is convinced that their perspective is better than anyone else’s. In other words, they are completely unteachable.

ILLUS – The confession of a former teenager…

Proverbs 12:15, The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

Proverbs 21:2, Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.

Bitterness: There are many people who have been so hurt that they simply cannot let go of it, not understanding that it prevents the Word of God from bringing fruit in their lives. But forgiveness bring freedom so that we may receive the truth and the peace of God.

ILLUS – Pastor Chuck Swindoll story about a woman before surgery…

3.Notice the seed is taken away. Jesus explained that the seed is snatched away by Satan, so the opportunity is lost.

4.The Bible tells us that Satan blinds the minds of the unbelieving in order to keep them from the blessing of the truth of God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

B.Hard hearts can change

1.Hard hearts must be broken so that they can change. This is the only way that allows the seed to penetrate the heart so that it may take root.

ILLUS – If a farmer wanted to sow in soil that had become hard, he would take his plow and break up that hard soil.

ILLUS – Steve Camp song, Living in Laodicea

2.God promises to change our hard hearts if we come to Him.

Ezekiel 36:26, Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

APPL – God will never turn away a hard heart that’s been broken, for that is the heart He heals, that is the life He restores.

Psalm 51:17, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

APPL – If your heart is hard, will you let the Lord change your hard heart?

II.Some Hearts are like Soil Filled with Rocks or Thorns

The next two types of soils that Jesus described are the one filled with rocks and the other filled with thorns. 

Each is a condition of the heart that prevents the Word of God from transforming a person’s life.  

Initially, there is interest in Jesus and the Word of God, but soon the condition of the prevents the faith from maturing. 

A.Rocks prevent deep roots from growing

1.These are people who hear the Word of God and receive it with joy, but the truth does not run deep into their heart (20-21).

2.As soon as the heat of affliction or persecution arises, they “fall away”. In the Greek, that is a phrase which means they are “offended”.

3.In other words, when affliction or persecution comes, they are offended because, in the shallowness of their faith, they can’t understand why God would allow trials or troubles in their lives.

ILLUS – Paul and Silas beaten and imprisoned for delivering a girl possessed by a demon…

Acts 16:25, But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them

APPL – Have you been offended by the trials and difficulties of life? Will you let the Lord heal your heart and remove the rocks that are preventing the Word of God from growing deeper roots in your heart?

B. Thorns choke out the fruit of the good seed

1.This is a condition of the heart that many people today face each day. The Word of God is received, but the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the Word.

2.Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus is someone we can relate to.

Luke 10:40-42, But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

3. It’s a story about worry rather than faith. Jesus talked about that in Luke 12…

Luke 12:25, 31, Which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life span?... But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

ILLUS – There’s an old song that was very popular, yet missed it completely…

4. When Jesus warned about “the deceitfulness of riches”, it suggests that riches will not deliver on what they promise.

APPL – Many people assume that riches will bring more security, more contentment, more joy, and more satisfaction in life.

  • But here’s the truth, if a person with this heart gets what he wants, he won’t want it anymore, he will want something else, something more. Why?
  • Because he will never be satisfied. The problem is with his heart; it’s empty and these things can never fill the heart!
  • These things choke the Word. These thorns keep the Word from maturing a person who has this heart.
  • It’s about what we value!

Philippians 4:12-13, 19, I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me… And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

APPL – Have the worries of this world or the pursuit of riches choked out the Word in your heart? Will you let the Lord pull some weeds and put your faith in Him to richly “supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”?

III. Some Hearts are like Good Soil

The fourth type of soil is the heart that God desires for all of us to have.  

This is the target that we should aim at, so that we can be changed and have this heart.

A.Good hearts hear God’s Word and receive it

1.The roots run deep in the person with this heart; that’s the key.

2.When there are deep roots, they can drink from the water of life and grow and be satisfied.

Psalm 1:2-3, But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree

firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

3.This person keeps the rocks and thorns from their heart because they are letting the Word of God richly dwell within them.

B. Good hearts bear good fruit that remains

1.What is the fruit that God desires to see in our lives?

2.It is the fruit of godliness in our hearts.

Galatians 5:22-24, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.


APPL – Can a heart truly change? Can a hard heart become soft? Can a rocky heart become rock-free? Can thorny heart become weed-free? The answer to these questions is “Yes”!

We choose what kind of soil we want to be.

We choose what kind of heart we want to have.

Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you

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