Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 2 Study # 6
February 15, 2009
8 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
13 They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15 But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
1901 ASV Translation:
8 And other fell into the good ground, and grew, and brought forth fruit a hundredfold. As he said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
9 And his disciples asked him what this parable might be.
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 And those by the way side are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved.
13 And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14 And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15 And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience.
- I. The Details of the Parable.
- A. The seed that fell upon the road [See Study # 3 in this subset].
- B. The seed that fell upon the rock [See Study # 4 in this subset]
- C. The seed that fell into the midst of thorns.
- D. The seed that fell upon "the good earth".
- 1. The "good earth" is described as producing one hundred fold.
- 2. The interpretation uses two words to describe the condition of the "soil" that is identified as the "heart".
- a. The identification of the "soil" as the "heart" is consistent in the parable (compare 8:12 with this text). This corresponds to the entire biblical corpus in which the metaphor of "heart" is used as the seat of the value system which dominates all other issues of life. It is, after all, what a person values that trumps all other considerations of attitudes and behaviors.
- b. In this interpretation, the "heart" is described as "honest" by the translators of the Authorized Version and the ASV.
- 1) The word so translated is widely used in the New Testament. It is used by Jesus in Matthew 7:17 as the antithesis to "evil", a word that Trench claims to signify an active perversity that is not content unless others are being injured (Synonyms of the New Testament, p. 316). In the Matthew 7:17 text, then, "evil fruit" is fruit that is actively poisonous. As its antithesis, then, "good fruit" is that which can nourish those who eat it.
- 2) This idea of "nourishment" is ideal for the parable because it is a well known agricultural fact that soil that has plenty of the proper type of "nourishment" for the seeds that fall upon it will yield a bountiful and healthful harvest.
- 3) That the human heart is characterized by Jesus as "nourishing" is seriously noteworthy in the face of the general characterization of that heart as being "viperous" (Matthew 12:34), "foolish" and "dark" (Romans 1:21), covered with a veil (2 Corinthians 3:15), and "blind" (Ephesians 4:18). Nothing Jesus has said, however, obviates these generalities because they apply only to those upon whom no heart-altering grace has fallen. All fruitfulness of man is Spirit-generated; no fruitfulness of man is directly attributable to him except as a companion of the Spirit of God.
- c. In this interpretation, the "heart" is also characterized as "good" by both sets of translators.
- 1) This word is also widely used in the New Testament. It is even used in the same Matthean text regarding the "honest" fruit, but it describes the tree that can yield fruit that is nourishing rather than its fruit. This implies that "good" indicates a quality of "competent soundness" that is at the root of what turns out to be "nourishing". This seems to be at the root of Jesus' challenge to the youthful rich man in Matthew 19:17 in which He declares that "none" is "good" but God. The straightforward implication, then, is that "good" has to do with that balance of capacities that, because of the balance, are able to bring others into the experience of true benefit.
- 2) And, again, that Jesus called the human heart "good" is seriously noteworthy. And, again, He is not contradicting the general biblical revelation of the deceitfulness (Jeremiah 17:9) of the unbalanced human heart. He simply declares that, by whatever means, the human heart can be altered so that it has the capacities necessary to fruitfulness -- even abundant fruitfulness. That such an alteration must be of God is quite beside the point. Jesus is not telling His disciples what it will take for human hearts to be fruitful; He is simply telling them that their seed-sowing will be fruitful in some of those to whom they proclaim the words of God.
- 3. The requisite actions of the fruitful soil.
- a. It "determinedly grips" the seed. The word, translated "keep/hold fast" is used in a sufficient number of New Testament settings to give us its meaning. Matthew 21:38 reveals that it means "to forcefully take for oneself". Luke 4:42 reveals that such action is not always effective, but it is intended. Luke 14:9 even reveals that such action is not always what the person doing it actually wants. But Acts 27:40 uses it in a setting of desperation where what is sought is extremely important. In an important theological argument, Paul says that we "are saved if we keep in memory what he preached" (1 Corinthians 15:2). The author of Hebrews 3:6, 14 and 10:23 says the same thing. It is an interesting reality that it is not the norm to think of the soil gripping seed but, rather, the opposite.
- b. It "bears fruit in patience". The word translated "patience" strongly implies the necessity of remaining under a difficulty long enough to accomplish an objective. The tendency of man is to do whatever must be done to get out from under the pressure rather than to consider that the objective is worth whatever it takes to "get it done".