Palms Baptist Church Bible Study
Parable of the Soil: A Faith that Tillers
January 18, 2022

Parable of the Soil: A Faith that Tillers

January 18, 2022

  • Found also in Mark 4 and Luke 8
  • Acts as the most significant parable in all gospels
    • Each use this parable as an introduction and foundation to parables

Contextual Reminders for parable:

  • Jesus emphasizes the intention of the heart throughout His entire teaching
    • Sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:1-21)
    • Why and How you do something matters AS MUCH as what you do
    • Example: I am a Christian to keep the peace in the family

*Jesus shares in a disappointment that people come to Jesus with a desire for Him to change their circumstances, but not their heart

  • Matthew categorizes groups of people in his gospel
    • Disciples
      • Apostles drawn out from disciples
    • Authority
      • Pharisees
      • Jewish Council
      • Roman government
    • Crowds
      • People who are around Jesus for what He can do for them BUT NOT followers/disciples of Jesus
  • Jesus is re-living the history of Israel throughout His life
    • Matthew 1 presents Jesus as the Son of Abraham, Son of David, Messiah
      • Killing of babies at Jesus birth mirrors Moses – Matthew 2
      • Jesus lives in exile like Israel – Matthew 2
      • Jesus is tested in wilderness like Hebrews – Matthew 4
      • Jesus crosses the Jordan like Joshua – Matthew 4
      • Jesus provides commentary on the Law like Moses in Deuteronomy – Matthew 5-7
      • Someone greater than Moses, greater than Jonah, greater than Solomon, etc. – Matthew 12
    • Now, Jesus mirrors the struggle of ministry as all the prophets of Israel who delivered a message that Israel rejects – Jeremiah/Isaiah/Ezekiel/Zecheriah

Parable Elements to answer


  • Scriptural Context
    • Matthew 13:9 – Anyone who has ears let them hear
    • Matthew 13:13-15 – Reference to Isaiah 6:9-10
    • Isaiah 6
  • If you have ears then Listen! – Matthew 13:9
    • As an anchor to Isaiah, Jesus tells us that these things will be hard to understand and we really have to listen to what He is saying!
  • Cultural/Agriculture Context
    • Tillering – Matthew 13:8; Matthew 13:23
      • Jesus audience would not have understood the science of tillering, but would have understood the effects of tillering. Essentially, many seeds tiller out into multiple stalks i.e. one seed could produce multiple plants. The deepest root, or roots could split into multiple plants producing a lot of fruit/grain from a single seed.

Question/Rhetorical point

  • Why do you speak to them in parables? – Matthew 13:10
  • NOTE: Most parables intend to answer an implicit question or make a rhetorical point, here, Jesus tells the parable to generate the question!

Shocking/Surprising/Intriguing Element

  • Answer to the question: Matthew 13:11-15
    • Three reasons:
      • You must come to Jesus with a desire to change your heart, not simply your circumstances. You must have a receptive heart (good soil) to understand the mysteries of the kingdom. Hence, if you have ears that can hear, you understand the parables, if not, you will not understand
      • By speaking in parabolic form, those who have not received the message of the kingdom will not understand the parables in order to:
        • Save them from judgment
        • Delay His opposition because they will not understand what He is saying
        • Slow His growth so His mission can be accomplished (just as He tells people to not tell anyone about His miracles)
  • If you have ears then Listen! – Matthew 13:9
  • Planting crops meant the start of a new cycle i.e. something new is starting. Jesus informs them that this new season of planting will result in a harvest, but also how that harvest will come about.

Desired Response

  • Jesus offers multiple responses for each group in Matthew:
    • Disciples: They will continue to grow in the teaching through parables, but also encourage them that opposition may seem that kingdom expansion is impossible, but there is always a remnant, just like God told Isaiah in Isaiah 6.
    • Crowd: Desires them to soften their hearts and desire to understand the message
    • Authority: He expects them to continue on doing what they do…in fact, Jesus needs them to continue their opposition so He can accomplish His mission at the cross


  • The Kingdom of God grows slow like a Tillering field, not in an explosive revolution

Questions for Guided Discussion

  1. The parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-23 provides four outcomes, or responses to the gospel message. What makes the difference in the outcome of the four plantings of seeds? What doesn’t make the difference?
  2. The original audience would have heard Jesus explain a new cycle of rescuing them from their enemies, infirmities, and troubles. Like a farmer starting a new agricultural year, God would sow His field with crops that would bring in a harvest. How is the parable a retelling of Jesus own ministry?
  3. The anchor for this parable is when Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 in Matthew 13:14-15. Does God desire that people not hear and understand so he can judge them? Did Jesus speak in parables so that people would not understand because if they did they would be saved?
  4. Jesus says If you have ears, then listen! Meaning, Jesus understands that the teachings are not immediately obvious and we must wrestle with it. What teachings of Jesus do you struggle to understand, or struggle to receive?
  5. What might make us spiritually blind or deaf to what God is doing in the world today? What weeds choke up our witness?
  6. Which soil is your heart now? Does your faith tiller as Jesus describes of the good soil; or is it choked out, shallow, or hardened to discipleship?
  7. As a farmer labors to plant seed, most of that seed falls on poor soil, and of the seed that takes root, most of it doesn’t produce good or multiplying fruit. Do you ever feel that your hard labor in ministry generates no fruit?
  8. Just like Isaiah and many prophets before Jesus, most of Israel didn’t receive the word and became disappointed. Do you get disappointed in ministry? How does this parable of God’s timetable encourage you when you are discouraged in ministry?
  9. Do you follow a genetically-modified gospel so a religious plant can grow in the soil of your heart? Do you resist anything different or challenging to your faith? If you resist, what are you resisting and why? Do you resist because it belongs to a genetically modified gospel, or do you resist because it challenges the genetically modified gospel you follow?


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