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The Parable of the Soils - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Matthew 13:1-23

  • 2009-01-18 AM
  • Sermons


Last Sunday I reminded us all of our responsibility to share the gospel with others. We looked at our Lord's great commission given at the end of His life in those 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension.

Today, I thought I would follow up on that, this Sunday and next, and let our Lord explain to us what we should expect in way of response when we do share the gospel with others. Our Lord fills us in on what we should expect in a very familiar passage, but one that I think is often misunderstood. And I'd like for us to turn there today, it's Matthew 13, Matthew 13. He begins with the Parable of the Sower as it is commonly called.

Now before we look at the parable itself, let me make sure that you understand its context. This account, this parable, occurs as part of one long day in the life of Jesus. The day begins back in 12:22, and it runs all the way down through 13:53. But it's not just what's in Matthew's gospel, we also know from both Mark and Luke that this very same day includes the day Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee with his disciples in the boat, fell asleep, you remember, the storm comes, He calms the storm, they get to the other side, there in the country of the Gergesenes; and He heals two demon-possessed men, the most notable of whom is a man named Legion for the number of demons that indwell him. You remember, the pigs run down the hillside, are destroyed, all of that is part of one very long day.

As we come to chapter 13 and this parable, it's important for you to understand that earlier on that very same day, one of the most important events in Jesus' ministry occurred. Jesus had, just a few hours before, healed a demon-possessed man. And that event, and their response, that is the response of Israel's leaders to it, marked a turning point in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Look back at chapter 12 for a moment, verse 22. Here's the account,

Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. [Notice the response of the people,] All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, This man cannot be the son of David can he? [That's shorthand in first century Judaism for the Messiah. Is this man the Messiah? Is it possible He's the Messiah?]

Well immediately the spiritual leaders have to snuff out that kind of thinking, and so verse 24 says, "… when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons." They accuse Jesus of being in league with Satan himself in order to keep the people from coming to the conclusion that He was, in fact, the Messiah. Jesus goes on, do you remember? to issue those famous words that were not original to Abraham Lincoln, but with Jesus, when He says, "[a] … house divided cannot stand"

And then you come down to verse 31. And in verses 31 and 32, Jesus tells the Pharisees that they have just committed the unpardonable sin. By the way, I believe, and this is a different message for a different day, but I believe the unpardonable sin was only possible during the lifetime of Jesus. When you saw Jesus, you knew He was the Son of God, as these men knew He was sent from God and chose to rebel against that, and to say, that in fact, what He did was done by the power of Satan, only for their own ends.

Jesus explains to them in verses 33-37 that what they had just said about Him reveals what's really true about their hearts. So, you can see that, all of a sudden, things go from their being on the offensive, to Jesus being on the offensive and their being on the defensive. And so, as you would expect from this crowd, in an effort to exonerate themselves, the scribes and Pharisees begin to argue with Jesus that the real problem, the real problem isn't theirs, it's Jesus." The problem you see they said is that You haven't proven Your identity to us. We need you, verse 38, "we need You to do a sign." If You'll just do a sign, that'll clear it up.

Now remember folks, Jesus has already done countless miracles in His ministry at this point and just a few minutes before He has healed a demon-possessed man who couldn't speak and couldn't see, and now he's completely well. But they want a sign. Look at Jesus' response to this sort of ridiculous dodge. Verse 39, He says, "… An evil, and adulterous generation craves for a sign…." Here's the sign you're going to get. It's … "the sign of Jonah the prophet." Essentially, He says to them, just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, I'm going to be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth, and I will rise again. You want a sign, I'll give you a sign par excellence, it's My resurrection.

A short time later, the same day, another significant event occurs. Jesus' mother and brothers show up outside the house where Jesus is teaching and they want to talk with Him. Look at verse 46, "While He was speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him." And they are not there to listen and to learn. They apparently were very sincere in their concern for Jesus, but what they really thought was going on, we learn in Mark's gospel, Mark 3:20 says,

… [Jesus] "came home" [after choosing the twelve] and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent they could not even eat a meal." When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him, for they were saying, "He has lost His senses."

Now think about that for a moment. Why, on this one day, do the spiritual leaders of the nation refuse to believe in Jesus Christ, even accuse Him of being in league with Satan? Why didn't even His own family really believe in Him during His earthly ministry? They did, of course, after the resurrection but not during His ministry. It really raises the same question for today, doesn't it?

Why do people that we share the gospel with not always respond in faith? And for those who were attached to Jesus, how can some of those who've attached themselves to Him, calling themselves His disciples, not truly be His disciples? Judas, of course, being the prime example, but there were many others. How does that happen? How do people hear the gospel and refuse it or appear to accept it and not really accept it? How does that happen? Well in this parable, Jesus explains why. Why not everyone believes the good news, and why even some of those who appear to believe it, truly don't become His followers.

So, this is very important for us. Let's look at this passage and begin to see Jesus' explanation unfold. Notice Matthew's introduction to 13:1-2 says,

"That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables."

Notice "that day" we're still part of that very long day that began with His healing a demoniac and the spiritual leaders saying He was in league with Satan, running through all the events we've just covered, and then these parables He gives in this setting: He gets in the boat, goes across the Sea of Galilee, calms the storm; and on the other side, heals the demoniacs, including the one named Legion, all the same day. Jesus, we're told, went out of the house where he'd been teaching, there in his hometown of Capernaum. Capernaum, of course, is on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, right on the sea there. And it says initially, He sat down by the sea, verse 13 says, presumably to continue His teaching, but the crowds came and kept on coming. Large crowds followed, and because of the push of the crowd, Jesus, apparently, to get the best vantage point for teaching, gets in a nearby boat that's anchored just offshore.

And He sits down. He assumes the position of a rabbi who is teaching His disciples. Verse 2 says, "And the whole crowd was standing on the beach." So you get the picture, Jesus is now in a little boat that would have held 15 to 18 people, He's sitting down, just offshore, He's anchored. And the winds coming off the Sea of Galilee would have provided the sort of natural carrying of His voice so the crowd could be gathered there on the beach, in the sort of amphitheatre shape of the Sea of Galilee, and could have heard beautifully. Those of us who went to Israel in July had a chance to experiment with this, and someone speaking from the edge of the sea can be heard easily by a huge crowd of people.

Notice the word in verse 2 that says, "beach." The Greek word for beach here may imply that Jesus had gone just a little southwest of Capernaum to a beautiful area called the Plain of Gennesaret. It's one of the few areas around the Sea of Galilee where there really is a beach, which is what this word is. The other reason that's important is the Plain of Gennesaret was a wonderful place to grow crops. So, it's possible that while Jesus was telling these parables about fields and crops, He could point out to the crowd there, beside Him and behind Him were these fields in which things were growing. Verse 3 says, "He spoke many things to them in parables." Matthew records seven of them. Mark adds another that is not in Matthew, and Mark adds this comment, "With many such parables, He was speaking the Word to them so far as they were able to hear it." So, Jesus may very well have taught many other parables that day that aren't recorded for us in the gospels.

Now, with that introduction, Matthew begins the first parable. It is in many ways the most famous of the parables. It is the parable, as it's commonly called, of the sower. Now that's a bad name, of course to some extent it's true, it is a parable in which there is a sower. But as we will see the focus of this parable is not the sower, it's not even the seed. The focus of this parable is the condition of the soil on which the seed falls. Understand this parable is absolutely crucial. It is foundational. In fact, according to Jesus Himself, understanding this parable is foundational to understanding all the rest of His parables. The disciples will later ask Jesus what He means after He shares this parable. We'll look at that, Lord willing, next week, and Jesus' response to them in Mark's gospel is this, "Do you not understand this parable? How will you be able to understand all the parables?" It starts here. This one's foundational. And so, it's foundational for us as well.

Now, this parable is divided into two parts. The first part is the story itself, the story that Jesus tells. It's found in verses 3-9. This was told publicly as Jesus was seated in that boat just offshore, and it was told to the huge crowd that had gathered. The second part of the story is the interpretation. You have the story itself, verses 3-9; and then you have some intervening verses, 10-17; and notice verse 18, He comes back to the story and its interpretation. So, the second part of this parable is the interpretation, verses 18-23. This was later explained privately to His disciples.

I want us to start today with the story itself. Now this story was a very familiar one in an agrarian agricultural society. Jesus, as I said, is probably on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee adjacent to a large plain that would have been covered with crops and fields. Let me give you a little insight into what agriculture was like in Israel, just so you have a sense of what Jesus is sharing here. In ancient Israel there were primarily four crops. There was barley grown primarily in the south of Israel. There were grapes, those were grown primarily in Judea in the area surrounding Jerusalem. The climate there was suited to grapes. Olives were grown in many places, but they were especially plentiful in Samaria, in the center part of the country, in the hill country. And Galilee, the most fertile area, and still is to this day, you go through Galilee and to this day it's one of the places where Israel grows most of its food, modern Israel. But in the first century the primary crop in Galilee was wheat. And it, undoubtedly, is the backdrop for this parable.

Now the climate in Israel is driven by the two major geographic features that surround that little strip of land. On one side is the great desert, on the other side, the Mediterranean. So, half the year, from May to September, Israel's weather is very hot and exceptionally dry, almost no rainfall for those six months. Because during those six months her weather is affected by the desert to her east. The sciroccos, the big desert winds, will blow and bring stifling heat and dry air in which it's very hard to grow anything. The other half of the year, starting in October and running through April, the climate of Israel is controlled by the Mediterranean on her west, and in that part of the year her climate is wet and cooler. The early rains, as the Bible calls them, begin in October. The reason it's called that, by the way, is because there hasn't been rain for months, for probably six months, no rain, not a drop. It's much like southern California if you've ever lived there or visited there for any extended period of time. So, no rain.

So, in October the early rains began. And then the latter rains, as the Bible calls them, fell during March and April. That was the rainy season, in that period of time. Obviously, the best growing season would, in the ancient world, have been during the half of the year with cooler weather and more rain. Now there's irrigation, so you don't have to pay as much attention to that, but in that time you had to go with the weather patterns. Farmers would prepare their fields for planting in the late fall, so in October/November the farmer would till the soil by pulling a plow behind a couple of oxen, and then he would plant. In April/May he would begin to harvest, barley in May, and the wheat harvest usually continued into June. There was this narrow window they had to hit in the harvest, when the rainy season would start to subside, they had to wait till the crops were full grown, but if they waited too long, the sciroccos and the desert wind and the heat would be stifling to those plants and would cause them to wither and to die.

So, we're told in chapter 13:3, … "the sower went out to sow." This would have been October or November, and he takes his wheat seeds out to plant his field. He would have already prepared it by this time. The rabbis tell us there were two common techniques for sowing seed. Either by hand, you would have had a bag, a seed bag strapped across your shoulder, and if it was a small field that you owned, you would have simply taken seed out with your hand and broadcast it. You would have thrown it by hand across the prepared ground. If it was a bit larger field, then that same bag you would have taken and created a series of small holes just slightly larger than the size of a seed, and then you would have walked in a predetermined pattern across your field to get the maximum coverage, and as you walked the seeds would have fallen out of your bag and been sown on the field.

Or if you had a particularly large field, the other common technique would have been to attach those seed bags with bigger bags, more seeds, more holes, to some oxen and then to lead the oxen in that same predetermined pattern across the field, and as they went the seeds would fall from the bags slowly and gradually, sowing the field that you had prepared. But you couldn't leave the seeds sitting there on the surface of the ground for long because if you did, birds would come along and quickly eat them. So, someone had to come along behind the sower with a leafy branch or a similar implement and would drag over where the seed had been sown, covering those seeds just a little, and giving them just enough earth in which to grow.

Now we get to the heart of the story. Because the story is really about the soil. It's about four different kinds of soil into which the seed falls. First, notice the "hard soil." Verse 4, "and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road and the birds came and ate them up." Now in the first century there usually weren't fences between different property owners' fields. Instead there would have been a small path that would have separated the different owners' property. In addition, if you had a large piece of property yourself, you would sort of subdivide your piece of property and create small trails across it, all of this so that you could get around, you could lead your animals without trampling your harvest. And you could make your way through to tend the crop.

The farmers then would come out of the cities each day, and they would use those footpaths in which to traverse the fields and on which to bring their animals out to help care for the fields as well. So, the farmers would use those footpaths every day. In addition to that, travelers, the primary means of travel in the ancient world was by foot, travelers going from one place to another were perfectly free to cut across those paths, those footpaths that cut through the fields, that would shorten your journey often considerably. And so, these little footpaths were exceptionally hard packed from this sort of constant use.

And because the sowing techniques had not really been perfected, it would be common for some of the seed, whatever technique you used, for some of the seed to land out of the tilled area and on one of those paths. And of course, because it was hard packed from animal and human usage, the seed wouldn't penetrate. It would simply sit there on the top of that hard-packed ground and of course, the birds that would have been ever present on sowing day would have been there to snatch it away, devoured those seeds, that's the hard soil.

The second kind of soil Jesus identifies here is the "shallow soil," the shallow soil. Look at verse 5, "Others fell, [other seeds fell] on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil." "Rocky" here doesn't refer to loose rocks, you know, large boulders sitting in the field. A farmer would have removed all of those as he prepared the seed to sow it, and so this instead refers to limestone outcroppings.

In Israel there're large limestone deposits many different places you go, and underneath this, what looked like fertile soil, was a large outcropping of limestone bedrock, hidden beneath the soil just a little deeper than a first century plow would have cut. This was and is a very common problem in Israel. You have hills, and then you have a large field and plain. Jutting in from the hills would have been these large limestone bedrocks that would have allowed you to think you had a productive field when, in fact, there was only a thin layer of soil. So, the seed would have been sown. It would have been covered, and it would have begun to grow.

And notice He says, "it sprang up immediately because they had no depth of soil." In other words, because of how narrow the bed of soil was, when the sun came out and hit that soil with bedrock beneath it, it would have heated that soil more than the surrounding soil, which would have created a sort of hothouse environment for those plants that fell in that shallow soil, and they would have immediately sprung up. In fact, they would spring up so quickly that they would look in many ways like they would ultimately be the healthiest plants and produce the most wheat in the entire field.

But verse 6 says, "… when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away." This doesn't mean when the sun came out the next day or the next day. Eventually though, the rainy season would begin to subside, and the heat would grow, and the winds from the desert would begin to build. And as that happened, these plants that had looked so healthy and so promising are scorched and begin to dry out. The real problem is they had no root. They didn't have a sufficient root system because of that underlying bedrock to support the stalk as it grew. So, the plant couldn't get the moisture it needed, and it withered away. It died, started growing, but died, that's the shallow soil.

There's a third kind of soil Jesus identifies here, it's the "thorny soil." Verse 7, "Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came out and choked them out." The typical plow in the first century was pulled behind a pair of oxen. When you hear the word plow, don't think plow like you've seen, some large metal piece of equipment that'll cut six to ten or more inches into the ground and lay the soil over on itself. Instead the plow in the first century would have done well to have penetrated three to four inches, creating a very shallow seed bed. And so, because of that, there would be roots of existing plants that wouldn't be cut up, that wouldn't be turned. You could think that you'd pulled out all the weeds and thorns you could see, but the weeds and thorns that were indigenous often went deeper than the plow went. And so, it was difficult to make sure that you'd really gotten rid of them all.

In addition to that, the previous growing season, those weeds and thorns that were there would have sown their own seeds, and those are now lying latent in the ground ready to grow. So, it was very difficult to make sure that you'd really gotten rid of all these things. You could sow your good seed, and sometimes you would sow them among weeds and thorns and thorn seeds. In a few weeks you're not just growing wheat, you're growing a mixed crop of wheat and thorns in certain places in your field. Let me ask you, which do you think will win? They choke out the good plants because their roots grow more quickly and deeply, they steal all of the moisture from the soil, they rob all the nutrients, so there's little left for the wheat, and it's actually choked out and gradually dies.

Now this is the part of the story that every one of us here in Texas can appreciate. This happens to me every spring. You know we make sure that our flower beds are carefully prepared, tilled, stand back and look, and there isn't a single weed anywhere to be seen. We have eradicated weeds from our flower beds. So then, we plant some annuals or perennials ever hopeful that this year will be different than the last. Then spring hits. And we go out to those flower beds that just three weeks before looked absolutely pristine. Not a weed to be seen, only rich soil. And you have to go on a safari to find the flowers you planted, use a machete to sort of hack your way through the weeds that are already waist high just three weeks into the spring. And you search carefully, and you find those plants that you planted, so beautiful when you planted them, but now they look so bad that you wouldn't buy them at all. Because the weeds have choked out the growth and development of those real plants, and they've become brown and unhealthy. They're dying. That's what Jesus was describing with this seed that fell among thorns.

The fourth kind of soil is the "good soil. Verse 8, "And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." You see much of the seed, because of the farmer's work, would have fallen in that soil he had prepared. Soil with plenty of depth, uncluttered by thorns. It would yield a good crop. Different seed based on a variety of circumstances would produce different yields. Here we're told there were three different kinds of yields: hundredfold, sixty, and thirty. Some argue that in the first century the average yield was about eight-to-one. So, any of these would have been far above the average. Thirty would have been great. Sixty would have been wonderful. A hundredfold would have been an extraordinary yield. By the way, secular history reports, that there were some yields equivalent to that in the ancient world, so it was possible, they were remarkable, they were unusual but it could happen, even in Christ's day.

But what's more astonishing to me than the yield is how Jesus ends the parable. Look at verse 9, "He who has ears, let him hear." What? "He who has ears, let him hear." That is all that Jesus said about this remarkable story to that huge crowd that had gathered there to hear Him speak. "He who has ears, let him hear." Obviously it's more than a call to physically hear the message, they all heard it in the physical sense, the sound waves reverberating from Jesus voice struck their eardrums, and so that's not what He's talking about. It's even more than a call to superficial understanding. Those words would have not only struck their eardrums but the essence of what Jesus was saying would have been clear to them, as it is to you this morning. This instead was a call or an invitation to deeply consider and weigh what He had said and the implications of what He had said, "He who has ears, let him hear."

Now, the question that comes to my mind is, why? Why would Jesus have told this story and not explain it to the people? … to the crowd? I mean, after all, this huge crowd was there to hear Him teach. Well, if it doesn't make sense to you why Jesus doesn't explain this story to them, you're in good company because the disciples didn't get it either. They didn't understand it either. So, they asked the same question, verse 10, "And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" Lord, here's a great opportunity, it's a huge crowd, share the gospel, have an altar call! What are you doing? Why would you just tell them that story?

The Greek word for "parable" comes from two Greek words: one means "to cast or throw," the other means "alongside." Literally then, the word parable means "to cast or throw alongside." It refers to comparing one thing with something else by laying them beside each other. It's a word that's used often in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, to describe a variety of figures of speech. Jesus had used parables before, earlier even in Matthew's gospel. But here is a turning point, from this point, from this day, because of the events that transpired on this day, Jesus would use parables often after this with the crowds and without explanation, usually without explanation. So, why? Why did Jesus on this day start telling parables to the crowds that were there to hear Him teach without explaining them to the crowds? What was He thinking?

Well, there are a number of different reasons offered for why Jesus told parables. Some would say, well it's to illustrate truth, and that's true. Or it's to improve our understanding of the truth, that's true as well. To improve our memory of the truth, parables are kind of transportable, packable, teaching devices you can take with you and remember pretty easily. That's true also. But in Matthew 13, Jesus gives His disciples only two reasons that He told this story to the crowd and didn't explain it. Only two reasons.

Number one is to reveal the truth to those to whom it was granted to understand the truth. Look at verse 11, "Jesus answered them," here's His answer to their question, "to you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven." Verse 12, "For whoever has that knowledge to him more will be given and he will have an abundance." Verse 16,

"But blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear. For truly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see and did not see it, to hear what you hear and did not hear it."

He's saying listen, you are blessed because you have been granted to understand and you're being told things that previous godly men would loved to have heard but didn't hear. So, I'm telling parables, I'm teaching the truth in parables in order to reveal the truth to you. Because it's been granted to you to understand and to know.

But there's a second reason Jesus was now speaking in parables. And it was to conceal the truth from those to whom it had not been granted. Look at verse 11, "To them," that is to the crowd," it has not been granted." Verse 12, "Whoever has not" now he doesn't mean that they have some truth, in the parallel passage it says, "Who thinks he has some truth," "Whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him." He doesn't have, but he thinks he has something, that's going to be snatched away from him. His understanding is going to be lessened. Verse 13, "Therefore I speak to them in parables," [here it is,] "because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." I'm speaking in parables so they will see it but not really see it; they'll hear it but not really hear it and so they won't understand.

In their case the prophecy of Isaiah given in Isaiah 6, to Isaiah at his commissioning is being fulfilled which says, you will keep on hearing but will not understand, you will keep on seeing but will not perceive for the heart of this people has become dull. With their ears they scarcely hear and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their heart and return and I would heal them. Wow! To them it's not been given. There are people, do you understand this? There are people who will not and cannot understand the truth.

Now there's several reasons for that. Satan is part of the reason for that. You remember 2 Corinthians 4?

If our gospel is [hid or] veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, … [for] the god of this world has blinded the minds of those who … [believe not, less the light of the glorious Gospel should shine to them.]

So, Satan is responsible for this lack of ability to grasp the truth. They are responsible, individually. Their own sin is responsible for their inability to grasp the truth. John 3. John 3:19 says,

"This is the judgment, the Light of Truth has come into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light [of Truth], and does not come to the Light of Truth for fear that his deeds will be exposed."

So, understand that when somebody doesn't get it, when they don't understand the gospel, Satan is involved in that, and they are involved in that because of their own sinful choices.

Satan blinds people, but he blinds people who want to be blind. Notice He said in chapter 13 of Matthew, "they covered their eyes" they want to be blind. So, when people don't respond to the truth of the gospel, Satan's responsible, he blinds them, but ultimately they're responsible, their sin, their love of their sin drives them away from the truth, away from embracing it. And we'll see this, by the way, in Jesus' interpretation of the soils next week.

But here's the shocking part. What Jesus tells His disciples is also that God takes responsibility as well. Look back at verse 11, "To you it has been granted." Jesus takes His disciples back to sovereign election. Let me put it to you like this: If you're here this morning, and you don't understand the gospel, you don't get it, or if you haven't responded to the gospel, it is your fault. You can't blame other people. You can't even ultimately blame Satan, and you certainly can't blame God. Jesus here says they have covered their own eyes so they can't see. But, if on the other hand, you're here this morning, and you have come to understand the gospel, you have come to believe it, you can take absolutely no credit, it's because God has granted you to understand His truth, to really see it, to really hear it and to really understand it. And He has done so, notice what Christ says, "so that you would return" that is repent, and God would heal you.

You understand what Jesus is saying? It's all about grace. Verse 16, "… blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears because they hear." God has poured out His favor, His grace on you, so that you see and so that you hear. Say, "I don't know, I'm not sure I like the idea of that." Listen to what John Broadus writes: "If we shrink sensitively from the idea that the Lord of heaven and earth reveals to some and hides from others, we are strangely out of sympathy with the feelings of Jesus who found in this idea an occasion for adoration and joy of His father." I won't take time to do this, but if you turn back to chapter 11 of Matthew, verse 25, guess what Jesus says? I'll read it to you. He says,

"… I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from [those who think they're wise,] … [who think they're] … intelligent and [You] have revealed them to infants. Yes, … this was … pleasing in Your sight." [He goes on to say the only one who's going to know the Father, is the one,] verse 27, "to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

Here's the bottom line: if you're sitting here this morning, and you've come to value Jesus Christ, you've come to the place where you understand His teaching, where you can grasp what He's saying, where you want to follow Him, it's because God has granted that to you. Just as Jesus told the disciples, to you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom. It's a work of God's grace. That's really what we celebrate in communion, isn't it? The grace of God in opening up our souls to see the value of Jesus Christ.

Let's bow our heads as we pray.

Our Father, we thank you for Your Word. We thank you for the truth we've discovered even this morning (been reminded of). We thank you that You opened our hearts that could not see, that could not hear, that could not understand, and You allowed us to see the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Father, we thank you and praise you for Your grace. That our hearts were good soil, not because of us. The seed fell and found lodging in our hearts because You had sovereignly prepared our hearts to receive it. Oh, God, thank you for Your grace in our lives.

I pray for the person here this morning who doesn't know You. May they come even today to grasp the truth by an exercise of Your grace in their lives. May they see the beauty of Christ and turn to Him even today. And we praise You in Jesus name, Amen.