I believe Jesus’ parables are some of the most important teachings in all of scripture, but they’ve been largely misunderstood. I’d like to take a new look at a part of the parable of the sower and seed.
“Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some 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. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” (Matthew 13:3-6)
In this parable, Jesus tells of four places the seed, which he says represents the word of God, was sown into. I believe each of these places represents a potential state of heart and mind of each individual, as well as a season of the church. Jesus gives some confirmation of this in Matthew 13:19 and Luke 8:15. The issue is in which place the seed/word implants. I want to focus on one of these four grounds; the rocky places.
Jesus lists three problems with the rocky places: 1). Having little soil. 2). No depth of soil. 3). No root. This is a heart with little and shallow understanding (little/shallow soil) and no solid anchor or foundation to keep steady in times of turmoil (no root). The rocky places are shallow, confined to the human soul, while deep places are those which penetrate to the spirit.
Somewhat surprisingly, Jesus said the seed that falls in this shallow ground immediately springs up! Here’s what I think this means. Jesus’ multiple descriptions of shallowness in the rocky places is a reference to the human soul, which is part of one’s heart. The human soul contains the reasonings, emotions, and will of man, apart from God. The human soul can be very religious, but fosters quick and vapid fruit, such as emotional reactions (I’m so happy that God loves me; He will fix my problems and I get to go to heaven!) and hasty declarations (I will follow Jesus anywhere, always!) which are based on shallow understandings (Jesus died to get me to heaven). These things have no depth (nothing spiritual) and won’t withstand the tests and trials that will come.
By contrast, to follow the way of Jesus in bringing God’s word to fruition and establishing His kingdom requires deep soil (spiritual understanding), deep roots (a foundation on the spirit), and perseverance. Among other things, deep soil is characterized by meditation, soberly counting the cost of following Jesus’ example, and allowing one’s soul and spirit to be divided (Hebrews 4:12). These are deep, spiritual workings and take time, unlike the quick but brittle things of the shallow, rocky places.
Here’s how Jesus explained the rocky places: “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself (spiritual foundation within), but is only temporary (in his soul – mind/feelings/etc), and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away…” Notice, the falling away happens “immediately,” just like the growth.
Christianity is FULL of shallow soil. Many times what are called “spiritual highs” are really soulish highs, a stirring up of one’s emotions, which, like Jesus said, are quick but “only temporary,” a product of rocky places. I’ve personally experienced and seen this, and you probably have too. I’ve read that 90% or more of people who “get saved” at large Christian rallies or crusades aren’t active in church a year later. My fear is they aren’t active in the pursuit or establishment of the Kingdom.
It’s truly tough on your old nature to follow Jesus’ way of pursuit of and submission to God. Without a spiritual foundation, deeper and separate from feelings and reasonings, one will quickly fall from Jesus’ way, whether one continues to claim to be Christian or not. Let’s desperately ask God to grant us a heart of understanding and a foundation that is spiritual. Amen.