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by Tim Howington

Years ago, I spent the summer in Turkey.  We were on a mission trip working with Iranian refugees who had flooded Turkey at the height of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.  We spent our summer just making friends and sharing the love of Christ with these lovely people who found themselves displaced by war. 

One day I was out site seeing in the Istanbul, when a young boy probably 8 or 9 began to follow us around with a shoeshine kit.  I have always been a little bit of a hustler myself, so I really appreciate guys like that who are trying to make something happen.  As he followed us around, he was clearly saying in his broken English, “mister, mister let me shine your shoes”.  Perfectly clear and articulate.

The problem was that I had on tennis shoes.  And to my thinking, I didn’t think my old dirty tennis shoes needed shining so I said, “no thanks”.  But this kid was persistent.  Over and over, “mister, mister let me shine your shoes.”  Obviously, we were not connecting in our communication.  I stopped, leaned down and firmly shook my head side to side and said “no, I have tennis shoes on and don’t need them shined.”  Exasperated, he took one final last-ditch effort to close the deal.  He took some white shoe polish and wiped it on my shoes.  “Your shoes, your shoes- let me shine your shoes.” And then he stormed off.

Later when I was back in our room, I told someone about the encounter, and they just laughed.  It seems that the nonverbal language in Turkey is different than the US.  When you shake your head side to side in the US, it clearly means no. The same head motion in Turkey means, I don’t understand.

I am sure he went back home and that night telling the story about the idiot American he met that day.  He probably still tells that story.

Understanding is the essence of our study today.  We are looking at the parable of the Sower.  Specifically, the section about the seeds on the road.  We pick up in Matthew 13 (NASB).

     3       And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow;

     4       and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.

     5       “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.

     6       “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

     7       “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.

     8       “And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

     9       “He who has ears, let him hear.”

This parable that has always intrigued me.  To be honest, I find it fascinating and at the same time confusing. Four soils representing 4 different heart reactions to the words of the kingdom.

What is this word of the kingdom? Is it the gospel? Is it the overarching message of God’s rule on the earth? Is it the reestablishment of God’s right to rule on earth? 

Whatever this word of the kingdom is, each of the four soils heard it and had a different reaction to it.

To be sure this parable is jammed in the middle of a power packed chapter where Jesus is describing the kingdom to the people- Matthew 13.  He described the kingdom using the parable of the tares among the wheat, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the leaven, the parable of the hidden treasure, the parable of the costly pearl, the parable of the dragnet and of course the soils.

All these stories where different attempts of Jesus to help his listeners understand what the kingdom is all about.

In this article, we are going to discuss the soil beside the road.  Look at Jesus’ explanation in Matthew 13:19

  18       “Hear then the parable of the sower.

  19       “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

  20       “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;

  21       yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he afalls away.

  22       “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

  23       “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Let’s make some observations:

  • This group of people heard the word of the kingdom
  • They did not understand it
  • The seed was sown in a heart
  • The evil one comes and snatches it away

Did you catch that?  They heard.  They did not understand. Satan was able to snatch that message away somehow.

I think the thing that stands out to me in this story is that they did not understand it.

I wonder why?

Was the message not clear?  Were their hearts as hard as the road?  Did the Sower sow an unclear message?

Whatever the case, as a teacher-type person.  This makes me sad.  I have less sympathy for the other soils who didn’t respond because of distractions in their lives.

But to not understand?  It seems so unnecessary. So preventable.  So fixable.

I have spent most of my adult life as a Christian and have always attempted to make things clear.  Let’s lose the fog and give insight to those who are seeking.

I feel sorry for the hearts described as hard as a road.  I remember those day before I came to Christ and even though I heard the word I did not understand.

Oh, that the hard hearted could be softened and understand.

My challenge to myself and to you the reader is let’s work hard to make sure the obstacle to understanding is not our communication.  To be clear- LETS BE CLEAR.

My challenge to myself and to you the reader is let’s work hard to make sure the obstacle to understanding is not our communication.  To be clear- LETS BE CLEAR.

“He who has ears, let him hear.”

Tim Howington. Follower of Jesus. Husband to Terri. Dad to Josh. Wanna-be writer. Bird Watcher. Novice Fly Fisherman. Discipler of Men. Some people call me the Howitzer.

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