Did Jesus hide His saving message from some of the people but reveal it to others? In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus teaches many lessons in parables. Parables are special lessons that use everyday situations to illustrate spiritual points.
In verses 3 through 9, Jesus teaches about a sower who goes forth sowing seeds. Some of the seeds fall by the wayside and the birds eat them. Some of the seeds fall on soil with lots of rocks in it. They germinate and spring up, but the sun scorches them and they wither away.
And some of the seeds fall in soil that has lots of thorns. The thorns choke out the seeds and they die. But finally the sower sows seed in good ground. The seeds in the good ground produce a bountiful harvest. When He finishes the lesson, the disciples ask Him why He is teaching in parables.
In verses 11 through 16, Jesus explains that He is speaking in parables so that those who want the truth will understand His message, but those who don’t want the truth will remain in the dark. In fact, Jesus says that this fulfills a prophesy from Isaiah 6:9-10:
By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; Lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them (Matt. 13:14-15).
Jesus gave the same message to all of the people, but some of them understood it while others did not. The condition of our hearts is what determines whether we understand Jesus’ teaching.
That is exactly the point of the parable that Jesus told about the sower who sowed the seeds in different kinds of soil. Jesus goes on to explain the parable to his disciples in Matthew 13:18-24. He says the seed that fell in the wayside soil represents those who hear the word of the kingdom but don’t understand it, and that word is quickly taken out of the hearer’s heart. The stony soil represents someone who hears the Gospel and receives it gladly, but when persecution comes he falls away.
The soil with thorns represents someone who hears the word but allows cares of this life—things like work, family and money—to choke it out. Someone like this becomes “unfruitful.” But the good ground that the seeds fell into—the soil that finally produced an abundant crop—represents someone who understands the word and lets it bear fruit in his life.
In a parallel passage, Luke 8:15, Jesus says that the one who understands the word is one who has an honest and good heart. The first three kinds of soil represent people who ultimately refuse the word because of the condition of their hearts.
Jesus goes on to say in Luke 8:18, “Take heed therefore how ye hear.” Our understanding of what Jesus teaches depends on the condition of our hearts. If we are honest and want to know the truth, we will investigate and find the truth. If we don’t want the truth, or if we don’t care, we will remain spiritually deaf and blind and that will cost us our soul. Jesus said that when some of the people refused to hear and understand His message, they fulfilled prophecy. That prophecy said the hardhearted would refuse to be healed and converted. Those today who close their ears to the truth of the Gospel will remain in their sins. That means they will ultimately be consigned to spend eternity in hell, away from all that is good and holy.
There is a lot of disagreement about what the Bible teaches, and because of this many people have decided that it’s impossible for people to understand it alike. But Jesus explains in the parable of the sower and the soils in Matthew 13 why many don’t understand the Bible. It isn’t the Bible’s fault. The problem is with the people. While there is honest disagreement among sincere people over a few matters, Jesus and the apostles are plain about what to do to be saved, how to worship God, which church is actually the church of Christ, and what activities are immoral and thus forbidden. The New Testament plainly lays out these matters. Those who refuse to accept the truth on these matters are shutting their eyes and ears, just like Jesus said. And this results in people hearing the saving truth but rejecting it and remaining in their sins.
Do you love the truth? Are you willing to accept the truth regardless of the consequences? These are requirements for being saved and going to heaven.