Who hath ears to hear, etc. - Let every person who feels the necessity of being instructed in the things which concern his soul's welfare pay attention to what is spoken, and he shall become wise unto salvation.
In parables - The word “parable” is derived from a Greek word signifying “to compare together,” and denotes a similitude taken from a natural object to illustrate a spiritual or moral subject. It is a narrative of some fictitious or real event, in order to illustrate more clearly some truth that the speaker wished to communicate. In early ages it was much used. Pagan writers, as Aesop, often employed it. In the time of Christ it was in common use. The prophets had used it, and Christ employed it often in teaching his disciples. It is not necessary to suppose that the narratives were strictly true. The main thing - “the inculcation of spiritual truth” - was gained equally, whether it was true or was only a supposed case. Nor was there any dishonesty in this. It was well understood no person was deceived. The speaker was not “understood” to affirm the thing “literally narrated,” but only to fix the attention more firmly on the moral truth that he presented. The “design” of speaking in parables was the following:
1.To convey truth in a more interesting manner to the mind, adding to the truth conveyed the beauty of a lovely image or narrative.
2.To teach spiritual truth so as to arrest the attention of ignorant people, making an appeal to them through the “senses.”
3.To convey some offensive truth, some pointed personal rebuke. in such a way as to bring it “home” to the conscience. Of this kind was the parable which Nathan delivered to David 2 Samuel 12:1-7, and many of our Saviour‘s parables addressed to the Jews.
4.To “conceal” from one part of his audience truths which he intended others should understand. Thus Christ often, by this means, delivered truths to his disciples in the presence of the Jews, which he well knew the Jews would not understand; truths pertaining to them particularly, and which he was under no obligations to explain to the Jews. See Mark 4:33; Matthew 13:13-16.
Our Saviour‘s parables are distinguished above all others for clearness, purity, chasteness, importance of instruction, and simplicity. They are taken mostly from the affairs of common life, and intelligible, therefore, to all people. They contain much of “himself” - his doctrine, life, design in coming, and claims, and are therefore of importance to all people; and they are told in a style of simplicity intelligible to the child, yet instructive to people of every rank and age. In his parables, as in all his instructions, he excelled all people in the purity, importance, and sublimity of his doctrine.
A sower went forth to sow - The image here is taken from an employment known to all people, and therefore intelligible to all.
Nor can there be a more striking illustration of preaching the gospel than placing the seed in the ground, to spring up hereafter and bear fruit.
Sower - One who sows or scatters seed - a farmer. It is not improbable that one was near the Saviour when he spoke this parable.
Some seeds fell by the way-side - That is, the hard “path” or headland, which the plow had not touched, and where there was no opportunity for it to sink into the earth.
Stony places - Where there was little earth, but where it was hard and rocky, so that the roots could not strike down into the earth for sufficient moisture to support the plant.
When the sun became hot they of course withered away. They sprang up the sooner because there was little earth to cover them.
Forthwith - Immediately. Not that they sprouted and grew any quicker or faster than the others, but they were not so long in reaching the surface. Having little root, they soon withered away.
Among thorns - That is, in a part of the field where the thorns and shrubs had been imperfectly cleared away and not destroyed.
They grew with the grain, crowded it, shaded it, exhausted the earth, and thus choked it.
Into good ground - The fertile and rich soil.
In sowing, by far the largest proportion of seed will fall into the good soil; but Christ did not intend to teach that these proportions would be exactly the same among those who heard the gospel. Parables are designed to teach some “general” truth, and the circumstances should not be pressed too much in explaining them.
An hundred-fold - That is, a hundred, sixty, or thirty “grains” for each one that was sowed an increase by no means uncommon. Some grains of wheat will produce twelve or fifteen hundred grains. The usual proportion on a field sown, however, is not more than twenty, fifty, or sixty bushels for one.
Who hath ears - This is a proverbial expression, implying that it was every man‘s duty to pay attention to what was spoken, Matthew 11:15.