Sermon from the Gospel According to Matthew | Listening and Hearing | Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Listening and Hearing (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

When I was a kid, my grandmother—Nannie—asked my brother Aaron and me to run to the little grocery store at the end of her road to pick up something for her. She asked both of us what kind of candy bar we wanted, but we couldn’t decide. Well, Nannie gave us a blank check and told us, “Get whatever you want.”

We took her literally. I made Aaron push the cart and I did the shopping. We got what Nannie needed, but I also made sure that we got whatever we wanted—pudding cups, potato chips, snack cakes, ice cream, a couple coloring books, and a couple candy bars. Nannie was starting to get worried about us and was about to call the store when she looked out her window and saw Aaron and me carrying two large sacks of groceries.

Maybe you, too, have misunderstood directions. Did any of you men go to the grocery store for your wives and come back with something completely different than what she wanted? Ever end up taking too much or too little medication because you failed to read the bottle carefully? Ever end up embarrassing yourself at work because you didn’t carefully follow your supervisor’s instructions? Ever struggle with putting a toy together on Christmas morning because you didn’t read the directions? Ever ignore your parents and get in big trouble?

Jesus talked about “Listening and Hearing”. Jesus said you must listen carefully and hear. Nannie and Mom laughed long and hard when Aaron and I showed up with bags of whatever we wanted. But it’s not so funny when we fail to listen carefully and hear what God has to say.

Jesus told his disciples that they must listen carefully and hear what God has to say. In fact, the Lord said: “He who listens and hears brings forth an abundant harvest.

Scripture (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

verses 3-9:

Most farmers in Palestine did not plow the fields before they sowed seed; therefore, seeds turned out just like Jesus described here.

Seeds fell along the hard path the farmer made walking through the field, and birds came and ate the seeds.

Some seeds fell on rocky ground, but because they didn’t have any soil for their roots, they quickly withered. Much Palestinian soil only has a thin layer of soil over rock; the farmer wouldn’t know that was rocky soil without first plowing it.

Some seeds fell among thorns that choked them. Without plowing, these thistles were likely hidden from the farmer.

Other seeds fell on good soil and produced a great harvest—“some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” The normal harvest in Palestine was about tenfold, so these harvests would have been exceptionally good.

verses 18-23:

Jesus explained the parable to his disciples:

  • The seeds sown along the path were sown in a hard heart which failed to understand the word. Satan came and snatched that seed.
  • The seeds sown on rocky ground stand for a person who readily receives the word of God with joy, but he falls away when he encounters trouble.
  • The seeds sown among the thorns stand for a person whose heart is choked by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.”
  • The seeds which fell among good soil stand for the person who “hears the word and understands it” and brings forth an amazing harvest.


You must hear and understand what Jesus taught his disciples. He said, “He who has ears, let him hear” (v 9). Do you have ears? Then, you’d better hear. Because: “He who listens and hears brings forth an abundant harvest.

Think about your life in light of these four soils. If you desire to please God, you must be the fourth type of soil. How can you avoid being the first three soils? How can you bring forth an abundant harvest?

Don’t be the Packed Soil.

The packed soil represents a hardhearted person who will not hear and understand the gospel.

You’d be somewhere else right now if you were hardhearted, but are you on your way to becoming hardhearted? Sin hardens the heart. “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5); because they harbored unrepented sin, the Romans’ hearts were hard. “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13); sin’s lies hardens hearts.

What about your heart? What sin requires repentance? What sin requires confession?

Don’t be the Pressure Soil.

The pressure soil stands for someone whose faith falters when he faces “tribulation or persecution . . . on account of the word.”

You’re not facing “tribulation or persecution . . . on account of the word,” but you do face tribulation. Because we live in a fallen world, troubles abound in this life; will you give up your faith when trouble comes? Job refused to give up when trouble came; when his wife told him to curse God and die, “he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak’” (Job 2:10). Paul and his companions faced such great trials in Asia that they wanted to die, but Paul said, “On [God] we have set our hope” (2 Cor 1:10).

What about your heart? If you’re facing great upheaval in life, how firm is your faith . . . have you set your hope on God? When trouble comes to you, how firm will your faith be . . . can you truly set your hope on God?

Don’t be the Pleasure Soil

The pleasure soil stands for someone who accepts the word, but “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke” out his faith.

Do the things of this world choke out your faith? Are you so concerned with worldly pleasure and riches and comforts that you have lost sight of heaven? In discussing the qualifications of widows to be enrolled, Paul said that the one “who is self-indulgent [who lives for pleasure] is dead even while she lives” (1 Tim 5:6); are you dead while your heart still beats? “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Js 4:4).

What about your heart? How much do you seek pleasure in this world? Have pleasures of life caused you to lose sight of heaven?

Do be the Production Soil

The production soil stands for someone who hears the word of God, understands that word, and brings forth a great harvest.

Do you hear and understand the word? The Greek word for “understand” means “to gain insight” or “to comprehend.” To gain that insight, you must study the Word. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). You’ve probably heard the King James Version repeatedly: “Study to show thyself approved unto God.” The Greek term doesn’t mean “study;” instead, the word means to be eager, to put all your effort into something. Do you want to be a worker approved by God? Do your best, be eager, and work hard to listen and to hear the word of God.

How well are you listening and hearing the word of God this morning?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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