Thesis:The failure of faith is rooted in the absence of "moisture" at the point of the presence of "temptation".
Introduction:Thus far in our studies of Jesus' teaching in a parable, we have seen that He is preparing His disciples to go forth and do what He sends them to do. We have also seen that He saw fit to do that preparation by deliberately focusing His parable upon the reality of men's responses to their efforts. Last week we saw that a disciple's response to Jesus' commands are not to be determined by the responses of others to his obedience. That many are too "hard packed" to even allow the Word of God to elicit a response in them is no reason for the disciple to refrain from his own willingness to allow the Word of God to elicit a response in him. The issue in the parable is whether the disciples will preach the Word of God in its purity, or not. The issue is whether the disciples will do what Jesus tells them to do, or not.
Now, as we return to our study of this first parable of Jesus, we are going to look into the issues that surround His presentation of the second kind of "fruitless soil".
I. The First Issue: the Condition of the Hearers.
A. In this description, the hearers are described as "rock", but the reality is that they are soil-covered rock.
1. The illustration arises out of the reality of farming and seed sowing.
a. This means that we must "go with the flow" of the illustration.
b. This also means that we must understand that seeds must have some kind of medium that will hold moisture around them long enough for them to germinate.
c. Thus, we conclude that the verb translated "fell" needs to have the idea of "falling down into" the nooks and crannies where the wind has blown some dirt, or where former rains have washed some mud.
2. The illustration, however, is stated in terms of "rock", not soil.
a. This is important because this is the only group of the four that is actually described in terms of an absence of the things that make it possible for the seed to produce.
b. The dirt and the moisture have to exist for the seed to germinate, but the group described are neither the dirt or the moisture.
c. It is important for us to understand that Jesus is describing a group which has no capacity for any response to the Word of God.
1) When the seed was sown upon the trampled earth of the path, the lack of response was caused by the fact that the devil came and snatched the Word from the heart before it could have its intended result.
2) When Jesus describes this second group as "rock", He acknowledges that there is no need for birds to come to keep the Word from producing: rocks will not produce in any case.
B. In this description, the hearers respond as if they are going to be fruitful disciples.
1. Jesus "explains" the visible response in terms of "a temporary faith".
a. The "soil" in the nooks and crannies of the rock is really foreign to the nature of the rock, but it does give an appearance of a capacity for response.
b. The "response" is called "hearing with joy" and "receiving the Word" and "believing for a time".
c. But the reality is that the response is fundamentally foreign to the actual nature of stone.
2. Jesus "explains" the problem in terms of two realities regarding rock.
a. On the one hand, it cannot absorb water and hold it around the seed.
b. On the other hand, it cannot permit the tentative root of the germinating seed to penetrate its surface.
C. In this description, the impossibilities are actually two.
1. In John's treatment of Jesus, He is presented as the Living Water of Life Who, believed in, makes the person "never thirst again".
a. The use of water is highly instructive once we move it out of the literal setting.
b. On the cross, in John's Gospel alone, Jesus is said to have made the statement: "I thirst".
c. When coupled to the Psalmist's declaration that his distance from God has made him "thirst" like the deer who thirsts after the brooks of water (Psalm 42), Jesus' statement indicates that He has entered into an estrangement from His Father that constitutes His payment for the sins of the world.
d. This means that "moisture", in parable, indicates a lack of union with God.
e. Thus, Jesus' declaration regarding the rock is that it has no capacity to relate to God, being too hard to permit Him to establish such a relationship.
2. Jesus' change from the terms of the parable when He gave it, so that He might explain it, is significant.
a. When He gave the parable to the crowds, the "problem" was "no moisture".
b. When He explained it to His disciples, the "problem" was "no root".
1) This forbids us to think that the Word actually had any place in the persons involved.
2) The issue is mere appearance caused by external realities that have, in fact, no reality in the persons involved.
3) Thus, the terminology of "receiving with joy", "believing for a time" [Note: Hebrews3:6], and "falling away in time of temptation" [Note: Hebrews 10:39] are simply descriptions of what "appears" to disciples who are out preaching the Word.
II. The Second Issue: the Danger These Hearers Represent.
A. The first element of the danger is the appearance of legitimate response as it affects the disciples' decisions regarding others.
1. When the disciples preached the Word, they had to leave those who responded in the care of someone, and their choices were going to be made on the basis of appearances.
2. This is how non-believers get into the positions of influence that end up destroying so many.
B. The second element of the danger is the appearance of legitimate response as it affects the disciples' decisions regarding themselves.
1. All men are tempted to rest their own faithfulness upon the faithfulness of others.
a. Men often claim they would love their wives like they should if only their wives would submit to them as they should ... and vice versa.
b. In other issues, the justification for evil is often cast in terms of someone else's "greater sin", starting with Adam and Eve doing their blame casting and being illustrated by Aaron's moronic excuse that "the people made me do it".
2. When it comes to being faithful to one's own particular calling, the failures of others often create theological knots in minds and hearts that end up altering either the disciple's explanation of the Word, or his/her actual grasp of its meaning.
a. This is actually a form of the idolatrous imposition of a man into the place of God.
b. This is a revelation of the absence of "moisture".