Mystery of the Kingdom
Chapter Six (Excerpt Only)
Those Like Rocky Ground
5 And other seed fell on the ROCKY GROUND where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.
6 And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
16 And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;
17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.
This portion of Jesus’ parable concerns the second category of hearers, who Jesus allegorically described as “rocky ground.” He indicated that the Word was not fruitful in the lives of these hearers because their hearts were like “rocky ground.”
Next to the seed itself, the most important element in agriculture is the soil. The soil is what the seed is actually implanted in. It is the incubator, or “womb,” if you will, in which the seed undergoes its gradual metamorphosis unto life. There are two factors regarding the condition of the soil that are crucial to successful crop production. The first one is the fertility and condition of the soil, and the other is the depth of the soil. There must be sufficient depth of soil to foster the development of a root system adequate to sustain the crop all the way through its development to full maturity. Otherwise, the crop will die before reaching maturity and fruition.
Jesus revealed in verse five of our text that not enough depth of soil was precisely the problem in the case of this category of hearers. Because the ground was “rocky ground” “it did not have much soil.” It did have some soil, enough to receive the seed implanted, but not enough to foster the development of a root system adequate to sustain the proper growth of the plant unto full maturity.
The root system of a plant is its “umbilical cord.” The plant is wholly dependent upon the root system to supply vital nutrients it absorbs from within the earth. It can only grow proportionate to the extensiveness and effectiveness of the roots. The deeper and broader the roots extend, the more water and nutrients it can supply to the plant. The more water and nutrient it supplies, the more developed and fruitful will be the plant.
Moreover, it is during the hot, arid summer months, when the sun’s rays are at their peak intensity, that the plant’s dependence on the root system is at its maximum. Water in the surface soil soon diminishes. The root system must then draw water from deep within the ground to keep the plant from being scorched.
But, this ground was “rocky ground.” The soil was shallow because of rocks underneath. Therefore, the crop “had no root,” Jesus said (v. 6). Thus, “after the sun had risen, it was scorched.” It was scorched because there was not an adequate root system to supply the plant with sufficient water to survive the intense heat of the sun. Consequently, “it withered away” before it could grow to the fruit-bearing stage of full maturity.
Jesus indicated in verse five that there was some initial growth, however, prior to it withering away: “and immediately it sprang up.” There was some growth, but in the end it proved to be futile, since the plant subsequently withered away prior to maturing to the stage in which it could bear fruit.
When Jesus began to explain this portion of the parable to His disciples, He said this whole scenario was representative of people on whom the seed of the Word of God is sown whose hearts are like “rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.” In others words, their initial response to the Word was to receive it joyfully, which seems good. However, what was not readily visible was the fact that their hearts were still full of rocks, which would eventually be their downfall.
What did the rock represent? Rock is characteristically hard and unyielding. Thus, it symbolizes hardened, unyielding disobedience of the Word. Being likened unto “rocky ground,” indicated that there was still a lot of the “heart of stone” (Ezk. 36:26) remaining in these hearers’ lives, which represents disobedience to God and resistance of His Word.
In contrast to the rock, the soil, with its pliant and yielding nature, represents acceptance and obedience of the Word. Jesus gave a clue to that in His description of the last category of hearers, who He likened unto “good soil” because they accepted the Word when they heard it and thus bore fruit, “thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold” (Mk. 4:20).
Further evidence that the soil represents acceptance of the seed of the Word is found in a passage alluded to before: “receive the Word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). As mentioned before, it is the soil that receives the seed implanted. To receive something is to accept it.
The shallow layer of top soil these people had, therefore, represented a superficial acceptance of the Word. They had enough initial acceptance of the Word to “receive the Word implanted,” and thus to be saved. The initial growth Jesus described by saying, “and immediately it sprang up,” was further evidence that these people were saved and had begun Eternal Life.
This did favorably distinguish this second category of hearers from the first, in that the first category rejected the Word entirely when they heard it. Thus, they remained unsaved, “beside the road” of Eternal Life. The “rocky grounders” did receive the seed implanted, and were saved. Then, as the Life cycle progressed, the seed began to undergo its metamorphosis unto life. Their root system began to grow and extend downward as the Word says is necessary: “Let your roots grow down into Him (Jesus) and draw up nourishment from Him” (Col. 2:7, L.B.). But, as the roots grew deeper, they soon reached the rock which lay hidden beneath the surface soil. The rock obstructed the root, preventing it from extending any further. So, then, when the roots could grow no deeper, the stalk of the plant began to grow upward above the ground: “and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”
But, the underdeveloped root system could not supply ample water and nutrient for the plant to endure against the elements and continue growing unto maturity. Soon it withered and died.
What did all this mean?
Allegorically, what all this that Jesus was saying here meant was that these people had not made a complete repentance in their lives and thereby removed all of the rocks of sin that were present deep within their soul, hidden beneath the superficial layer of soil, which we established typified repentance. Rather, their repentance was only superficial and insufficient to allow the root system to extend as deep as was necessary for the plant to survive the scorching heat of the sun. Thus, “after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.”
Now these “rocky grounders” obviously did do some repenting, as evidenced by the fact that they at least had sufficient topsoil in which to “receive the Word implanted” (Jas. 1:21), which certainly was good and commendable as a first step. However, the problem was that their repentance was only that superficial, and not deep enough. The reason Jesus described these people as being like “rocky ground” is that even though they did have some top- soil, beneath that superficial layer of soil there still remained rocks of rebellion and sin and disobedience of God’s Word and general revealed Will. Hence, Jesus was indicating here that this category of believers only repented of the conspicuous “surface sins,” but not of the attitudinal sins that lay deeper within their inner-being and which were not so readily visible to others.
First Word of the Gospel
Repentance is an absolute imperative and the initial prerequisite of true salvation and complete sanctification. It is the very foundation of the Gospel, as this phrase in Hebrews 6:1 indicates: “…a foundation of repentance….” In other words, “repent” is the first word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, it was the first word of the Gospel which John The Baptist preached: “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, `Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Mat. 3:1,2).
It was the first word of the Gospel that Jesus preached: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Mat. 4:17). In fact, Jesus bluntly and explicitly preached that everyone must repent or they would all perish: “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3,5).
“Repent” was also the first word and essence of the Gospel preached by the original twelve Apostles of the Lamb who Jesus personally trained, commissioned, and sent out: “And He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs….And they went out and preached that men should repent” (Mk. 6:7-12).
After the same manner, Jesus also commissioned the entire Church to preach that people must repent in order to receive forgiveness of their sins unto salvation:
…and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Lk. 24:46,47)
The Apostle Peter forthrightly proclaimed in his now infamous first sermon after his own falling away and subsequent restoration and having been empowered from on High by means of the promised Immersion in the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost that repentance is the initial required response to the true Gospel of Christ, and a mandatory prerequisite for whosoever desires to receive forgiveness of sins and the infilling of, as well as the Immersion in, the Holy Spirit:
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37,38)
Peter also declared that a person must be willing to fully repent of all acts and attitudes of sin and to return to God in order to truly receive remission of the guilt and penalty of sin, and receive Jesus into his heart:
Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you. (Acts 3:19,20)
There simply is no salvation without repentance. Repentance is the Divine imperative to receiving Eternal Life:
And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to (Eternal) life.” (Acts 11:18)