The parable of the sower
Matthew 13:1‑23; Mark 4:1‑25; Luke 8:4‑18
The Parable of the Sower
When Jesus came out of a house (Mark 3:19), he sat down to teach a multitude beside the Sea of Galilee. The first parable he told on that day was about a farmer who went out to his field to sow some seed. A portion of that seed fell on the wayside, or foot path. Palestine in the days of Christ was a land without fences. People walking through an area naturally followed basically the same path. Eventually, such led to there being a hard, packed way to follow through the fields. Seed which fell on this ground would either be trampled under foot or eaten by the birds.
Other seed fell on rocky ground. This was a rock ledge covered by a small layer of topsoil. Seed on such ground would readily spring up. However, because its roots could not go deep, the plant soon withered. Some of the seed fell on ground already covered with thorns. The thorns would compete with the young seedling for sun and moisture. At last, the thorns would choke the seedling to death. Seed also fell on good ground. Harvest time found such ground yielding thirty, sixty or one hundred times as much grain as was originally sown.
The Importance of Learning from the Parables
Jesus called for those who could hear his message to seek for an understanding of its meaning. Parables were intended by our Lord to uncover that which had been hidden. The word "mystery" is used in the New Testament to refer to the plan of God for the redemption of man which had been hidden from previous generations (compare Romans 16:25‑27).
Of course, parables were also intended to hide the truth from those who were not ready to receive such. To them, the stories told would be innocent little stories of common life. Interestingly, Paul says the rulers of this world would not have crucified Jesus if they had fully understood the mystery (1 Corinthians 2:6‑8). Jesus promised those who had receptive hearts would find the parables teaching them much more about the kingdom of heaven. Those who had little understanding and refused to receive more would find the parables presenting them with a maze which obscured understanding.
All of this was in accord with the prophecy of Isaiah 6:9‑10. The Lord pronounced a blessing on all those who saw and actually perceived the truth revealed in the parables. Others had longed to see the fullness of the truth but had not been given the same opportunity (1 Peter 1:10‑12).
Explaining the Parable of the Sower
Christ used this parable to point out the responsibility an individual has when he hears. The seed of the kingdom is God's word. The sower is someone who preaches the word. The four soils represent different conditions of the human heart.
The wayside soil represents the person who has closed his mind completely to the word of God (Hebrews 3:12‑13). The rocky soil represents the person who fails to think out carefully what he has heard. He does not follow through completely and develops no depth of understanding. So, when hard times comes, he abandons the truth. The thorny soiled heart is that individual who loves the cares and pleasures of this life more than God's kingdom. They allow such to choke God's word out of their life. The good soil represents the person who understands, receives and keeps with patience the word of God.
Applying the Parable of the Sower
Reception of the gospel and the fruit it produces depends upon the heart of the one who receives it. The real hearer is the man who listens, who understands and who obeys. "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). We must, therefore, be sure our minds are open and receptive to the word of God.
Teachers also need to remember it is their job to sow the seed without regard to the types of soil it falls upon. Each one who proclaims the gospel must recognize God is the one who will give the increase (1 Corinthians 3:5‑7; Isaiah 55:10‑11). God expects every faithful Christian to sow the seed of the kingdom (2 Timothy 2:2; Mark 16:15‑16). We cannot be faithful and be quiet!
1. What was Jesus' stated purpose for using parables?
--Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school
--Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school director