Seed, Sower, Soil

There came a time in Jesus’ ministry when He used only parables when He taught the crowds. His disciples questioned this change in His method. His first parable, commonly known as the parable of the sower, answered their question and set a foundation for the stories that were to follow. Many people came from surrounding towns to see and hear Jesus. As a result of the size of the multitude, Jesus taught this while sitting in a boat; the people were gathered on the shoreline. This parable is found in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew 13:3-23, Mark 4:2-20, Luke 8:4-15). Upon completing the story, He explained the meaning to his disciples: as the seed of the Word of God is sown into our lives, our response and corresponding lifestyle is based on the condition of our hearts.

Jesus declared the seed to be the Word of God. It was the good news of His kingdom. It is an incorruptible seed that endures forever, and it is the means by which we experience salvation (I Peter 1:23-25). It would always accomplish God’s intended purpose (Isaiah 55:11).

The sower is defined only by the faithful spreading of the seed. The method of the sowing of the seed by hand was called broadcasting. If we sow consistently and with compassion, we will return with songs of joy, bringing the harvest with us (Psalm 126:5-6).

Jesus seems to place the emphasis of this story on the types of soils upon which the seed is sown. Luke equates these soil types with the conditions of the heart. Some seed fell on the footpaths surrounding the fields and was trampled and snatched away by birds. This portrays how the Evil One, through various devices, diverts the hearer from believing the Word which leads to salvation. The seed which fell upon the rock was unable to take root. These hear and receive the Word gladly, but fall away at the first sign of trouble or testing. The seed which fell among thorns was choked. These thorns are the worries of life, the deceit of riches, and the pursuit of worldly pleasures. Other seed fell on good ground and produced a plentiful crop. This is the good and noble heart, hearing, retaining and, by perseverance, producing an honorable and healthy harvest.

Those with ears to hear will hear. This refers to a repeated and continuous action. Jesus said to “take care about how we hear.” Using the agricultural illustration, fertile soil requires continual care and preparation.