The Parable of the Sower is found in Matthew 13:3-23; Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:4-15. I will be using the Matthew account.
At this point in our Lord’s ministry He began speaking to the people in parables. Have you ever wondered why? The disciples did. At first He was speaking plainly, and then all of a sudden He starts speaking in parables. Beginning at verse ten we read,
“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
Jesus responded by saying, “… To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.
For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.
Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.
For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
In Jesus’ first message to the people, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) He spoke plainly, and the people came to hear Him. After a while though, the people started coming for a different reason. They came not so much to listen, but to be healed from physical ailments. They were not interested in their spiritual well-being, but were totally engrossed in their physical well-being.
The signs Jesus performed were primarily to fulfil prophecy as proof that He, Jesus, was the prophesied Messiah they had been waiting for. The Gospel message was the real meat, but they wanted to nibble on the fat of life. They were more interested in the healing of the flesh and other miracles, than the miracle of saving faith. Therefore, to get them to think harder about what He was saying, He spoke in parables. Those who were really interested would hear with their ears (notice verse nine), while the others, the majority, would drift away.
Notice how Jesus’ preaching is the exact opposite of what we see today. He chose to cull out the fat, while most ministers today are out to fill the pews and the offering plates. Most ministers today choose to entertain, but Jesus chose to preach the Word of the Gospel.
Jesus spoke of the Gospel of the kingdom of Heaven, which is what His true followers have been proclaiming for the last two thousand years. This is the gospel of victory in Jesus Christ; i.e. victory over sin, victory over life’s hurdles, victory over self-induced problems, victory over death and the grave. This is God’s grace personified in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and bestowed on all who will come to Him in simple child-like faith, trusting Him with a repentant heart and a willing soul.
The Gospel says we are lost and need to be saved. It proclaims and condemns our sins, then offers forgiveness and fellowship. It is the Good News of eternal blessings with our Savior and Lord, and Godly comfort in a world that is no longer our own.
So Jesus spoke to them in parables. Those who were really interested in hearing the message of Truth would hear. The others would go on their way.
In this first parable, it is important to understand that the four types of soil are not four different types of people. The four different types of soils are four different conditions of the heart,when the seed is sown. The seed of course is referring to the Word of God.
One final note is that the sower could be any Christian who is sowing the seeds of the Gospel. The seed can be sown by preaching, teaching, books, articles, personal witnessing through various means, etc. The garden is the field and the field is white unto harvest. (John 4:35)
“Behold, the sower went out to sow;”
Beside The Road
“and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”
Jesus explains in verse nineteen that the birds are representative of Satan, the evil one. As the Gospel seed is sown in this heart it finds a calloused heart worn down and uninterested in the things of God. This heart dwells upon material things and is interested only in self (humanism). It is so calloused and self-absorbed it could be anything from liberalistic to atheistic in its attitude.
The path is hardened. Therefore the seed falls only on the surface and takes no root. The birds of the air, the evil one, find the seed to be ‘easy picking.’ The ones possessing this heart may claim to be a Christian, but the church is like a lodge or country club to them. They may even stray off into other “isms” or cults. The seed is rejected.
“Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.”
This heart provides no soil of any depth, and therefore the seed takes no root and withers under the hot sun. Impulsiveness drives this heart. This heart resides in a person who may be a church member, but emotionalism is the master. It is all show and no depth, full of fire but no heat. It rides high on emotions, but wallows in despair when troubles come. It is on the front row when being entertained, but would rather be absent than sit through another ‘boring’ sermon. The seed is rejected.
Among The Thorns
“Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.”
Some try to imply or even say that the sowing among the thorns refers to weak Christians. That simply is not so. First of all, the type of soil is the condition of the heart upon being presented the seed (which is the Word of God). This is referring to another unbelieving heart, a shallow heart that chokes out the seed. The seed is the subject matter, and it is the seed that is being choked out.
This heart is concerned only with the cares of this world, and is busy, busy, busy. It lives for the job, the family, pleasures, money, bills, illness, and all else that the world presents. The cares of the world are much more important than any spiritual matter. This heart is restless, going from one thing to another. Therefore, the Word, the seed, is choked out.
Notice in verse twenty two that Jesus says ‘it’ (the Word) becomes unfruitful. He does not say the man is unfruitful. He says the seed, the Word, is unfruitful. Again, the seed is rejected.
On The Good Soil
“And others fell on good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
This soil is receptive to the seed when it is sown. Its responsiveness shows in the deeper, rich soil that provides a home for the seed to take root, germinate and grow, producing a crop.
This is the soil where we will find different levels of Christian maturity. The seed that fell on good soil produced a true Christian whose heart (soil) was ready for the Gospel and accepted it.
Christians are at different levels of Christian growth. The heart of one Christian may produce hundred fold crops, while others maybe produce sixty or thirty, or even ten, or forty, or seventy. The point is that not all our crops will be the same.
What is the ‘crop’ referring to? The crop is simply the life we live as unto the Lord while upon this earth. The seed sown beside the road, on the rocky places, and among the thorns was rejected, and no crop of any kind was produced. Only the seed sown on the good soil can produce a crop.
“He who has ears, let him hear.”
A heart (soil) that is callous, impulsive or shallow will not accept the Word (seed). Only the receptive heart (soil) will accept the Word (seed). Only the receptive heart can and will produce a crop.
My wife and I grow vegetables in a small, backyard garden plot in a sub-division. Compared to the farms in the area, I can assure you our crop is very small. In our Christian lives, we also produce a crop. For some the crop will be small. Some will produce medium crops, and yet others will produce large crops.
Before we became a Christian, it is entirely possible that our heart, at the time the seed was being sown, was like the soil on the roadside, or the rocky places, or among the thorns, or even all three, but on that day we were saved, our heart was like the good soil, and we accepted by faith what God provided by His grace.
The heart beside the road will be calloused and not understand. The seed will be snatched away. (Seed rejected)
The heart on the rocky places will impulsively reach for it, but the seed is ultimately rejected because there is no root. (Seed rejected)
The heart among the thorns is so wrapped up in the things of the world; it (the seed, the Word) is unfruitful. (Seed rejected)
The heart on the good soil hears the Word and understands it, and it (the seed, the Word) produces a crop. (Seed accepted)
When we, as Christians, sow the seed, let us allow God the Holy Spirit to worry about the condition of the soil.
What did Jesus mean in verses eleven and twelve when He said?
“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”
The seed of Truth about one’s need for Jesus Christ is being presented. It is falling on hearts (soils) that are calloused, worn down, uninterested, concerned about material things, interested only in self, impulsive, emotionally controlled, shallow, wrapped up in the cares of the world, too busy, restless, and last but not least, some hearts will have receptive soils that call upon the Lord to be saved.
Those not receptive, have the Truth in their grasp, but let it slip from their fingers because of the condition of their hearts (their soil). Therefore, those who do not have (the Truth), even that will be taken away because the heart is not receptive to the Truth.“…whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”
However, those who have accepted the Truth will be granted even more. They will be granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They will grow in Christian knowledge and maturity as one grows from an infant to an adult. Some will produce a hundredfold crop, some sixty, and some thirty (Matthew 13:8, 23). “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance.”
What condition is your heart today? Is it like the soil beside the road, or perhaps the rocky places, or even that among the thorns, or is it a heart of good soil that is open and ready to receive the seed of God’s Word, the Truth of the Gospel? Only you can decide?