This is the big one. Of all the parables the Lord taught, I think this one is the most known, with the possible exception of the prodigal son. It is also one of the more complex ones, since it is dealing with four types of soil, and the recurring results of the soil.
Let’s take a look at
The Sower of the Seed
Matthew 13:3-8, 18-23
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. …
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Great multitudes gathered to the Lord, to hear of His teaching. This was a general audience, a large crowd that had accumulated
When did the Lord give this parable?
Based on the parallel version of the parable in Mark, this teaching was provided after His confrontation with the scribes who came down from Jerusalem, claiming He was possessed of the prince of demons, and that He was casting out demons by Satan’s power.
Where did the Lord teach the parable?
As the text tells us, He was in a boat, off the shore in order to teach the large crowd. Most believe He was on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, near the village of Gennesaret
Why did the Lord give this message?
I had always considered the parables as a unique method of teaching, a method that would reach all those who heard it. But as my momma used to say, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” Jesus was finding out with this parable, and all parables, who was thirsty.
He taught this parable to multitudes and the disciples had had it. They weren’t getting it, and they came to the Lord to ask why. This is the parable that prompted the explanation of why the Master taught in parables throughout His ministry. I addressed this explanation in an introduction to this series here. I would encourage you to read the post – it may surprised you what I found out
What was the message for the original audience?
Naming this parable the parable of the sower is somewhat distracting, since it is concerning the soil that the seeds fall on that is the message. I will not address whether this parable describes four different levels of Christian, or the difference between true and false Christianity. This is not clearly defined in the parable, though some may claim it is. This is a results parable – What results from the same seed landing on four types of soils?
Four types of soil are described in this parable.
- Hard Soil
- The seed became food for birds. It didn’t have the chance to germinate. The soil was trodden down, packed by the constant pressures of foot path, of the day to day pressures of being used for travel. The soil itself was unable to receive the seed, and it was taken away.
- No life.
- Rocky Soil
- Along the edges of fields, a farmer would pile rocks and stones that he had pulled from the field. Rows of stones were common along a farmers property, being used to mark out a field, or his property. I had always translated this thinking into the verse, yet most would consider “rocky ground” to be describing shallow earth that received the seed, and yet lurking so close to the surface, an impenetrable material that refused any growth. This condition allowed initial growth, but not continual growth. This seed germinated, but continuous life was not to be experienced for this plant – The ground had not depth, no support!
- Life, but not continuous.
- Thorny Soil
- This ground was not necessarily shallow. It had the depth to support continuous life, and the proof of this was the thorns that became an impediment for this soil. The thorns choked out the good seed. It is interesting that the term choked describes a “crowding out” of the good seed. Yes the seed germinated, yet the seed did not come to maturity. In the Greek, this term “choke” conveys the idea of strangling, of taking by the throat. To choke is a very apt description of the action of the thorns. This is a competition for sustenance.
- Life, but not continuous
- Good Soil
- This soil produced grain. Multiplication occurred in this soil. The one seed produced many seed.
What is the message for us today?
I have been reluctant to sit down and consider this parable, since my “general” thoughts have condemned my own experience. You see, when I first became a believer on Feb 19th, 1981 I saw a future of impeccable faithfulness to the Master, a life of constant obedience to a Master who loved me and gave Himself for me. As I have hit 40 years of walking with Him, I realize the “truth” of the thorny soil, since I have not been the believer I anticipated. I am a weak and inconsistent follower, that has had much less impact on my world than I had hoped.
But as I was working outside yesterday, considering this passage in my thinking, I realized that I am, by nature a greedy guy. I wanted a hundredfold multiplication, and yet in my dark days, I fear there is more thorn in my life that life. I was looking only at, what I considered the obvious signs of life from my walk.
He has kept me based on His grace and not on my efforts. He has sometimes dragged me through some difficult times, giving me only a slight glimmer of hope, and yet He still is very present, very real and is continuing His work.
As you read this parable, don’t be greedy and compare your life with a famous evangelist, teacher or flamboyant showy believer.
If you have produced one seed, one grain, give thanks.
And get the weed whipper out.
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