18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path. 20 And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”
Jesus was a master storyteller. I can imagine Jesus observing a sower actually at work, giving Him the opportunity for a life lesson: “Look at the sower there sowing his seed in that field!”
In Palestine, there were generally two methods of sowing seed. “Scattering” involved a blowing wind that might scatter the seeds. “Drop seeding” involved putting a sack of seed on the back of a donkey, tearing or cutting a hole in the corner of the sack, and then allowing the seed to drop as the animal walked.
In this parable, Jesus describes four types of soil. The “path” is a long, narrow strip between the rows. It’s often beaten down and as hard as a pavement. The Greek word used to describe this path is hodos, meaning “road.” If seed fell along this path, there was no chance of it penetrating the earth.
The “stony ground” is a thin skin of earth on top of an underlying shelf of limestone rock. On such ground, the seed will certainly germinate, but because there is no depth of earth, it’s starved to death.
The “thorny ground” is deceptive. Every gardener knows that the weeds grow with speed and strength that few good seeds can equal. The result is that the good seed and the dormant weeds grow together, but the weeds are so strong that they throttle the life out of the seed.
The “good ground” is deep, clean, and soft. The seed can plant, find nourishment, and grow unchecked. In the good ground, it brings forth an abundant harvest.
Like the soil, there is always a mixture of people receiving the Word as the gospel is preached. Some have no understanding of it. Some ignore or reject it. Some may seem zealous for a time, but they are unable to internalize the Word due to their world view. Then, there are those who make the Word of God their lifestyle.
This parable offers two lessons. First, it is a parable of encouragement to everyone who sows the seed of the Word. No preachers or teachers ever know what they were doing. It is our task only to sow the seed and leave the rest to God.
Second, when we sow the seed, we must exercise patience. Often, a word dropped into the heart of a child lies dormant until it awakens and saves the soul. We live in an age that looks for instant results, but in the sowing of the seed, we must sow in patience, pray in hope, and leave the harvest to the master gardener.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Is the seed of the gospel an integral part of your life?
- Are you sowing seed in the name of Jesus? Especially when the opportunities present themselves?
- Do you seek chances to have gospel conversations so that you can sow the seeds of the good news?