Summary: Only one of the four soils produces. Three of the four soils reject the seed. The problem isn’t with the seed but the soil. It’s the same seed that produces a great crop in the fourth soil that goes away in the first three soils.
Jesus’ message was designed for religious outsiders. There’s something beautiful in the way those on the outside react when they first hear the gospel. One person when he recently began to comprehend the message of Jesus, recently asked me: “Do you mean to tell me that Adolf Hitler could receive forgiveness?” We can expect to see a wide variety of responses to the gospel. In some people the gospel sticks. Yet in other people, the gospel slides right off of them like you’ve sprayed them with Teflon.
Today, we’ll examine a very important parable as you’ll find this same parable in Matthew, Luke, and Mark. It’s one of the best-known parables Jesus told and it is often called The Parable of the Sower.
“Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:1-15)
Everyone loves a story. Stories are remarkably powerful things. They stir up our imaginations and excite our affections. They instruct us and inspire us. They intoxicate and influence us. They linger with us, often becoming more precious and poignant and powerful over time. During His earthly teaching ministry, the Lord Jesus, who was the master teacher and preacher, often used stories and illustrations as He instructed the crowds of people who flocked to hear Him. Many refer to these types of stories as “parables.” There are about fifty different parables of Christ recorded in the Gospels. In fact, about one-third of all of Jesus’ recorded sayings are parables. This is the first parable we have encountered as we have journeyed through Luke together. This isn’t Luke’s first parable as we have skipped over several (we’ll come back to them in the days to come). We know this parable is important because it’s found in three of the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It is also placed near the front of Jesus’ parables in each of these three gospels telling us of its importance. It is a rare thing when Jesus gives an explanation for the parable.
Because Jesus also gives us a rare interpretation of His story, the parable is seen as a parable about parables. You’ll see what I mean in a few moments. At first glance, you may think Jesus’ story is mainly focused on a farmer: “A sower went out to sow his seed” (Luke 8:5) It was a familiar scene to the people listening in Jesus’ day: a farmer with a big bag of grain slung over his shoulder.
Perhaps the people were even watching a farmer move his arm back and forth, casting seed on the ground in rhythm just as Jesus spoke. But Jesus’ focus isn’t on the farmer. Instead, Jesus wants you to focus your attention on the soil. Jesus wants you to pay attention to dirt.