Summary: A study of the responses of the different soils to the seed illustrates different responses to the word of God.
As Jesus was coming to the end of his Galilean ministry, which some say lasted about 16 months, he drew vast audiences to his ministry. He also experienced growing opposition to his message about the good news of the kingdom of God.
Although he had previously illustrated his preaching with a few short parables, Luke now recorded Jesus giving his first major parable, the one we know as The Parable of the Sower.
Last time we examined the purpose of the parables, which Jesus stated in Luke 8:9-10. Jesus basically said that parables illustrated various aspects of the kingdom of God for believers. But, for those who were hardened in their opposition to the good news of the kingdom of God, Jesus’ parables simply confirmed their lack of understanding, hard-heartedness, and unwillingness to submit to him as Savior and Lord.
Interestingly, in the parallel section in The Gospel of Mark, Mark said that from this point on Jesus “did not speak to them without a parable” (Mark 4:34).
So, let’s read The Parable of the Sower today in Luke 8:4-8, 11-15:
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.” . . .
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 8:4-8, 11-15)
Several years ago, in an effort to lure as many people as possible to their Easter Services, a mega-church in Corpus Christi, TX gave away flat-screen television sets, skateboards, Fender guitars, furniture, and 15 cars! And even if attendees did not win one of the big prizes, they were still likely to walk away with one of the 15,000 gift bags, each with about $300 worth of free goods and services. The leaders were hoping to double the attendance at their Easter Services.
Now I don’t know how many people actually attended their Easter Services. But I would be shocked if they did not have a dramatic jump in their attendance. People always want something for nothing.
In fact, that is what was happening with Jesus’ ministry. Jesus ministry consisted of his message – a message about the good news of the kingdom of God – accompanied by miracles – miracles that authenticated his message.
It was now common for great crowds of people to attend Jesus’ ministry. They wanted to see what miracles Jesus would do. So Luke said in verse 4, “And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable” – and then Jesus told The Parable of the Sower.
Jesus was concerned about the great crowd. He knew that more and more people just came for the “goodies.” They came for what they could get out of the service. They did not come to hear his message of faith and repentance. They wanted to see what was going on. They wanted to sample but not submit. Some of them had no real spiritual interest at all; they were there just out of curiosity.
In fact, there were a number of different responses to Jesus’ message. But only one response would give the hearer unimaginable blessing. So, Jesus gave them a parable, the parable we know as The Parable of the Sower, although it is perhaps better called The Parable of the Soils because it illustrates four different responses to the Word of God.