Summary: This parable teaches that people have different responses to God’s word.
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The parable of the sower appears in all three of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark (4:1-20), and Luke (8:4-15).
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9).
Seed was sown by scattering it in all directions while walking up and down the field. Fields were apparently plowed both before the seed was sown and then again after, plowing across the original furrows to cover the seeds with soil.
FOUR RESPONSES TO GOD’S WORD
The parable of the sower is one of only two parables that receive a detailed, point-by-point interpretation. One of them is the parable of the wheat and the tares later in Matthew 13 (vv. 24-30, 36-43), and the other is the parable of the sower.
18“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the world, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:18-23).
Seed = God’s WORD
Soil = people’s HEARTS
The four kinds of soil represent four different way people respond to God’s word.
1. Hard hearts – “The seed sown along the path”
“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path” (v. 19).
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Example: The OPPONENTS of Jesus
2. Shallow hearts – “The seed that fell on rocky places”
“The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the world, he quickly falls away” (vv. 20-21).
“Conditions for farming in many areas of Israel were not favorable. In many places the terrain was uneven and rocky, with only thin layers of soil covering the rock. Seed that landed on this shallow soil would begin to germinate more quickly than seen sown in deep soil, but it couldn’t put down deep roots and had to collect what little moisture lay in that parched thin layer of earth. The sprouting seed would soon wither and die in the hot sun” (Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew, p. 475).
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Example: The CROWDS
In the twentieth century there were more martyrs for the Christian faith worldwide that in all nineteen previous centuries of church history combined. As North America becomes increasingly post-Christian, we will see more persecution. Would you remain loyal to Christ if it became dangerous?
3. Thorny hearts – “The seed that fell among thorns”