The Parable of The Sower

Matthew 13:3-23

13:1* ¶ That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea.

2* And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

3* And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow;

4* and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.

5* “Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.

6* “But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7* “Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.

8* “And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.

9 “He who has ears, let him hear.”

10* And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

11* Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

12 “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

13* “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

14* “In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;

15* FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’

16* “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

17* “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

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 the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

20* “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

21* yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

22* “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

23* “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

It is interesting that his disciples asked in verse 10: “Why do You speak to them in parables?”  Many suggest that this marks a change in the way that Jesus taught the people about the truth of God’s message.

Jesus says; “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” (Matt. 13:11)

I believe that this indicates a truth about God’s Word.  There are some people who are ready, willing and able to accept the teachings of God’s Word.  There are others who simply cannot, or will not,  understand Spiritual things.

The apostle Paul wrote:

1 Cor. 2:14,15

14* But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

15* But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

Paul is giving us an explanation of the Spiritual realities in our world.  Some people think that Bible study is foolishness.  They can come up with all kind of criticisms for it and excuses for not studying and obeying it, but God knows the truth.

Jesus further said:

Matt. 13:13-15

13* “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

14* “In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;

15* FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’

I believe that when people do not have the proper relationship to God that this same situation exists today.  If you refuse to obey God (as the Jews refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah) then you will not be able to read and study the Word of God with the proper understanding.  It will be a mystery to you.  Some who profess to know and teach God’s Word have eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear.

This parable uses a physical truth to teach a spiritual reality.  The “Kingdom of Heaven” which our Lord talks about is not some glorified state of some future life for the faithful, but it is a present spiritual reality.  The “Kingdom of Heaven” is the spiritual realm on earth, often a direct reference to the church.  Here is is a reference to the responsibility of the church in the world.

I believe that this parable stands as a type for the way we are to interpret the rest of the parables.  Remember the scene.  Jesus is surrounded by his disciples.  He wants them (and us) to see what is really important in this world.  People are gathered by the thousands to hear what he has to say.  Here Jesus begins sowing the seed.  He wants his disciples to understand the importance of what he was doing, and what they were about to do for the rest of their lives.

There is a series of three here which makes it very interesting since three is the divine number in the book of Revelation and throughout the Bible.  There is the sower, the seed, and the soils.  This is a divine process.  God is in control.

The sower represents God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.  At the same time the Sower represents the church and the Christian.

God likens Himself to a sower:

Jeremiah   31:

27 ¶ “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of beast.

Both in the natural realm and in the Spiritual realm God is the sower.  He is the sower of all!

Christ is also the Sower.  In this passage, and everywhere he went He Sows the seed of God’s Word.  He Matthew 13:37, he says of Himself: “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.”

The Holy Spirit is a sower.  It is the Holy Spirit who inspires the Word.  Paul wrote of the revelation process:

1 Cor. 2:13

13* which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

Peter wrote:

2 Pet. 1:20, 21

20* But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

21* for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The Word of God is the product of the Holy Spirit.  It is God’s power for salvation when it is sown (Rom. 1:16).

Every Christian is to be a sower.  Jesus put it this way:

Matthew 28:18

18* And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

19* “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20* teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We are saved to sow!  The greatest service any Christian can render to this world is the sowing of the good seed of the Word of life.  Words are seeds which fall in the soil of hearts.  They have great power.  Every Christian must realize that eternal life or death, heaven or hell may depend upon our personnel sowing of the seed of God’s Word.

The Seed

The seed that is to be sown is described as: “ the word of the kingdom.”  In Luke 8:11, “the seed is the word of God.”  The seed contains all that is necessary for Spiritual growth.

Peter wrote:

1 Pet. 1:22-25

22* Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,

23* for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

24* ¶ For, “ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF,

25* BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER.” And this is the word which was preached to you.

Interestingly, the “Word of God” (Christ) is also the seed:

John 1:1-3

1:1* ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2* He was in the beginning with God.

3* All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Christ came as the “Word of God,” He Himself being the seed!  When the Word is sown Jesus is sown.  The bible is “the Word” because it is full of Christ who came to us as the Word.  When the Word is sown Christ is sown!  The power in the Word is the power of Christ.  Christ is the seed, the savior and the sower all at once!

And notice this, in passing.  All we have to do is sow.  It is not necessary to first test the soils.  We are to sow.  It is not necessary to prepare the soil.  We are to sow.  It is not necessary first to irrigate the soil, we simply sow.  Preparing the soil and irrigating the soil come later when the church “edifies” the saints.  The first duty of the farmer is to simply sow.  Without sowing nothing else the farmer does makes any sense.

The Soils

Many suggest that this should be called the parable of the soils rather than the parable of the sower because the reaction of the soil is the point of the parable.  The seed sown on all four soils was the same.  The difference in the harvest related to the condition of the soil.    This parable illustrates the necessity of the preaching of the gospel regardless of the condition of the soil.  This parable must be understood before the others are studied.  Other parables deal with other truths, but none would be properly understood with this one.  These soils represent the different states of heart and their reaction to the Gospel.

Four Kinds of Ground

This story would have been familiar to Jesus’ audience.  The sower went out to his field to scatter seed, and the seed fell on different kinds of ground. First, there was the ground called the “road.”  In Palestine the land was divided up into small plots.  There were no fences or walls to separate the plots, only narrow paths, or “roads”, that were accessible to every person.  The frequent traffic on the road made it well worn and the seed dropped on this hard walkways had no opportunity to penetrate the soil, therefore it would not grow.  Second, there was the rocky ground.  This represent soil that had a rock ledge underneath shallow soil.  The seed sown here would grow quickly at first but would in the heat of the summer would die.  Third, there was the thorny ground.  This represents ground in which there is an abundance of weed-seeds buried underneath the soil.  The weeds came up with the good seed, and the strong weeds outgrew and overcame the delicate good plants.  Fourth, there was the good ground.  It was fertile and loose and able to help a good see get a good start.  It had depth enough to allow the roots to go down and it was free enough of weeds to allow unhindered growth.

A favored interpretation

Many say that by the time this parable was spoken, opposition to Jesus was already mounting and even with his great following it was becoming more and more clear that many of the people who went out to hear him were not genuinely interested in spiritual values.  The disciples were on the verge of overwhelming discouragement.  Therefore, Jesus seems to acknowledge that much of the sower’s efforts will go for nothing, that in the sowing of seed it is not expected that all of it will make a crop.  The parable is also reassuring to the disciples in that it teaches no matter how much is wasted in the sowing process, in the end there will be a plentiful harvest.  The sower must never be disheartened.

In this parable the four kinds of ground are the focal points of the story, but other details are important as well.  As stated previously, the sower represents God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit as well as for anyone who is engaged in the sowing of the seed of the Kingdom.  The “sower” may the the gospel preacher or bible class teacher or anyone who tells his neighbor about Christ.  The seed is the Word of God (Luke 8:11).  Life is impossible without seed.  Apart from the Word of God new life is impossible.  The pure seed of the kingdom when received in good soil always produces Christians.

The Soils

The Road.  The ground on the road is so hard that the seed cannot possibly penetrate it.  There are people in the world who when they hear the Word of God are like this.  They cannot hear the message of the Word of God because they are hardened to the message.  Some, like the Pharisees were, are filled with arrogance and pride.  Some are filled with prejudice against the Word.   The road represents the individual whose mind is closed.  He refuses to hear.

Now the question becomes, “how can the soil be blamed for its condition?”  In man, it is sin that causes the heart to become hardened (Heb. 3:13).  When one rejects the Word of God and persists in doing wrong the heart becomes more and more hardened.  Each time a person rejects the Truth is like a thousand steps on the path.  The path (the human heart) becomes more hardened each time.  Each person is responsible and accountable to God for the condition of his/her own heart.

The Rocky Places.  The soil in the rocky places lacked depth.  This represents the person who is shallow, and has therefore a shallow faith.  When difficulties come a person with shallow faith gives up.  Some people accept the gospel quickly, and lay it aside just as quickly.  These may be the people who live by their emotions rather than their convictions.  Many people have discovered that it is not as easy to be a Christians as it is to become a Christian.  When the heat is turned up they wither away.

The Thorny Ground.  This represents the person who is so busy with the things of life that he cannot find time for God.  It is often the case that life gets in the way of serving God.  The “thorns” are the concerns of life that choke out the Word of God.  Some people are so busy earning a living that they cannot find life.  It is not that these things are necessarily bad, it is that they begin to consume too much of a persons time, and eventually turn a persons heart away from God.

This ground certainly represents many in the modern materialistic world.  We are in danger today of being choked to death by materialism.  We are so busy we do not have time for spiritual things.  It is necessary, in order to build a spiritual life, to weed out the thorns from time to time.

I think what impresses me most about this parable is how true to life this teaching has always been.  Mankind has always been either hardened to God, no

The Good Soil.  The gospel writers say about the good soil: “this is the man who hears the word and understands it” (Matt. 13:23); “and they hear the word and accept it. . .” (Mk. 4:20); “these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast . . .” (Luke 8:15).  To understand one must think about the Word.  To accept it one must grow in faith (Rom. 10:17).  To hold fast one must not only think about the Word, and grow in understanding, accepting it by faith, one must put the Word into practice.  This further illustrates the growing process in faith.  One becomes a Christians upon his obedience to God

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