In analyzing the “Parable of the Sower”, there are a couple ground rules to set down. First, the seed is the word of God. Specifically, it is the Gospel, the message of salvation. Christ says in the parable that those who are the path “may not believe and be saved.” The second thing to understand is that ALL people are represented in this parable. This will be proven through the analysis of each type of ground, which are the different types of people. So, this parable should not only provide practical application for those people represented by each type of soil, but should also provide insight into the bigger picture which is the plan for salvation.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 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. 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 word, he quickly falls away. The 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. But 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.” (Matt 13:18-23, NIV)
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:1-9)
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:13-20, NIV)
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:4-8)
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.(Luke 8:11-15, NIV)
The path is the majority of mankind. It is those who will hear the salvation message, but not be saved. The important thing to understand is that all men will have some understanding of Christ’s message of salvation. For those who have not been ‘told’ about Christ: “(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Romans 2:14-16, NIV). This is talking about a general sense of morality also called general revelation. Those that were not given the law, those who have not been told about Christ, demonstrate the law because it is written onto their hearts. Their consciences bear witness to God’s law so much that their thoughts will be used on the Day of Judgment to determine their conscience decision to follow the law even though they had never been told about Christ. All mankind will know of the law in their hearts, but Satan will snatch it away from those who remain on the path.
The rocky soil is those who are quick to accept the gift of salvation when they hear the message, however fall away because they did not root their faith in deep soil. They understand and accept the message,;however, they have little understanding of the plan and do not know how to apply the message. Because they do not have the ability to apply the word of God in their lives, they cannot survive when they are tested. There is hope for these; however, it is the churches responsibility to train these, to disciple them so as to move them to the good soil. “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace” (Hebrews 6:4-6). This is the fate for those who are not properly trained in righteousness. If they fall away they cannot return. There is hope for their eternity because Christ said that “no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). Still, they will be useless for their time on earth and will not produce fruit for God, a worldly fate much more painful than physical death.
The thorny ground is similar to the rocky ground in that the fruitfulness is short lived. The worries of the world, the peer pressure, the temptation of sin, our sinful nature, hold us back so we do not (not cannot) wholly give ourselves over to God. All mankind struggles with being thorny ground, but there is hope in the word of God, or there would never be fruit in the kingdom. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Anything, any sin you struggle with is common to man. There are others who have the same struggle, probably many. God is faithful to his promises to you. When you are tempted, you can escape it through the power of God which you have authority to use. All sin is a choice so it can be averted. All aversion to sin is a step towards righteousness, the good soil.
If you are of noble character and strive to produce fruit in your life, you are in the good soil. “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden ; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25). This is an Old Testament reference to the fruit which is provided through obedience to God. Plant fruit in your life, accept Christ and be diligent to study and understand his teachings and the word of God. Be obedient to God’s calling: anything else is forbidden. If you are persistent to do what is right, in God’s time, you will produce fruit, a hundred, sixty or thirty times your efforts.
If you are the path, you need Christ. The choice is yours. Do not let Satan take you away. Become good soil.
If you are the rocky soil, seek out understanding. Pursue a solid understanding of your faith so that you will not fall away. Become good soil.
If you are the thorny soil, repent of your sin. There is power in the word of God to pull you through. Remember all that your struggle with is common to man and none of it is stronger than God. Become good soil.
If you are the good soil, love and encourage the thorny soil, lest they succumb to the troubles of the world. Disciple the rocky soil lest they wither and become bitterness against God. Proclaim Christ to the path, lest they die without and live eternally separated from the love of God. Make disciples and make good soil.