The Parable of the Sower
This past Sunday, we looked at one of the most foundational of Jesus’ parables: The Parable of the Sower. This parable is found in each of the first three gospels (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15). With John’s gospel not having parables outside of the parable of the shepherd (John 10), we can see that each Gospel writer who prioritized parables viewed this parable as important teaching for the people of God. It is a parable about God’s kingdom and, more specifically, in my opinion, a parable about how our hearts respond to the gospel. Let’s look at the four examples Jesus gave.
The first is the seed that fell beside the path. As the sower of the seed was scattering it in his fields, some fell just off the path and the birds came to eat them before the seeds could germinate and produce anything. As Jesus tells us in his explanation of the parable, this image represents those who hear the gospel of God’s grace but have the word snatched out of their heart by the devil before they respond to it. Looking back at my own life, I can see how I personally experienced this. During my early teenage years, I did not follow Jesus and heard parts of the gospel through friends, but nothing came of it in terms of a decision. Viewing these moments in light of this parable helps me to see the fuller picture, which is that God was sharing his word to me, but that the battle for my heart was not so simple. Praise him for the repeated chances he gives us to turn to him!
The next image Jesus uses is seed falling onto soil that is shallow due to rockiness. Drawing a parallel with those who have a shallow faith, Jesus explains the plight of the seed that shot up quickly but withered and died soon after because of the trials it faced, trials which all plants or crops face. Without diminishing the hardship that trials, suffering, and temptation cause in our lives, Jesus gives us a clear picture of the importance of letting the roots of our faith go down deep. Winds and waves will always be a part of life (until Jesus returns to establish his kingdom, hallelujah). We are all experientially aware of this, but what is to become of us when they do come? With a strong root-system in Christ through hearing and doing his word (Matthew 7:24-27), we can weather them and come out on the other side stronger.
The third example Jesus gave was that of the thorny soil. As thorns and thistles would hassle the farmers in their fields, the farmers would often get rid of them by burning them, leaving nothing visible above ground. However, as all persistent weeds do, they grow back. When the sower sows the seed, he unwittingly sows somewhere the thorns and thistles use to be. Now, they both grow up together and the thorns choke out the fruitful plant that had begun growing until it dies. In his interpretation of this imagery, Jesus shows us that these “thorns” in our everyday life look like worries, pleasures, riches, and deceitfulness of this present world. This serves as an image of things that choke out faith in the lives of both new and mature believers in Christ. Whether we are five months, five years, or five decades into our born-again lives with him, we must be on guard against these subtle wiles of the evil one through continually seeking to live lives that produce the fruit of the Spirit.
The last image he gives is that of a healthy crop that is producing plentifully as it should. The question we must ask is, “How do I make sure to be this seed and not the others?” In his rendering of the parable, Luke shows us the way. He says that those who grow to bear good fruit are those who have “heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” As we seek to not only grow strong in our faith but also produce fruit for the nourishment of the world, we must receive God’s word with honest and good hearts, submitting to it with humble and moldable hearts. We must hold fast to it, not giving up on it or seeing it as something of peripheral importance. We must allow it to consume us, stretch us, and grow us unto being agents of God’s blessing in this world.