After Jesus left the meal at the Pharisee’s house, “he went on through cities and villages; proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God” (1). Luke pauses here to give us a glimpse of who Jesus traveled with: “the twelve… and also some women…who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities… and…who provided for them out of their means” (1-3).
Luke, after this pause, records for us one of Jesus’ most well known parables: The Parable of the Sower. Jesus said to the large crowd that had gathered:
‘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. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 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.’
The Purpose of the Parables
In verse 9, Jesus’ disciples “asked Him what this parable meant.” Jesus’ response is remarkable. He says in verse 10, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’”
Before Jesus explains what the parable means, He explains the reason for the parables. Jesus spoke in parables in order to obscure the truth from those who reject Him and to reveal the truth to those who believe in Him. Jesus uses the parables to instruct the disciples about the Kingdom of God. Now that we know that the parables are for the disciples, what is the meaning of this parable?
The Meaning of the Parable
Let’s determine the meaning of Jesus’ parable by looking at it one step at a time. First, He says: “The seed is the word of God” (11) and this seed is thrown everywhere. Jesus is showing His disciples that the Kingdom of God is to be proclaimed everywhere and to everyone. Jesus’ disciples have been given the keys to the Kingdom and are being sent out to call men and women to enter into it through faith in Jesus Christ. After preparing His disciples for their gospel task, Jesus prepares them for the type of response they will receive.
First Soil: Along the Path
Jesus says, “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” (12). This soil represents the type of person who hears the word of God and immediately hardens their heart against it. It does not penetrate or take root and the devil quickly takes it away.
Second Soil: On the Rock
“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” (13). This soil represents the type of person who hears the word of God, makes a profession of faith, but abandons Christ when difficulty comes.
Third Soil: Among the Thorns
“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” (14). This soil represents the type of person who hears the word of God, makes a profession of faith, but never lives it. They go through life too captivated by the things of this world to live for Christ.
Fourth Soil: In the Good Soil
“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” (15). This soil represents the type of person who hears the word of God and believes it. A real transformation occurs in their life and they bear fruit that demonstrates Christ in their life.
Jesus tells His disciples that when they proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God they will encounter many different responses. Some will immediately refuse, some will say they believe but not follow, and some will believe and follow. The disciples are to understand that people will reject their message and some will make professions of faith but not follow. They will not like it, but they understand it. They are to be encouraged in the fact that their mission is to faithfully proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God and leave the results to God.
Only God can soften soil that has been beaten down underfoot. Only God can remove the rocks in the soil so that the seed can take root. Only God can remove the thorns in the soil so that the seed can produce mature fruit. Knowing this, we pray and we proclaim.
Questions for Reflection
Why did Jesus speak in Parables?
- What does the seed show us about the Kingdom of God?
- Which seed produced fruit?
- Why did the seed that fell along the path fail to produce fruit?
- Why did the seed that fell on the rock fail to produce fruit?
- Why did the seed that fell among the thorns fail to produce fruit?