A characteristic of the parables of the Lord is the simplicity of the images used. Jesus used pictures that the common person would understand—activities that folks had experience with. Perhaps the best known parable spoken by Jesus is the parable of the sower. It is recorded by two of the gospel writers, Matthew 13:3-23 and Luke 8:4-15.
Agriculture was prevalent in Jewish culture. The crowd Jesus spoke to knew about sowing seed. It is likely that most, if not all, the people who heard Him had worked a field or at the very least, a garden. And so He spoke matter-of-factually about the process of sowing the seed. The seed that falls on the path will not have an opportunity to germinate, but will become bird seed.
The seed which falls in the rocky soil will germinate quickly, but it does not have a good root system. The rocks keep the roots from being able to spread out as they ought. As a result, if a hot day comes, the plant is in danger of withering and dying.
The Lord spoke about the seed which fell among the weeds. We don’t say when a child has a growth spurt that he’s “growing like a tomato plant.” Weeds grow quicker than veggies or fruit. In fact, if the weeds are not taken away, they may choke out the good seed, and it bears no fruit.
Every farmer’s desire is that the seed fall to the good ground. None of the problems we saw with the other soils are there. Seed on the good ground will take root and yield a crop.
Of course, Jesus did not get up before a crowd to give advice on how to sow seed in their fields. There was a greater lesson to be learned. This was a lesson about receiving God’s word and allowing it to grow in our hearts, so that fruit to God will result.
Something that makes this parable unique is that the explanation of the parable is given. Usually we are given the parable, and it is left for us to determine the meaning. But in our text, the disciples asked the Lord to explain the parable to them. It seems they did not understand, and so the Lord explained it to them.
The seed represents the word of God. The sower is not identified specifically, for God’s word is sown by many. Jesus was a sower of the word; as were all the apostles, and also as all of God’s people should be. In Acts 8:4, after a persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem, all the Christians (except the apostles) were scattered and went out sowing the seed. It seems the apostles continued to sow the seed in Jerusalem.
The four types of soil reveal the varied reaction folks will have to the word of God. The purpose of mentioning them is not so that the sowers of the word become judges of soil. In the physical field, the sower can determine easily if there are too many weeds or rocks, or if a piece of land is so worn that the seed won’t take root. In the spiritual realm, we are not able to see the hearts of men, only the Lord can see the heart. Thus, we are to spread the seed of the kingdom indiscriminately. It is not for us to judge what type of soil any individual is. Our duty is to sow the seed.
The point of the parable is not for us to judge the soil of others, but to assess our own response to the word of God. Which of the four soils characterizes you? We would all like to think we are the good soil, but are we? Are we producing fruit for the Lord? Or are we weighed down with the cares and concerns of this life, and not focusing on the things of God? Have we established deep roots in our faith, so that no matter what comes our way, we will stand and overcome in Christ Jesus? Do we love the word, or is it a bother to us to study the Bible or to assemble with fellow Christians?
Beach sand will always be beach sand. Fortunately, in the spiritual realm, if we’re not the good soil, we can change our hearts! What type of soil are you?