Parable of the Soils
The Parable of the Sower
Excerpts from the Three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke.
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
… “Therefore, hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.
“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
“Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
The above are extracts from Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23. It is the parable of the sower and the seed, or as some say, it is the parable of the soils.
The same parable is mentioned in Mark 4. It is not very difference from the account in Matthew, except that our Lord, while explaining about the seed that fell among thorns, adds in Mark 4:19: “The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it comes unfruitful.”
And again in Mark 4:20, our Lord says: “But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
In Luke’s gospel, chapter 8, we have the parable repeated for the third time. The additions in Luke are:
“Some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.” Luke 8:5
“Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.” Luke 8:6
Our Lord further explains, in Luke 8:12. “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”
Luke 8:14: “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.”
Luke 8:15: “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
We need to read the account in all the three gospels to get a clear understanding of the parable. This is one parable that the Lord Himself has clearly explained for our benefit.
The seed is the word of God, Lk 8.11, or the ‘word of the kingdom’, Mt 13.19. Our Lord came preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, Matt 4.23.
The sower is the messenger of God, a pastor or preacher. He preaches the word of God.
There are four kinds of reactions or responses to the word of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These four responses depend on the nature of the heart of the people hearing the gospel. Our Lord Himself says, in Matt 13:15: “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and they eyes they have closed…’
If you harden your heart to the gospel, you are like the wayside, where people walk, where the soil is hard and where the seed is trampled down under foot (Luke 8:5). It is very difficult to give the gospel to those who are highly educated in this world. Their minds are filled with human philosophies and ideologies, with false opinions and vain imaginations. Their hearts are hardened by human wisdom. The Jews were so proud of their religion that they rejected the gospel of Christ. They held on to the shadow, and neglected the substance.
The birds of the air refer to evil forces, the wicked one, Satan himself. Luke 8:12,
How important for us to pray before giving the word! Pray that the Lord will open the hearts of the people to receive the truth of the gospel! Prayerless preaching will never penetrate the hardened human heart.
The second kind of response is seen in the stony places or rocky soil. Such soil, says Luke, lacked moisture. Luke 8.6. The word is not received in the Spirit. People are ‘enchanted but unchanged’. How often we have seen people who claim to see the light, but have not received the ‘life’. These are the ones who are not open to the truth of God’s word, but hold on to their prejudices and biases. They are the ones who are obsessed about creeds and doctrines. Knowledge puffs up. They believe they are the chosen ones.
Now an important point is mentioned in Matt 13.21. ‘When tribulation or persecution arises because of the word…’ There is a time of testing. We read in the book of Revelation how John was exiled to the island of Patmos ‘for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus’, Rev 1:9. Again we read in Rev 6.9, about the martyrs who were slain ‘for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.’ The same is repeated in Rev 20.4.
We are tested by the word of God, Ps 105.19. God gives us promises, but we have to go through a period of suffering and trial before the promises are fulfilled. We have need of much endurance. But how soon do people fall away; they are unwilling to carry the cross. They will not suffer for the word of God. They have no root in themselves; the word of God has not penetrated deep into their heart. It is all in the mind; it is intellectual, theoretical, doctrinal – and not practical, tested and proved.
The third category is the thorny soil. Here we have hearts that have other desires. They are caught up with the cares and worries of this world. They seek material blessings and earthly investment and security. Oh, the deceitfulness of riches! They have ‘desires for other things’ (Mark 4.19). They do not have a single desire, a single eye and heart, for God. There are ‘other seeds’ in their heart. These are carnal believers, seeking the desires of the flesh.
There is no deep work of the cross in their lives. They have one foot in the world and one foot in the church. They lead double lives. They lack patience. They bring no fruit to maturity. We rarely see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They began well, but they failed to finish the course.
The last category is clearly mentioned in Luke 8.15. These are the ones who hear the word with a noble and good heart, they understand it, accept it and keep it and bear fruit with patience. They know the value of the word of God. They know that ‘they have received exceedingly great and precious promises, which have made them partakers of the divine nature’, 2 Pet 1.4. They have an open mind and an open heart. They believe in the entirety of God’s word, and they pray that God’s word be fulfilled in their life. They are willing to pay the price. Like Mary they say: ‘Let it be done to me according to your word!’ Luke 1.38. They live entirely by the word of God, meditating on it day and night.
This is not hard soil, not the soil of the pathway. This is not rocky soil, full of stones and boulders. This is not soil full of thorns and weeds. This is good soil, soft soil, the soil of a sincere and broken heart. It is in such soil that the word of God thrives and bears fruit: some thirty, some sixty, and some even a hundredfold!
© Roland Oliver/Pratonix