The Parable of the Sower

The Sower

The Sower (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 13:1–23 (ESV)

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“ ‘ “You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 4:1-25; Luke 8:4-18

Understanding and Applying the Word

This parable is a well-known portion of Scripture. However, it is often misunderstood or lends itself to confusion. When the parable is examined, what does it mean that one type of soil produced no results at all, while others began to produce a plant before failing, while the last produced plants that produced a high yield for harvest?

The parable is actually quite easy to understand when we look at the one thing that separates the final soil, the “good soil”, from all of the others. The good soil is the only one that produced a harvest. The seed thrown along the path, sown in the rocky soil, and in the thorns all failed to produce any kind of harvest. The seeds were wasted. It was only the good soil that produced.

Jesus tells us that this parable illustrates the different ways people respond to his preaching. Some do not care to hear at all, some are quick to abandon Jesus at the first sign of trouble, and others are too entangled in the affairs of the world to follow Jesus. Even so, there are those who will hear Jesus’ words, follow him, and produce the fruit of obedience to Jesus in their lives. They are the ones who truly belong to Jesus.

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