The Parable Of the Sower is found in three Gospels (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15) and is one of Jesus’ most well-known parables. And for good reason, this story has implications that are just as powerful today as the first time Jesus told it.
Jesus was a masterful teacher and storyteller. He illustrated difficult teachings with pictures that help us understand and remember his message. That’s what’s so powerful about the Parable of the Sower; it’s a perfectly illustrated story that helps us understand God’s truth for us.
Let’s take a look at the Parable of the Sower meaning and see how it applies to our lives today.
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The Meaning Of The Parable Of The Sower
In Matthew 13:3 the parable kicks off and we are introduced to a farmer who is spreading seed. Really though, this parable isn’t about the sower or the seeds, really it’s about the soil.
Today we aren’t much of an agricultural society. But in Jesus’ day if you didn’t farm, you didn’t eat. So the imagery in this parable of sowing seeds would have been VERY familiar to Jesus’ audience. That’s intentional. Jesus is using something they understand to explain to them something that was foreign.
The first lesson that the Parable of the Sower teaches us is that God (the sower) sows generously. But the primary lesson from this parable is found in us (the soil).
In total there are 4 kinds of soil in Jesus’ story:
- The path (Matthew 13:4)
- The thin topsoil Matthew 13:5)
- The thorns (Matthew 13:7)
- The good soil (Matthew 13:8)
The picture that we see in this story is the farmer (representing God) reaching into his satchel throwing seeds (representing the Gospel) all over the ground (representing us). He is not concerned with the type of soil the seed will fall on. He’s liberally spreading seed.
The sower is sowing generously because he knows the more he sows the bigger his crop. Yes, he’ll lose some of his seed. But the return is worth the cost.
Let’s look at the Parable of the Sower meaning in the 4 soils since that’s the primary focus. As we look at this I would encourage you to evaluate your heart and see where the seed falls in your heart.
1. The Seeds On The Path Meaning
“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” – Matthew 13:4
This first soil shows how generously the sower is sowing. He’s throwing seeds, even on beaten-in paths. The seeds cannot penetrate this compressed soil and end up being eaten by the birds.
The seeds on the path represent those who have hardened their hearts and refuse to listen to the Gospel. They simply rejected it without taking the time to even consider it. Just as seeds cannot bring life in hard-pressed soil, the Gospel cannot take root in a hardened heart.
2. The Seeds In The Thin Soil Meaning
“Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” – Matthew 13:5-6
When seeds are planted in shallow soil they will often start growing. But that life is short-lived. The soil is simply not deep enough to sustain life. Because the roots are deep enough to get water for the plant the sun will eventually scorch the plant.
The seeds in thin soil represent a person who heard the Gospel and was initially enthusiastic. But their roots never went deep. Life happened, tragedy struck, or they just got busy and their faith faded. Their faith never got below the surface and could not survive the trials and hardships of life.
Plants need roots that go deep to get water and nutrients to survive. Similarly, Christians need deep roots that continually renew and refresh their faith.
3. The Seeds In The Thorns Meaning
“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” – Matthew 13:7
When you have fertile soil it’s not just the good seeds that will take root, thorns also try to take advantage of the soil. If the thorns aren’t taken care of they will eventually choke out the young plants.
This soil represents those who may look good on the outside but have let sin creep in on the inside. Although they might say that Jesus is Lord, their lives tell a different story. They haven’t fully turned their lives over to him.
Mark Moore puts it this way in The Chronological Life Of Christ: “Concerning the third type of soil, it is incorrect to picture little seeds being thrown in the middle of a weed patch. The thorns, if any are left after the hot, dry summer, would be plowed under after the seed has been sown. The true picture is good seed competing with bad seed. Luke even uses the word symphyō, meaning ‘to grow up together.’ The implication is obvious. Our lives may look pure. Ostensibly we are in no danger of ‘bad weeds,’ but the seeds are there.”
This is why it’s so important to guard our hearts. We need to be constantly looking out for anything that wants to attack our life.
4. The Seeds In The Good Soil Meaning
“Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:8
When seeds find good fertile soil they will sprout to life and produce an abundant crop. In the parable of the sower the yield is a hundredfold, which is huge. And certainly would have grabbed the attention of Jesus’ listeners.
The good soil represents those who hear the Gospel and follow Jesus. Their roots go deep and can sustain the hardships of life. They have guarded their hearts to ensure no thorns can choke out their life. They are primed and ready to grow. And grow they do. Their lives produce more than they could have ever imagined.
Lessons From The Parable Of The Sower For Us Today
Let’s end by looking at 2 lessons from the Parable of the Sower for our lives today.
1. All The Soil Is The Same
The soil in this parable represents our hearts and our willingness to accept the Gospel. But each of the four types of soil isn’t that different at its root. The difference between the soils is what’s been added to them and how it’s been cultivated (or not).
In other words, we create the “soil” that exists in our hearts. If you have hard soil, you aren’t stuck with it. You can change it. If you have good soil you didn’t get it randomly, you cultivated it.
Mark Moore puts it this way in The Chronological Life Of Christ: “Essentially the soil is the same. The difference is what is added to the soil (i.e., weed seed, rocks, or a good trampling). How do these differences come about? Through hearing. Not the simple physiological performance of the ears, but the humble acceptance of the heart. The word of God must be obeyed and not just heard. In fact, in Hebrew culture, ‘to hear’ also implied obedience. The soil is potentially good in each human heart. The difference is in the will. This is the meaning of the idiomatic phrase: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ ”
2. Cultivate Your Heart
We are each the cultivators of our soil, our hearts. How you care for your heart will determine the life you grow. How you listen and respond to the words of Jesus will determine the kind of life you produce. That should be both a challenge and an encouragement.
If your heart is hard, your faith is shallow, or if something is choking the life out of you it’s not too late to change. Because of the work of Jesus, life can come from the dry, hard-pressed soil of your life. It’s not too late, and you haven’t gone too far for Jesus to produce a crop in you.
The meaning of the Parable of the Sower is a challenge to cultivate your heart. And it’s also a promise. If you put in that work, the life that God will bring in you and through you will be greater than you can imagine.
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