The parable of the sower 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 largely because he was so good at telling stories and giving illustrations. He illustrated difficult teachings with pictures that help us understand and remember. 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.
I’ve written on why Jesus used stories here: Why Did Jesus Speak In Parables?
The parable of the sower is found in three Gospels (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15). We will start by looking at the context, the setting, in which this story is told. And then we will look at the parable of the sower meaning for us today.
The Setting Of The Parable Of The Sower
Matthew 13:1 gives us some interesting insight into what was happening prior to the telling of this parable. Jesus went to sit by the lake that was near a house he was staying in. As often happened, the second Jesus stepped into public a crowd gathered around him.
This crowd was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it just off shore (Matthew 13:2). Now this is brilliant. Why? Because a large crowd only those closest to Jesus would have been able to hear him. But the lake acts as a natural amphitheater. His voice would have easily carried over the water to the entire crowd.
Don’t believe me? Try it. Get in a boat push it a little off shore and try having a conversation with friends on land. The water will carry your voice much further than just on land.
That piece really has little to do with the story. But I think it’s fascinating and shows just how brilliant Jesus was. And is.
Also what we need to know is that this is an agricultural society. 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.
Alright, let’s jump into the parable of the sower meaning for us today.
The Parable Of The Sower Meaning
If you want to start by reading this parable you can find it here: Matthew 13:1-23
This parable starts with the farmer going out and spreading seed. And the rest of the parable talks about the soil in which this seed falls.
While we call this the parable of the sower, it’s more of a parable of the soil. This parable teaches us the sower (who’s God) sows generously. But the rest of the parable of the sower meaning centers around the soil. Us.
In total there’s 4 kinds of soil in Jesus’ story. Some fell on the path (Matthew 13:4). Others fell where the topsoil was thin (Matthew 13:5). Some fell in the thorns (Matthew 13:7). And finally, some fell in good soil (Matthew 13:8).
The image that should be in our head is a farmer with a bag/satchel full of seeds. The farmer is reaching in grabbing handfuls of seeds and throwing them on every inch of his land.
The farmer is not concerned with the kind of soil the seed will fall on. He’s liberally spreading seed. This is much different than how we farm today. In Jesus’ day you sowed and then plowed. Thus, the harsh grounds that chokes out life might become fertile.
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. Each of these kinds of soils represent our hearts. And the seed is the Gospel. 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
“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.
This soil represents 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.
Seeds cannot bring life in hard pressed soil. Similarly the Gospel cannot take root in a hardened heart.
2. The Seeds In The Thin Soil
“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 seed is planted in shallow soil it will often start growing, you’ll see some signs of life. But that life is short-lived. The soil is simply not deep enough to sustain life. There’s not enough water for the plant so eventually the sun will scorch out all life.
This seed represents a person who 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 cannot survive the trails 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.
For more check out: What It REALLY Means To Follow Jesus
3. The Seeds In The Thorns
“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. When that happens the thorns will eventually choke out the good seeds. The young seeds can simply not survive the onslaught.
This seed represent 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. Eventually that path leads to death.
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 heart. We need to be constantly looking out for anything that wants to attack our life. For more about how to guard your heart check out: What Guarding Your Heart REALLY Means
4. The Seeds In The Good Soil
“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 hundred fold, which is huge. And certainly would have grabbed the attention of Jesus’ listeners. Getting such a big return was what they all wanted.
This 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.
5. Essentially All The Soil Is The Same
As we are trying to understand the parable of the sower meaning we need to take note that essentially all the soil is the same. The difference between the soils are what’s been added to them and how it’s been cultivated (or not).
We are each the cultivators of our soil, our hearts. How you care for your heart will determine the life you grow. 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 parable of the sower meaning is a challenge to cultivate your heart. And it’s also a promise. If you do that, the life that God will bring in you and through you will be greater than you can imagine.
6. The Generosity Of Sower
I said that this parable is more about the soil than the sower. But there is an incredible point that we shouldn’t ignore about the farmer.
In the parable of the sower the farmer sows generously. He gives every kind of soil a chance to produce life.
The likeliness that seed would take root in rocky soil is slim. But not impossible. What the parable of the sower teaches us is that God is generous. He’s extended his grace to EVERYONE. Even those he knows will likely reject it, he gives it to them anyway in hopes they will cultivate their heart and experience the life he came to give them.
Closing Thoughts Of The Parable Of The Sower Meaning
I don’t know what soil represents your heart. But here’s what I do know. You are the one that cultivates your heart.
In other words, you don’t have to stay where you are. Your heart can turn from the hardest dense soil to fertile soil prime for life. It’s not easy, in fact Jesus said you need to die to yourself to find true life.
Let me end with one more quote. 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.”
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on the parable of the sower meaning. And I hope that it helped you rethink parts of your life and faith. If you did would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have. I would love to hear from you! You can comment below or email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
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