Parable of the Sower


The Sower ©

It is important that we understand the Parable of the Sower. Speaking of this parable, Jesus Himself said: “Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13) Why did Jesus say that? He told His disciples that they must understand this parable if they were to understand any other. The same applies to us for this parable is a simple one, easily understood. If one cannot understand such a simple parable, how will one understand more difficult parables? If you don’t understand this parable, you need to, not only because you need to understand parables in general, but because the message of this parable is of foremost importance. Hopefully this study will increase our understanding.

What is a parable? The uninflected Greek is parabole (παραβολή) and the Hebrew is mashal (משׁל). The Hebrew title of the Proverbs is mashalai (משׁלי) from mashal (משׁל). Strong’s Greek Dictionary defines parabole (παραβολή) like this: “a similitude, i.e. [a] symbolic fictitious narrative of common life conveying a moral; an apothegm or adage.”

Vine says: “[A parable] signifies ‘a placing of one thing beside another’ with a view to comparison… It is generally used of a somewhat lengthy utterance or narrative drawn from nature or human circumstances, the object of which is to set forth a spiritual lesson.”

Funk and Wagnalls: “n. a short narrative making a moral or religious point by comparison with natural or homely things. — Syn.

Webster: “A fable or allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature, from which a moral is drawn for instruction.”

A parable can be either fictional or nonfictional. It can be a real-life historical event or it can be a fictitious story. But in either case it has a moral or spiritual lesson. Parables are allegorical whether fact or fiction. This means that the story, whether fact or fiction, usually represents a concept outside the story itself. It is a story with a moral lesson.

The Parable of the Sower is important first because Jesus spoke it. Secondly, it is the way we Christians are to fulfill the command to be witnesses of Christ “both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). All three Synoptics (the Synoptics are Matthew, Mark, and Luke) include this parable. We will use the parable in Matthew and will refer to the other two Synoptic Gospels as necessary. The entire Parable of the Sower is contained in Matthew 13:3-24.

(Mat 13:3) And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

The sower here is one who sows by scattering or broadcasting. The Greek is σπειρων του σπειρειν, speiron tou speirein (one sowing to sow). It is from σπειρω, speiro, which means to scatter, or sow (literally or figuratively). At the time of this parable, there were no power cultivators, no power sowing equipment, no tractors, etc. All farming was done by hand or with the help of beasts of burden and unpowered tools. A man sowing a field carried the seed in a seed bag and scattered it over the field by hand. Seed was not usually drilled in precise rows like today. It was simply thrown out over the ground and where it fell, it lay.

In your mind visualize a man carrying a seed bag with a strap over his shoulder throwing out handfuls of seed in a spreading motion. That way you will get a proper understanding of the parable.

(Mat 13:4) And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

Though the Romans paved many thousands of miles of highways throughout the empire, minor roads were dirt roads. The way side, or edge of such a dirt road, is packed down so tightly that seed will not penetrate the soil. Much like modern times, you would find many such dirt roads in and around farm fields. Such a road is in view here. Any seed that falls there is then easy pickings for the birds. It would not take very long for birds and other small animals to devour that seed. It would quickly disappear.

(Mat 13:5-6) Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: {6} And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

If you were to view pictures of Palestine, you will find much rocky soil there. Rocky soil sometime makes it hard for plants to find purchase for their roots among the rocks. The seed germinates readily enough, but with no place for a hardy root system to develop, the plant quickly dies.

(Mat 13:7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

The thorns here are used figuratively to cover all weeds, thorny or not. Thorny weeds are usually very hardy. The lowly thorny blackberry brier, for example, will thrive when even grasses won’t grow. In a thicket of blackberries, little else grows. The weeds growing along the perimeters of the fields stifled the seed that fell here.

(Mat 13:8) But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

The remainder of the seed fell upon fertile ground that had been cleared of most rocks and weeds, and was prepared for sowing.

(Mat 13:9) Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

In other words, try to understand the figurative meaning of this parable. It is extremely important to understand what this statement means. Jesus uses this same phraseology in several other places; He spoke these words seven times before the crucifixion and eight times after His resurrection. In each place it calls for one to open his or her spiritual ears. It signifies an underlying meaning not necessarily evident from a cursory reading. It also tells to look for a meaning other than literal. While a literal reading may be correct, it is the spiritual meaning that Jesus is pointing to. With our spiritual ears open, we will understand the truth Jesus was imparting.

In verses 10-19, Jesus explains to the disciples why He used parables. Mainly He said that the peoples’ hearts were hardened (just like today). Thus only those prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive the meaning of the parables would understand. Since our concern here is the parable itself; read those other verses for your own benefit.

(Mat 13:18-19) Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. {19} When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.

When He says “Hear ye” he is enjoining us to understand. He is saying “Understand therefore the parable of the sower.”

We can see by verse 19 that the seed that was being broadcast was the word of the kingdom. Mark (Mark 4:14) tells us that the seed was the word and Luke (Luk 8:11) tells it was the word of God. The word of the kingdom and the word of God can be considered synonymous because a kingdom is the dominion of the king. God is the King (Psa 10:16, 24:8, 24:10, Isa 6:5, etc.) so the word of the kingdom of God is the Word of God. What is the Word of God? It is the canon of Scripture, the Bible. Yes, Jesus is the Divine Logos, but the Scriptures are in view here. How do we use that?

Psa 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

2Pe 1:21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

What word should we use? Use any Scripture or Scriptures that cause us to be the witnesses for Christ: Act 1:8: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The most important words are the words of the Gospel, like Paul wrote in 1Co 15:3-8, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (5) And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (6) After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. (7) After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. (8) And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

We are to be witnesses of Christ in our daily lives. Whenever the opportunity arises we should be prepared to try to tell others what Jesus has done for us. That is our witness—what Jesus has done for us.

Let me list a few of the things Jesus has done for me:

· Gave me that assurance of heaven

· Took away my fear of death

· Gave me joy

· Changed me from a hell-bound unbeliever into a child of God

· Changed my language

· Delivered me from alcoholism

· Saved my marriage

· Showed me how to love others—even the hard to love

· Taught me humility

· Placed me among a group of God-fearing people

· Gave me the ability to speak of the things of God to others

Those are just a few of the things Jesus has done for me. I only need to mention one or two of them when I converse with people. That gives me an opening to discuss the things of God with them.

The seed along the roadside on the hard ground symbolizes those who hear the word of God but do not understand it. This means those who do not receive it (see v. 20). Evil comes along and snatches it away it away from them. Here in Matthew it is evil or the evil one who snatches away the word. Mark tells us in Mark 4:15, that it is Satan. Luke writes in Luk 8:12, that it is the Devil. When you see the words “the wicked one” in the KJV, the word ‘one’ is not in the text, leaving the original to be ‘the wicked’. It means the Devil or Satan. When we say that the devil takes it away that does not mean that Satan himself takes it away in person.

No, Satan uses many things at his disposal to keep the truth away from folks such as the sinful nature each person has, other people, demonic influence, our own lack of self-control, the situation around us, our lusts, and many, many more things to distract people from receiving the word and assimilating it.

(Mat 13:20-21) But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; {21} Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.

This person receives the word at once. But it never takes root and when something bad happens to him, he loses the word. In others words he hears what sounds good at the time, but never actually trusts the Lord and life happens causing him to forget the truth.

(Mat 13:22) He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

This is the one that fits many who claim to be Christians in our day. The many cares and snares of this world keep many Christians from being fruitful. They are Christians in name but when it comes to using the gifts given them by God for to edify the Body of Christ, they just do not have the time. These are what some would call poser Christian or Christians in name only. It is unfortunate but true that many sitting in the pews of our church facilities Sunday after Sunday, are not really saved.

They think they are saved because they have been baptized and attend church regularly. But they have never really trusted Christ as their Savior. Instead they are trusting in the things they are doing for their salvation. They are religionists. Religion is man trying to reach up to God. The message of Christianity is God reaching down to man. Religion is about man trying to do the right things to be right with God. Christianity teaches that God has already done what is needed to provide us the opportunity to be right with Him. Religion teaches that you must earn your salvation by doing good deeds or certain acts and by not doing evil. Christianity teaches that all we need do is believe that Christ has already paid the price for the evil deeds we have done.

Of course it is not always their fault. Many are not being taught the Word of God and they don’t know any better. However, it is their responsibility to get the correct teaching: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Rom 1:20-21).

(Mat 13:23) But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Even though much of the seed was cast onto unprepared ground, much of it still falls on the good ground where it germinates and grows into a mature plant. A mature plant puts out many more times the seed required to grow it. Relating this to the kingdom, when you plant seed, that is God’s Word, into fertile ground, it will germinate and produce fruit.

The moral here is that all Christians should broadcast Gospel seed. In other words we are to witness for Christ and thus spread the Gospel. It is not up to us to make it fall on fertile ground; we are just to broadcast it. We are not responsible for what the person does with the Gospel; our responsibility is simply to plant the seeds of the Gospel. When you plant a seed, it may fall on fertile or infertile ground. That which falls on fertile ground may not germinate at once. It may take some time. You may not even be there when the seed germinates. Our job is to plant seeds wherever we go. We are not responsible for where it lands or when it germinates; we are only responsible to scatter it.

This makes the question asked by many preachers, “How many people did you lead to Christ last week?” beside the point. You may have led some to Christ. Great! But if you did not, did you plant any seeds last week? That is your responsibility. Don’t feel guilty if you led no one to Christ last week for we are not responsible for the seed to grow—the Holy Spirit does that; rather feel guilty if you did not sow any seed.

This brings up one last point. The seed that fell on fertile ground grew and matured and produced fruit. Did that seed have to be taken into the hothouse to germinate? No, it grew right in the field.

Must one go to church and walk down the aisle at the invitation to be saved? No. Most preachers I have heard make it seem so. They talk like you did not do your job if no one came to church and walked the aisle at the invitation. That just is not true. Yes, people should make a public profession of faith. They can and should publicly profess their faith; that can be done by going to church and walking the aisle. Public Baptism is another way to profess our faith. While professions of faith can be done anywhere, the most common way is in a church facility. Nevertheless, while a person may publicly profess his or her faith in a number of ways, that person is still to find and join a group of Bible believers to worship regularly with.

Heb 10:22-25 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. (23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (24) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: (25) Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Don’t think that when you plant a seed that the person must wait until Sunday to go to church to be saved. That person can be saved on the spot. I’m not saying that people are not saved in church and walk the aisle right then; it does happen, but it is not necessary. People can be saved elsewhere.

I heard a preacher on a missions program on Christian radio the other day say that so and so could hardly wait until Sunday to go to church to be saved. Why? Could not that person be saved at home? Salvation is believing in or trusting in Christ as your Savior (John 3:16); it is not the work of going to church and walking the aisle. A person is saved the moment he or she believes in Christ. If a person has to go to church and walk the aisle to be saved then that person is not saved at all but has tried to earn his salvation by going to church. Shame on pastors, preachers, and teachers who teach that works type salvation.

Plant seeds and people will come to Christ. You might not see it and it might not happen on Sunday morning at the invitation, but it will happen to some.

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