4 Amazing Insights from Jesus’ “Parable of the Sower”
4 Amazing Insights from Jesus’ “Parable of the Sower”
Meg Bucher Writer and Author
Jesus told this story out of concern for the state of our hearts. He doesn’t just want us to know who He is, but to follow Him wholeheartedly.
“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” – Matthew 13:16
Jesus knew how to communicate to his disciples. He often spoke in simple stories called parables because He wanted them to be able to understand. God the Son wasn’t concerned with eloquently delivering God’s word to sound important or intelligent. God knows our hearts, and His Word is alive and active. The simple parable Jesus taught to His disciples on earth so many generations ago still rings true with wisdom we can apply to our daily lives today.
Where Does the Parable of the Sower Appear in the Bible?
The Parable of the Sower appears in Matthew (13:1-23), Mark (4:1-20), and Luke’s (8:4-15) Gospels. I find particular interest in Matthew’s recording, considering his background as a tax collector. In fact, his collection booth is where Jesus approached him. Matthew immediately followed, and Jesus had dinner with his friends, considered outcasts to the Pharisees. The simplicity of the parable reflects Jesus’ character and intention to save all sinners, not just the ones who were of high stature or considered religiously deserving.
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 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. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear." The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables? He replied, "Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: " 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."
The NIV Application Commentary describes the location of Jesus’ teaching on the Sea of Galilee, in a particular inlet called the Cove of the Parables. “The land surrounding the cove slopes down like a natural horseshoe-shaped amphitheater, providing environment acoustics for Jesus’ voice to carry over one hundred meters from the boat to a crowd of hundreds gathered on the shore.” Not all of Jesus’ teachings were in public places, some were in the homes of His disciples. He intentionally allowed a bigger mass of people to hear Him.
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Why Did Jesus Tell This Story?
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means:” – Matthew 13:18
God is not a God of coincidence, nor did our Savior waste any words on this earth. At the time of His preaching to the disciples, the religious system of the day was legalistic. Jesus taught the allegiance of the heart is more important than following rules and accumulating head knowledge. “There are many who respond to the message of the gospel with joy but ultimately do not continue in the faith,” wrote R.C. Sproul. A wisdom and supernatural grace flows through Christ followers because of who He is, not because of what we do and know. Those attributes spur the desire to do good, after the heart of our good God, living in us through Christ.
When this parable was preached, followers of Jesus wouldn’t have been able to connect to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit yet. But we certainly can, living in the New Testament Covenant. Jesus told this story out of concern for the state of our hearts. He doesn’t just want us to know who He is, but to follow Him wholeheartedly. God is a jealous God. The allegiance of our hearts is important to Him.
How Did Jesus Explain the Parable to His Disciples?
“This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” – Matthew 13:13
After teaching the basic parable to a larger mass of people, Jesus’ disciples came to Him. “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” they asked (Matthew 13:10). Jesus took the time to explain the parable to His disciples on a deeper level: “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them,” Jesus answered (Matthew 13:11-13). He continued to explain the amazing insights of the parable of the sower. Jesus came to save all sinners, and when we engage with Him, we get to experience relationship, and friendship (He calls us friends!) with our Savior.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Markus Spiske
Meaning and Lessons From the Parable of the Sower's 4 Types of Seeds
1. Listen (the seed snatched away)
“When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” – Matthew 13:19
Listen, is painted neatly on my tween daughter’s word of the year board. It’s evident to me in this season of her life that she likes to talk and be heard. But, in listening we learn so much more! Not just as tweens, but as we grow in the wisdom of Christ. The seed in Matthew 13:19 (above) “stands for those who completely fail to grasp Jesus’ person and teaching so that the gospel takes no root at all,” the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible explains. We hear sermons, listen to podcasts, and read devotionals and books, but are we really listening? Or just skimming for surface nuggets to get us through? Lots of people hear, but who is listening? I think that’s what Jesus was getting at.
2. Receive (the seed with no root)
“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” – Matthew 13:20-21
The seed falling on rocky ground reminds us it is easier to be enthusiastic about Christ until we look at changing our lives. “Sometimes people will say that the day of preaching is over because it is not an effective way of chaining people,” John Piper explains, “The answer is: It has never been statistically very effective. Nor has any other form of communication, statistically. And the reason is Matthew 7:14, ‘The gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’” The narrow way out of a worldly life and into the freedom and peace of Christ is simply hard. In Christ, we have the opportunity to receive His gift of salvation, His grace, His forgiveness, and His strength. But we have to fully receive Him. It’s a whole change, from the inside out.
3. Focus (the seed among thorns)
“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” – Matthew 13:22
Spiritual leaders rise and fall into the background because they are only human. When we look to any one person or people group more than we stare into the eyes of Christ, we are idol-ing. Anything we put before God is an idol: people, stuff, and accomplishments. “We fall out of Bible reading habits a hundred ways,” wrote Marshall Segal for Desiring God, “and all of them are deadly serious.” Fruitfulness begins with a daily habit of sitting with God, in prayer and in the Word. Scripture even encourages us to align what preachers and teachers say directly to the word of God. People are fallible, but God is unchanging. Distraction suffocates fruitfulness.
4. Respond (the seed on good soil)
“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produced a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23
A good crop is the product of hard work and rain. We can control the work element, but not the rain. Our faith is a compilation of diligent habits (prayer, confessing our sins, reading Scripture) and trust in God. We continue to hear Him, understand we cannot control every element on this earth, and trust in God’s goodness. The Bible tells us to take every thought captive, because Satan is bent on twisting every phrase and relational situation into a lie. Following Christ isn’t easy. The battle is physical, mental, and spiritual. We must constantly remember the peace, freedom, forgiveness, grace, and love we have in Christ. It cannot be taken away, but we can be easily distracted! “Satan’s battle against the Word is not just directed against that first hearing of the Word,” John Piper explains, “Even after a person has heard the Word and received it with joy, Satan does his best to take it away and bring the person to fruitlessness and ruin.”
The Voice paraphrase of Matthew 13:16-17 reads: “Many holy prophets and righteous men and women and people of prayer and doers of good have wanted to see but did not see, and have wanted to hear but did not hear. Your eyes and ears are blessed.” Everyday, we wake to choose who we are going to follow, and what we are going to listen to. Our thoughts align with what we’re listening to. Re-route conversations to shut down gossip, flee places that push temptation hot buttons, crank worship music in the car. What we listen to matters. Listen, receive, focus, and respond.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/lovelyday12
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as an author, freelance writer, and blogger at Sunny&80. Her first book, “Friends with Everyone,” is available on amazon.com. She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters. Besides writing, she leads a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. She lives in Northern Ohio with her husband, Jim, and two daughters.
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