Jesus often spoke to the crowds of people who followed Him in parables. These were stories with hidden meanings and He rarely interpreted them. But there is one well-known story where Jesus not only explains what it means but also why He chose to speak in parables. As we explore the meaning of the parable of the sower, we dig deeper into the relevance of Jesus’ words for our lives today.
Parable of the Sower Bible Verse
The parable of the sower is found in three of the four gospels, Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8. We are going to explore the version in Matthew chapter 13.
The Parable of the Sower Matthew 13:1-9
Jesus sat down and told the crowds of people who were following Him a story about a farmer. The man was walking through his field sowing seed by hand. As he scattered the seed some fell on a path, where the birds flew down and ate it up.
Other seed fell on rocky patches of ground with little soil. The seeds there sprang up quickly, but when the sun came out they soon withered as they had no roots. Some of the seeds fell onto a patch of ground which was full of thistles and weeds. The plants there grew up but were soon choked by the weeds which were stronger than them.
Finally, the farmer sowed seeds onto good soil. And there it grew and produced a crop, a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.”Matthew 13:9
Why Jesus Spoke in Parables
During His ministry, Jesus engaged with the crowds by telling stories using scenes and images that they were familiar with. Jesus spoke indirectly and the stories all had a deeper spiritual message. After He had told the parable of the sower the disciples asked privately, why did Jesus speak using parables?
The answer that Jesus gives is particularly relevant to this parable. Spiritual matters are for those who are seeking spiritual discernment. The secrets of the kingdom of heaven, and the mystery of the gospel, are the revelation of what was previously hidden, the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel is proclaimed to all – but only those who have faith will understand.
Saving faith is the gift of God, His grace poured out to all those who earnestly seek Him! Jesus then quoted the prophet Isaiah’s sad description of Israel as a rebellious people.
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.”Matthew 13:14-15
After explaining why He spoke in parables Jesus shared with the disciples the meaning of the parable of the sower…
What Are the 4 Types of Soil in the Parable of the Sower?
The meaning of the parable of the sower is in the soil! The farmer is sowing the word of God and there are four types of soil. Each one represents the condition of the human mind and heart to hear and receive the word of God. To receive God’s word means that we accept and are willing to act on His word so that it becomes a reality in our life.
1 The Path
The hard ground, the path, represents those people who hear the truth of God’s word but do not understand. As soon as they hear the message Satan snatches away the word of God. Now, this does not mean that understanding is kept from them, but that they are not willing to receive God’s word. Understanding requires a response and a change of heart. But they have become alienated from God by their rejection of Him.
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." Matthew 7:24
2 Rocky Ground
When the word of God falls on the rocky ground this represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But the problem with the rocky ground is that there is not enough soil to put down strong roots. Times of testing come to all of God’s people to deepen and strengthen our faith. And without roots when trouble comes, because of the word of God, it is so easy to fall away.
3 Thorny Ground
The thorny, or weed-filled, ground represents those who hear the word, but they don’t become fruitful. We know that weeds shoot up quickly and take all the goodness from the soil and prevent other plants from growing. It is the same with the word of God, worries or pleasures in life if allowed to grow can prevent us from being fruitful.
The problems that we encounter from living in a sinful world – sickness, lost job opportunities, broken relationships, and family discord, can bring disappointment. Worries can become larger and stronger than the truth of God’s word in our minds. This will choke, and slowly kills the word of God preventing it from being effective.
God loves to bless His people with good things but selfishness, and materialism, can skew our priorities. If wealth, or success, becomes the driving force in life this will prevents us from being fruitful in God’s kingdom.
4 Good Soil
The good soil represents those who are receptive. Those who hear the word of God, understand, and act upon it. Those who obey the word of God by putting it into practice become spiritually fruitful. Our lives are changed and that becomes visible through our actions. God’s word is powerful and effective to transform our lives!
The Meaning of the Parable of the Sower For Life Today
Jesus rarely interpreted His parables, but He did with this story. It is recorded in three of the four gospels and each one also includes the explanation of why Jesus spoke in parables. This marks it out as being significant teaching with important spiritual truths that we can apply to our lives today.
1 Be Willing to Witness
God’s word is to be proclaimed to all, but not everyone will be receptive to His word. When the opportunity arises, we share God’s love with those around us in words and actions. We believe that we are sowing seeds of truth. Whether we see a result, or not, we continue to sow – for the outcome belongs to God.
2 Be a Seeker
Those who receive and understand the truth of God’s word are those who are seeking Him. Jesus began His ministry with the sermon on the mount. One of the first spiritual truths that He shared was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who are not proud or self-sufficient but recognize their need to seek God, are those who will find Him.
3 Be Responsible
The condition of the soil, the softness of our hearts to the things of God, is our responsibility. We are accountable for guarding our hearts to ensure that they remain receptive to God’s word. It is so easy to let the enemy throw rocks onto our good soil! But if we are willing to co-work with the Holy Spirit, God will sift our hearts. There may be stones of doubt, anger, resentment, or unforgiveness, that need removing.
Weeds grow rapidly and so easily. They can spring up, almost overnight, if we are not vigilant. But if we are willing to give all of our cares and anxieties to God, He will set us free from those choking fears. If we are willing to put God first, before everything else, we will grow and become strong and fruitful in His kingdom.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23
4 Be Watchful in Prayer
The meaning of the parable of the sower is timeless, it has not changed. Today the barriers to faith are increasing – but that does not diminish the power of God’s word. As we live and speak the truth of God’s word, we combine it with prayer! We persevere in prayer for those that we love. And keep on believing that the seeds sown will become effective, in God’s perfect timing.