Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:1–9 (NRSV) The Parable of the Sower

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”


Jesus’ interpretation of the Parable of the Sower (vv. 18-23)

Jesus proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven (the Gospel) is the setting for each of the 4 types of soil.  The emphasis on the interpretation is not on the Sower (Jesus), but on the quality of the soils on which the seed (the Gospel, the Good News about Jesus Christ) is sown.  The various types of soil represent the spiritual condition of those who hear the Good News.

Jesus is like a sower who sows the good seed (13:37).  The field is the world.  He is like the farmer sowing seed in the hearts of the people of Israel.   The seed represents “the message about the Kingdom” (v. 19).  Matthew summarizes Jesus’ preaching as “the Good News about the Kingdom of Heaven.”  (vv. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14)  The seed is good seed.  The different responses to Jesus’ preaching is on the quality of the soil, that is those who hear the message.

By extension, anyone who preaches the Gospel is also sowing the seed of the Gospel.  The preaching of the Good News, provided it is grounded in the Word of God is always good seed.  The Good News is always good.

Hard hearts (13:19)

The seed that fell on the road is like hard hearted people.  Because of the hardness of their hearts, the seed never has a chance to even begin to grow.  In vv. 14-15, Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 to indicate that these hard-hearted people are like the people of Israel to whom the prophet Isaiah ministered. Some in the crowd have hardened their hearts against Jesus’ message.  The hardness of heart prevents the seed of the Gospel from taking root.  The devil, the “evil one,” snatches them away just like the birds eat up the seeds that fall on the road.  They are like the Pharisees and scribes who were against Jesus from the start.

Shallow hearts (13:20, 21)

The seed sown in the rocky soil represents those who immediately receive the message with gladness, but never develop any depth in their faith.  The life of the Good News is in the seed, not in the soil.  When the environment is suitable, the seed will sprout.  In this case, the growth is only superficial.  These are those in the crowd who make a superficial commitment to Christ, but the Gospel message never develops any depth.  When hard times come, they stumble in their faith and fall away.  In fact, the Good News dies in them.

Thorny hearts

The third type of soil is crowded with thorns.  This type of heart receives the Gospel with joy.  The seed sprouts up, but the person who receives the message of the Gospel has his or her growth choked out by the competing priorities of this life.  The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth combine to choke the life out of the this person.  Tragically, they lose whatever benefit they might have received from the Good News.  Jesus warned in the Sermon on the Mount about the power of wealth (Matt. 6:19-24).  As a result of the combination of worry and wealth, the faith that sprang up so hopefully in the beginning is choked out in the end.

Receptive hearts.

Only fourth soil is called good.  This represents the person whose heart is receptive to the Gospel.  They not only hear the message of the Good News, but understand it and allow it to take full root in his or her heart so that it can produce fruit.  This soil represents a true believing disciple.

The evidence that they are true disciples is that they bear fruit.  The fruit of Kingdom life reveals the character of the tree (7:15-20, 12:33-37).  There may be varying amounts of yield in each person, but there must be a yield.

Some soils produce yields of 100 times, 60, or 30 times what was sown.  The emphasis is not on the amount of yield, but on the miraculous, gracious life that is present in the seed.  God blesses the growth, as Paul would later say.  (1 Cor. 3:5-9)  Seed sown on good soil will produce the maximum results that it has been created to produce in good soil.

Who is responsible for the hardened heart?  When Pharaoh rejects God’s command to “let my people go,” Moses ascribes it to his hardened heart.  Jesus lays the responsibility directly on the people who hear the message:

Matthew 13:12 (NLT) To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge.  But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.

In our modern understanding of knowledge, we believe that knowledge is enough.  That is all we need.  Jesus said that even the demons believe.  They have knowledge, but not saving faith.

Those of us who are reading these words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew are like the crowds.  We are faced with the choice of either hearing the Word of God spoken to us through the Holy Spirit or reject it.  What Jesus implies in this parable is:  What kind of soil are you?  How will you respond to this message of the Kingdom of Heaven?  Will you follow Jesus or reject Him?

Reader, if you have never known the grace of God in Jesus Christ, then I invite you to turn to Him, to repent of your sins and follow Jesus, and make Him the Lord of your life.  And then find a good church in which to grow in faith.  See more at:

Lord, I pray for those who are seeking you today.  I pray that you would remove the stones from our lives, remove the thorns and help us to respond to your call to faith.  You send the Good News about Jesus Christ, scattering it on the field of the world to everyone.  “For this is how God loved the world:  He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

Strengthen those upon whom the Word has found good soil and sprung up.  Help them to grow in grace through daily reading your Word and prayer.  Help them to find a church in which to grow in the faith with other believers.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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