“Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. – Mark 4:1-3.
Unfortunately, it seems that many of the stories told by Jesus (the parables) have lost their power to surprise and inspire us. One reason is that they often include images and anecdotes from everyday life that are significantly unrelated to most of our day-to-day lives. After all, how many of us have any first-hand experience with sowing seeds in a field and understand what goes into cultivating a fruitful harvest? Another reason is familiarity: With the stories of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, the Parable of the Sower and the Seed is among the best-known of these stories of Jesus.
To understand the parable of the sower you need to understand the farming techniques of the days of Jesus. In our western civilization we prepare the soil prior to planting the seeds. In the times of Jesus they spread the seed before the soil is prepared. That is why Jesus gives four types of soil that the seed falls on. In this parable, Jesus does not tell the sower to judge the soil or decide what soil is ready for planting and what soil is not ready. He says that the sower sows the seed. It is not our job to judge, discern, or decide what soil is ready for a seed to be planted. It is our job to sow the seeds regardless of soil condition.
Isaiah 55:10-11 adds some insight into this parable: “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” Isaiah reminds us that God’s word produces fruit and always achieves the end for which he sent it. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that, “the word of God is alive and powerful” (4:12). God scatters the seed whether we’re ready, paying attention, or willing to receive the seed at all. This is part of God’s gracious self-giving. God is always speaking to us and the seed is always being sown.
God continually sows the seeds of His Kingdom today. It falls on all kinds of “soil.” It is up to each of us to look at our heart, and determine what type of soil we are and whether we allow that seed to put down root and begin to change your life today and five years from now.
- How would you describe the “soil” of your heart and soul at this time in your life?
- What can you do this week to fertilize the soil of your hearts?