“And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the soil on the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded fruit a hundredfold.” (Luke 8:4-6, 8 NKJV)
People had started paying attention to Jesus, partly because of his teaching, and partly because of the miracles he did. His fame had spread, and Luke says people “had come to him from every city”. Perhaps because he had attracted such a wide audience, Jesus cast a wider net as he taught. He described a sower putting seed on various kinds of soil.
Have you ever planted something to watch it grow? Planted the seeds of a fruit and watched it produce MORE fruit? Ever gotten excited about seeing something sprout, pushing its way through the topsoil and becoming a plant? I remember planting a bean in a jar in elementary school and being fascinated with watching it change and grow, seeing how the bean was transformed from something dry and seemingly dead into a green new plant. The roots went down, obtaining nutrients from the soil, and the leaves went up, seeking the light!
In an agrarian society, this image would have resonated with almost everyone. Even people who weren’t farmers kept gardens and grew fruit trees, herbs or vegetables. Everybody had experience with the varying results that came from sowing seeds, so his listeners were absolutely connected to his premise, and could relate to planting and growing stuff. I would imagine that some people connected the dots, but since there were deeper meanings in this analogy his disciples had to ask, “What does this parable mean?”
Jesus told them that this is more than just a story about a guy planting seeds. It is a Parable about the word of God, which falls onto all kinds of soil, where it will either take root and grow or remain fruitless because the soil will not accept it or support it. He says that WE (the listeners) are the soil, either rejecting or nurturing the word. Reading the parable, a couple of observations come to mind:
1) The transforming power of the word of God can bring new life out of something seemingly dead. But it doesn’t happen from a surface interaction, it requires putting down some roots and reaching up to the light.
2) Even though the Word has transforming power, it only flourishes in the right kind of soil. Jesus said that when cast on the wayside, where traffic and distractions would push it aside, it would be trampled down by the crowd, or eaten up by passing flights of fancy; when cast on rocks, or a hard surface where no roots could develop, it would wither away.
I’m often amazed at how summarily people reject the Word of God based on assumptions or mere casual surface interaction. They take a small sampling and then say, “The Bible is a myth”, or “It’s a book with some incredible old stories and wise sayings, but it’s out of touch with the modern world”. But they haven’t ever read it, and they have never applied it to their lives. There are indeed people for whom the Word of God has no transforming power, because they do not accept it or support it. They give it a hard surface glance and move on, so that it never takes root and provides miraculous, life-changing growth.
On the other hand I know people who seek its wisdom and accept its teachings. They are the type of soil that has been broken, and are prepared to accept new life. They will put down roots and reach up to the light. There’s an old saying, “Show me a person whose Bible is falling apart, and I’ll show you a person whose life usually isn’t.” Such people discover that the Bible is connected to History, current events, and even to the future. They find that the Bible is relevant and profitable, full of insight into human nature as well as sage advice about how to live.
It’s interesting that the same book (the same seed) can have such different outcomes, but as Jesus said, it’s really about the type of soil upon which it falls. The seed offers the same potential for growth wherever it is sown, but Jesus points out that there are very different outcomes from a busy wayside, barren rocks, or freshly broken soil that is prepared to accept and support the Word of God.
So…easy question: What kind of soil are you?
The Sower and the Seed
The sower went to sow some seed on various kinds of ground,
And some fell on the wayside as he scattered it around.
It never flourished or took root, was stepped upon by shoe and boot,
and perished there where it was put, merely trampled underfoot…
Some seeds fell on rocky soil that wasn’t very deep,
And they could not find places that their roots could hold and keep;
Although they sprang right up with pride,
they had no moisture there inside,
And even though they really tried,
they withered on the vine, and died…
But some seeds fell on ground prepared to offer them some growth;
They needed depth and nurture, and this soil provided both.
They weathered storms and heat and cold,
they grew up green and strong and bold,
And they provided fruit like gold, and multiplied a hundredfold.
So when the Sower sows His seed, and offers you his toil,
Make sure you yield a hundredfold because you’re fruitful soil.
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