The parable of the sower explained
Parables: The King’s secrets
40 Blogs of Lent: Day 27 Parable 1
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Matthew 13:18–23 ESVUK
Who is the sower?
Jesus told a story the people of his time could relate to. A peasant farmer sowing seeds on the ground. But the sower is not identified in the story. Jesus calls the story the Parable of the Sower, but other than in the title there is no mention of who the sower is supposed to be. Who is the sower?
The story is about the seed, seed which is identified in v19 as “the word of the kingdom.” The Sower is, therefore, the one who announces the kingdom. (The disciples may have announced the kingdom at that time, it is hard to tell as the first 17 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel are not consecutive, but they were acting in the name and authority of Jesus.) As only Jesus and those acting on the authority of Jesus had been active in announced the kingdom, there is only one conclusion I can come up with. The sower is Jesus.
Some people just won’t listen.
There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is perceiving sound, receiving sound waves in your ear. Listening is not just hearing, but understanding what you hear. There are people who hear music, even have it on as a continual background, go to places and danced to music, but only as a means to socialise. Sitting down to really concentrate on the music, to get everything you can out of it takes active listening.
Some people have heard the message of Jesus, sometimes for years, but never really heard that it is something that requires commitment. Itis no wonder that those with no commitment are so easy to snatch away.
How deep is your love?
Jesus sent his followers out to make disciples, not converts. Being a convert is just the start. We are supposed to grow, our faith is supposed to become deeper and deeper, we are never supposed to stop learning. This shows how this was a problem in the early church:
Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. Hebrews 5:12–13
The deceitfulness of riches.
What is the most important thing in your life? Is it your job, or family, or your money, or possessions, or your reputation in your society, even your reputation in church. Or is it Jesus? Is Jesus everything for you, greater than family, friends, wealth or reputation? Later on Jesus will reinforce this line by saying, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 16:26.
Is anything worth more than your soul? The idea that riches are the thing to be sought is a deception. Money lies, those who seek it have been deceived by the Father of lies. The deceiver will do anything to stop people from following the way of Jesus. Filling your life with these things strangles your own spirit, you are killing yourself. The Epistle of James puts it like this:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. James 5:1–3
The good soil:
Back to the peasant farmer, he scatters the seed because he knows there are places where the seeds will land, germinate and grow. I am tempted to say that Jesus knew the kingdom of God would grow, but this parable does not start like most with, “The kingdom of God/heaven is like …” but starts straight in. However, he does say the parable is about the word of the kingdom in his explanation, your choice.
Jesus is the sower, his word, the seed in the parable, is for all people because he loves all people, but he knows that there are some who will not respond, fail to grow or be sidetracked. But he knows there are some who will respond, grow in the faith and become strong enough to resist both society’s pressure to conform and even persecution.
Despite evidence in western civilisation, here in the Church of England attendances are only a little over half of what they were when I became a Christian in the mid-1970s, the Church is growing worldwide, but also facing more persecution than at any time in the past. Jesus knew that his church would grow and also of the pressures it would be under. The kingdom of God will not be defeated. God’s kingdom will continue to grow according to what Jesus prophesied in a little story about a peasant farmer.