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Meditations on the Parable of the Sower

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While the Parable of the Sower was spoken around two thousand years ago, the application of the passage for today could not be more fitting. It is amazing how the Word of God transcends time and finds it place in each generation. Some may say that the Word of God is outdated, archaic, and lacks modern application and the knowledge of the times. However, this type of thinking clearly misses the mark. Although modern man has increased greatly in regard to the sciences and technological knowledge, this has not brought about greater wisdom and fear of God. Instead, it has only increased sin in the land and, in a number of ways, has brought about greater trouble for the children of God.

With that being said, why don’t we look at a timely message – one which is ripe in wise application for today’s readers? The topic of this article is the Parable of the Sower.

The seed that fell along the path

In Mark chapter 4, Jesus is pictured beside a sea. Jesus gets into a boat as a large crowd gathers around Him. Jesus then speaks out to the people and teaches them in parables. The first parable that is listed in the Scriptures is the Parable of the Sower.

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In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus uses an illustration to depict a spiritual reality. He teaches about four types of ground upon which seed falls (which represents four categories of people), as well as one sower of seed (with the seed representing the Word of God). In the first instance, Scripture says, “Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up” (KJV, Mark 4:3-4) . Later, Jesus explains this portion of the parable when He says, “… when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the Word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:14-15) . Here, we see that Satan is not indifferent to Gospel preaching.

Satan works endlessly in an attempt to blind the mind of unbelievers. When the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed, Satan will seek to remove the seed from the hearts of people in whichever way he is able.

The seed that fell on rocky ground

The sower continues to sow his seed, and the next batch of scattered seed falls upon rocky ground. In Jesus’ explanation of this group, He says, “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16-17) .

Here, it is important to address a common misconception that arises when people read the Parable of the Sower. The misconception is that Jesus refers to believers when He references the seed that falls upon rocky ground (or, later on, the seed that falls among thorns). However, the only believers in the illustration are the final category of people (represented by the seed which fell upon the good soil).

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Jesus is not speaking of believers when He speaks of the seed that fell on rocky ground (due to the fact that these individuals did not produce fruit like those who had good soil). In actuality, the only fruit-bearers of the whole bunch were the ones with the good soil. Scripture makes it painfully clear that we can tell a tree by its fruit and that when someone is truly born of the Spirit, he will also bear the fruit of the Spirit. Not only that, the Bible tells us that repentance brings about fruit (Matt. 3:8).

In actuality, there are many in the church today who are reminiscent of those whom Jesus was referring to in this portion of His parable. The seed that fell on rocky ground is indicative of those who merely have an emotional response to the Gospel. Emotions are powerful elements that drive behavior. It does not take an intelligent mind to know such a thing. There are many who have been flooded with a wave of emotion in regard to Christ and His church, and this carries them for a time. Nevertheless, when they are tested by fire, they are shown to be what they truly are: unbelievers.

The seed that fell among thorns

Still, the sower continues to sow his seed. As he continues on, he throws seed that falls among thorns. Jesus tells us, “And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19) . Did you catch what Jesus said in this verse? Jesus tells us here that this group of people, much like the last two groups, is unfruitful. They do not bear fruit, and thus, they were never truly Christians.

We can also see the timeliness of God’s Word yet again. Americans are being carried away in their pursuit of money. In a sense, there are times where it may seem as though nothing else truly matters. The general public needs to hear what Christ has to say in the Parable of the Sower, not to mention the Sermon on the Mount.

At the outset, Jesus does not condemn the rich man. Jesus does not condemn the one who works hard to earn a living. Abraham was a rich man, as was Job. However, there is a fine line that Scripture draws between having money and loving money.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that we cannot serve two masters. He later says that we cannot serve God and money. In the Parable of the Rich Young Ruler, the rich young ruler wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, but he went away sorrowful because he could not inherit eternal life due to his love for his possessions. On the other hand, when Zacchaeus, who was a tax collector and a lover of money, determined in his heart to give back money to those he wronged, he inherited eternal life. Money is not the problem, but instead the condition of the heart is what it at stake.

Not only that, but Jesus references those who are so preoccupied with this life that their love of the world eclipses eternity. They cannot see past this world and the events of this life, and thus, they miss their calling. For these people, the Word of God is choked out.

The seed that fell in good soil

But there is yet another group of people. The sower continues to sow his seed, and as he does, he scatters seed in good soil. Jesus tells us, “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:20) . This final group of people are those whose hearts were ready to receive the Gospel. They are those who both heard the Word and received the Word. They could also be thought of as those who both heard the Word and understood the Word.

There must be continuing action present in the life of the Christian. The Christian hears the Word, receives the Word, and then bears fruit. Thus, it is through the Word that the Christian bears fruit. However, it must be understood that it is God Who opens the ears of man, it is God Who gives understanding to man, and it is God Who brings about fruit in man’s life. At the same time, man is also called to hear, understand, and bear fruit.

Are you hearing the Word of God? Do you receive and understand God’s Word? Are you bearing fruit as a result? Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Do not let the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word. Do not allow the trials of life to make you fall away. Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the instruction that You have given me in Your Word. Help me to live according to Your Word. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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