“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear”
(Matthew 13:3b-9 ESV)
Today we study one of Jesus’ most famous parables: The Parable of the Sower. In these days seed was dispersed by hand as a farmer walked through his field. The seed would fall on various types of soil within the field. Everyone listening to Jesus would have been very familiar with this activity as they lived in a farming culture. Jesus used this real-life example to explain a spiritual truth.
In this parable a sower went out to sow seeds. The seeds fell on four different types of soil:
Along the path: Just like we have today, paths would have existed between rows of crops. There would also have been paths between fields that were used by the farmer and which also acted as a right-of-way for travelers. We recently saw Jesus and His disciples use one of these paths [Matthew 12:1]. As a result of all this foot traffic, this soil in these areas would have been compacted. It would have been too hard to accept the seed. As a result birds come and devour the seed.
Rocky ground: Farmers would have cleared their fields of boulders and rocks in preparation for sowing, so this type of soil is not referring to above-ground rocks. It is referring to sheets of rock that would have been just below the surface. The soil above the rock would have been thin – perhaps just an inch or two. Seeds that landed here would immediately spring up. But since the soil has no depth, the plant’s roots could not obtain nutrients or reach water. As a result the plant would be scorched by the sun and die.
Among the thorns: Some seeds fell on soil that was fertile, but which was filled with undesirable weeds (thorns). Weeds grow much faster than any desired plant and in so doing they steal sunlight and nutrients, choking the life out of the desired plant.
Good soil: Some seed fell on good soil that was not compacted, had depth, and was free of competing, undesirable weeds. These seeds produced grain. Some seeds that fell on the good soil produced more grain than others. But all seeds produced some grain.
Notice that it was the same seed which fell on all four of these soils. The seed had the potential to germinate. Whether it did or not was entirely based on the quality of the soil.
This entire story by Jesus would have been well understood by His listeners… at least when it came to the obvious facts. No one would have argued against anything Jesus said in this parable as it related to farming.
But not everyone would have understood the spiritual aspects which is why Jesus issues the invitation: “He who has ears, let him hear“. This was apparently a common Hebrew idiomatic phrase which invited those who heard to explore the deeper meaning behind the parable.
In a couple of days we’ll study the meaning of this parable.
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