The Parable of the Sower
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand’. 11 Now the parable is this: The seed isthe word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear,for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Soil That Sits
Immediately I start to wonder, who is saved in this passage and who is damned? I think that Jesus deliberately cautions against complacency by leaving the question open. The second and third soils fail to hold the word in some way. They fail in their function. They even ‘fall away’. Is that for this life? Is it for eternity? The text does not say. If we had a neat answer about being forever saved here, complacency might kick in. However, a lack of concern shows the true condition of our hearts. Logically, it is possible that those who are saved have faith which produces fruit. Those who are not saved might have a diminished faith which enables God to do limited work in them, but ultimately they fall away. Those who believe the second and third groups are saved, but that they really do fall away would have no problem with the failure to bear fruit that the text emphasizes. The farmer scatters seed liberally. The word of God goes out across the world and is received by people in various stages and walks of life. Who has the patience to sit with the word of God and let it do its work. Good soil receives the word and lets it sit for a long time. Shallow soil seems immediately successful but time shows the shallowness to be destructive. Some people are enthusiastic in theory, but when they hear other philosophies and become distracted the fruit is lacking. Others have good starts with the community of faith, but when dark thoughts, old fears, and hurt and pain come into their lives they do not sit with God, but they run and look for a new relief. They say in affect, I have tried God and religion and it didn’t work for me. The one who shows true salvation is the one who sits through the storms, the rains, the sunshine, the blizzards and the seasons and allows the word to rest deeply with them. It sinks deeper into their fertile interior and over time they see growth. Something wholesome comes out of their actions and their speech.
We are to care for the soil of our interior life and be mindful of how we respond to the light. It takes seeking out the deep truths and asking Jesus to explain just what the words he gives us might mean. Many of us have frantic hearts and full agendas, but we must put them aside. Then embracing a life contemplating the light, we will see that it grows a kernel of a mustard seed within us which becomes so grand that the birds of the air can nest in its branches.
Help me not to be so busy with life that I do not sit with the word. Let the words of Jesus and the prophets sit long in my heart so that they can germinate and grow. Let me expose myself to light so that life may result. I would like a spiritual director in my life who speaks hard words of truth to me so that I can see where I can grow most.
- How much of the parable can you tell without looking?
- Is Jesus concerned about the crop, the sower, or the soils?
- What response does Jesus want from potential disciples?
- What response does Jesus want from you?