Jesus was a rising star in Judea. He performed miracles and told amazing stories. He loved people. And the people loved Him back. Only a few months into His ministry, so many were traveling to see Jesus that He had to speak from a boat. Imagine that. People cancelled their plans. They called in sick to work. All so they could get a peek at this new guy Jesus from Nazareth. After all, who knew what He might do next? Perhaps He would perform a new miracle or tell a fresh story. As the crowd huddled on the shore, anticipation filled the air. Like a stadium before a concert. Suddenly, a hush came over the crowd. Jesus raised his hands, stepped forward, and began to tell a story.
“There was once a man who planted seeds. Some grew, some didn’t. Some grew but died. Others got choked in the thorns. The end."
Not exactly a Pulitzer prize winner. The people scratched their heads and looked at each other. What would He say next? That water was wet? That the sun goes up in the morning and comes down in the evening?
The Parable of the Sower was painfully obvious to those listening. It was so obvious, no one knew what He was saying. "What could Jesus mean by stating such obvious facts about life?" The Parable of the Sower is one of the easiest stories to hear but the hardest to understand.
Even today, the Parable of the Sower is well-known but misunderstood. It causes seat-squirming in churches, as Christians wonder whether they're “the good soil.” But what was the point of this story? Was it meant to cause uncertainty about salvation? Was it meant to teach some kind of moral point? Below are two keys to remember when reading this parable.
It’s Not About Christians
The most important misconception about the Parable of the Sower is that the soils represent those who have trusted in Jesus. Readers mistake Jesus for describing a situation where individuals accept Jesus as their Savior and then lose their salvation due to sin or emotional apathy. Who hasn’t wondered whether they were the soil within the rocks, where plants shoot up and then stall? Who hasn’t felt trampled by feet? Christians know what it’s like to walk with the Lord, only to fall into sinful traps like lust and drunkenness.
But the soils do not represent people who have put their faith in the Gospel. It describes people who have heard the Gospel message. Whether they accept it depends on the state of their heart—or their soil. The parable was self-reflective. It caused people to examine the condition of their souls, just like a farmer examined the condition of his soil.
Have you trusted Jesus? Great! You're the good soil. This means that God has taken root in your life. No matter what happens, no sin or temptation can change that. Just like no rock or thorn can kill a plant already rooted in good soil. For those who have already trusted Jesus, the parable is encouraging. For those who haven’t, it’s convicting.
The Parable of the Sower is an evangelistic parable in that it's meant to soften those who have hardened their hearts (soil) to God. But pastors rarely preach the parable evangelistically. Because of this, it’s misunderstood.
It’s Not Instructional
The Parable of the Sower is not instructional. How can you instruct dirt? How can dirt try to be less rocky or thorny? It can’t! It’s dirt!
Friends, we are the dirt. Just like soil can’t change its own nature, people’s souls are incapable of making themselves better or worse. From start to finish, salvation is because of the Sower—not the soil. In ancient times, a farmer would till the ground after sowing the seed. Not before. Soil shouldn't worry about how to become better soil. It can't. It should worry about its need for the Sower.
The only command Jesus gave during this story was "He who has ears, let him hear." Jesus gave no other command in the parable because there's no other command soil could obey. When Jesus described the good soil, He defined it with no other qualities other than that it had been impacted by the Sower. The same could be said of us.
Jesus could've said so many good things about what grows out of good soil: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Instead, he described it as “a hundredfold.” Growth out of good soil leads to more growth out of other soils. This is the only aspect in which the plant takes part with the farmer in the work at hand.
Christians should see the Parable of the Sower, not as instructional, but as inspirational. It’s a call to thankfulness, a call to assurance. But it's also a call to action. Rejoice that God cultivated your heart to receive His Gospel. Now, pass on that seed on to other soils. Who knows, you may be the till that God uses to soften the heart of your neighbor.
Resting in Him