Jesus teaching often involved a series of stories, such as the parables that we are looking at this fall. The telling of parables required the audience to think about where they fit into the narrative. They described a scenario that would be familiar to the listener such as planting crops. The listener was left to think about where they fit in the story. As we study this week’s parable, think about how and where you fit into the story.
In this short parable, Jesus was describing the history of how Israel had responded to God and a preview of how people would respond to him in the future. From the time of God’s covenant with Abraham until Jesus stood teaching on the beach, there had been many prophets and many failures for God’s people. The people listening to Jesus might have remembered the words of the prophets. Through the generations the word had fallen on hard ground, rocks, and thorns. But now in Jesus, the Kingdom was being sown in a new way and out of it a crop would be produced that would be far beyond what could have ever been imagined.
Read Matthew 13:1-9 and Isaiah 55:10-11
“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
— Matthew 13:1-9
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
— Isaiah 55:10-11
Jesus helps us understand the meaning of the parable of the sower. In fact, it is unique because it is the only parable that Jesus fully interprets for his disciples. So let’s read through it slowly as he helps us interpret it. As we do, think about how it applies to you here today. Like the people standing on the beach 2000 years ago, listen for him describing your life.
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
— Matthew 13:18-23
Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus used parables to convey deep truths about the Kingdom of God, God himself, and his followers. These simple stories reveal a richness and depth that, at first glance, may escape the hearer. But each parable says something eternity-revealing and spur us into action.