We left off last time, in the article "The Parabolic Approach", with the Parable of the Tares. It is one of the parables that we have a recorded explanation from Jesus of what a particular parable meant. We will pick up here with another parable Jesus explained for us - the Parable of the Sower.
The Parable of the Sower is often considered very important to understand because Jesus, in essence, asked how His disciples would be able to understand the other parables he was going to say if they couldn't understand this one (Mark 4:13). His explanation for the Parable of the Sower, as with the Parable of the Tares, shows us how to understand Him. It shows us that we do not need to search for some deeper hidden meaning. Look at His words with the faith and simplicity of a child; and, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will find His Truth.
Versions of this parable are given in all three synoptic gospels - Matthew 13:3/9, Mark 4:3/9, and Luke 8:5/8. The explanation Jesus gave is also recorded in all three synoptic gospels - Matthew 13:18/23, Mark 4:14/20, and Luke 8:11/15. We will focus primarily on the parable as recorded in Matthew; because, it is in Matthew 13:18 that Jesus Himself, when asked to explain it, specifically said, "Then hear the parable of the sower".
The Parable of the Sower
And He spoke to them many things in parables, saying: Behold, the sower went out to sow. And in his sowing, some fell by the roadside and the birds came and ate them. And others fell on stony places where they did not have much earth, and it immediately sprang up because it had no deepness of earth; and, the sun rising, it was scorched; and, because of having no root it was dried up. And others fell on the thorn-bushes and the thorn-bushes grew up and choked them. And others fell on the good ground and yielded fruit; indeed, one a hundredfold, and one sixty, and one thirty. The one having ears to hear, let him hear.
The explanation Jesus gave for the Parable of the Sower
Then hear the parable of the sower. Everyone hearing the Word of the kingdom and not understanding, the evil one comes and catches away that which was sown in his heart. This is that sown by the roadside. And that sown on stony places is this: the one hearing the Word and immediately receiving it with joy; but, has no root in himself, but is temporary, and tribulation or persecution occurring because of the Word, he is at once offended. And that sown in thorn bushes is this: the one hearing the Word and the anxiety of this age and the deceit of riches, choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful. But that sown on the good ground is this: the one hearing the Word and understanding it, who indeed bears and yields fruit, one truly a hundredfold, and one sixty, and one thirty.
This parable is also sometimes called the Parable of the Four Soils. I consider that a more apt name because the main focus is not the sower but the type of soil. I consider this parable of extreme importance for that very reason. It gives four types of "soil" that the sower sows in. Please take note that only one of those soils - by the roadside - is a full blown non-believer. Into this category would fall Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, etc., - the Truth of the Word has never even dawned on them. Please take further note that only one of those soils - good ground - is a true saved believer. That leaves two soils - stony and thorny - that are comprised of people that may consider themselves "Christian" but won't be saved. They will be the ones that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:22/23:
Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of Heaven; but, the ones who do the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name cast out demons and in Your name do many works of power? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. Depart from Me, those negating the law!" Note1
Jesus' explanation needs no help from me; but, we are told to learn line upon line, precept upon precept. To explain why I say that two types of soil are "Christians" who won't be saved, I will dig deeper. For example, the word "offended" had a different meaning then than it usually does now - i.e. Matthew 26:31/33. We see that "offended" indicates a person who deserts or abandons. There are a lot of folks who were "baptized" at a young age and may very well have been, as Jesus says, filled with joy at that time. However, many of these people never went further in their relationship with God or Jesus. Maybe it wasn't a popular thing to be a "Bible Thumper" in school, or college, or at the workplace; so, they drifted away. Many, if asked, will still call themselves "Christians"; but, you would never know it unless you asked. They do not live their lives as followers of Jesus. They do not "do the will of my Father". They are stony ground.
Next we come to the thorny ground. These folks can present an even more "Christian-like" appearance; but, as Jesus says, they are so wrapped up in this world that they choke the Word and make it unfruitful. Jesus doesn't say that they are choked - He says that they choke the Word. They squeeze the life out of the Word - so much so that it bears no fruit in their lives. They do not live their lives as followers of Jesus. They do not "do the will of my Father". They are thorny ground.
The parable is easy to understand; but, there are a lot of people who misunderstand because they fail to do as we are told to do:
For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little.
Both the stony and thorny ground have failed to do this. The stony ground has forgotten what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32 and Luke 12:8. They no longer confess Him before men. The stony and the thorny ground have forgotten what Jesus said in Matthew 3:10, 7:19, and Luke 3:9, and John 15:2, 15:8, and etc. The unfruitful will perish, burn, die!
What ground does Jesus call good? Ground that is fruitful! Only fruitful ground is saved! Here the version in Luke (8:15) adds the word "patience", which is defined by Thayer as: steadfastness, constancy, endurance; and by Strong as: endurance, constancy. It is ground that continues to produce fruit - not ground that used to.
To this we must add more - line upon line, precept upon precept. Remember the thorny ground choking the Word so that it is unfruitful. If the word you are following comes anywhere except from the Old Testament or from Jesus then you are choking the life out of the Word. The writings of Paul are not a part of the Word that Jesus referred to (See Note2). If you are not following the commands Jesus gave then you are choking the Word. Jesus said, "If God were your Father, you would love Me" (John 8:42). He said, "If you love Me keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Jesus said, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and, my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). If you are not keeping His Words - keeping His commandments - then you are choking the Word! You are thorny ground.
I have included some more study aids in Note3; but, learning what a parable means is useless unless you apply that meaning to your life. If you do not apply it, you are choking the life giving properties out of the Word.
In Brotherly Love,
Note1 - For those that are interested, this is one of the times that Jesus is referring to the Old Testament - specifically Psalms 6:8: Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
Note2 - Paul very seldom referred to Jesus either - Paul's gospel is not Jesus' Gospel
Note3 - Parables: Christian Reflection The Center for Christian Ethics, Baylor University (from my Christian Ethics Section - PDF for online study or down load)
R.C. Trench Studies on the Parables (Link to studies in my Free Downloads Section 7 specific studies PDF's for online study or download)