4 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
For the word of God to be effective in our lives we must enable it to grow.
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 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. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Seeds want to grow. It is in their nature. I bought some crunchy salad sprout mix the other day. It was a collection of baby chickpeas, and other small seeds and beans. After being left in the fridge too long, they started sprouting. Seeds are amazing carriers of life. Jesus equates the seeds spread in His story to the word. The word brings life and has life contained within it.
Here Jesus tells a story about seeds and a sower. It is one of His best-known parables and would have resonated in the agrarian society He was speaking to. It is also fairly clear what Jesus meant by the parable, as He provides His own explanation of what the different elements mean. But how does the story apply to me?
I am dirt. I have been given the word. It is spread indiscriminately. The real question is how do I receive it? The seeds have the same value wherever they are spread. The farmer spreads His seed in the same way. The thing that changes is the soil and its receptiveness. Not all who hear the word accept it and allow it to take root in their lives. Not all the soils in the story were prepared to accept it either. I was struck by this fact. ALL the soils heard/received/experienced the word but not all of them were changed by it, used it or enabled it to grow.
For the word of God to be effective in our lives we must enable it to grow. It needs to be allowed to grow deep roots. This can only happen if the ground is prepared. The ground of my heart must be humble, not hard. Through confession and humility, I realise I am only dirt, and any growth or multiplication that comes out of me, comes from Jesus. As the ground, I must ingest the word, internalise it, before it can grow out of me. At times in my life, I have been choked out by problems or swooped on by the devil or a little too much a fan of Jesus not a follower. Yet by taking the rocks out of my life, allowing the seed to seep deep, scaring off the birds, instead of entertaining them—by doing these things, I can have a heart ready to receive and then use the word of God.
If I accept the word with the right attitude, it will grow and multiply out of me. This is the final point in Jesus’ parable. The word can feed the nations, by being multiplied, up to a hundred times but only if it has a place to take root. You and I are important in God’s great salvific plan. His word, lived out in our lives will produce fruit (both the fruits of the spirit and reclaiming others for the Kingdom). A true Christian life, a person who really does accept the word will see growth. The rest will have nothing happen to them.
This parable is not so much about methods of evangelism or different types of people. It is about whether you are ready to receive God’s word and grow.
Here is a cute animation you might enjoy.