The Parable of the Sower
The Parable of the Sower (sometimes called the Parable of the Soils) is a parable of Jesus found in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15. John's account of the Gospel does not include this parable.
Initially Jesus speaks the parable to a large mixed crowd of disciples and others.
He speaks of a sower sowing seed, doing so rather indiscriminately. The seed falls upon four types of soil with the following results:
- Some seed falls along the wayside (or path, in some translations). It takes no root and birds devour it almost immediately.
- Other seed falls in rocky areas with little topsoil. It grows quickly but, with little root (due to the lack of soil) when the sun hits the crop is scorched and withers, yielding no fruit.
- Still more seed falls in soil which is overrun by thorns. It grows, but the thorns grow faster and ultimately choke it out, yielding no fruit.
- Finally, seed falls in good soil, and yields fruit at various levels (30-fold, 60-fold, and 100-fold).
Later, only in the presence of His disciples, Jesus explains to them that He spoke in parables so that non-believers would not understand His saying. He then explains the parable in depth:
- The seed is the Gospel. (Though not directly explained, by extension the sower is anyone who proclaims the Gospel to others.)
- The seed falling along the path is the Gospel proclaimed to unreceptive people. They don't understand, and thus "the wicked one" (Satan) takes it away before they can understand and believe.
- The seed falling in the rocky soil is the Gospel proclaimed to people who accept it, but in whom it doesn't really penetrate their lives. Once they run into problems, they quickly reject it (and return to their old ways).
- The seed falling in the thorn-infested soil is the Gospel proclaimed to people who accept it, but again it really doesn't penetrate their lives. The clutter of worldly affairs overtakes the Word and ultimately no fruit is produced.
- The seed falling in the good soil is the Gospel proclaimed to people who accept it. Their hearts have had obstacles removed (e.g. hard-packed soil, rocks, and thorns) and therefore they yield fruit (at different levels).
It is generally accepted that those represented by the seed falling along the path are not Christians, while those represented by the good soil are Christians. However, there is not a consensus regarding those represented by the rocky soil and the thorn-infested soil as to whether they are or are not Christians.
It should be noted that the sower did no soil preparation ahead of time (as a farmer sowing real seed would do). A possible interpretation is that God Himself prepares people's hearts ahead of time (or tries to, but man can accept or reject) before the Word is proclaimed.
Text from Matthew's account of the Gospel
And He spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls came and devoured them up; Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth; and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth; And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them; But other fell into good ground, and brough forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 13:3-9 (KJV)
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When anyone heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which receiveth seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while; for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV)