Parables of Jesus for the Modern Pilgrim
When looking at the parables of Jesus, many are grouped into the theme of the Kingdom of God. This is one of them; the parable of the sower. It is found in all three synoptic gospels.
The crowds have become so large and press in on Jesus, so he asks for a boat. Jesus teaches them from just offshore.
The method of the parable teaches from the familiar to the new concept. Jesus often used common examples to make his story relatable to the everyday person. Let’s look at this one.
The Farmer – nothing is more common and unassuming than someone who works the soil. He goes about his business and plants his seed by scattering it across the ground.
The soil – as the farmer broadcasts the seed, it falls on four different types of soil.
- Footpath – the seed that falls on this soil is quickly eaten by birds.
- Rocky soil – the seed that falls here begins to grow but the rocks prevent it from growing deep roots so it dries up in the hot sun.
- Thorns – the seed that falls here takes root but with it grows up weeds with thorns that take over and choke out the new plants.
- Fertile soil – the seed that falls here is what the farmer is counting on. This seed grows strong with deep roots and produces a harvest of 30x, 60x, or even 100x what was planted.
That’s all that Jesus gives the crowd. They are left to ponder the parable on their own. The disciples ask Jesus about it. They want to know why Jesus is so mysterious.
As with everything Jesus does, it is with great intent. Jesus knows the hearts and minds of the people. He is also aware that prophecy will be fulfilled by his actions. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah where he revealed that the hearts of God’s people have become hard and callous. Jesus is not hiding the revelation from them, they merely have darkened their own understanding of it because of their hardness of heart.
Jesus reminds the disciples of the privilege they enjoy in verses 16-17,
“But blessed are your eyes because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets, and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”
You gotta want it!
Then Jesus begins to explain the parable. I’m so grateful that we have the interpretation directly from Jesus. With each new type of soil, we get a better understanding of the Kingdom of God.
The Seed – the Word of God.
The Farmer – the one who shares the word of God.
The four types of soil represent the person who receives the word – the condition of their heart.
- Footpath – this person hears the word but Satan quickly steals it from their heart and mind. It makes no impression and does not grow.
I often think of this during the holidays when all the stores are filled with Christmas music. The gospel is being piped in through the speakers, but most of the crowd just bustles along without noticing.
I also felt this while visiting the amazing museums of Europe last year. So much of the world’s most renowned art depicts scriptural scenes. People line up and pay top dollar to appreciate the art, but does the message of the Word take root?
Sadly, many people spend years attending church faithfully but leave each week unchanged by the word.
- Rocky soil – this person receives the word with joy but they don’t remove the “rocks” from their heart, so the word doesn’t find deep soil. When the problems of life arise or persecution for believing God’s word comes, they fall away. It’s just too hard to keep up with the Christian life without deep roots.
Could it be that when we bring people to the place of accepting the Word, Jesus, but don’t take the time to teach them how to grow deep in the Lord, we contribute to them falling away? It’s so vital to mentor and disciple new believers so when problems come, they will be rooted in the nourishing soil of the Kingdom.
- Thorns – this person takes the word one step further. They receive the word, it begins to grow, it even has deep roots. The problem here is that it is not growing alone. Other plants compete for the nutrients of the soil. The worries of life and the lure of wealth keep this plant from producing any fruit.
To me, this is one of the saddest states of the soil. For years, this was the condition of my heart. This type of person fills our churches. We have the word of God, we let it grow, but we don’t deal with the things that steal our joy – the worries of life and the wandering eyes for the things of this world. The result? No fruit is produced.
Think about that.
When the farmer sows the seed, he is looking to produce two things in the harvest: the fruit and more seed to plant for next season. Without a crop, you not only starve, but there are no future plantings. This is how faith communities die. This is the point where people fall away because “it’s just not working for me.”
- Fertile soil – this person hears the word of God and responds. They understand and begin a life in the Kingdom of God. The soil of their heart is prepared and free of rocks so the roots go deep. The plot has no weeds to compete with the new plants. The plants grow up to produce fruit – as much as 100x as what was planted.
This is the harvest that God is looking for. Unlike the seed that fell on the thorny ground, this seed produces food for now and seed for tomorrow. The Kingdom grows and flourishes. There is a future here.
Lessons for the Modern Pilgrim
There are many rolls we can relate to in this parable.
First, we can be the farmer. As citizens of the Kingdom, we work the land for our heavenly Father. We spread the Good News to all who will listen.
Second, we also have a responsibility to work the soil. When we sow our seed, we would be wise to prepare the plot by removing rocks and weeds, so our seed will find ready ground. What does that look like?
Love. I find that few people care what I know unless they know that I care. Love prepares the way for the word.
Lastly, we are in charge of tending the soil of our own heart. We must be mindful of allowing the cares of the world, the lure of wealth or the enemy to steal that which God is growing in our lives.
Practically, that may look like joining a community of faithful Jesus followers. We need someone to sow into our lives, help us look out for weeds and rocks, and encourage us to put down deep roots into God’s word.
We also need to be that one who tends the earth for another. Mentor someone who can benefit from your journey. Lovingly, encourage the tender plants to grow. Water them with your friendship. Shine God’s grace on them like sunlight. There is great joy in seeing people grow.
In the end, we will have the joy of a bountiful harvest. Let’s celebrate all that is produced – 30x, 60x or 100x. With it, we feed our community and continue the planting cycle.