Chapter 8:4-15 (ESV) - And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Question to consider: Why did Jesus speak in parables?
Usually parables are illustrations that are used to help people understand an idea. For example, to help Simon the Pharisee understand His attitude toward the woman who anointed His feet, Jesus gave the parable of the two debts. However, as Jesus’ ministry began to draw great crowds, there were those among them who were looking for ways to destroy Jesus, especially from among the Pharisees since He had undermined their traditions and diminished their authority over the people.
So Jesus began to tell more cryptic parables to teach those who were His disciples and confound those who wished Him harm. After giving such a parable, He would wait until after the Pharisees walked away to provide the meaning. It’s rather fitting that the first parable in which Jesus did this would be one on how the Word of God was received by different people.
As much as I’d like to add some deeper truth to this passage, it’s actually rather easy to understand with Jesus’ explanation. I actually don’t understand why translators would divide the parable and its explanation into two different sections since it creates a danger of someone trying to provide their own meaning to the parable.
One thing to note is that the sower didn't concern himself about where He sowed the seed. We can't control how God's word will be received. Our goal is merely to spread it and leave the growth up to God.
Dear heavenly father, help us to faithfully sow Your word in the hearts of those around us, and may it bear abundant, abiding fruit. Glory be Your name in all the earth! Amen.