Then Jesus told them many things in parables, saying: ’A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up … —Matthew 13:3-23, NIV

In the first of seven parables in Matthew 13, Jesus told about a farmer who sowed seed in his field. The emphasis in the story is on the results of the sowing, for the seed fell on four kinds of soil: “along the path” (v. 4), “on rocky places” (v. 5), “among thorns” (v. 7), and “on good soil” (v. 8). So the farmer had four kinds of results. Jesus compared the four results of sowing to four responses to the “kingdom” message (v. 18-23):

The first result is the seed sown along “the path.” When someone hears the message about the kingdom, but does not understand it, the devil (“evil one”) snatches away the Word that was sown in their heart.

The next two results—seed on “rocky places that had no root,” and seed “among thorns that choke it out”—speak of hearers’ initial interest in the kingdom of God, but with no genuine heartfelt response. The seed on “rocky soil” refers to the person who hears the Gospel, but quickly falls away (“is offended”) when trouble or persecution comes because of the Word. The seed “among thorns” refers to someone who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth “choke it out,” making the Word unfruitful in his life.

Only the seed that fell on “good soil” had an abiding result and a fruitful crop that produced “30, 60, or 100” times what had been sown. This refers to the person who believes Jesus’ message about the kingdom (“hears and understands it”).

The farmer sowed good seed, but not all of it sprouted. The difference in these results was not in the seed, but in the soil on which the seed fell. As the Gospel was presented, the Good News is the same. The difference was in the individuals who heard the Word. Jesus demonstrated why the Pharisees and religious leaders rejected His message. They were not “prepared soil” for the Word.

In fact, the majority of hearers do not respond positively to the Good News; the Gospel is rejected by most people. The four types of soil represent different responses to God’s message. People respond differently because they are in different states of readiness: some are hardened, others are shallow, others are contaminated by distracting worries and some are receptive.

How has God’s Word taken root in our lives? What kind of soil are we?

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