By Kathy Johnston
“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.” Luke 8:5
Over the next couple months we will be looking at the parable of the Sower and the soil. This parable is mentioned in three of the four gospels. It’s mentioned in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8. We know that repetition in the word is always an important thing to pay attention to. So obviously this should peak our interest. What was it that Jesus was wanting us to understand?
Most of the people in the time of the New Testament were involved with agriculture, and if they weren’t themselves, they were surrounded by others who were. When Jesus spoke of seeds being sown, fields being plowed and vines being pruned and cared for, his listeners would’ve been very familiar with the picture of a farmer and his careful tending of the soil and the crops.
I decided to plant a garden last spring. It had been almost 30 years since I had knelt down in the tilled soil and planted seeds with expectation for a coming harvest in a few short months. I carefully filled my raised garden bed with soil, spreading it out evenly, digging the long furrows and carefully sprinkling the seeds.
It wasn’t long before I began to see the faint, long row of greens poking up through the soil. I attentively watered and tended the fragile new shoots. There was a sense of accomplishment as I began to see tiny, little plants growing to be fully mature and deeply rooted. Soon there were blossoms and teensy, little “baby” fruit growing on the plants. I can’t say it was completely successful, though, because as they began to mature I noticed that the fruit was not growing to maturity. They would grow to a certain size then die.
I talked to my son, Peter, who has a thriving garden growing in his backyard and he asked me what kind of soil I put in the garden beds. Well, you guessed it…it was the wrong kind! I had not sown my seed in the right soil! It didn’t have the right nutrients to sustain and grow vegetables to maturity. There was nothing wrong with the seed that was sown, but the soil wasn’t good.
I know this example isn’t exactly the same as the parable of the soil. But it is the same in the sense that the soil was the problem. Our human hearts represent the soil in this parable. And the word of God represents the seed. Jesus is the Sower of the seed in this parable, but we also have been commissioned by him to do the same.
“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16
When the gospel is shared, we are not guaranteed that the “seed” will take root and grow. We learn from this story that the seed is spread widely, and lands on many different types of “soil”. The sower’s job is to spread the seed, but the condition of the soil is what determines whether the seed will take root. God’s word is always perfect, but the soil is not always good.
The first soil mentioned is the hardened path that some of the seed lands on. This type of soil represents someone whose heart has been hardened by sin and the world, someone who has rejected and spurned the good news. When the seed lands on the hard soil of their hearts, it may initially move them, but their hearts are not softened…the “soil” has not been prepared and there are no roots allowed to form because the soil is too hardened. The seed just lays there. It does not sink down into their hearts because they do not understand it and eventually is snatched away.
This made me think of someone that I know. The gospel has been presented many times and in many ways to her. The seeds have been sown many times. In fact at one point, she professed to believe. But when her expectations of how God should function in her life didn’t work out the way she thought they should, she became angry. God’s way of doing things did not make sense to her, so because she couldn’t understand she refused Him. She now proclaims to be an atheist.
Was the seed wasted? No way! The seed is always good, but the soil is not. Will those who know this lady continue to sow the seed? Yes. The key for us is to pray for the soil of the hardened path to be softened by the Holy Spirit. We don’t know when or if the Holy Spirit will soften that hardened soil…that is not for us to know or determine. But our job is to pray and continue to sow the seed of the gospel by the way we live, speak and act.
It’s not up to us what the response will be, but it’s up to us to continue to sow the seed and once it has taken root, to water it. God is the one who makes it grow.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”
-1 Corinthians 3:6