The Bible contains a collection of the memorable parables spoken by Jesus during His ministry. He often communicated through simple and heartfelt stories in order to bring forth a quintessential message that came from the kingdom of God. While there were some among His audiences who failed to understand the implication of His parables, some perceived it quite perfectly. But it became very clear after understanding the Parable of the Sower, that Jesus' aim behind delivering these parables was not confined to only understanding their meanings, but also to live by what they taught.
The Parable of the Sower, from a bird's-eye view, seems to be a very simplistic story of a sower who does his job of sowing seeds. The whole process itself calls for hits and misses. For instance, sowing often calls for threats in the form of birds, weeds, thorns, sunlight, etc., but the seeds who manage to surpass it all and germinate in the "good" soil are those that thrive into being fruitful. This is just the way it has always been, isn't it? Such is the beauty of Jesus' choice of plots and characters for His parables. He chooses the most basic examples from everyday life, and turns those examples into some extraordinary moral lessons.
This parable is mentioned in three Gospels in the New Testament: The Gospels of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. The following are the excerpts from these Gospels that contain the Parable of the Sower and its explanation by Christ Himself.
We are fortunate enough to have had the blessing that Jesus Himself went ahead and explained the meaning of this parable in His own words, or else, like some other parables, this one too, would have been lost in the midst of various speculations and translations of scholars and "experts". The ultimate expert is none other than He who has delivered the parable in the first place.
Clearly, the sower in this parable is none other than Jesus Himself. The seeds refer to the word of God, and the different kinds of soils where the seeds fell, refer to the different types of hearts of the people who hear the word of God. For they all were willing to hear, but their hearts were receptive to the word of God in different ways. Let us understand the four types of soils―our human perception of the word of God, and the fate of the seeds that fell on them―the word of God, briefly, one by one.
Let us first begin from the first kind of soil, the path where the seeds fell and were devoured by the birds. These paths are the listeners with hardened hearts, for they hear the word of God, but don't listen carefully enough to understand. And whatever little they retain in their hearts, the devil (symbolized by the birds) comes and snatches away from their hearts and minds, lest they should not be saved. The soil on the path is synonymous with those who feel alien to the word of God and fail to understand it, and within minutes, the wicked ones come and take away these words of guidance and enlightenment from them.
The seeds that fell on the rocky ground symbolize those who gladly receive the word of God, but lack the depth and understanding to sustain it within themselves. In the parable, the seed successfully sprang because of the thin layer of soil that lay on the rocky ground, however, because the soil lacked the depth, as soon as the scorching sun hit the plant, it withered. The sun is symbolic of the tribulations and trials that we face in life, and those who lack the depth, the trust in the word of God, wither away easily.
The thorns are symbolic of the alluring distractions of this world. Although, in this case, the seed had the ground that provided enough nourishment for it to dwell, it was cast in the midst of thorns. This is in reference to those believers who hear the word of the Lord, accept it, and willingly decide to follow it, but they succumb to the malicious attractions of the world, the riches, fame, wealth, and thereby choke due to their shallow desires. These people give more importance to the mortal world than the words that could give them eternal life, therefore, they were destroyed by the world before they could turn fruitful enough to be worthy of the heaven above.
The seeds that fell into the good soil are those listeners who not only heard, but accepted, and lived by the word of God all their lives, hence, turning out to be fruitful and yielding. They didn't doubt the word, neither did they respond to the allurement of this world. For them, the true riches lie in the kingdom of God for they are eternal, while the riches of this world are mortal, perishable, and can be easily stolen.
The purpose of a seed is to be fruitful, to produce life. And it is with this very purpose that the sower plants it in the soil. While in the parable, the seeds had no free will of their own and their fate could be attributed to their destiny, in case of mankind, the gift of freewill could act both as a blessing and a curse. God gives us the choice to choose our soil. Some choose to avoid His will completely, others admire the thought but don't dwell on it, those who decide to dwell on it get distracted by the deceptive allurements of the world, and eventually only the true and faithful to God sustain long enough to be able to bear fruit. Now, note that the parable clearly states the yield of all seeds to be different. "As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." This just implies that the quality of the soil may vary, based on which the yield varies, however, what is important is that the sown seed bears fruit to its best capacity. Which means, we who are nourished and enlightened by His word, should spread His word and be fruitful at our best capacity.
The Parable of the Sower invariably provides the basis for understanding all the parables given in the Bible. It emphasizes on the fact that it is the faith, belief, and acceptance of a person's heart that draws/drives a person closer/farther from God. God's word is accessible to one and all, but the capability to understand, sustain, and live by it is not same in all people. Therefore, it is nothing but regular learning and accepting the word of God, that will give us the nourishment of the good soil, to make us fruitful in our lives. Amen.