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The Parable of the Sower and its application for today's Christians (Mark 4:1–20, Matthew 13:3–23, Luke 8:5–15)

The Parable of the Sower and its application for today's Christians (Mark 4:1–20, Matthew 13:3–23, Luke 8:5–15)

Mark 4: 3-9

"Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold." And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
The parable of the sower is found in all the synoptic gospels (Mathew, Mark, and Luke). Jesus told this parable to a large crowd and this parable is framed at the beginning and end with a solemn call. At the beginning, He starts with a call to “listen and See.” At the end, He encloses the parable in a framework calling for attentive hearing.[1] Lane says, With this call, Jesus involves his hearers in the situation he describes and leads them to form a judgment upon it.”[2]

The Conditions of the ground

The ground is not exactly favourable to sow because some part of the ground is rocky, some lots of thorns and some are good soil. And this ground exactly represents the rocky terrains of Galilee. Jeremiah 4:3 says, for thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: "Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns." This tells us that farming in Palestine is not an easy task. And regarding the path, in Palestine, grain field would often have a path going alongside it or even through it.[3]

The Unmethodical sower

The sower scatters the seed on the path, on the rocky ground, on the thorns, and the good soil. According to farming instructions in the Mishnah, it is decreed that farming should be methodical and with special care given not to mix seeds. But the sowing in Jesus' parable is far from orderly, not methodical and wasteful.[4] That means the sower is not following the system of 1st century Judaism way of farming.

The Meaning of the parable

The seed in this parable is the word and the ground refer to hearers. And this parable is basically about Jesus and the nation Israel. The hearers can be divided into four (4):

The Path

When the word is being told to these hearers, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them (Mark 4:15). In Judaism, Satan is sometimes compared to a bird. So, those seeds which are scattered on the path have no time to grow and bear fruit because as soon as the seeds fall the birds (Satan) come and take it away.

The Rocky Ground

The rocky ground represents those hearers who hear the word and receive it with joy. Later when the difficulties arise immediately, they fall away. These people do not have a genuine faith, they are rootless, so they cannot bear fruits. In Judaism, the wicked are being compared to the rootless plant/tree (Mark 4:16-17).

The Thorns

These people hear the word but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful (Mark 4:18-19).

The Good Soil

They are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold (Mark 4:20).

Application

As I have mentioned above, this parable is basically about Jesus and the nation Israel. Jesus is the sower, the seed is His word and the ground is the nation Israel. Jesus' ministry was full of obstacles (encountering those Pharisees, scribes and those people who are not responsive). The ground, which is the nation Israel, is not favourable for sower, Jesus. And Jesus does not follow with the system of Pharisees of His days like that sower who scattered the seed unmethodically. But lastly the seed reaches the good soil and good soil produces harvest which is beyond compare. Lane commented like this,
The climax of the parable strongly emphasizes the glorious character of the harvest, the thirtyfold, sixtyfold and hundredfold yield, the last of which would be an unusually large harvest. Since this is seen against the background of many obstacles, it is clear that the emphasis does not fall on the enormity of the waste, but on the enormity and splendour of the harvest.[5]
The Bible says,
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you." (Mathew 28:19-20).
These are the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He commanded us to go and make disciples. He has commissioned us to scattered His words (teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you), like the sower who scattered seed on the ground. Yes, it is going to be a huge tough task. There will be unfavourable ground for sowing seed. Our teachings will be different from their systems too. All these reasons might discourage us. But if we keep toiling hard then the seed will find good soil. And those good soil will bring forth the good fruit yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold which means the harvest will be tremendously bountiful.
He who has ears, let him hear!



[1] Guelich, R. A. (1989). Mark 1–8:26 (Vol. 34A, p. 195). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
[2] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 153). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
[3] UBS Study Notes. (2001). (Mk 4:4). New York: United Bible Societies.
[4] Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 128). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
[5] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 154). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.