The Lessons Of The Parable Of The Sower
Jesus was the master of teaching a great deal with just a few words (I have been frequently reminded, however, that this is not my spiritual gift). One of the best illustrations of this is the parable of the sower.
Even though Jesus explained this parable to His Disciples after He taught it publicly, I am still not sure we appreciate the richness of it today. I see three (albeit interrelated) different teaching points in this parable. I will provide the original parable and Jesus’ explanation here:
Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “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 when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. … The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who 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. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mark 4: 1 – 8, 10 & 14 – 20 [ESV]
One of the lessons we learn from this (and many scholars believe it is the primary lesson) is that the Disciples (and by extension all evangelists who would preach the Gospel message) would not be 100% successful in their efforts. Though they are literally proclaiming the most important news mankind will ever hear and have the Holy Spirit working on their behalf, they needed to understand that some individuals would have no interest in the message and others would appear at first to be converted to Christianity but would prove not to have been over the long run. This is important for the morale of the Apostles at that time and for all preachers throughout the ages.
A second lesson – intertwined with the first – is that evangelists are not to primarily use emotional pulls as their means for converting people to Christianity. When it is done in this fashion, we are at fault for setting people up to sprout quickly but then fade away as the cares of life choke out their newfound feelings. As an exclamation point on this lesson, at different times, Jesus actually shows us that we are to teach people to count the cost of being a follower of His before we ask for (or accept) their conversion [Luke 9: 57 – 62 and Luke 14: 25 – 33]
The final lesson – as do so many of the teachings and stories in the Bible – comes down to the traditional ‘look in the mirror’ approach for each of us as individual believers. Is the threat to our faith one of it having been based on circumstances or feelings and difficult times could be a real threat to wash it out? Or have the cares of the world been creeping on our faith strangling it? Or do we see the fruit and results of our faith growing around us?
Andy’s book, Clear Vision: How The Bible Teaches Us To View The World, can be purchased here.