The Parable of the Sower

Drew Berding

the Abundant Life---30/60/100.
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Mark 4:3-8, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

This is by far the longest parable. We don’t have to guess what it means because a few verses later Jesus explained most of it privately to his disciples.

Let’s look at His explanation then come back and examine verses 9-13.

Mark 4:14-20, “The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

Now, let’s go back and look at the statement of the parable and Jesus’ explanation verse by verse:

Mark 4:3-4, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.Mark 4:14-15, “The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.

Who is the “sower”? Obviously in this case Jesus is the sower but it can be anyone (even us) who sows the word.

What are the “word” and the “seed”? It is the Gospel [good news] of Jesus Christ as Mark stated back in the very first verse of this book. “Seeds” are expected to take root, grow and produce fruit.

What is “the road”? Life.

Who are “the birds”? Satan and his accomplices.1

Luke is even more explicit and says the seed got trampled into the road. 2 3

Mark 4:5-6, Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.Mark 4:16-17, In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.

We need a firm root deeply planted in the Word of God.4 Otherwise we too will wither. Everyone experiences tribulation5 in this fallen world.

These people are eager but temporary. Does this mean they lose their salvation? Not if their belief was real. 6 But their lives will look like those of the unbeliever and they will never produce fruit.

Mark 4:7, Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.Mark 4:18-19, And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

What are “the thorns”? These are the cares of the world. We are instructed us to “cast all our cares on Him” 7 and “to be anxious for nothing.” 8

The “desires for other things” can overwhelm our desire for Jesus and His Word.

Mark 4:8, Other seeds9 fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”Mark 4:20, And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”

What is the “fruit”? It could either be the “fruit of the Spirit” 10 or souls won to Christ.

What is “the good soil”? It is a heart that “listens” (see verse 3). It is a heart that seeks God. 11 12 It “has ears to hear.”

Notice that in every case except the first one where the birds of the air ate it, the seed did indeed sprout; it did become alive. However, it did not produce fruit except in the last case. These are Christians but they are fruitless Christians.

Mark 4:9, And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

This is a common phrase 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 meaning: “listen up—this is important!”

Verses 10-12 have already been covered. However, verse 12 in Mark’s version seems to imply that people are prevented by God from understanding and being saved. On the other hand, it becomes clearer in Matthew’s version 20 that they have hardened their own hearts (“THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES”) because, if they hadn’t, they would have understood the word and thus been saved.

Mark 4:13, And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?”

He only explained two of the parables: The Sower and the Tares. He expects us to understand the others. We can do so with the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. 21

Now, continuing after Jesus’ explanation of the parable:

Mark 4:21-22, And He was saying to them, “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”

v21: This is not a separate parable but a further expansion on the Parable of the Sower.

v21-22: The “Gospel of Jesus Christ” [the word; the seed] is a lamp that is not intended to be hidden but shown to the world in order that some might believe. Jesus said that He was the light of the world.22

v22: The “Light” will reveal all things when He comes to judge.

These next two verses could be mentioned at the end as a wrap-up after the next two parables.

Mark 4:24-25, And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”

v24: Take care what you listen to—A lot of Christians listen to sermons and tapes by their favorite preachers without considering whether their teaching is accurate to the Scriptures. Instead, they should be like the Bereans—checking everything against the Scriptures.23 Even better, they shouldn’t get their instruction “second hand” but they should study the Word of God themselves by means of the discernment of the Holy Spirit.

v24: Measure—if you study eagerly, you will learn much and even more will be given to you.

v25: However, if you don’t pursue knowledge of the Lord, even what little you have will dim and be forgotten.

Photo Attribution: Melissa Askew – unsplash.com


Footnotes

  1. Rev 18:2, …a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
  2. Luke 8:5, “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up.”
  3. Heb 10:29, How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
  4. Ps 1:3, He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.
  5. John 16:33, In this world you will have trouble. (NIV)
  6. 1 Cor 3:1, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
  7. 1 Peter 5:7, …casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
  8. Phil 4:6-7, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
  9. Don’t let the plural “seeds” confuse you.  The word is not in the Greek.
  10. Gal 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
  11. Acts 13:22, “I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.”
  12. Matt 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
  13. Deut 29:4, “Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”
  14. Isa 6:10,  “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”
  15. Isa 32:3, Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, and the ears of those who hear will listen.
  16. Jer 5:21, Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear.
  17. Jer 6:10, To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear?  Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen.  Behold, the word of the Lord has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it.
  18. Ezek 12:2, “Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house.”
  19. Ezek 40:4, “Son of man, see with your eyes, hear with your ears, and give attention to all that I am going to show you.”
  20. Matt 13:14-15, In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
    ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND;
    YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;
    FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
    WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
    AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES,
    OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
    HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
    AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
    AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’
  21. 1 Cor 2:10, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.”
  22. John 8:12, Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”
  23. Acts 17:11, Now these [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Please feel free to share and use these articles. We ask that you give attribution to Drew Berding. | Website: theophilus.blog

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NOTE: Bible references unless otherwise stated are from the NASU (New American Standard Updated) copyright the Lockman Foundation.

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