Among the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth in the first century A. D., his parables continue to be some of his most popular and instructive. Normally, some 12 or 13 are counted in this category. Aside from a formal dictionary definition, a legendary characterization of a parable, supposedly offered by a young girl, is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” It’s tough to do better than that!
The parable of the sower or (seed) in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry by Matthew, Mark and Luke provides several important lessons about the teaching and reception of the word of God. Primarily a notice to Jesus’ apostles that their teaching would be rejected by many, and an encouragement to be faithful in teaching the gospel in spite of that rejection.
Following is a brief look at some things noted by Jesus in this comparison of the teaching God’s word and the sowing of seed by a farmer.
First, notice that “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).
The words of men may be important to us, but they are totally insignificant when compared to the divinely given teachings from God. The Word of God is the truth by which and through which we can be saved, set free from the dominion of sin, and set apart to do his will. (See 1 Peter 1:22-23; John 8:31 and 17:17.)
Second, the Biblical history of Creation (Genesis 1) reveals that plants and animals were instructed by God to reproduce “according to its kind.” Further, Adam and Eve were told to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (1:28).
Corn seed doesn’t produce wheat. This is God’s law of physical. The same order is true in spiritual reproduction. The principle that “...whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7) is true in any and all circumstances. When the Word is faithfully taught, it produces Christians — and nothing else! When something other than God’s Word is embraced, something other than Christians are produced.
Okra isn’t produced by the apple! Many of my friends know that okra, though created by the Lord, is probably my least favorite food. Many love it and are thankful for it, including several in my family. But it would be against God’s will for someone to go to the vines to pick grapes and come away with okra!
Third, the fruit is produced by God’s power — not the sower’s.
In one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church, he wrote about the gospel message coming to them. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (3:5-9).
God made the seed and placed within it the mysterious power of reproduction. (See Mark 4:27.) This is God’s doing, and we must always give him credit and glorify him for his gifts. No matter our faithful use of our God-given talents in this regard, he is the power to make things grow as he intends.
The only seed that produced a worthwhile crop fell on “good soil.” These are the one who (1) “hear the word,” (2) “hold it fast...,” and (3) “bear fruit....”
Jesus encourages those who hear this parable with the admonition, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Amen!