Parables are fascinating. Above all others Jesus was the Master storyteller and the supreme "parabler." In the Gospels more than 35 of Christ's parables are recorded. Many others were spoken John says - but these are the ones He wanted us to hear.
Parables were primarily not for reading, but hearing. Not for studying but for heeding. And Jesus uses them to expose the hearts of His hearers. In His first parable, and most important parable, Jesus is the farmer, His Word is the seed, and the listeners are like soil. All the soils are essentially the same. It is the preparation that differs. One soil has become hard as stone, another has become shallow, another has become crowded, and the last - has become just right.
Jesus presents this parable with Himself as the farmer (Matthew 13:37) seeking to grow a crop. Everything, as far as farmer Jesus is concerned, depends upon the harvest. All the soils get the same farmer's sowing, the same seed, the same growing season, the same rainfall, and so on. But only one soil could be harvested; only one gave to the farmer what he needed and wanted. Only one soil made it to the end of the season and was carried home by the farmer. So from the perspective of the farmer - which soil was good? Only the one that gave a harvest!
Jesus explains that the soils are the hearts of hearers. The difference in the soils (hearts) is based on their willingness to accept to seed (Word of God). Jesus puts the responsibility for responding to His sowing - on the hearers. He says some hearts are hardened, some are shallow, some are crowded, and some are ready and willing.
Taken from "The Book You Can Trust For Life" by Discover the Book Ministries (used by permission).