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What Is the Parable of the Sower? Bible Meaning and Text

The Parable of the Sower is recorded in three of the four biblical gospels. The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God. Jesus used this analogy in the Parable of the Sower. 

Senior Pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship
Updated Feb 02, 2024
What Is the Parable of the Sower? Bible Meaning and Text

What Is the Parable of the Sower?

The Parable of the Sower is recorded in three of the four biblical Gospels – Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:1-15. The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God. Jesus used this analogy in the Parable of the Sower. The soil that the seed fell on represents four categories of hearers' hearts, four different reactions to the Word of God: the hard heart, the shallow heart, the crowded heart, and the fruitful heart.

Bible Text of the Parable of the Sower

"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 

Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear." ~ Matthew 13:1-9 ESV

"And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." ~ Luke 8:4-8 ESV

Meaning of the Parable of the Sower

"But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." (Mark 4:8)

  1. First, there is the hard heart, the seed that falls along the roadside. This represents people who hear the Word of God, but never really believe.
  2. Then there is the shallow heart. That is the seed that falls on stony ground. This signifies the people who hear the Word of God and receive it with joy, but because there is no root to sustain them, they wither.
  3. Next, there is the crowded heart. That is the seed that falls on ground where weeds choke out its growth. Slowly and surely, these people, busy with the cares and riches of the world, just lose interest in the things of God.
  4. Finally, there is the fruitful heart that receives the Word. The seed falls on good ground and the plants produce a rich harvest.

We are the ones who determine what kind of soil our hearts will be. We decide whether we will have a hard heart, a shallow heart, a crowded heart, or a receptive heart. This is exactly what James meant when he said, "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).

The Word of God cannot work in our lives unless we have receptive hearts.

Parable of the Sower Summary

Watch Greg Gilbert discuss more details about each of the four soils.

In the Parable of the Soils, Jesus wanted to reveal to us the human heart in its response to the word of God. In other words, he gives us four different examples of how the human heart will often respond to the word of God. Starts out with a heart that is very hard and the seed, which is the word of God, falls on the path as Jesus calls it and the birds of the air come and just eat the seed right off of it. It's as if someone sits under the preaching of the gospel and it doesn't penetrate their heart at all. They're simply there. It's simply hitting their eardrums and bouncing right off. They never even hear it. It never penetrates and they walk away completely unaffected by the word of the gospel.

Another kind of soil that Jesus tells us about, another kind of human heart is one where the seed falls and in thorny soil and the seed sprouts up and it would be someone who says yes I believe this gospel. I want to live according to this gospel. But then the thorns or the cares of this world, as Jesus says, rise up and just choke it out. The person begins to get distracted by money or by the pursuit of power or by the pursuit of worldly pleasures and before long, the plant that grew out of the seed of the word, just shrivels up and dies. 

Another kind of heart that Jesus talks about is one that falls in rocky soil. It's a kind of soil that is very shallow because there's rock underneath it and the seed falls and it germinates immediately. It just shoots up right because the roots don't get very deep. And yet the sun comes out and persecution happens and because the word hasn't had any deep rooting in the person's heart, the pant shrivels under persecution.

The last kind of soil that Jesus talks about is a deep, fertile soil. The word of the gospel falls in that soil and it sends down roots, it sends then a deep foundation into the soil and grabs on and begins to get nourished by the soil. The plant sprouts up and it begins to produce fruit and that's the kind of life Jesus is saying, that you ought to have. That's the kind of response you ought to have to the gospel. Not when it gets choked out, not when it gets shriveled up by persecution, not one that just really doesn't care and has no penetration at all. But one that receives the word and sends down roots into it, begins to get nourished by it and then creates fruit.

What Is the meaning of 'The Parable of the Sower'?

Read a transcript of this video by Joel Bradberry below:

Taken from "The Implanted Word" (used by permission).

This article was adapted from its original on Christianity.com.

Putting the Responsibility on the Listeners?

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.

By John Barnett. Taken from "The Book You Can Trust For Life" by Discover the Book Ministries (used by permission). 

Photo Credit: © Getty Images/tomasworks 


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