4 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. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.5 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. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 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. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 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.[a] 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 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. 20 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.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve read this passage (or its parallels in the other gospels), but I’ve always heard it explained in one way: the Word is the gospel, and this parable is about how different people respond to the gospel message.
I’m not saying that interpretation is wrong, but yesterday during my reading (actually, I was listening to an audio Bible on my way to work) I was struck by a new interpretation: The word is the word. I know, I know, this isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but hear me out.
The Bible tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that every word of Scripture has the power to provide growth in our lives, given the opportunity.
However, too often we read without reading, and the word does nothing, like seed on a path.
Or we get really excited about a passage for a time, but things return to normal quickly, like seed in the rocky soil.
Or we’re distracted because we forgot to set our alarm and overslept by an hour, so we’re only absentmindedly listening to our audio Bible on the way to work. We’re distracted by the cares of this world, and the thorn choke out the freshly sprouted seed.
But sometimes we sit and receive the Word. And sometimes that passage sits in our souls and it stirs something inside us. As the seed germinates, we begin to tell others about what we’ve learned, and we begin to make changes to our lives in response to the passage. And pretty soon, we find that, through thoughtful obedience to the Bible, we have changed for the better and that change is evident to those around us.
So tell me, what has God been showing you in Scripture lately? Drop it in the comments below!