Storytime With Jesus: The Sower

Storytime With Jesus: The Sower

Garden Seeds

Today we will move from talking about lost things to digging into the first of three parables that have to do with seeds.

If you are a gardener or a farmer, you probably are talking about seeds a lot right now. Michelle had her seed binder out all week as she decided which seeds to throw away and which ones to plant again this year because of their success last year. In making decisions about seed varieties based on our past experience, we really are deciding whether we think the SEEDS are good or bad. Are they a good fit for our weather and soil type, or for some reason are they incompatible?

We seem not to be giving any thought to whether, perhaps, the SOIL we have is GARBAGE! Yes, we are working on the soil trying to improve it; but we always seem to blame a bad harvest on bad SEEDS.

What if we have incredible seeds that could produce the most prolific vegetables ever, but we throw them away because we’ve never given them a proper chance in soil that is properly fertilized, prepared, and watered?

It’s possible Michelle and I are making this mistake in our garden planning. It’s also possible that as Christians we are making this mistake in how we view the message of the Gospel. What if the reason we don’t share our faith with others is that we don’t truly believe the Gospel will ever take root in their lives and make any difference. We blame the seed for being impotent rather than investigating the “soil” of the other person’s heart. That’s what today’s parable is all about.

The Parable

We continue in the book of Luke today, since it contains more parables than any of the other Gospels. The Parable of the Sower is found in Luke chapter 8 and is one of seven parables found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. These three versions are very similar with only a few differences. I chose to teach from Luke’s version because it is the most condensed.

One item of note is that while this is called the Parable of the Sower because Jesus directly gave it that title in Matthew’s account, it really has nothing to say about the person sowing or spreading the seed. Instead, it is all about the types of soil on which the seed falls. That’s why some insist this parable is really better called the Parable of the Soils.

Luke 8:4-84While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Soils of the Story

Soil 1 – Path – Eaten.
The soil on the pathway was hard-packed from all the foot and animal traffic, giving no chance for the seed to actually penetrate the ground and spout. This made the seed easy picking for the birds. (This is what happens when I’m spreading grass seed and some lands on my driveway.)

Soil 2 – Rocky – Withered.
In the area around Galilee, where Jesus was from, there are many areas where dense rock is covered by maybe only a few inches of loose soil. It was not uncommon to plant seeds in these areas only to find that there was no chance for that plant to grow. The soil was simply too shallow.

Soil 3 – Thorny – Choked.
Now this is a situation I can relate to, especially in my garden. Sure, my valuable garden plants grew up, but so did the grass and the ragweed and the Canadian thistles. After a week of heat when it was too hot to weed, we could barely find some of our cherished vegetable plants because they were overcrowded by all the competition.

Soil 4 – Good – Hundredfold Yield.
Then Jesus tells about what can happen when a seed falls on good soil. In the right soil, that same seed that couldn’t produce much at all in the first three scenarios is able to produce a hundredfold yield. One seed produces a plant with over one hundred seeds or fruits or grains to be eaten or saved to plant next year.

After sharing this parable about very common situations for people of His day, Jesus shouts out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” There was a large crowd around Jesus at that time, and they all heard Him just fine. They simply had no idea what point He was trying to make. While many of you know the point of this story because you have read it for yourself and know what comes next, I think if you were hearing it for the very first time it would be hard to know what Jesus was trying to say.

Why Teach in Parables?

Luke 8:9-109His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’”

In the first week of this series I shared with you how Jesus purposely taught in parables for a few different reasons: it was easy to remember and share with others; it avoided getting caught up in technicalities that the religious people might want to squabble over; and – as we see here – it hides the meaning from some. I know that can sound confusing. Why would Jesus want to be misunderstood? We have to recognize that Jesus isn’t concealing the meaning from EVERYBODY, but only from some.

Some get it; some don’t. What’s the difference?
Jesus says the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to His disciples, but “others” simply will not understand. So what separates a disciple (a follower of Jesus) from “others” when it comes to teaching? It’s the condition of their hearts. Is a heart receptive and open to learning new perspectives from this rabbi, or is it closed off, proud, and seeking only to find fault with Him? How you come to Jesus’s teaching, both then and now, completely influences your ability to gain any insight from these parables.

This parable about soils is actually teaching why Jesus uses parables.

Luke 8:11“This is the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word of God.

A seed is full of potential. A tiny seed can grow into a huge tree. The Word of God is filled with Kingdom potential. It has power to bring growth and life and flourishing. The seed of the Word of God can bring beauty to all who see it develop and mature in a person’s life.

Luke 8:12 – “Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Satan wants to stifle the potential of that seed.

While we may underestimate the forces of the unseen battle being waged in the spiritual realm, Jesus speaks of it often. I taught about this last May in a series called “Unseen.” Jesus points out how the Devil (which literally means “Adversary” in the Greek) is trying to hinder and oppose what God is doing in spreading the potential of His kingdom. Before the Word can take root, Satan steals it away so those people, in that moment, won’t believe and be saved.

This doesn’t mean those people are eternally doomed, but in that moment, as the Gospel seed is presented, sometimes it is immediately stolen away. What does that look like, practically speaking?

  • This happens when a person is so hard-headed and hard-hearted that nothing you say about your faith raises any questions for them about how Jesus might impact their life.
  • Typically these people are very arrogant in their thinking, and they believe they have everything figured out because they have the wisdom of the world. They think they see the world more clearly than you, so your seeds of faith have no value to them.
  • Sometimes a person is closed off to the Word of God because of past hurts. They may not have a prideful attitude toward your faith, but they may be too hurt from their past to entertain a relationship with God. The healing they need most is once again stolen from them.

Luke 8:13“Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

  • The seed’s potential cannot be reached without a root.
  • These people hear the exciting news that God loves them, forgives them and accepts them, and they seem to take steps of faith immediately. However, when they return back to the real world – and perhaps to a little push-back – they immediately lose what they had.

I see this sometimes with teens who attend a mission trip. They seem to grasp what we are teaching, and – for a week – they move forward. Then they return home without having developed any root to their faith. When their friends question or challenge them on their new-found beliefs and behavior, they slide right back to where they were.

You might also see this when someone seems to have a “come to Jesus moment” and tells you they have started reading their Bible and praying. They begin coming to church each week . . . for maybe a month. Then they disappear and you wonder what happened. Jesus is telling us that this is not a new phenomenon. It has been happening since the beginning, and it only proves that there was no root to support the changed life. A little heat, a little pressure, and they return to what they know.

Luke 8:14 – “The seed that fell among the thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.’”

Jesus names the thorns and weeds that choke your spiritual vitality.

  • Worry – a life of always dreading what can go wrong, what isn’t working, how God isn’t providing or won’t provide. It’s a life that doesn’t trust God to take care of the things most important to you. Rather than focusing on your trust in God, you focus on your worries that demonstrate your lack of trust.
  • Riches – This fits us well in America. If I’m thinking about how to make another dollar, or how the stock market is doing with my investments, or how I can afford a new truck or a spring vacation or online shopping for one more thing that will make me happy, then I AM NOT using my time to connect with God or to bless others.
  • Pleasure – Pleasure and comfort point to a life of selfishness focused on my own glory rather than the glory of my God. We see obvious examples of this with Hollywood stars and top athletes, but it can completely sap us of our own spiritual growth when we become creatures of comfort, living a life that is easy and satisfying rather than meaningful and sacrificial.

By stealing all our time and energy, these things choke our ability to grow in our faith. Rather than maturing in discipleship, developing our relationship with Jesus, serving others, and generously giving for the advancement of the church, we selfishly spend all our time, energy and money on ourselves.

Luke 8:15 – “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

  • The seed reaches its potential and produces a crop.

Here we see clearly that the “soil” has always been about the heart. “Good soil” is a noble and good heart. People with good hearts not only hear the Word of God, but they also retain it. They let it soak in, develop a root, and grow to maturity. People with good hearts where the Gospel message can take root and grow have a flourishing relation with Jesus. They find a church family. They serve and give and talk about their faith with others. As a result, they spread seeds of faith all around them. That’s the crop that yields a hundredfold! Those are the people who help churches grow and keep churches alive in times of transition and challenge because they persevere in hard times.

Responding to the Story

After reading through Jesus’s explanation of this parable, it’s common to wonder, “What kind of soil will I be?” However, a better perspective is to realize that you don’t know what kind of soil your heart is in a single moment. Seeds don’t sprout up in a moment; they grow over time. Weeds that choke seeds take time. A plant reaching maturity takes a full growing season.

This means a better question for each of us to ask ourselves is: Based on my spiritual growth, what type of soil is my heart?

  • Has God’s word made any difference in your life, or has everything you have ever heard fallen on deaf, prideful or hurt ears?
  • OR did you have an experience in your past when you jumped all in with God, only to slide away? Or maybe that’s your pattern: all in for a few weeks or months and then out for a few years. There seems to be no root to sustain an enduring connection with God.
  • OR perhaps you know Jesus, read the Bible and attend church, but your life is JUST SO BUSY! You have money to make, trips to take, and a life to live. You fit Jesus into your busy schedule when you have time, but when you think about your spiritual life you would never use the words “transformative” or “flourishing.” And you definitely aren’t leading other people to follow Jesus.

If you find yourself in any of these three categories, I encourage you to work things out with God. If you want to do that but don’t know where to begin, talk to me after church or write a note on the communication card and hand it to me as you leave.

Finally – and hopefully – you find yourself in the final category of the good soil. You have lived a life of steady growth and trust in God. You have faced hard times and gone through busy seasons, but you have persevered. You have kept your faith, and you are giving of yourself to be a blessing to others.

If this is where you find yourself, then this parable asks you to respond in a few ways. Read on.

Responding to the Parable

  • We pray for the hearts of those around us to be made fertile. We can recognize that not everyone is ready to hear about Jesus. However, God can turn the hearts of people, and so we pray for them – even those who are hostile to God. We pray for them to have a heart change so that their hearts turn to good soil that can receive the seeds of the life-bringing Word of God.
  • We sow seeds of the Gospel abundantly. While not everyone is ready to hear about Jesus, we don’t know who is and who isn’t. We must be willing to scatter seeds with abandon. You truly don’t know who your word about hope in Jesus will stick with. For some it will fall on deaf hearts that don’t listen. Some people may circle back with you and ask you what that means. Share the hope, love and peace of God with joy and kindness, and see what happens.
  • We trust God with the growth. Trust that the seed of the Gospel is potent and WILL do its job. Don’t blame the message, and don’t try to create growth in another person. God brings growth. All you can do is faithfully support a person by sharing your hope with them and walking with them in their journey.


Here’s what’s amazing about the kingdom of God and the saving power of Jesus: they do not depend on our doing anything extraordinary. The Word of God is alive and active. It penetrates hearts and germinates in people’s lives under its own power. All God needs from each person is the right seedbed: a humble heart and a recognition that life is broken and God has something better in store.

That’s what good soil looks like. God can transform your entire life! He can allow the Gospel seed that was planted in you and took root in your heart to yield hundreds more seeds – Gospel seeds to be cast far and wide across the people in your life. Our prayer is always that this will lead to generations of transformed families and a transformed community right here in Lucas County.

That’s our hope, anyway, and – Lord willing – the God of the Harvest will continue to multiply followers of Jesus through our ministry here at First Baptist.


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