Quoted from the NIV
Luke chapter eight verses four through fifteen.
Luke 8:4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:
Luke 8:5 “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 of the air ate it up.
Luke 8:6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.
Luke 8:7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
Luke 8:8 Still 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, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 8:9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant.
Luke 8:10 He 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.’ [fn]
Luke 8:11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.
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.
Luke 8:13 Those on the rock 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.
Luke 8:14 The seed that fell among 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.
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 following is extracted from an online discussion group I participate and fellowship in regularly. In this group we meet weekly and discuss various passages at the rate of one per week. On this particular week, the passage in question was the above written ‘Parable of The Sower’ from Luke chapter eight, and what follows now is my earnest attempt to faithfully exposit said passage.
This is a piece of scripture that requires little in the way of exposition since Jesus here, after the parable, proceeds to explain it clearly to the disciples and to us. However, it is still easy to see various classes of people represented in all four of these categories.
The seed of course is the Word of God. As it is our ‘great commission’ to spread the gospel of the Kingdom, then we are in a sense the sowers here who, having gotten our seed from God directly, since that is the only way that it can be properly attained, then have to go about the work of spreading it around liberally so that it may have the chance to gain purchase upon good soil and grow into a vibrant life giving new creation. Unless we should become boastful in this respect, it would be wise to remember Paul’s lesson in which he said ‘one plants, one waters and another reaps, but the increase is the Lords’… We are doing nothing more here than what is expected of us.
But onto the four conditions of the heart here… The first seed is described has having landed in the hardened pathway where the sower, and many before and after him have trodden upon. This is hardly the kind of place where any seed belongs, and landing in such a place it has no chance to produce any kind of life. You can water it every day, and say a million prayers for it, but as long as it resides upon the hardened untilled soil and is trampled on every day, you’d might as well just forget about it ever bringing forth any kind of life whatsoever.
Jesus said here that this kind of person has a heart that is as hardened as solid concrete. This may be the kind of person who attends church all of his life out of some kind of cultural conviction to do so, but the word of God, sharp as it is, finds itself up against reinforced steel plated armor here, and has no way of getting through.. This is the kind of person who has his mind made up already about the things of God, probably due to being exposed at an early age to the secular way of seeing things.
This is sadly the condition of the majority of young people today, who spend the majority of five days a week being indoctrinated into a pagan God-denying society, and then the small percentage of them who may attend any kind of Church, assuming it is one worth attending, have all of a couple minutes on a Sunday morning to learn God’s side of the story. So they are at a disadvantage from the start here, and from the point of view of the parable here, these outside secular forces could be viewed as either the feet who trample the seed, or the birds of the air who come to take it away altogether.
This in turn either creates either an out an out agnostic who will leave the Church altogether, or you will get what you could call a Callous Christian, (using the label Christian there in the loosest possible sense imaginable of course)… who is basically just an atheist who wraps himself in the Christian religion and accepts that Jesus was “a good person who did good things” but who will otherwise deny any kind of supernatural attributes to the Bible or the God of the Bible. These are the kind of people who write lame-brained books and try to pinpoint what Jesus really did and did not say and who ascribe to textual criticism. If they for whatever reason decide to become active in a religious setting, they, being dead inside themselves, will only be able to produce other unregenerate corpses, and uncaring pretenders who will spend the majority of their lives wasting both their own and God’s time.
The second seed falls on what would externally appear to be good soil, and it is, except that just underneath the surface, there is a hardened rock, as is common to the area from which this parable was preached. The seed may grow up just an infinitesimally small amount, but having no depth from which to take root, it quickly withers and dies. This group of people, unlike the previous group, have not had their hearts completely hardened, and so they’ll hear the occasional sermon that will stir them, or a place in the Bible that will inspire them, so they will make a shallow profession of faith, but then will generally peter out and forget about it in a matter of a few weeks. This process is usually repeated on an annual cycle for the rest of their natural lives, and I suspect a lot of the people you see answering some televised alter calls, who fall down blubbering and having little spasms as if they’ve been electrocuted, are among this group. They have an emotional and intellectual awareness of the truth perhaps, but that truth can only penetrate so far before it encounters the aforementioned rock that is just beneath the exterior, and then is powerless to grow any further and produce good fruit.
The rock could be any number of things, from the aforementioned lack of character, to outside influences. It is a similar but slightly different condition from that of the first person in that while they are not already mentally committed to taking a stand directly against God nor are they phonies like the one’s from the above group who will seep into the Church somehow, they still lack the backbone to be able to make a stand for Him either. You cannot call this kind of person a Callous Christian, but you could call them “Cowardly Christians” for they will soak in the Word for a season, but when they are presented with hard teachings, or face opposition from the world, they are easily pulled up out of their shallow soil and thrown back to square one. I liken them to the thousands of people who followed Jesus throughout His earthly ministry but in the end wound up deserting him when he presented to them a teaching that was beyond their ability to grasp in the natural state they existed in.
The third seed falls in perfectly good soil, except for the fact that is among weeds, which also require good soil to grow, and which in turn choke the life out of the new plant when it gets to a certain point. These people receive the word and may be serious about letting it resonate within them, but then the weeds and thistles of their life quickly sprout up and take preeminence once again, in the form of their careers, or some other kind of ambition or desire, or secular pleasure outside God’s plan for them. They fail in this respect to seek first the Kingdom and so they attempt to serve ‘Both God and mammon’… but since you cannot serve two masters, when the things of God get in the way of their own projects, whether they appear to be externally pure or not, God is quickly put on the backburner. These may be good upstanding and sincere people in one respect, but they sadly are unable to let go of the things of this world long enough to really absorb the things of God, so they become what you could refer to as ‘Cultural Christians’. They may also spend their lives in churches and Bible studies, but those aforementioned weeds will choke out any chance of real spiritual growth that they might gain from it, and barring God personally removing those things from their life that are a hindrance to them, they will remain in virtually the same state for their entire lives.
I’m reminded of an illustration I heard once regarding two bodies of water that are both fed from the same external source. One body of water is famous for being a center of lush life and vibrancy, the other is renowned for its uninhabitable-ness, and its still lifeless appearance. One is the Sea of Galilee, the other is the Dead Sea. The first is so lush and productive because it takes the water it receives and allows it to flow into other tributaries and whatnot to feed other bodies of water and create more new life. The second, Dead Sea, just continuously consumes, and consumes, and consumers… taking up more and more resources, and draining the area of any and all life whatsoever. In this way so is the “Christian” who is fed by the Word, but then neglects to feed others, and just sits through countless sermons and hordes up everything without ever ‘passing it on’… and so the resources given to him dries up and dies a slow and sure death as well.
The other person though, is like the seed planted in the good soil, who takes what he has, and passes it along to others, and in so doing benefits from the return spoken of by Jesus as that sixty or a hundred percent increase, and that is of course, the kind of Christian we all should aspire to be, but without the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would be more able to take up wings and fly, than to be able to on our own, live up to this very high standard that we’ve been called to.
Thank you for reading.