And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things, He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 8:4-8)
Four Kinds Of People
The parable of the sower is one of the most familiar teachings of Jesus. Even the casual student of scripture knows the story of the man who sowed seed and the results of the seed falling on four different grounds. Parables were early mental visual aids to help the multitudes reflect on particular teaching the Lord wanted them to remember. The beauty of parables is the lasting value of the picture as it was common to see men going into the fields to sow wheat or barley, and the spiritual lesson from Jesus would come to the hearts of those who heard the parable. It was a powerful tool Jesus used in teaching. Not everyone would be impressed with the story Jesus told. Many would listen to the parable and go away unchanged. The true disciples would ask the meaning of the parable to learn the deeper teaching of Jesus.
Farming in the early world was not as precise and mechanical as today. Growing up in Nazareth, Jesus would have often seen the fields in the lowlands outside the city filled with wheat. Planting the seed in the ground was done by broadcasting the seed as the farmer walked the length and breadth of his fields. He would carry the seeds in a basket or a fold in his mantle, scattering fistfuls in all directions. This meant that some seeds would fall on the hard paths in the fields and others in the places that had yet been prepared for planting. After the fall planting, the anxious time of waiting for the crops to grow would continue throughout the winter hoping for rains to nourish the seed. Like all farming, weeds were a problem. The diligent farmer would keep the fields free of thorns and weeds, allowing the wheat to grow to maturity. Then the day came for harvest and great rejoicing. From these images, Jesus draws the eternal story of the four kinds of people in the world.
The parable of the sower is about people. Jesus narrows the lesson to the reality of only four types of people in the world and no more. This is a hard lesson because everyone will find themselves in one of these four places in the teaching of Jesus. There are people that have the wayside heart that have no desire for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their lives are filled with the frivolity of sensual desires, covetousness, and human pride. It is tough to reach these hearts with the grace of God and, more often than not, fail to respond to the gospel. If there is a number to place on each group of people, the wayside has a larger population than the other three. When Jesus explains the parable to the disciples, He tells them those people who are the wayside will not be saved. The word was given to them to save them, but they would not hear.
It was important for the farmer to clear the land before sowing the seed. A lazy farmer would not take the time to remove the rocks and try to sow the seed on the rocky ground. There is just enough soil to germinate the seed but not enough for lasting growth. It does not take long before the sun’s heat and the abuse of the elements tear at the tender plants and destroys them. In the spiritual application, some people are open to hear the gospel of Christ and immediately embrace it. They are filled with joy and excitement and seem to be filled with a love for God. Sadly, without root in their hearts to endure the trials to follow Jesus, the people soon lose their faith and return to the world. They believe for a while and, in time of temptation, fall away. Like the first group, they too are lost.
The final two people are similar with one distinction. Sowing seed on good ground that has been broken up from the hard wayside soil and removing the rocks that would impede growth will bring about a bountiful crop. However, the farmer who is not diligent in keeping a watch on his field will find many weeds and thorns growing up with the good seed. Unless the thorns are removed, the wheat will get choked and die. The third type of person is the man who is serving the Lord as a faithful follower but allows the cares, riches, and pleasures of life to choke his spirit to maturity. What is sad about this person is that he has the love and grace of the Father, and he is more concerned about social position, fame, popularity, and the things of the world than his relationship with God. Wheat that has weeds growing up among the field will choke it to nonproductivity. The third person has all the opportunities of God’s grace and squanders it all on useless things.
Only the fourth and final person is the one that brings fruit. A ground that is broken up from the wayside, rocks removed, and weeds managed will grow to a bountiful harvest. The noble and good heart has opened their lives to completely trust in the Lord and diligently serve the will of the Father. There is a lot of work involved in clearing a field of rocks and weeds. Bountiful crops do not happen on their own. Hearing the gospel with a good heart void of the impediments that will hinder growth brings a bountiful crop of divine blessings. This requires effort. The result is a harvest of good things.
Four grounds. Four people. Four receptions. Three failures. Only one succeeds, and only one finds the bounty of joy in the spiritual harvest. Each ground is a person, and that person is you. Everything Jesus tells in this parable describes your heart. Without exception, you and I make up one of these grounds. The question that you must answer is which one of these grounds describes my life. There are not three grounds or five: only four, and I am one of those grounds. The lesson from Jesus is that harvest only comes from the fourth ground. That is the person who will enjoy the harvest of eternal joy. So here is the question: which ground am I?