As is often enough my way, let me begin by mentioning a couple of things that this passage is not about.
First, God is not the sower. God certainly knows better than to waste his seed on hard ground or to toss it among the rocks or weeds. Jesus is something of a sower, but only to show us the way.
Second, we are not the various types of soil. Unbelievers may be soil and react to the word in any number of ways (and I don’t believe Jesus’ list was meant to be exhaustive, just typical). But you and I are not soil. We are the disciples. All of us. I don’t mean just the preachers and teachers among us.
I have always found it curious why so many Christians claim the Bible is a hard read. I especially wonder what they are thinking when they refer to the gospels in that manner. Look, it isn’t hard at all. When Jesus is instructing his disciples, he is instructing us. When he is telling his disciples to do something, he is telling us to do it. When he praises his disciples, we can give thanks when we do the right thing, too. When he scolds his disciples, we need to be sure we are not doing or thinking the same foolish things that deserve scolding.
You may think that the disciples were special. They were right there with Jesus on the road, in the towns, listening to everything he said, watching everything he did. They were apostles. They were unique, weren’t they? No, they weren’t. We have the record of Jesus on the road and in the towns and we can see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears all that he said and did. We believers are no less special than they were, and no less ordinary. And you can write this down: We are the disciples now. Think about it.
So the disciples wondered why he spoke in parables to the crowd. Jesus showed where that was relevant in scripture. The crowd was full of hard path, rocks and weeds. It always will be. But for the disciples (you and me) it is given to know the secrets of the Kingdom. In other words, Jesus shared the truth of the parable with his disciples because it was relevant to them and their experience and one day it would be relevant to our experience. It would not be relevant to the experience of unbelievers – most of those in the crowd.
So listen to the meaning of the parable, because it is something the prophets and righteous people of old did not understand. But you can get it if you hear and see. Who is the sower? Not God, and not ultimately Jesus. The sower IS the disciple. Peter, James, John and Andrew were sowers, or would be soon enough. You and I are the sowers now. Do you see?
When Jesus was taken up into heaven he said go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them all I (Jesus) command. He was saying, go and sow.
Be like Jesus who began his ministry when he came into Galilee saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Spread the word. Tell about the Kingdom. Tell about Jesus. Make more disciples. That is what we are supposed to do. Everyone knows this. But understand that sometimes our words will fall on hard, unreceptive soil. Sometimes they will fall among the rocks and sometimes among the weeds. We can’t see as far or as deep as God. We can’t always insure fertile soil. And so that brings us to a great lesson.
What is it that we have? We have faith and trust for God in the process. When we sow the seed, we trust in the God of the harvest, and pay no attention to the soil our seed lands on.
What do we not have? Control. This is really hard for some. It may well be hard for many. But anyone who thinks they have control over the sowing process or can control the reception (soil) on the other side will be squashed. The control that people think they have will be taken from them, leaving them with nothing or maybe less than nothing.
People who walk in faith, sowing the seed in total trust in the Lord and accepting God’s decision on how that seed will be received (what kind of soil it falls on). Such people will find faith increased. Such people will truly have abundant faith.
To whom much is given, much will be expected. Yes. But the righteous shall live by faith, you know.