Understanding the Parable of the Sower

Understanding the Parable of the Sower

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Language: English

Type: Human

Number of phrases: 77

Number of words: 1415

Number of symbols: 5727

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Early in his ministry, Jesus stood in  a boat on the Sea of Galilee and gave   his first major parable, the Parable of the  Sower. This powerful parable teaches us the   importance of being prepared to receive  the word and to be fruitful to the Lord. The setting of the story is quite remarkable.  Jesus had just left Capernaum, located north   of the Sea of Galilee. As he began teaching,  a large group of people gathered on the shore.   Because of the growing crowd, Jesus climbed into a  boat and began to teach so everyone would be able   to hear. Though we don’t know the exact location,  the traditional site is called the Cove of the   Sower and has been identified because of the  naturally created acoustics. Still to this day,   if one stands on the edge of the shore, one’s  voice can be carried to great distances. In this parable, Jesus describes a sower  who casts his seeds, which fall in four   main areas. The first seeds fell on the path,  where they were trampled on and eaten by birds.  
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Next, some seeds fell on rocky ground where  they could not grow roots deep into the soil   and thus whithered in the hot sun. Other  seeds fell among thorns which eventually   choked out the young tender plants. Finally,  some of the seeds were planted in fertile,   moist soil, where they could  take root and produce a crop. To the Savior’s audience at the time, this parable  of a sower planting seeds would have been a   familiar story. Most of his listeners would have  personally planted and harvested crops for their   entire life. However, for a modern audience, the  parable at times can be difficult to understand.   Planting and harvesting techniques have changed  significantly over the past two thousand years,   which can lead to misinterpretations.  With this in mind, let’s get our hands   a little dirty so to speak, and  learn about ancient farming. Many farmers in ancient Israel did not own their  own land. Rather, they would receive an annual  
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stewardship of a plot assigned to them by the  local leadership. Each individual farmer would   mark their plot of land, not with a fence as  is common today, but rather by some sort of a   landmarker, such as a tree, a pile of rocks, or  other notable feature. Without fencing, little   paths would be used so farmers could access their  pieces of land. This is likely what Jesus refers   to as the first type of soil where the seeds  fall on the paths and are eaten by the birds.   Jesus tells us that this represents those who  hear the word, but because they don’t understand,   the evil one takes away the seeds  that had been planted in their heart. After the previous crops were harvested, the  fields were then burned. This put the ash and   other minerals back into the soil. Animals would  then be allowed to roam the land rummaging for   food leaving behind manure and thus fertilizing  the soil. In such an arid climate, the hot  
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sun would bake the ground and manure  leaving behind hard, cracked soil. While Israel is dry throughout much of the  year, with almost no rain from May to October,   when it does rain, it pours. In fact, Jerusalem  receives about the same amount of rain as London,   but in less than half (40%) the number of days.  This rain falls predominantly during two seasons   known as the “former” or “early”  rains and the “latter” rains.   The early rains begin in November and December,  softening the soil so that seeds can be planted   and the land can be tilled. The “latter rains”  come in March and early April nourishing the   planted crops, with the harvest of barley  coming at Passover around March or April,   and the harvest of wheat at the  Feast of Weeks in May or June. Unlike modern farming when crops are  watered using ditches, flood irrigation,   or sprinklers, anciently most farmers in  Israel practiced what is known as dry farming,  
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with rain as the only source of moisture.  This means that it was crucial to plant crops   during the rainy season. It also meant that to  preserve as much water as possible in the soil,   rocks were often left on the ground providing  both shade and places where the water could pool.   This is very different from early  American and European farming   where rocks were removed from the fields and  used to build the fences around the property.   This would likely be what Jesus was referring to  for the second type of soil, the rocky ground.   It represents those who initially receive the  word with joy, but because they have no root,   when times of trouble come, their joy  proves to be short-lived and they fall away. Once the soil was softened by rain, the  farmer first cast the seeds on the ground.   Next, animals were used to pull a plow to  till the land and mix the seeds into the  
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soil. Because the seeds are sown before the land  is plowed, they might fall upon thorny ground,   or where weeds and thistles grow. These unwelcome  plants choke out the growing seeds by taking the   light and water. The thorny ground represents  those who hear the word but let the cares of   the world and the deceit of wealth choke out  the word, and thus never become fruitful. And finally, we learn of the  seeds that fall in moist,   fertile soil. The good soil represents  those who hear and embrace the word.   It is they who can produce a crop which  yields many more seeds than used to sow,   yielding as much as 30, 60, or even 100  times the original number of seeds planted. This powerful parable, as one can imagine,  can have multiple meanings or interpretations.   The sower can represent God or those  authorized to act on his behalf.   The seed, Jesus tells us, is the word.  
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This could be the gospel of Jesus Christ or even  the Savior himself for he tells us “I am the Word” As we read the Parable of the Sower, we might  ask, where do the words of Christ fall in our   lives? Do they fall on trampled paths, rocky  soil, thorny ground, or good soil? In Ephesians,   we are encouraged to let the word of Christ take  root in the fertile ground of our hearts. “That   Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that  ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may … know   the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that  ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” For those of us who have Jesus Christ deeply  rooted in our hearts, what are we doing with   it? Are we seeking to multiply the Savior’s love  by sharing it with others? Are we constantly   working and tending the soil of our hearts so  that the planted seeds can continue to flourish?  
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As we find joy in studying the words of Christ,  we will find strength to withstand the thorns,   rocks, birds, and even the harsh rays of  the sun beating down upon us. As we do so,   the refreshing living waters  that come from the Savior   will provide the life-giving nourishment  we need to grow and flourish.

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