The Sower, The Seed, The Souls

Bible Book: Luke  8 : 4-15
Subject: Word of God; Seed of the Gospel; Souls of Men

See also Mark 4:1-20 and Matthew 13:10-23.

Jesus was famous for His parables. Parables are stories that are true to life and nature in every way[, thus differing from allegories and fables]. They are used to teach spiritual truths. Jesus used parables often, the New Testament recording about thirty separate stories. Jesus used parables for at least five reasons. The 1st reason was to attract attention. They have tremendous interest value, and everyone likes a story. A 2nd was to prevent hearers from being repelled too quickly by normal direct statements. A 3rd was to stimulate inquiry and to teach. These stories could easily be remembered, and were thus good vehicles for recalling the truth. A 4th reason was to reveal the truth, as some could understand a story taught in parabolic form more easily than regular teaching. A 5th reason was to conceal the truth. Often a story would protect the truth from the mockery of scoffers simply because they could not understand the meaning. One’s spiritual condition or receptivity usually determines how much one would understand of what Jesus said.

This morning we are going to begin our series on “Jesus’ Parables in Luke” with the parable of “the Sower, the Seed & the Soils” This parable teaches the various responses to the Word. A parable is a message offered in such a way as to elicit listener involvement in order to determine its meaning. With parables listeners bear heavy responsibility if they are going to understand what is heard, since quite often the message is neither obvious nor available to casual, unengaged audiences or hearers.

Learning to listen to our friends and families and, beyond that, to God, is essential in any good relationship. One of the greatest gifts that God can give us in life is the gift of listening. Listening is not only a key to successful relationships; it perhaps may be the key that fosters success in life. It is nowhere more evident that in a believers relationship with God. There will never be proper obedience until there is a proper understanding. Without responsive listening, there will not be true understanding of God’s message (CIT). Only if we listen with receptive hearts to God’s Word will it produce or yield its fruit.

The parable of the four soils is found in every Gospel except John’s. The four types of soils could easily be located within the same field. Jesus gave this parable and its explanation to show that a number of responses are possible to the Word of God. They represent the receptiveness of hearts (v. 15) or minds of men (James 1:21) to the Word of God.

I. THE SEED SOWN in God’s Field, 8:4-8.

The wisdom and miracles of Jesus were making Him a popular preacher as verse 4 indicates. “When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable:

A large crowd was gathering from many towns. The crowd presumably included people who would respond in the four different ways Jesus sets forth in this parable.

Why would Jesus teach in parables or in such a way that the meaning message could be concealed? Probably because Jesus honors the wishes of people. If a person does not want to see the truth, the Lord simply won’t force His way upon him. You see, Jesus could have spoken so persuasively and argued so powerfully that people who didn’t want to be converted would be converted even against their own will. But Jesus is not after conversion by force. Because He honors man’s free choice, He says, “If you don’t want to know the truth, I will conceal truth from you. If you don’t want to know Me, I won’t force Myself upon you.” Teaching through parables provided a way that those who wanted to know truth could receive it, while those who didn’t want to know would be unable to receive it. [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003, S. 343.]

Jesus begins to set forth the familiar agricultural scene for His audience in verse 5. “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled underfoot and the birds of the air ate it up.

As a man was casting [or broadcasting] seed by hand it was unavoidable that some would fall on or along the path he was treading. Human footsteps would harden this part of the ground so that it would be impossible for the seed to enter into or penetrate the soil. It had no chance at all. [Or this road could represent pathway soil has been hardened and uncultivated by much foot traffic. Whatever type of pathway] the seed lay on its harden surface til the birds ate it up.

Verse 6 notes that some seed fell on another type of soil. “Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.

This rocky soil is very typical of Palestine. Tilled soil may be cast over the rocky ground so that only a thin layer of dirt covers the rock. The soil allows the seed to germinate quickly but the plants did not have sufficient root depth to absorb the moisture needed to survive the baking sun (Mt. 13:6; Mk 4:6).

Verse 7 relays another type of soil where the seed fell. “Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.

Each patch of ground has root and sun room for only certain amount of plant life, and nothing grows faster than weeds. Soon the native weeds out stripped the good seeds in the poorly prepared soil.

Fortunately for the farmer not all is lost because in verse 8 some of seed fell into good soil. “Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Some seed fell into good soil, that is soil not hardened by human activity, nor lacking depth, nor infested with weeds, but viable for healthy plant growth. This seed which fell in the good soil yielded an abundant crop. One seed reproducing a hundred fold. [The Word of God sown in the honest and good heart produces wonderful yield.]

Jesus then called out, “Be careful how you hear.” The term “called out” denotes that Jesus was making the major point of His short lecture. How we hear and respond to the Word of Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance to those who have discerning hearts.

The expression “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” describes the fact that spiritual people can discern the intended spiritual meaning of a parable. One’s spiritual condition usually determines how much he would understand of what Jesus said. The implication is people who had no real spiritual depth would understand no more than the parable’s surface meaning.


The listening disciples were uncertain as to what the parable meant so they ask Jesus to explain it in verse 9. “His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant.”

The disciples knew the story was not a lesson in agriculture but were unsure what it meant. We should remember the Holy Spirit had not yet filled Jesus’ followers.

Before Jesus told them its meaning, He explained why He used the parabolic form of teaching in verse 10. “And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

People who were spiritually discerning, that is, who were following Jesus and acknowledging His message as true, would have the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God. But others who were not responding to Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God would not understand the parable (1 Cor. 2:14). [Walvoord, John & Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983, S. 225.] [In support of this Jesus quoted Isaiah’s prophecy (6:9) that the people heard what He said but did not understand it.] Jesus’ speaking in parables was actually an act of mercy to those listening to Him. If they refused to acknowledge Him as Messiah, their judgment would be less severe than if they had understood more (Luke 10:13–15).

Now let’s look one by one at the four responses of the heart to the Word of God in verses 11-15. In verse 11 Jesus begins explaining the parable to His disciples. “Now the parable is this: the seed is the Word of God.

This parable references God's redemptive work throughout His world. God gives His Word, but people respond in different ways. The good seed is defined as the Word of God. The people’s responsibility was to accept the message or Word. The sower is any Spirit-filled person who shares God’s Word with others.

The picture of the Word as seed is important. Often we think of preaching and evangelism as something that happens in an instant. The picture of a seed makes us think of a farmer who prepares the ground, sows seed, waters and then must wait for the crop. Producing a crop requires time. Often the message of God takes time to bear fruit also. Some of the fruit the Word bears will not be seen until eternity, for it is an eternal Word.

The Bible declares that we are born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). Do you want to be more like the Lord, to experience blessing and joy, to radiate love and peace? The way to do so is not by your compelling efforts to be more Christ-like. The seed is the Word. You will be more Christ-like if you allow the Word of God to continually and consistently penetrate your inner person. That is how you were born again initially. And that is how more of Jesus will be continually transform you. There’s just no other way. The good seed is the Word of God. [Courson, S. 343.]

In verse 12 we find the first group is harden folks consisting of those who hear but do not believe at all, because of the work of the devil. “Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the Word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.

Four kinds of people are represented by the four soils. All four kinds receive the same news. Some seed falls on a hard path exposed to birds and travelers. The path represents those who do not get to respond to the Word because the devil comes and takes the word away before it has a chance to penetrate the ground or heart. When God speaks to our hearts a cosmic battle for the effectiveness of that word breaks out. The first group consists of those who hear but do not believe or respond at all, because of the work of the devil. When God speaks to man, the devil comes to keep man from taking hold of it.

The heart serves as the center of a person’s reasoning power (1 Chron. 29:18). It represents the inner being of an individual out of which attitudes (Lk. 2:35; 16:15) and values come (12:34).

A hard heart is unresponsive or unmoved at the Word of God. Some people have let people or things or situations make their heart so hard that Satan can keep the Word from entering their heart at all. They might never attend church or they may attend church regularly. They hear the Word but fail to take hold of it as God’s truth for them for they are lost and hardened in their sin. The God’s Word has no real effect on them

So some hear, but immediately Satan robs them of the Word, replacing it with his deceptive words. They thus miss the opportunity to hear and be saved. I pray none of us would have this kind of heart.

The second type or group in verse 13 is those who listen and rejoice but then do not stick with the truth of the message for they have no root. “Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.

The seed in the rocky soil represents a Word that enters only shallowly or superficially into a person’s heart. There is an initial response, but eventually temptation causes the person to abandon their initial response. Some people hear with joy; excited at the new information and opportunity. But soon some other excitement appears before the joy in God's Word can take root and grow. Tough times come, and joy alone is not enough to endure. God's Word must produce more than a good feeling.

The seed finds a spot to dwell in for awhile but it does not penetrate down deep enough to get a root system. This speaks of a person who is emotionally touched and when the feeling goes away so does the faith that could have been.

The fact that they believe for a while but . . . fall away means that they only accept the facts of the Word emotionally, intellectually, or superficial and then reject it when “the going gets rough.” It does not mean they lose their salvation, for they had none to lose. Jesus offers no comfort for such a person pointing out that the seed never bears fruit (1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:12).

Jesus was teaching His disciples that they would sow much seed, but should not be distressed by seemingly poor results and some cases of apparent salvation which were in reality nothing but a superficial or emotional experience.

The third group in verse 14 is those who listen but never come to maturity. “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

The thorny soil represents those who are choked out of a walk with God by life's distractions. The thorny ground represents a double-minded man who makes a profession, but it is unreal. These may be those who are interested in Jesus’ message but who do not commit to it because of their devotion to material things—life’s worries, riches, and pleasures. When you find yourself no longer studying the Scripture, the reason can be found in one of these three areas: worries, riches, or pleasures.

Cares affect those who live in poverty. Riches affect those who live in prosperity. Pleasure affects everyone. These folk hear the Word but don’t meditate on it and absorb it deep into their lives. Instead of building their life on the teachings of the Word, “they go on their way.” They have little time for God's Word. Thus they cannot mature in God. They let life choke out and suck dry any opportunity for the seed to come to fruit bearing maturity.

[Some of them get caught up in the worries of daily life or the search for material success. For some worldly pleasure seeking far outstrips eternal pursuits. Pleasures translate a Greek word from which our term "hedonism" is derived. Thus] their wrong priorities in life take any benefit the seed has to offer or any nutrients the soil or soul possesses. Clearly, wrong priorities can kill off the seed of the Word.

In verse 15 we find the one type of soil or people with a fruitful outcome. The good soil pictures those who hear the Word and hold fast to it. “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Some sown seed hits good soil. Good soil is fertile and moist. It has the right nutrients in the ground that nourish growth. It is not hard. It is free of obstructions and foreign elements, free of other life sucking plants. The good soil is the fourth group consisting of those who listen, retain the Word, and . . . produce a crop, that is, they bear spiritual fruit, which is the evidence of spiritual life. Only the good ground (vv. 8, 15) bears any fruit and represents a saved individual. Their hearts were changed by the Word for their hearts are called noble and good. The their honest and good heart in time bears fruit.]

The emphasis here is on those who don’t simply hear the Word but hold it within their heart for reflection and obedience. The good soil receives the Word, encourages its growth, hides it in the heart for times ahead, so that they persevere through testing, temptation, and the complexities of daily life. The good soil represents those disciples who listen to, meditate on, and follow after God's Word through the ups and downs of life.

The inclusion of patience or perseverance is important. Believers bring forth fruit with perseverance or patience. When planting a garden, one plants the seed, and then waters it, then waits, then waters it, then waits before there’s even the slightest breakthrough. We understand this about gardens, but we don’t understand the same thing is true spiritually. We think, “I’ve gone to church five times in a row, but nothing’s happening.” Or, “I’ve had morning devotions for two weeks straight, yet I’m not seeing any fruit, or my situation is not changing, or I still don’t have peace. I’ll give it one more week, and then it’s back to sleeping in.” We sow the seed, but we don’t allow it time to take root and bear fruit. The one who would bear fruit must persevere through much pressure because of their faith. Associating with Jesus will not help people to win a good old boy contests. If we want the world's respect or are too weak to resist temptation, we will not hold on to the word with perseverance. We may fall away, or our potential for fruitfulness maybe choked out.

Tragically three of the examples end with the seed failing to produce that for which it was sown. God sows the word to bear fruit in the heart. Only by clinging patiently to what God offers does the seed reach maturity. Such reliance on God is called faith. [Bock, Darrell. The IVP NT Com. Luke. Inter Varsity Press, Dover Grove, IL. p.150]

This parable is not about one’s an immediate response to the Word. It sums up the different ways the Word of God is received over a lifetime of exposure. It takes time to fall away from an initial attraction to the Word. Only over time do the pleasures of life choke out the seed's effectiveness. The parable calls for reflection.


Jesus describes four kinds of soil, an analogy so basic and simple, and yet some refuse to understand. There are those who have become like the asphalt or concrete of our highways. They see and experience something of the wonder of God. They hear the message and see it lived out and yet they say, “It can’t be so. It’s too simple. It’s too easy.” Their cynicism results in a hardness of heart, and the Word cannot find a lodging place.

Then there are those impressionable ones who hear the Word and have an instant and positive response. They join the groups, buy the books, and come to the courses. They regularly come to worship. But where are they after a few years, what has happened to them? A good beginning but no they didn’t finish. You know people like that. They made a showy beginning that for some reason was shallow, and when the heat (the pressures hostilities, or the adversities) came, there was no power to persevere and finish well.

And then there are the people who hear the Word gladly. They are sincere and they make a solid beginning in the life of the church. But their life in world always takes priority. They prosper. They have children and grandchildren. They succeed in their jobs, pursue many hobbies, acquire lands, summer homes, and many friends. They join clubs and receive honors. The first thing you know, all these good things choke out their primary commitment. They are just too caught up in the good things of life to be concerned about the things of God.

Then there are those special ones who hear and respond, either because of circumstances or their spiritual sensitivity, I don’t know. The Word of God, Jesus Himself, takes root in their lives. Life takes on a spiritual dimension that unfolds into life without end. How do you account for that? They have been given the gift of being able to listen to God and to understand, beyond head reasoning, the mystery of the kingdom of God.

Jesus said, “Be careful how you hear” or “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Have you ever heard God speak so wondrously deep into you eternal soul that it caused you to look at life from a completely different perspective, meaning from God’s perspective.. Is the Life of Christ growing and producing spiritual fruit within you? Is the life that is the very center of the kingdom of God the very center of your earthly life? If not, would you like Him to be the center of your life right now?”

[As Jesus’ ministry progressed, it was evident that each of these groups surfaced: (1) The hard hearted Pharisees and religious leaders refused to believe. (2) Some people rallied around Jesus because of His miracles of healing and feeding but the sallow-hearted refused to stay with His message (John 6:66). (3) The distracted-hearted, such as the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-30), were interested in Jesus but would not accept Him because of the strong pull of the materialistic world. (4) The good-hearted followed Him and were committed to His Word regardless of the difficulties (e.g., 8:1-3). [Walvoord, John; Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983, S. 225]