“A farmer went out to sow his seed.” Matthew 13:3
The parable of “the Seed and the Soil” or the “Sower” is probably the best known. A farmer sowed seed in his field. Some fell on the path and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, and sprang up, but because they had no root, were scorched in the heat, withered and died. Some fell among thorns that choked the plants. Others fell on good soil and produced a crop a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
The general interpretation of this parable is that of Christians preaching the Word of God, and the various responses people make to the Gospel. This, however, does not give justice to the wider context of the eight parables together or to the interpretation given by Jesus. Rather than a picture of truth being sown into people’s hearts, it is a picture of people being sown into the world. The interpretation Jesus gave of similar metaphors in the second parable explains, “The one who sowed good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:37-38).
The picture is one of the Son of Man sowing people into the world, and the relationship they have with the world into which they have been planted. Some have difficulty with this because Jesus states explicitly in Luke’s version of this parable, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). But is the word of God merely the words of God, or can it be equally something else? The Greek translation used here for ‘word’ is ‘logos’, the same word John used in his prologue, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The ‘Word’ is the person of Jesus Christ who is the Sower.
The Word of God is more than speaking or writing on God’s behalf, but is the actual embodiment of the Word of God, who is Christ. This parable is not teaching the failure of the Word of God to take root in people’s lives, but the strategy by which God carries out His business in the world, which is through people. Each combination of seed and soil depicts what Christians are like in the fulfilment of God’s strategy. Some are like seed on the path, some are like seed on rocky places, some like seed among the thorns and some like seed on good soil. This is not teaching that we are hapless victims of our environments, but that the combination of the good seed with different soils provides possibilities for every one of us.