The Parable Of The Soils

Text: Luke 8:4-15

One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.


Luke is filled with parables which is one reason I choose this book to be my last. Luke tells us stories that know of the other gospels cover: The unfruitful tree, the Good Samaritan, the Rich Fool, the Prodigal Son and others. Jesus two most popular stories are in Luke’s gospel only: The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.

I have to be honest, the parable of the Sower has never been my favorite but part of that is from lack of understanding. It is really, the parable of the soils. The story is about our receptivity to the word of God and Jesus is the Living Word, the bible is the printed word. Just as Jesus is greater than Moses, the Living Word is greater than the printed word but the good news is–there is no conflict between the Living and the printed.

In this story, the ‘seed’ is the printed word and you and I are the sowers. There is nothing wrong with the seed: it is perfect, purifying, potent, precious and powerful.


All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. [2 Tim. 3:16]


For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. [Heb. 4:12]
“Is it not like a mighty hammer that smashes a rock to pieces? [Jer. 23:29]


All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. [2 Tim. 3:16]


His [Gods] word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! [Jer. 20:9]


So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. [Isa. 55:11, NASB]

It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.[Isa. 55:11, NLT]


For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. [I Peter 1:23]
So may we conclude that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the seed but we do have at least two problems: receptivity and faithfulness to sow the seed.


Three of the four soils that Jesus tells about have either no receptivity or poor receptivity.
  • Seed on the foot path represented the hard hearted. The seed basically hits and bounces, the ground is so hard it repels. Rain, wind or birds are going to get it.
  • Seed over the rocky ground represents the shallow soil. Some receptivity but not enough for depth [like the grass over a septic tank during dry weather]. These are they that have a shallow emotional experience and then think they are saved. They never have a doubt because Satan doesn’t want to wake them up. He wants them to believe that they are saved because they repented to some degree and had an emotional conversion but they never committed their life to Christ. The key to assurance is knowing where you are today. Do you love Jesus? Do you feel His divine constraint on your life? Do you love His word? Do you share His word? These are the questions you need to ask.
  • Seed among the weeds and thorns represents the “Crowded Life.” These are they who don’t have time for daily bible reading or visiting widows, nursing homes and hospitals. They don’t have time to teach LCBS or work in the ministries of the church. They have too many other things going on to make Jesus a priority. He is on their list but He is not at the top.

William Barclays has some interesting comments about our listening to the word of God. He says that Jesus is looking for listeners who:

  1. Listen actively and attentively. [Concentration]
  2. Meditate upon what they hear. They turn it over and over in their mind and in our case, compare it to the written word of God. [Meditation]
  3. Put it into practice. They know that if it is true that it will work and so they put it to the test. This is true transformation, believer’s incarnating the word of God. If you don’t believe in tithing, chances are, you have never tried it. The same is true with personal devotion, ministry, missions and evangelism. [Application]


I do understand or at least, I do not believe that Jesus is giving us percentages here but he did say elsewhere that more would reject than would receive. In this story, it is three of four which would be 75 out of every hundred. There are 7 billion people on planet earth and the great majority is not fertile soil.
Some believe that Jesus told this story for the benefit of his disciples. Our responsibility to spread the word and man’s receptivity are two different things. We have some control over the first and none over the second. I know the word well enough to share if I simply obey the word and the Spirit and don’t give in to laziness and indifference but I have no control over the way people respond to the word I share.
Obviously, we are to spread the word through preaching and teaching but since the greatest receptivity comes from those who know they are sinners, we have to spread the word personally with those who do not know Christ. We have no idea who will respond and who will not but that is not our business. Our business is to share and we are going to share until we care.
This idea that because the majority don’t care and are not receptive to the word does not let us off of the hook. We have a responsibility to spread the word and that is not going to happen until we believe that men are lost without Christ and that the word is never shared in vain.


It is my conviction that Jesus did some teaching here and some prophesying. I think the underlying message is: Share the word to everyone, leave the results to God and don’t be discouraged by the lack of response.

Bro. Inman was fond of saying, “I never heard a message that I didn’t get something out of it but I have had a few narrow escapes.” You have had a lot of narrow escapes. I hadn’t preached in great sermons but I have preached some good ones but I have laid my share of eggs. Generally, a preacher has a sense of success or failure but I have learned: it doesn’t mean a thing. The sermons where I was convinced I struck out swinging on three straight pitches have been the ones that God used.

What I am saying is: I do not trust my emotions anymore. I don’t rely on them. Of course, I would like to feel good after every sermon but it doesn’t work that way unless you are narcissistic. Over the years I have transferred my confidence from myself to God’s word. I don’t generally go home feeling like a failure no matter how the congregation responds. I hesitate to use the word never for fear that I will go home feeling like a failure today.

I am rambling and must close: Let me tell you what I appreciate about the Gideons. It is there simple philosophy that if you get the printed word into the hands of the hurting and the hungry, good things are going to happen.

Let me tell you what I appreciate about AWANA and I know many of you do not appreciate them. The great thing about AWANA is that these workers are planting the seed of God’s word into the hearts and minds of small children. I’m about to make 90% of the Senior Adults mad and 50% of the Middle Adults. There is more potential in the FORTE on Sunday night than there is here in the sanctuary.


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