Jesus told the parable of the sower while sitting in a boat on the sea with the people standing on the beach. Only with His disciples did he give an interpretation of the parable.
The sower cast seed upon various types of soil, some on the path; some on rocky ground; some among thorns; and, finally, some on good soil. While much seed was lost, itself astounding, the seed on good soil produced a huge return, also astounding. The Lord ends the telling with, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13: 9 ESV)
With regard to Jesus’ ministry, what does the parable mean? The sower is generous with the seed, but careless with its distribution. Yet, the harvest is abundant. Earlier in Matthew, when Jesus looked out onto the crowd with compassion, He said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Matthew 9: 37 ESV) The harvest are those who respond to the Gospel. In the following parable of the weeds, the wheat and chaff are separated at the end of time. The wheat represents those who will enter the kingdom of heaven.
The parable of the sower, then, is a reference to the abundant harvest for God at the end time. However, Jesus gives to the disciples a certain, more complex interpretation, called allegory. In His interpretation the seed along the path represents those who hear the word of the kingdom but the devil snatches the word away from the heart. That falling on rocky ground greets the word with joy, but does not endure when persecution and tribulation come. That sown amidst thorns allows the cares of life and the deceit of riches to choke the word so that it is not fruitful. That on good soil hears the word and understands it and bears much fruit. Jesus is the sower of the seed who proclaims the kingdom of heaven.
What interferes with the reception of the word? The devil, hard times, and the cares and distractions of life, in other words, sin, death, the world, and the power of the devil, those things that are renounced in Baptism.
When we witness to others and defend the faith, we must be fully aware that people are bogged down with so many things that distract them from transcendent matters. Each individual with whom we speak must be considered in his/her individuality. This means that we should listen carefully for those life issues that encourage disbelief, atheism, or non-participation in the life of the church. Atheism does not only have an intelllectual basis, that is, produced by rational argument; but also, has to do with the personal history of an individual. From one person to another this factor and other factors vary. We will be dealing more with this when we begin a series on “Personal Encounters with Jesus in the Gospel of John.”
Michael G. Tavella
November 21, 2019