The meaning of the parable of the sower, seed, and soils stands without aid of any further elaboration, though many original hearers didn’t understand what the parable meant. The throwing of seed on the different types of soil represents the proclamation of the kingdom to the hearers. Though much seed is for naught, the result is a superabundant harvest from the good soil, that is, many hearers will respond to the preaching. Jesus further explains the parable to the disciples by employing allegory, a mode of expression revealing what meaning lies behind the various images in the narrative.
Below is a summary of the meaning of the soils in the allegory.
The Soil Represents
Along the path Those who do not understand the Word of the kingdom
On rocky ground Those who receive the Word with joy but fall away in tribulation and persecution
Among thorns Those who hear the Word; but, the cares of the world and riches choke it.
On good soil Those who hear the Word and understand it. They bear abundant fruit.
The seed is the Word of the kingdom that the sower broadcasts. Satan takes away the seed along the path; because, the Word is not understood. That on rocky ground is received with joy; but, they fall away when trials and tribulations come. In Matthew 25 Jesus warns the disciples that a time will come when many will fall away; because, they are persecuted for following the Word. Those who endure to the end will be saved. This warning is also found in Matthew 10 where Jesus gives instructions to the disciples before they go forth to evangelize. The thorny ground represents those who are swayed by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches that cause unfruitfulness. The story of the rich young man is representative of this instance.
The seed is the Word; the soil describes those who receive or do not receive the Word. The sower is not identified; but, we can assume that He is the Lord whose Word comes to us through the disciples’ proclamation.
The parable outside of its allegorical interpretation represents a contrast between unfruitful soil and exceedingly fruitful soil. Mention of the fruitfulness of the good soil concludes the parable. The allegory, told only to the disciples, actually names the three soils as unfruitful. The series of three unfruitful soils is followed by the fruitfulness of the good soil.
Disciples of Christ are the good soil that is fruitful on behalf of the Lord. They do the will of the Father that includes the spreading of the message of the kingdom of heaven. They hear and understand the message. Their eyes and ears are open so that they comprehend what the Lord proclaims.
We the readers of the Gospel are privileged to be let in on the ‘secrets of the kingdom.’ With the Twelve we are in the place where Jesus speaks of the meaning of the parable. We have responded through acceptance of the Gospel and fruitful work that indicates a commitment to doing the will of the Father.
Disciples are a chosen group of people who don’t allow riches, cares, persecution, or tribulation prevent them from faithfulness and fruitfulness. In every age these are the people who do God’s work in a troubled world.
No special mark distinguishes disciples from everybody else. The cross on their foreheads is invisible, known only to God for whom they work. They desire no special recognition; for, their reward is the Lord Himself. They do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Their good works are in secret before their Father in heaven (Matthew 6); and yet, they are to be a light that shines before others. In other words, their activity is not for personal advantage but solely for the kingdom.
The sower in the parable represents God Himself who uses us to spread His Word. We bear the light into the darkness where God does His redemptive work.
Michael G. Tavella
The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord
February 2, 2024
Articles not sent in December and January:
Water is Thicker Than Blood–Dec.16
We Rather Than I–Dec. 19
The Nativity–Dec. 26
The City of God and the City of Man–Dec. 27
Rules of the Community–Dec. 29
Mixed Together until the End–
Minucius Felix–Christian Apologist–The Problem with Hearsay–Jan. 7
The Will of the Father–Jan. 7