“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” 9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
· “‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’[a]
· 11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
Like other rabbis (religious teachers) of his day Jesus would often tell parables. Parables are short stories using illustrations from everyday life to make a teaching point. The imagery is straightforward – the farmer sows seeds and it falls on a variety of soils. However, there is a spiritual meaning to the parable. The seed represents the word of God and the various types of soil that the seed falls on represents the various responses that people have to the word of God. The purpose of the parable is first to encourage the disciples that there will be various responses to the word of God and that despite some unfavourable responses, ultimately the gospel will produce a rich harvest. Secondly, the parable is given to warn people against a superficial or careless response to the word of God. To ‘hear’ the parable may require reflection, prayer and hard work. Those who are willing to ‘hear’ the parable will be able to understand it. Others will hear the words but remain ignorant of the spiritual truths Jesus is teaching.
The seeds that fall on the path represent those people who hear the word of God but the devil quickly snatches the word away. This is probably the most difficult type of response to understand because it’s not even really a response; the seed is simply blocked from growing. Before the seed has a chance to get going in a person’s heart, “Satan persuades them to continue in unbelief.”  These people have hardened their hearts against the word of God and it is unlikely to be able to break through in the present climate. The warning is that it is possible, and ultimately harmful, to ignore Jesus.
The rocky ground represents those who hear the word of God and receive it with joy; however they do not develop any root system. There is a level of initial response to the gospel but it proves to be superficial. The seeds germinate and begin to spring up – things look good on the surface. These people may follow Jesus as long as it is comfortable. However, the Bible teaches that testing and trials come to every believer (James 1:12, Rom 5:3-5). When testing comes and things become difficult, those who are in the rocky soil are overwhelmed by the storm. The warning here is against a superficial response to the gospel. If the gospel does not grow roots in one’s heart the seeds will most likely not survive any serious challenges. What roots has the gospel grown in your life? The need is for those who hear and respond to the gospel to begin immediately developing a root system to prepare for the inevitable hard times. If one develops a root system and perseveres through trials faith emerges stronger and roots grow deeper.
The seed that falls on the thorny soil represents those who hear the word of God and begin to grow, but the stuff of life comes along and they are not able to grow into mature plants. Like the rocky soil, there is an initial response to the word of God. Unlike the rocky soil these people begin to go deeper and farther than the seeds in the rocky soil. Seeds germinate, roots begin to go down and plants begin to grow. There is probably a level of sincere commitment to Jesus, but after the initial passion and joy of salvation along come the bills and the worries and the house and the job and the vacation plans and the hobbies and so on. These things choke out the gospel and prevent these people from growing into mature fruitful Christians at least for a time. Salvation is not the issue for these people, but rather priorities and passion for Jesus. When you examine your own life what thorns and weeds might be choking out the gospel? The kingdom of heaven is worth giving everything for: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). The warning here is to carefully consider one’s priorities.
Finally, the good soil represents those who hear the gospel, who grow and persevere to maturity yielding an abundant crop. These people retain the gospel message by developing a deep and robust root system; they fight through the trials and tribulations by trusting in Jesus; the gospel message is able to fight through the weeds and emerge stronger. These people do not give up in adversity and they do not allow the concerns of the world to choke out the seeds – they persevere. The second key word is fruitful. If you look at any garden, or any plant, a plant that grows to maturity produces an abundance of seeds, far more than the one it took to grow the plant. The result of the seed planted in good soil is fruit – an abundant harvest. Despite the challenges and setbacks, followers of Jesus are called to make disciples.
The encouragement from this passage is that while there are various responses to the gospel, there will most certainly be a harvest from the seeds planted. I think the people who grow to maturity at some level pass through each of these types of soil. People make it through the initial challenge of the devil, then face the trials and tribulations of the rocky soil. Persevering through troubles, the next challenges may be the thorny soil, the daily distractions of life that threaten to shift our priorities away from Jesus. Finally, facing and overcoming challenges and distractions, some people grow to maturity and produce much good fruit. Whatever happens in your own life and in the lives of those you share the gospel with, don’t give up on the gospel and don’t give up on bearing fruit.
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary 1999, pg 432
 Arrington and Stronstad eds, Life in the Spirit New Testament Commentary 1999, pg 433