The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23


  1. As Jesus went about preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 4:17, 23), He did not always find a receptive audience…

    1. Even where He did mighty works, some did not repent (Matt. 11:20-24 – Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum).

    2. Some sought to trick Him, so they might have reason to accuse Him (Matt. 12:9-14 – healing on Sabbath Day).

    3. It was for this very reason that Jesus began teaching publicly in “parables” (Matt. 13:10-13).

  2. The problem Jesus faced was that many people, though they had ears to hear, their ears had become “hard of hearing” (Matt. 13:14-15).

  3. To illustrate this problem, Jesus told a parable that has come to be known as “The Parable Of The Sower.”

    1. It can also be properly called “The Parable Of The Four Soils.”

    2. Or “The Parable Of The Seed.”

    3. It was told by Jesus to illustrate different reactions to the gospel message.

  4. The parable itself is recorded in Matt. 13:3-9 (also Mark 4:3-9; Luke 8:4-8) <READ>.

    1. It is one of the few parables in which we actually have Jesus’ own interpretation of the parable.

    2. The significance of this particular parable is enhanced by the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 4:13…

      Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all parables?”

    3. The value of this parable becomes clearer in the light of Jesus’ explanation, for by it we can see ourselves as we really are in regards to how we have received the Word into our lives…

  5. Preview: Explanation and Application.


  1. Explanation of the Parable.

    1. The Sower.

      1. Not specifically mentioned, but compare Matt. 13:37.

        1. This is in explanation of “The Parable Of The Wheat And The Tares.”

        2. In which Jesus explains “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.”

      2. So it is likely that the “sower” in this parable had immediate reference to Jesus.

      3. But it is a fair use of the parable to apply it today to anyone who faithfully proclaims the message of the Son of Man.

    2. The Seed.

      1. The seed is “the word of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19a).

      2. It is the gospel of the kingdom, which was the theme of Jesus’ preaching (Matt. 4:23).

      3. It was also an important element of apostolic preaching (Acts 8:12; 28:30-31).

        1. In Samaria, Philip “preached the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

        2. In Rome, Paul was “preaching the kingdom of God.”

    3. The First Soil – the Wayside.

      1. This soil represents one who “hears….and does not understand” (Matt. 13:19a).

      2. Most likely, these are those who have hardened their hearts prior to hearing the Word (cf. Matt. 13:15).

      3. The “birds” represent “the wicked one” (called “the devil” in Luke 8:12).

        1. Who snatches away the Word from those whose hearts are hardened.

        2. Their condition therefore is one of being “blinded” by Satan to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

          But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age [Satan] has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

      4. While Satan contributes to their blindness, it is precipitated by their own hardness of heart!

    4. The Second Soil – the Stony Places.

      1. This soil represents the one who…

        1. hears the word and immediately receives it with joy” (Matt. 13:20).

        2. yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while” (Matt. 13:21a).

        3. when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matt. 13:21b).

      2. Some hear the Word and receive it with great joy…

        1. But with no root, they are not grounded in the Word.

        2. So that when troubles arise, there is no endurance and stumbling occurs.

      3. Here we learn that an emotional reception without a strong foundation based upon the Word will not enable one to stand against tribulation and persecution.

    5. The Third Soil – Among the Thorns.

      1. This soil represents the one who…

        1. hears the word” (Matt. 13:22a).

        2. But whose ability to bear fruit is choked by:

          1. the cares of this world” (Matt. 13:22b).

          2. the deceitfulness of riches” (Matt. 13:22c).

          3. pleasures of life” (added in Luke 8:14).

      2. How these three “thorns” can cause us to be unfruitful is explained in other portions of God’s Word…

        1. The cares of this world …

          1. Can cause us to be unprepared (Luke 21:34-36).

            your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life” if that happens, then “that Day [will] come on you unexpectedly.”

          2. The evil in cares and anxieties is that they can detract our minds from what is truly important (Luke 12:29-32).

            And do not seek what you should eat or what you should rink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

        2. The deceitfulness of riches …

          1. The danger is described in 1 Tim. 6:9-10.

            But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

          2. Again, the evil in riches lay in diverting our attention away from God, and feeling self-sufficient (1 Tim. 6:17).

            Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.

        3. Pleasures of life …

          1. Those involving the flesh in particular divert our minds from the things of the Spirit (Gal. 5:17).

            For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

          2. Sowing to the flesh make it impossible to reap of the Spirit! (Gal. 6:7-9).

            Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

    6. The Fourth Soil – the Good Ground.

      1. This soil represents the one who…

        1. hears the word and understands it” (Matt. 13:23a).

        2. indeed bears fruit and produces” (Matt. 13:23b).

        3. Luke adds that he hears “the word with a noble and good heart,” and then “keeps it and bears fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

      2. Those with “a noble and good heart,” then, are the ones…

        1. Who will understand the Word.

        2. Who will keep it, and with patience produce fruit in their lives!

      3. They will be like the Bereans, who were commended for being “fair-minded,” as manifested in the way they (Acts 17:11) –

        1. received the word will all readiness,” and

        2. searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

      4. Note the importance of “understanding” in relation to “bearing fruit”…

        1. Jesus made the connection between the two in this parable (Matt. 13:23).

        2. Paul connects the two when he writes of the gospel producing fruit among the Colossians “since the day they heard (understoodNASB) the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5-6).

        3. When one “understands,” they will more likely “bear fruit.”

        4. But the key to understanding is having a “good and noble heart” that is willing to listen and learn!

      5. And what kind of “fruit” will one bear? There are different kinds…

        1. The fruit of winning souls to Christ (Rom. 1:13).

          Paul planned to come to Rome “that [he] might have some fruit among [them] also, just as among the other Gentiles.”

        2. The fruit of practical holiness (Rom. 6:22).

          But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

        3. The fruit of sharing material things (Rom. 15:27).

          It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.

        4. The fruit of the Spirit, i.e. a Christ-like character (Gal. 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

        5. The fruit of good works (Col. 1:10).

          that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

        6. The fruit of praise & thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15).

          Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praiseto God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

      6. An important observation is that not all will bear the same amount…

        1. some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt. 13:23).

        2. As illustrated in The Parable of the Talents, some may be given more according to their ability to use what God has given them (Matt. 25:14-15).

        3. Whatever our ability, we should exercise it accordingly (cf. 1 Pet. 4:10-11).

          As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

    7. With the explanation provided by Jesus Himself,

      1. We should have little problem understanding The Parable of The Sower and the spiritual truths Jesus was teaching.

      2. However, it is one thing to understand it, quite another to make application of it.

      3. Seeking to make application in a thought-provoking way, let me ask “What kind of soil are you?”

  2. Application of the Parable.

    1. Are you like the wayside soil?

      1. If you have heard the gospel of Christ and His kingdom, but are not yet a Christian…

      2. You may be in the process of hardening your heart the longer you wait!

      3. You are susceptible to Satan’s deception in some form, to blind you and not allow the Word of God to have its intended effect!

      4. At the same time, this is a continual process.

      5. How many of you listen to sermons week in and week out, and you don’t let them change you for the better?

      6. You hear what needs to be done, and you promptly forget the moment you get home?

      7. It goes in one ear and out the other.

      8. Not every lesson will directly apply to you, but you need to examine yourself constantly to make sure either way (2 Cor. 13:5).

    2. Are you like the stony places?

      1. If you responded to the gospel at one time, but are not being grounded in the faith…

      2. You will likely fall away when persecution or temptation comes your way!

      3. You may get excited about the sermons you hear, and may even make changed to properly apply it to your life.

      4. But quickly you realize how difficult that is, and it never takes root.

      5. Diligence is key, so let us build that in ourselves.

    3. Are you like the soil among the thorns?

      1. If you responded to the gospel at one time, but are becoming too preoccupied with the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world…

      2. You will not be able to bear much fruit!

      3. And remember what Jesus said about branches that don’t bear fruit! (John 15:1-2a, 6).

        I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away … If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

      4. Then you hear the sermons, apply them, but then you let other priorities take hold—work, friends, even family—and you forget.

      5. Again, diligence is key to cultivating that good soil …

    4. Are you like the good soil?

      1. If you have responded to the gospel, and are bearing fruit…

      2. Then you have demonstrated several important things:

        1. You have a good and noble heart!

        2. You have come to understand the Word!

        3. You have been keeping it with patience!

      3. And so the Word of God has been able to produce its intended effect in you!

      4. This is when you allow teaching from God’s Word to change you, mold you, into the man or woman that God wants you to be.

      5. Let’s be that good soil!


  1. When Jesus finished telling His parable of the Sower, He cried out: He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matt. 13:9).

  2. Clearly from the explanation of Jesus Himself, we learn that not all those who have ears to hear, really listen!

  3. It is important that we listen well when God’s Word is being proclaimed, for that is how faith is obtained (Rom. 10:17).

  4. How well have you listened to this parable of Jesus and His explanation?

    1. If you are anything other than that like “the good soil,” you need to repent today!

    2. For in the next study, we learn what Jesus will do when He comes to gather His kingdom! (cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43).

  5. Dear friends and brethren, may you truly have a good and noble heart…hear, examine, understand, and accept the gospel of Christ and the gospel of His kingdom!