Markby Robert M. Solomon
Why is it that the reading and preaching of God's Word produces such a variety of responses in the congregation, from boredom to great excitement? Often, a congregation assesses the preacher and lays any blame at his feet. But in this parable, the preacher assessed the congregation. This well-known parable of the sower may be better titled ″The Four Soils″ because it is really about four kinds of responses to the Word of God.
Jesus made it clear that the seed represents the Word of God (v. 14). The farmer is the preacher (Jesus in this case). The four soils represent four kinds of people.
Some people are like the path; the seed that falls on it is taken away quickly by Satan (vv. 4, 15). Such people hear but fail to listen. They do not reflect on what is said or read, and, as they say, the message goes in one ear and comes out the other. Whenever the Word is sown, Satan will attempt to distract and divert people. A distracted, preoccupied, or sceptical person will not readily receive God's Word.
Some people are like the rocky soil (vv. 5, 16-17). There is an initial response to the Word, but it does not take root due to shallowness of heart. Charles Spurgeon once remarked that some people seem to have been baptised in ″boiling water″, requiring constant, superficial excitement to remain in the faith.2 When trouble or persecution comes, such people will leave quickly. Their idea of discipleship has no place for suffering. They are fair-weather Christians.
Others are like the thorny ground (vv. 7, 18-19). They respond to the gospel but are overcome by worries, greed, and worldly desires that choke their spiritual life and prevent them from bearing spiritual fruit. They are not willing to give up the world to gain Christ.
It is the good soil that represents true disciples (vv. 8, 20). They accept God's Word and produce a rich harvest. Unlike the others, they are willing to really listen, to suffer, and to give up everything for Christ (Luke 14:33).
2C. H. Spurgeon, ″No Root in Themselves″ (sermon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 23 September 1888).
Why do we need to let God's Word take root in our lives? How do we let it happen?
Assess your own discipleship in light of the four soils. How do you hear God's Word (Mark 4:9, 23-24)? Do you find all the different soils in your heart, in that your response to God's Word varies based on different areas of your life?