As Jesus began teaching by the lakeside, a large crowd gathered around him. Soon he was obliged to get into a boat and speak from it out on the lake, while all the people remained listening on the shore.
He taught them many things using illustrations such as this: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow, but soon the plants wilted under the hot sun and, since they didn’t have sufficiently deep roots, they died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seed fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Then he called out, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and others who had gathered around, he was asked what the story meant.
“To you it is given to know the secret of the kingdom of God, but to those on the outside everything is said by means of illustrations, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled which say: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing and when they hear what I say, they won’t understand, otherwise they would turn to me and be forgiven.’”
Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand this illustration, how are you going to understand all the other illustrations? The farmer sows the word of God. The seed which falls on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy to begin with. But since they don’t have deep roots, they fall away as soon as problems come or they suffer persecution for believing God’s word. The seed that falls among the thorns represents other people who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced in their lives. But the seed that falls on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been sown!”