Matthew 13:18-23 (ESV)

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Jesus explained what his parable of the sower meant to the disciples. The farmer’s seed fell on four different soil types, representing four different responses to the message of the gospel. The first, the path, signifies the heart that rejects his message. The second, the rocky ground, is full of stones, and although the plant begins to grow in it, the rocks keep the seed from proper root progress, and the plant dies. The third, the thorny ground, is full of weeds that choke out and overtake the growing plant, and again, it dies. The hearts symbolized by the rocky and thorny ground appear to truly understand the gospel, but they only seem to make progress for a time, revealing that they never responded rightly to the good news. Only the fourth, the good soil, produces a harvest. Some harvests are larger than others, but the harvest comes because the conversion is genuine. Note that in all four cases, the seed is exactly the same. The same gospel was preached. The different results were due to the nature of the soils or the hearts on which the seed fell.

It is fairly easy to discern whom the first and fourth soils represent, as many clearly reject the gospel and never produce a harvest for the kingdom. It is harder to discern whom the second and third soils represent. In the second case, testing or persecution arise, which cause the heart to walk away from Jesus. In the third case, the heart loves this life more than the life to come, and again walks away. We may have friends or family members of the second or third type. We might have witnessed a response to the gospel in their lives, but only temporarily.  Jesus’ parable helps us to understand what “happened” to them. At the same time, it’s great to remember that there’s no reason a person can’t go from being type two, type three, or even type one to type four. Let’s pray for our family and friends that God would prepare their hearts to receive his word in soil that he has made “good” and ready to bear a harvest. If you aren’t sure which soil type you are, confess that to God, and ask him to make you a fruitful ground for his work today.