Luke 8:9-15 (ESV)
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Jesus told the crowd who had gathered around him a parable about a farmer who went out to sow his seed. The disciples had been around Jesus long enough to realize that he wasn’t giving them a lesson in agriculture. After he finished, they asked him what it meant. He told them that the purpose of parables is to reveal secrets about the kingdom of God. But their meanings are hidden to “the others” who don’t really care about the pursuit of truth. The points of the parables actually testify against such people. The parable of the sower illustrates the different ways people respond to the word of God, or the “seed” the farmer sows. All four groups receive the same seed. The first soil the seed falls on is hardened ground. Satan, who doesn’t want people transferred from darkness to light, snatches the seed that falls on this path. He and his demons are still actively seeking to keep people from being saved. The second and third “soils” are interesting because they apparently profess some form of faith. The second seed falls on ground filled with rocks. This seed dies shortly after it springs up because it can’t take root. The hardships associated with following Jesus are too much. This “soil” is done. Thorns or the love of money and the pleasures of this life, choke out the seed in the third soil. To trust exclusively in Jesus is too great a leap of faith for those represented by this soil. Even though these people are really interested in Jesus, their passion for material things takes over in the end.
The fourth soil, the good soil, represents the person who hears the word, holds fast to it, and bears fruit. The key to identifying the fourth soil isn’t the absence of obstacles, but the presence fruit. In a sense, we all have a few rocks and thorns to deal with as the word of God works itself out in our lives. According to this parable, only the fourth soil was actually born again. Though there may be rocks and thorns to deal with in the believer’s life, those things can’t permanently hinder the good soil from bearing fruit. If you are an honest follower of Jesus, you have been created for good works. You may hit a few rocks and thorns along the way, but you will bear fruit. It’s guaranteed!