THE PARABLES OF JESUS:
THE SOWER AND THE SEED
Jesus taught in the clearest way possible, so we would remember the visual elements of His parables along with the lesson. A parable is like a hymn. If we just try to remember the words of a hymn, it is difficult. But when we sing the words to the tune, we can fill in the words that we might otherwise forget.
This parable is special because it is the only one explained by Jesus. The parable is copied in this case with the explanation after each part. This lesson could be a little longer, so the teacher may wish to take two sessions with it. Several projects fit the parable quite well.
1. The youngest children should learn that the Word of God is alive, just like seed, and grows, just like seed. They should imagine the Gospel growing in their own hearts.
2. Grade school children will be able to think about the seed’s growth being interrupted by Satan, by hardship, and by the material cares of the world. They should also think about how the Word multiplies on good soil.
3. Confirmation age students will be communed in the future. They should think about the visible Word, the sacraments of baptism and communion. They will also have more thoughts about hindrances to the Word (Satan, hardship, materialism) and about the miraculous growth of the Word.
Mark 4:1 And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine,
3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
(Mark 4:14 The sower soweth the word.)
Explanation: Picture Jesus surrounded by such a great crowd that He got into a fishing boat and spoke from that boat as the multitude surrounded the shore. No doubt the effect of the water helped in carrying His voice.
This is the old fashioned way of planting seed, in small plots surrounded by paths for walking. The seed is the Word of God. The Word is alive with God’s energy, because the Holy Spirit always works through the Word alone.
Seed is a wonderful comparison, because seed is alive and full of potential. Seed will not grow in a jar. Seed grows when it is distributed.
4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
(Mark 4:15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.)
Explanation: When the seed fell on the well worn and hardened paths around the garden plot, hungry birds ate it right away.
Not every single person who belongs to a Christian church is a believer. A mouse may be in a cookie jar, but that does not make him a cookie, does it? Jesus taught this so that we would realize that some people lose their faith in Him. Satan always opposes faith, so we must be careful and arm ourselves with the Word.
5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
(Mark 4:16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.)
When people hear that Jesus died for their sins, they are always happy and rejoice. They enjoy the blessings and the peace from faith in Christ. But when hardship comes because of Jesus, they resent the difficulties and fall away from Him. They like the good things but they do not want to carry the cross, as Jesus says we must.
Many plants are impressive but not deeply rooted. They can be scuffed out of the ground easily and they cannot bear difficult conditions. We become deeply rooted by studying God’s Word and worshiping Jesus in church.
7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
(Mark 4:18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.)
Explanation: Tender, valuable plants do not tolerate being choked by weeds and thorns. A choked plant can live but it will be weak and not blossom or bear fruit.
We all know about competition with Sunday worship and study. Sports, leisure, visitors, and other activities are using Sunday morning as their only “open” time. In addition, many people get themselves too busy to worship. Slowly their faith is choked by the concerns of this life.
8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
(Mark 4:20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.)
Explanation: We should not be anxious about teaching the Word. Jesus assures us that it will fall upon good soil and grow miraculously. We also know from this parable that many blessings will come from the faith Jesus has planted in our hearts. (James 1:21)
9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Why Speak in Parables?
Mark 4:10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. 11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: 12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. 13 And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
Explanation: We can see that in these times, many people use the name of Jesus but they do not believe in Him. They do not accept the Bible as the Word of God. They look at Jesus, but they see only a good person, not the Son of God and Savior. They hear His words, but they listen only to certain things. They want everything on their terms, so they cannot be converted to sincere faith in Christ. If they have no sins in their own eyes, how can they be forgiven? This is not God’s fault. It is because of sinful pride in man.
This parable begs for fun projects for kids. A bag of sunflower seeds sold as bird-food will be an inexpensive source for the projects.
1. Long-term: give each child 5 sunflower seeds, with instructions on how to plant them and care for them. Later, have them bring their sunflower seed heads to church, to show how the seed multiplied. There will be crop failures (and seeds eaten by kids and birds) but the multiplying factor is amazing.
2. Drop some seeds on a paper towel. Wet it at the beginning of class. Put the towel and seeds in a plastic bag. Some seeds will sprout during class. The seeds will be well sprouted by next Sunday.
3. Before class, spread sunflower seeds in abundance all over the yard, especially in rocky areas or on the sidewalk, near a window the children can use. Ask the children to look at the birds eating seed from the sidewalk or walks.
4. Give each child a little flower pot with soil. Plant a few seeds in the flower pot and water them. Keep them in the sun and watch them grow.
5. Go outside, if weather permits, and look for deeply rooted plants and for shallow rooted plants. See if the children can pull up a plant with a deep root. This calls for some thought. We don’t want to pull up valuable plants or harmful plants. The teacher can show the children which plants are trying to grow in poor or rocky soil. Weeds and thorns grow everywhere.
1. Why does Jesus compare the Word of God to seed? (The Holy Spirit always accompanies the Word; seed has life in it, as we see when it sprouts with a little water.)
2. Who is the sower? (The sower is anyone who teaches or preaches the Word of God: the minister, the Sunday School teachers, your parents, you and your friends.)
3. What is the visible Word? (Baptism and holy communion are called the visible Word, because God uses everyday elements we can see—water, wine, bread—with the Gospel.)
4. Is the sower careless? (Yes, he is. The seed falls everywhere, just as the Word goes in every direction. But the sower knows the Word will grow when it falls into good soil.)
5. How do we encourage the growth of the Word? (We do that when we listen carefully in church, when we study the Bible, when we listen to the teacher and our parents.)
"The efficacy of the Word, unlike that of the seed, always has a result. The man to whom the Word of God comes, and who repels it, is not as he was before. Where long and persistently refused, hardening at last comes, Exodus 8:15; 9:12; John 12:40; Hebrews 4:1, and the Word becomes a 'savor of death unto death,' 2 Corinthians 2:16. Every word heard or read, every privilege and opportunity enjoyed, leaves its impress either for good or for evil. It is not so properly the Word, as man's abuse of the Word; not so much the efficacy of the Word, as the sin taking occasion of the efficacy that produces this result, Romans 7:8."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, Elements of Religion, p. 155.
"Christ compares the Word of God to a seed, to a grain of wheat sown in the ground. (Matthew 13:3-23) A seed possesses power and life in itself. Power and life belong to the properties of the seed. Power is not communicated to the seed only now and then, under certain circumstances, in peculiar cases. But the Word of God is an incorruptible seed, that is able to regenerate, a Word which liveth and abideth forever. (1 Peter 1:23)"
E. Hove, Christian Doctrine, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1930, p. 27. Matthew 13:3-23; 1 Peter 1:23.
"What business is it of mine that many do not esteem it? It must be that many are called but few are chosen. For the sake of the good ground that brings forth fruit with patience, the seed must also fall fruitless by the wayside, on the rock and among the thorns; inasmuch as we are assured that the Word of God does not go forth without bearing some fruit, but it always finds also good ground; as Christ says here, some seed of the sower falls also into good ground, and not only by the wayside, among the thorns and on stony ground. For wherever the Gospel goes you will find find Christians. 'My Word shall not return unto me void.' Is. 55:11"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 118.