The Parable of the Sower
Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. 2He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ 9And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
Notice the movement, the change of venue – Mark is changing topic and clueing us in by telling us that Jesus went to another place. It is not, however, an unfamiliar place; Jesus is again teaching beside the Sea of Galilee, from a boat moved just a few feet off shore, where the water acts as an amplifier and the crowd cannot push in to close.
Jesus is teaching the crowd. Mark says he taught them many things in parables, and then he tells one of the stories. Jesus was a story-teller; he often told stories to make his points. In this story, he speaks of a sower who went out to sow his seeds. It was an agrarian society; Jesus used stories of things people would understand.
We have a little difficulty with this because we do not understand someone sowing seeds so randomly – but in those days, although he may have done some preparation of the soil, the farmer did not have machines, other than perhaps an ox and a plow, to till the soil and prepare it for planting. And so, he would take a handful of grain, and scatter it, as we might spread grass seed to get a lawn restarted. Some of the seed fell on the hard path, which is too hard to take it in, and is eaten by the birds. Some seeds fall on rocky ground, where soil is shallow – the seeds quickly spring up, but having no root, die. Some seeds fall into ground full of weeds that choke out the good seed. But, some seed falls on good soil, and it grows, and it produces multiples – thirty, sixty, a hundred-fold what was planted. It is a magnificent harvest!
Photo is “The Jesus Boat”, a 1st century fishing boat discovered in the Lake.