4And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5"A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
9And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10he 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.'
11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12The 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. 13And 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. 14And 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. 15As 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.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright (c)2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://www.esv.org
Can you imagine their quizzical looks? They probably happened every day. Jesus would speak, or teach, or discuss, and then the disciples would glance at each other. With eyebrows raised, silently mouthing, "What does that mean?", they would whisper among themselves. Shrugged shoulders and wonder were often the shared answer. Sometimes they would ask the Lord Himself, at which point the Lord would explain His words to them. He would illuminate and clarify what had been shadowy and opaque.
The parable of the sower and the seed is one of the teachings the Lord specifically details to His disciples. Their question had been oblique, the kind you and I might ask. "Why do you speak to them in parables?" they asked, really meaning, "Why do you speak to us in parables?" And Jesus, in His kindness, makes clear the primacy, and the purpose and the power of God's Word for the citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
For God's people, God's Word is the very foundation of their identity and their hope. In God's Word, God's Son, our Savior is made known. Illuminated by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the preeminent source of wisdom and strength for those who are Christ's Ones. Those often befuddled disciples heard Jesus quote the Old Testament dozens of times. For Jesus, the Scriptures were both from His lips and on His lips. God's Word was the foundation of life and work for God's Son!
God's Word also sheds light on hearts that are hardened to the things of God, or distracted by the cares of the world. Jesus says the seed of God's Word is often choked out by the thorny brambles of life, and the stunted, wealthy sprouts never quite produce expected fruit. But the purpose of the Word of God is to grow abundantly in the lives of believers, and bear much fruit for the Kingdom. God's Word, in many, many ways serves as a winnowing sieve.
The expert Old Testament scholar, Saul of Tarsus, was apprehended by the Lord and put to work for The Kingdom of Heaven. It was the power in Paul's thorough understanding of the Old Testament Scriptures that informed his preaching and writing. The Scriptures had prepared him for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, as he completed the good work Jesus gave him to do.
Years ago, a wise pastor friend had a saying that has rung in my memory through the decades. He would hold up his Bible, lean over the pulpit and (sort of) shout, "If God's Word is closed, God's mouth is closed!" Today, ask the Lord just like those disciples did. He has promised, in His Word, not to leave or forsake those who are His. He will make Himself known, and, with Him, you will bear much fruit.