The power of the parable is demonstrated here as Jesus gives the interpretation of 'the Sower'. He mentioned four kinds of ground:
1. There was the hard ground at the side of the road. The fields in Israel then were in the form of long, narrow strips divided by little grass paths which were free for anyone to walk along. These consequently became as hard as rock and so nothing would grow there. It is generally reckoned that, in the United Kingdom, 75% of people would never enter a church building, they have absolutely no interest in the things of God. There are many people into whose hearts Christian truth can absolutely find no entry. When we talk about revival, we think of whole cities turning to Christ: that has never happened. Josephus, a contemporary of Jesus, stated that there were three million people living in Galilee during Jesus' ministry. We are told that there were at least five thousand in some crowds who followed Jesus, but then there were many who chose not to, for whatever reason. This is a fact and in any evangelistic plans we may have as church, we must understand this.
2. There was rocky ground, in other words it had a thin layer of soil, but solid rock underneath. A seed could germinate, but could never develop there. A famous evangelist once declared: ''It takes five per cent of our effort to win a man for Christ (!), but ninety five percent to keep him there!''. I've known many become Christians through the Alpha course, but within a year or two, they were gone from church life. Two things cause this: firstly, a failure on their part to sit down and recognise the cost of their commitment; secondly, they never allow the Christian faith to go deep, so the first sign of trouble-and, in my observation, they seemed to come quickly in the lives of new converts-and they can't cope.
3. The ground full of thorns. In the days when farming was all manual labour, it was hard work to make a field look clean: to free it of every weed root was almost impossible. When the ground was sown, the weeds grew faster than the wheat and choked the life out of it. Lives are very full today and generally have always been, so things like Christianity get pushed to the sidelines.
4. There was the good, clean soil in which a seed would flourish. To really benefit from the Good News we must HEAR it-that entails LISTENING; we must RECEIVE it-that is, to take it into our minds; we must put it into ACTION-every Christian is called to act on the truth they have received.
However, just on listening to it, in a crowd, out in the open-what would the average listener have taken in when Jesus was telling this? Remember that it was specifically to the disciples and all who would follow that Jesus spoke. He was fully aware that much of what He said would fall on people in one of the other three situations. His followers had seen Him ejected from the synagogue and increasingly persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders, but this message they would surely find uplifting: God's work happens and it creates abundance! Don't despair, yourself! Your good witness at work, at home, to your neighbours and family is blessed because God sees it!