This parable demonstrates that not only must good seed – the Word of God, the truth – be sown, but chiefly that the attitude of the heart – the ground which receives the seed – must be good.
The wayside illustrates hard, compacted earth, that is, a heart that is hard and solid with selfishness and would need repeated plowing to open the heart to receive the message. Hosea 10:12 (NIV), “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground….”
The stony ground may appear to have good soil for growth, but there are rocks underneath. So, there are those who have an appearance of depth, seeming to receive truth with great joy and enthusiasm. But when they learn there is sacrifice and persecution and tribulation that goes along with the truth, they are surprised. They become thoroughly disheartened, and their interest speedily dies out.
The third class of hearers is referred to as “thorny ground”. This does not mean the ground is poor as thorns can grow in rich ground as well as poor. These are they who allow the snares and difficulties of life to absorb their time, their talents, their influence. Some seek wealth, allowing weeds, to creep in via jobs or earthly pleasures to crowd out the things of the Lord. Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and dust destroy, and where thieves and steal; but lay up…treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor dust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be.”
The “good ground” hearers have hearts in good condition, plowed by experience, and ready for the word of God. They are free from thorns and ready to bring forth an abundant harvest.
Who, then, would be the sower? Initially, it would be our Lord Jesus who opened up “a new and living way,” Hebrews 10:20. And then it would be all His followers who imitate Him. For he said, “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you,” Matthew 28:19,20.