In His love for humanity the Lord Jesus travelled on foot from village to village and from city to city in the Holy Land, to preach the Good news of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of which He was both the herald and the content. On the one hand there were those who responded positively to Him and His message, so that it made a positive difference in their lives and in their relationship with God.
On the other hand, there were those who responded negatively. They did not bother to listen to Him, or they quickly forgot what they had heard. They may have been enthusiastic initially, but only until they were confronted with temptations and trials. For example, when they were confronted with the danger of being banned from the synagogue for being a follower of the Lord Jesus and His teaching, they chose to deny the Lord instead.
And even today it is no different. In some people’s lives we see the Gospel take root and produce a marvellous harvest of love for God, our fellow humans, and creation; a harvest of growth in grace, love, peace and joy. But for others, sad to say, this harvest does not happen.
The Lord therefore tells the parable of the Sower to explain why the preaching of the Gospel has such mixed results, in this world.
It all seems to depend on the state of one’s soul, whether the Word of the Gospel will take root and produce a beautiful harvest or not. So it is not necessarily the preacher who is at fault, unless, of course, they failed to prepare adequately, or spoke carelessly or in the wrong spirit, perhaps of condemnation, instead of love.
But assuming that it is Christ who ultimately speaks the word of the Gospel to our hearts, we would do well to examine our hearts,
and to ask whether we obey the Biblical Command found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
In the parable of the Sower, the seed of the Word that fell by the wayside and was snatched away by the birds, i.e. by the devil, is the Word preached to the unworthy heart, the heart of the person who failed to love God with all their heart. Such a heart was never ready or receptive to the word of God.
The seed that fell on the rocky ground is the Word that was preached to a shallow soul, a soul unprepared for the trials and temptations that is part and of the organic reality of the reception of the Gospel. Such a person fails to love God with all their soul.
The seed sown among thorns is the Word preached to the worldly, who are concerned with the power and status that comes from wealth. These people fail to love God with all their strength. Instead, they invest almost all their energy to acquire more earthly wealth.
Should we read Psalm 1, we will find the person who fulfils all the commands of the “Hear o Israel!” statement.
This person loves God with all their heart and all their soul, and all their strength. And so, when the Word is sown in their heart it “brings forth its fruit in its season” (Ps 1:3), since a good heart will “keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Lk 8:15). This person experiences the joy and peace and love of the Kingdom of heaven, even while on earth.
The parable of the Lord helps us not only to understand why the preaching of the Gospel meets with such mixed results in this world, and in our own lives. It also challenges us to examine our own hearts and to ask whether we love God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our strength. And whether we are truly open and receptive (faithful) to the life-giving Word of Christ, eager and willing to do whatever it takes to produce a harvest pleasant to God; “careful to maintain good works” (Tit 3:8).
Saint Cosmas the Aetolian said he experienced a burning desire to preach the Word of God. He said that his desire for the salvation of his fellow humans was like a grub eating away at the inside of a tree.
And so, he went out and sowed the Word of God like a good sower. And no doubt, sadly, some seeds fell by the wayside, and some on rocky ground, and some amongst the thorns, but some also fell on good soil.
And so he produced a wonderful harvest in this way, simply by sowing the seed of God in his daily life as a service of love to humanity. Through this good work, people rediscovered their early Christian Orthodox faith, and returned to the Kingdom of heaven, and to eternal life in Christ.