Jesus is referring to the acceptance and different ways of accepting God’s word. How some of us take it for face value while others hang onto the thought for a little while longer before letting it drift out of their lives. Others then harvest His word and allow it to grow in their lives.
When Jesus tells this parable, he is talking to a large crowd of ordinary people. Jesus took to a boat on the water so that the crowds could hear and see him as he preached through the parables.
Jesus is talking about receiving the Word of God. There may have been some discussion on the topic before Jesus introduced the parable – but it is not mentioned by Mark, likewise, there don’t seem to have been any specific questions asked by certain people either to assist their learning or to try to trap Jesus, that have caused Jesus to tell the parable.
Most likely this is just one of the topics that Jesus wanted to talk about and has heard about because it is one of the most important aspects of Christianity.
Jesus uses this parable because it shows clearly that there are a lot of different ways in which the Word of God could be received, and it was not just a case of people either receiving and accepting it, or rejecting it.
So for this reason, there are many different ways of receiving the parable as well.
The audience (the general crowd) is compared to the soil, with the seed being the Word of God sown by Jesus. The different types of soil are the different ways in which people can receive the good news.
The seed that falls by the wayside or on a path, represents the word that is heard but never makes any progress because, as Jesus says 4:15 “… Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” Satan in this instance is like the birds that came and ate up the seed.
The seed falling on the rocky ground is the word that is superficially accepted, but the people have no fortitude and so when times become difficult they lose faith, and the Word soon loses its place in their lives.
The seed that takes root amongst the thorns represents the situations where people receive the Word, but soon become more concerned with materialistic goals and desires like money and power. This chokes the Word of God as the thorns choke the plant.
The good soil that allows the seed to grow and be fruitful is compared to people who hear God’s Word, accept it wholly and fully, and let it grow within them, to become a bigger and more eminent part of their lives – they influence other people and spread the word – as the grown plants drop their seeds.
Jesus makes it clear which type of soil is the best – so the lesson is obviously to try to be like the good soil in receiving God’s Word – receive it gladly – let it grow in you – and produce its seed.
This is just as relevant today as it was at the time – receiving the Word is one of the most important aspects of Christianity for obvious reasons – it’s the first step – without receiving the Word you haven’t got started. Despite the importance of this, it is somewhat underused in today’s society, with many people believing that they have received the word and that is all they have to do. They may be like the seed amongst the thorns and despite receiving the Word, they are more concerned with money and power – a common problem in today’s society.