SOON AFTER his journey through southern Galilee, Jesus began to teach in a new form, that of telling stories to the people. Everybody likes to listen to a story, and sometimes a story will go to the heart when the plain truth will fail. Story-tellers have always been very abundant in the East, where Jesus lived. Even today may. be found everywhere men who go from place to place telling stories, and the people flock around them and listen to their stories from morning until night.
But the stories that Jesus told were very different from those of the Eastern story-tellers. His stories were told to teach some great truth, and on that account were called “parables. A parable is a story which is true to lifethat is, a story which might be true, not a fairy storyand which also ‘ has in it some teaching of the truth.
One day Jesus went out of the city of Capernaum and stood on the beach by the Sea of Galilee. A great crowd of people gathered around him, for all the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees could not keep the common people away from Jesus. The throng was so great, crowding around Jesus, that as before he stepped into a boat and told his disciples to push it out a little from the shore. Then he sat down in the boat, fronting the great multitude that filled the sloping beach. He said to the people:
“Listen! Once a sower went out to sow his seed. And as ht was scattering the seed, some of it fell on the path, where the ground had been trodden hard. The seed lay there on the path until the birds lighted upon it and picked up all the kernels, so that none of them grew.
“Some of the seed fell on places where there was a thin covering of earth over stones.. There the kernels grew up quickly, just because the soil was thin. But when the hot weather came, the sun scorched the tender plants, and they all withered away, because they had no moisture and no root in deep earth.
“Some other of the seeds fell among briers and bushes, and there was no room for the grain to grow up. It lived, but it did not bring forth heads of grain, because it was crowded and choked by thorn bushes all around it.
“But there were some other of the seeds that fell into ground that was soft and rich and good. There they grew up and brought forth fruit abundantly. Some kernels gave thirty times as many as were sown, some sixty times and some a hundred times.”
Jesus did not tell the people what the teaching ôf the parable was. He only said, “Whoever has ears, let him hear what I have spoken.” He meant that they should not only listen but think and find out for themselves the meaning.
When Jesus was alone with his disciples, they said to him :
“Why do you speak to the people in parables? What do you mean to teach in this story about the man sowing seed?”
Jesus said to them:
“To you who have followed me it is given to know the deep things of the Kingdom of God, because you seek to find them out. But to many these truths are spoken in parables, for they hear the story, but do not try to find out what it means. They have eyes, but they do not see, and ears, but they do not hear. For they do not wish to understand with the heart and turn to God to have their sins forgiven. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Listen now to the meaning of the parable of the sower.
“The sower is the one who speaks the word of God, and the seed is the word which he speaks.
“The seed on the roadside, the trodden path, means those who hear, but do not take the truth into their hearts. Then the Evil Spirit comes and, like the birds, snatches away the truth, so that they forget it.
“The seeds on the rocky soil are those who hear the word and seem to take it gladly into their hearts; ‘ but they have no root in themselves; just as soon as they meet with any discouragement or trouble, or find enemies to the truth, they are turned away and their goodness does not last.
“That which is sown among the thorns and briers are those who listen to the word, but the worries of life, and the desire for money, and the pleasures of the world, crowd the word in their hearts, and the gospel does them but little good.
“But the seed sown on the good ground are those who listen to the gospel and understand it; who take the word into honest and good hearts and keep it and, bring forth fruit in their lives.”