Perhaps the most significant parable in the Gospel arsenal is the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-20 and parallels). Why? Because it is the kingdom parable and a parable that ultimately explains what parables are all about! So says Klyne Snodgrass in his Stories with Intent.
Again, what we find here is rock solid common sense, sketching of all the evidence, a display of interpretations, and judicious comments that will help in interpretation. Some observations:
1. In all three accounts of the parable of the sower the dominant idea is hearing. The verb “hear” occurs 13x in Mark’s account of this parable. Thus, Klyne is right and we need to dig in our heels right here: “The parable of the Sower is a parable about hearing the message of the kingdom” (152).
2. The 100-fold is a “prosperous harvest, not an exaggerated one” and he appeals to Gen 26:12.
3. Interpretations are shaped by where one focuses: sower, soil, seed or harvest.
4. Failure and success in sowing and responding are central to this parable.
5. The parables hide in order to reveal — Klyne doesn’t think Mark is out to say that the parables are simply riddles no one can grasp. Instead, they parabolic but the long-term intent is revelation. They are prophetic instruments.
6. This parable is rooted in Isaiah 6:9-13.
9 He said, ?Go and tell this people:
? ?Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.? 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.? 11 Then I said, ?For how long, O Lord?? And he answered: ?Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.?
7. These words are irony and provoke in order to foster understanding.
8. The parable is about God sowing people in Israel (restoring Israel, ending exile) and having individuals respond to the gospel/word in various ways. The emphasis is on receptivity and the soils.
9. From this parable: the kingdom is a word-kingdom; the kingdom challenges to reorient all of life; the kingdom is now at work among those who respond to the word.