Not all the Gospel writers use the same terms in reporting this parable. Matthew wrote of “the evil one,” Mark of “Satan,” and Luke of “the devil.” The phrases “by the wayside” and “in the path” are not quite the same thing. Weigh in the allusion of the statement “I am the way.” Both Matthew and Mark say, most felicitously, that the word was sowed “on stony ground,” not upon a “stone.”
Now to all that which is “by the wayside,” the words “those who do not understand” apply. But to the good ground these words apply: “This is he who hears the word and understands it.” Perhaps then those seeds that fall “on stony ground” and those that fall “among thorns” fall between the people without knowledge and those who understand. This then is an exhortation to meditate diligently upon the faculty of perception. If the seed of the one who is dense is snatched away, the seed of intellect ought to be taken up and covered in the ground of memory, so that it may spread forth roots and may not be found naked or snatched away by the spirits of wickedness. 1
“The seed sown among the thorns is the person who listens to the word, but the anxiety of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it is made fruitless.” This reminds us of the words spoken to Adam: “You shall eat your bread among thorns and thistles.” This mystically signifies that those who give themselves over to the pleasures and cares of this world eat the heavenly bread and true food among thorns. Hence the Lord fittingly added, “The deceitfulness of riches chokes the word.” Riches are enticing indeed, promising one thing and doing another. The possession of riches is uncertain. They are borne from place to place. Unpredictably they either desert the haves or gorge the have-nots. The Lord also states that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, for riches choke the word of God and weaken the force of the virtues.2
“And the one sown upon good ground is he who hears the word, understands it and bears fruit.” Even as on bad ground there were three diverse situations (by the path, upon rocky ground and among thorns), so too on good ground the diversity is of three types: fruit of one hundredfold, sixtyfold and thirtyfold. Both in one and the other there is a change that takes place in the will, not in the nature itself. In both the unbelievers and believers it is the heart that receives the seed. “The wicked one comes,” he says, “and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” In the second and third cases, he says, “That is he who hears the word.” In the explanation of the good ground, he is the one who hears the word. First we must listen, then understand; after understanding, we must bear the fruits of good teaching and yield fruit either one hundredfold, sixtyfold or thirtyfold.3
- FRAGMENT 291. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 274). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 2.13.22. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 275). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 2.13.23. Simonetti, M. (Ed.). (2001). Matthew 1–13 (p. 275). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.