The Sower (February 26)

Mark 4:1-20


The Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life describes the planting process:

The seed was generally scattered over the ground by hand. As a result, some seed never matured—it might be eaten by birds, choked out by other growth, or fall on an area of insufficient soil for mature growth. Generally, however, farmers such as Abiram [hypothetical character of the times] plowed the field so that very little would be lost (see Isa. 28:25)….

Abiram’s wife and daughters were usually the ones to sow the seed after the plowing. During the first two months of planting (mid-November to mid-January), the grain seeds—flax, barley, and wheat—were sown. During the time of late planting (mid-January to mid-March), summer crops—such as sesame, millet, lentils, cucumbers, and other summer vegetables—were seeded. After the seed were sown, Abiram would drive his oxen and plow back over the cultivated ground in order to trample the seeds into the ground and cover them with earth” (Harper & Row, 1978, pp, 177-178).

Reading the Scripture

Here are some ways you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).
o    Faith Comes by Hearing: You’ve Got the Time (Dramatized New Testament we used a few years ago during Lent. Available in the church office.)

•    The late comedian/pastor Grady Nutt has written an interesting retelling and interpretation of the Parable of the Sower from the perspective of the imaginary disciple Norton. (A copy is attached at the end of this lesson).

•    YouTube Videos: I have placed on this web page two videos depicting the Parable of the Sower.

•    The Parable of the Sower for teenagers:
         Listen! A teenager went out to invite her friends to a party. She sent one of her friends a text message. Her text friend glanced at the message, but then she got another text and another, and sent a few of her own, and quickly forgot all about the party invitation. To a second friend she sent an email. When this friend received the email, she was very excited. She replied, “I can’t wait to come to the party. Cool. I’m excited. LOL.” But her mom said, “Do your homework and clean your room or you’re grounded,” and she never put the party on her calendar and she forgot all about it. She called a third friend on her cell phone, “Hey! I’m having a party. Want to come?” Her cell phone friend answered, “Yes. Maybe. I’ll check my schedule and let you know.” This friend wanted to wait and see if she got invited to a party with more popular friends. And she did, so she ditched the first invitation and went to the party with the “in crowd.” Now our party planning teenager went to her fourth friend’s house and knocked on the door. She invited her to the party and they hung out awhile and talked. Her fourth friend came to the party and the two of them had great time. They were friends for life.

Teaching Suggestions

•    The parables of the kingdom, we study in this unit, deal with agricultural themes. Invite a farmer each week to speak to the parables from a farmer’s perspective.

•    How would Jesus tell the Parable of the Sower today? Rewrite the Parable of the Sower in a contemporary setting. Invite your class to brainstorm ways the story could be retold today. See, for example, my “Parable of the Sower for Teenagers” in “Reading the Scripture” above.

•    Invite class members to reflect on the Parable of the Sower in worship today: “Today in worship we will pray, ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ As you do, pray that our church will be receptive to the seed God plants in our community today. Ask God to make us good soil, so that we might bear much fruit.” (A variation of this kind of reflection on the Lord’s Prayer will be provided for each lesson).


I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons.

•    YouTube Videos dramatizing the Parable of the Sower on this web page.

•    For a better understanding of farming in New Testament times see Harper’s Encyclopedia of Bible Life (Harper & Row, 1978,  pp. 172-185).

•    These dictionaries in the library have articles on “Parables” and “the Kingdom of God”:
o    Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1990)
o    Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised and Updated (Harper & Row, 2011)
o    The Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible, Five Volume Set (Abingdon, 1976)

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)