Charles B. Williams gives us the following translation in his The New Testament In the Language of the People:
"'A sower went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some of the seed fell along the path, and were trodden down, and the wild birds ate them up. Another portion of them fell upon the rock, and as soon as they sprang up, they withered, because they had no moisture. Still another portion fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up with them and choked them out. And another portion fell in rich soil and grew and yielded a crop of a hundredfold.' As He said this, He exclaimed, 'Let him who has ears to hear with, listen!'"
Have you ever wondered why apparently so few people become settled in the Christian life? Since we believe the gospel truly is the good news then why do so many sleep in on Sunday morning and so few sit next to us in the pew?
In this passage Jesus shows us that he was a realist; he never promised that the gospel would be accepted universally with applause and a ticker-tape parade. In fact, if the apostles are any model, Christians can expect bitter opposition.
Realize that a crowd stuffed into a congregation's sanctuary will react differently to the sermon. Their minds are in different places, the soil of their hearts are of varying composition. Today we will examine the first type of person Jesus mentions in his parable.
1. The Folks Who Just Don't Get It
Have you ever run across a person who has no interest in the gospel whatsoever? He doesn't seem ruffled by the warning of the destructive nature of sin and the neverending torment of hell. He doesn't appear concerned to hear how right it is to live the Christian ethic and how wrong it is to live in the world's immorality. He prefers the darkness and doesn't wish to step into the light.
Consider Jesus' words as he explains the first part of the parable:
"This is what the story means: The seed is God's message. Those along the path illustrate those who hear it, but then the devil comes and carries off the message from their hearts, so that they may not believe it and be saved."
In the parallel account of this parable, in Matthew 13.19 Jesus announces that this group of people don't understand the gospel. As amazing as it may seem, some people just won't get it. Christianity won't make sense to them and they won't be bothered enough to investigate further. The soil of their hearts isn't receptive to the things of God; they won't break a sweat during a hymn of invitation and won't take a second look at the beckoning church altars. You will find some people numb to the gospel.
This group bewilders me; perhaps my upgrowing as a pastor's son helps me to think it incredible that folks can so disregard the most important thing in the world. Of this group Adam Clarke elaborates in his Commentary:
"A careless inattentive hearer is compared to the way side - his heart is an open road, where evil affections, and foolish and hurtful desires, continually pass and repass, without either notice or restraint. 'A heart where Satan has' (as one terms it) 'ingress, egress, regress, and progress: in a word, the devil’s thoroughfare.'"
Now, it begs a question: if a person's heart isn't receptive now does that mean he'll never be receptive? We can't make that assumption; prayer and witnessing is certainly in order. What is yesterday's frozen ground may be tomorrow's fertile soil.