The parable of the sower is about different responses to hearing the “word of the kingdom.” It was an important part of the training of the twelve that they develop an accurate perspective on the kingdom of God. It is still important for disciples of Jesus, as this is to be our primary focus. It is possible for a people, nation or culture of different ages to make the focus of Christianity any number of other things. The focus should be the King and His kingdom and we must strive for accurate understanding in this regard. Flowing from this, we have a foundation from which to build all other aspects of a healthy life, healthy relationships and healthy corporate entities. It is possible that the kingdom is missing from the top ten list.
The “word of the kingdom” involves explanations and insights about God’s kingdom; God’s supremacy and design for governing in the affairs of His universe. God, the King, is at the center (this might even come as a shock to many). With accurate understanding, we are to pray and labor, together with God, to see His kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.
As all four examples involve hearing the word, having significant and sufficient exposure to truth about the kingdom, the response on the part of the hearer is crucial. The first example is one who “does not understand it.” Understanding involves certain efforts and application of the human mind – it’s not just something that does or does not happen. There is not a great emphasis in our culture on learning how to think or understanding laws of logic; engaging in a proper reasoning process. When it says that they did not understand, we are not to assume that He is referring to people who are to be pitied, but people who do not apply themselves in order to arrive at understanding. There would be little reason to present the parable if it was not to caution people to do something differently.
When one fails to arrive at understanding of a kernel of truth, evil forces actively operate to deceive and mislead in order to remove the truth in question from one’s heart (and mind). There are both, spiritual and earthly forces that are active in this regard. To prevent this activity of the enemy from being effective, one must labor to arrive understanding. Such understanding is holistic; it involves a natural and a spiritual dimension – it is a both / and proposition, not an either / or arrangement. To pursue only one or the other leads to an imbalance that is not characteristic of the kingdom of God. When one does not arrive at understanding, the kernel of truth does not sprout (having been removed from the soil in which it must cultivate) and does not produce fruit.