First we note that he goes out of the house and sat by the sea. There he addresses the multitudes. This is a judgment of Israel's unbelief from Matthew 12 (covered previously). In the Sermon on the Mount, he withdraws from the multitudes and speaks only to his disciples. he will speak to both groups in parables, but he will help his disciples to understand.
We know the seed is the word of God from later in the chapter. Specifically, "the word of the kingdom" (v.19) here. This is for Israel.
We see four sowings. There is a surface meaning which can apply in any age. There will always be those who reject scripture, those who accept gladly, but shrink away because of persecution or love of the world; and some who are radically changed.But here the meaning is deeper.
As we noted, the gospel of the kingdom is for Israel alone. In this parable we see the great prophetic sowings of the gospel of the kingdom offer to Israel (the land):
- John the Baptist: Israel unaffected. Birds representing the evil one. We will see this picture in later parables.
- The Lord Jesus: we see great swelling crowds cheering the Lord. But their faith is short-lived. Within days of hailing Him as the King of Israel, they are calling for his crucifixion.
- The Apostles in the Acts: the 12 "went to Jews only" and ministered to the circumcision. They wrote epistles to the Jewish dispersion. But while there was a great move of faith in the early days, when pressure and persecution came, many returned to the slavery of the law. We also see the future persecution during the tribulation in Israel. Many considered the message, but rejected it in the end.
[The present age, hidden from the prophets, wherein Jew and Greek believers are in One Body, is not seen in the parables.]
4. Finally, when Israel sees her king, whom she has pierced, they weep for the ultimate son of Abraham. This is the message that goes out in the Revelation.
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn..."