Luke 8:4

ESV And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable,
NIV While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:
NASB Now when a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable:
CSB As a large crowd was gathering, and people were coming to Jesus from every town, he said in a parable,
NLT One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him:
KJV And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:

What does Luke 8:4 mean?

This famous parable is known by several names, including "the parable of the sower," "the parable of the seeds," and "the parable of the soils." Matthew and Mark also record it. The premise is simple: a farmer spreads seeds that land on the hard path, rocky soil, soil covered in weeds, and good soil. The resulting crop depends on what kind of soil the seeds land on.

All three synoptic Gospel writers record the parable but in different contexts. Mark places the parable at the beginning of a series of others that illustrate how the kingdom of God will grow through God's power (Mark 4:1–34). Matthew uses it to introduce parables that show while God's kingdom grows (Matthew 13:31–33, 44–46) citizens and unbelievers will be intermixed (Matthew 13:18–30, 36–43, 47–50).

Luke takes a different approach. He uses the parable to introduce the responsibility of people to listen to the message: to be the good soil. We can't just hear the gospel; we must respond to it by believing. After a metaphor about how light is meant to be seen and the message is meant to be heard (Luke 8:16–18), Luke presents several examples of faith and salvation in real world situations. Jesus provides salvation from worldly hardships for the purpose of revealing who He is (John 10:37–38). The people around Him must "hear" what His miracles are saying and have faith in Him.

Jesus explains that the "sower" is Himself and the "seed" is His teachings about the kingdom of God (Luke 8:11). The soils show how people respond to His teaching. Although His teaching is about how to become saved, it's important to understand that Jesus does not mean the parable as a technical treatise on the mechanics of salvation. We should not use the different soils to categorically define situations in which people are condemned.

There is no indication of when this parable was taught other than, presumably, before Jesus began His journey to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). It's probably in Galilee, as both Matthew and Mark place it near the sea (Matthew 13:1; Mark 4:1), probably in Capernaum. Matthew mentions that Jesus "went out of the house" which could mean Andrew and Peter's house (Matthew 13:1). Matthew also places this on the same day that Jesus' mother and brothers come for Him (Matthew 12:46—13:1; Luke 8:19–21), and Mark says it is the same day Jesus calms the storm (Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25).
What is the Gospel?
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