In the gospel of Mark, chapter 4, verses 3-20, Jesus gives a parable about a sower and the different types of soils on which he scattered seeds. First, let's examine an often overlooked -but very important- detail: the title of "the sower" itself. A sower is someone who is hired by a farmer to plant seeds in a specific field. A sower does not simply wander the countryside throwing handfuls of seeds all about as he goes. He puts the seeds in the specific place that he has been instructed to. In other words, the four types of ground (the path, the rocky, the weeded, and the good ground), are all present in the farmer's field. The sower therefore sowed every patch of earth, regardless of whether he deemed it worth the effort or capable of receiving what he sowed. That is not the main point, however -just a clarification for scene building.
Now, on to the meat of this: rocks and weeds are a common occurrence in soil. In fact, it would be quite unusual to come across any patch of earth that was totally devoid of such things. A path however, is a different matter entirely. What exactly is a path, and why is it present in the farmer's field?
In the most basic sense, a path is ordinary soil that has been walked on; not accidentally stepped on, but intentionally put underfoot. This "path" is soil that has been regularly trampled to the extent that it has become hardened and barren, unable to accept any seeds and very resistant to being softened by rain.
Most paths were actually once soft, fertile soil until a person came by and saw a convenient shortcut to get something they wanted. This soil, being free of brambles and rocks, was very easy to walk right over without obstruction. Soon the soil would be walked over by others; some who didn't realize what they were doing, and some who knew exactly what they were doing, but didn't care. Once the first person used it, others passing by often saw the same convenient shortcut, now becoming visible to passerby, and took advantage. Anything that had been growing in this soil would be quickly stamped down or even pulled out by those desiring to keep the path convenient. If you observe such paths in the physical world, you may notice that rocks and other debris always end up embedded in these paths, seemingly appearing from nowhere. Even if the path is eventually abandoned and left alone, the soil stays hard for a very long time and weeds are the only thing that can grow in what is now hard, rocky earth. When seeds do land on soil in such conditions, the soil is unable to receive them, and they are easily taken by birds. ( If you wish to understand more about these paths in the physical world, I recommend researching the phenomenon known as "Desire Paths," and the problems thereof.)
It is very important to remember that no path creates itself, nor is it created overnight. It takes repeated trampling, over a period of months, even years, to establish a path. Due to this, it is often not a quick process to restore a path into the fertile soil it once was. It is often very tedious to remedy this condition. Before the soil can receive any seeds, have weeds uprooted, and have rocks sorted out, it needs to be softened. The process of softening usually takes time and patience, as it must be carefully watered, slowly and consistently, allowing the water itself to gradually soften the soil. Only once the soil is softened, can it then be sifted, rocks and debris removed, and weeds be uprooted, with care given not to take good soil away at the same time. This work can take quite a while on some paths that are very old, have been heavily used by many people, or are densely overgrown with weeds.
Critical during this entire process is the protection of the soil; any labor will be fruitless if the persons using the path continue to walk this way. It is imperative to correct those walking on the soil, or to establish a physical barrier to stop those who refuse to change their behavior. The unfortunate reality is that people will often stomp right over even the most beautiful flower bed if it means they will get something they want. But remember, if there is one thing a farmer despises, it is when someone cuts through His field, tramples His crops, and damages His soil.
The Farmer represents God and the farm symbolizes His kingdom. The "sower" is Jesus the son of God, the seeds are the truth and living word of God that Jesus came to plant inside of humanity. Lastly the different types of soils represent humanity. The good soil are the sons and daughters of God who have hearts that are soft to receive the word of God. The paths are people who have been hurt, broken, and misused, their hearts are hardened from the pain of being so wounded. The rocky ground are people who receive the word but because there are many rocks around them -rocks are a representative of the trials, cares of the world, and temptations- and because they cannot grow their roots deeper the word dies out. As the farmer works for a long period of time to restore the path that has been trampled on, abused, and used, is how God tends to those who have been so hurt and wounded. The beauty of our God is that He is the only one who can restore a path that has been so used, such as the centuries-old one. Check out our blog post called "How Old is God? What is God's Age?"