Chapter 9, Jesus heals a paralytic, someone who's mute, stops a woman's hemorrhages, and restores a synagogue leader's daughter to life. Chapter 10, Jesus gives instructions to his disciples: what to take and not to take on missionary journeys, persecutions that are coming, and rewards. Chapter 11, Jesus praises John the Baptist, reproaches the cities who have not repented, and gives thanks to the Lord, adding "Come to me, all you that are weary..." Chapter 12, Jesus travels again, heals again and again, faces a confrontation with some scribes and Pharisees--and also his own family.
Adapted from Thomas G. Long's commentary on Matthew: The Gospel of Matthew alternates between action then teaching. Chapter 13 forms the third of five great teaching discourses. But this teaching has a different style from the previous ones--rather than speaking directly, e.g., "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged," Jesus uses parables.
In Chapter 12, Jesus had been inside a house, but now he goes outside. We can infer he has a larger audience. I'm imagining that the audience could be more diverse also--just thinking about who might feel comfortable coming inside somebody's home or who the homeowner might feel comfortable inviting in compared with who we are willing to be in the same crowd with.
And this is a big crowd--Jesus has to get in a boat so he can speak to all of them.
His parable begins, "A sower went out to sow." The sower isn't very careful about where he sows the seed. He scatters some on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some, at least, on good soil. Jesus is not giving us agricultural instruction here. He's speaking about lavish distribution. He's talking about ignoring risk of loss--Some soil is not likely to nourish the seed, even really good seed.
But, even with allowing for a lot of lost seeds, this farmer has an abundant crop.
For this parable to work for us church people, we need to realize that we can't always tell what soil is on the path and which is rocky and where the thorns are. We just keep scattering that seed. Good soil is there, even if we don't recognize it right away.