Mark – God is On Our Side!
We have had so much rain in our part of the world that the farmers had to wait to plant and harvest. The corn, that is usually “knee-high by the fourth of July”, is only chin high but it did get planted. The crops will be a bit slim and a little late in coming to fruit. But it will come.
NOTE to my non farmer friends: “Knee-high by the Fourth of July” is an old adage used by corn farmers near and far to measure the success of their crops come Independence Day. Since knee-high is no longer as relevant, corn should be “as high as an elephant’s eye” by the Fourth of July. The saying comes from the Oklahoma!
That’s how it is with seed planting. The conditions have to right for a harvest to be had. Jesus is talking to those who know about planting. He is speaking Truth into their hearts by starting with what they already know. Some will listen and “get it” and some will not. Some will refuse to get it and some will take it all in quickly and ravenously like a stared child.
Let the seed planting begin…
Mark 4, NLT
Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed
4 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they see what I do,
they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say,
they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me
and be forgiven.’[b]”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
GOING DEEPER STILL…
At this point, Mark introduced a new word— parables (see Mark 3:23; 4:2, 10–11, 13, 33–34). Jesus explained the kingdom, not by giving a lecture on theology, but by painting pictures that captured the attention of the people and forced them to use their imaginations and think. Our English word parable comes from two Greek words that mean “to cast alongside” (para—alongside; ballo—to throw or cast). A parable is a story or figure placed alongside a teaching to help us understand its meaning. It is much more than “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning,” and it certainly is not an “illustration” such as a preacher would use in a sermon. A true parable gets the listener deeply involved and compels that listener to make a personal decision about God’s truth and his or her life. So penetrating and personal are parables that, after they heard several of them, the religious leaders wanted to kill the Lord Jesus! (See Matt. 21:45–46.)
A parable begins innocently as a picture that arrests our attention and arouses our interest. But as we study the picture, it becomes a mirror in which we suddenly see ourselves. If we continue to look by faith, the mirror becomes a window through which we see God and His truth. How we respond to that truth will determine what further truth God will teach us.
Jesus placed a great deal of importance on the hearing of the Word of God. In one form or another, the word hear is used thirteen times in Mark 4:1–34. Obviously, our Lord was speaking, not about physical hearing, but about hearing with spiritual discernment. To“hear”the Word of God means to understand it and obey it (see James 1:22–25).
This parable helped the disciples understand why Jesus was not impressed by the large crowds that followed Him. He knew that most of them would never produce fruit from changed lives, because the Word He was teaching them was like seed falling into poor soil.
The seed represents God’s Word (Luke 8:11), and the sower is the servant of God who shares that Word with others (see 1 Cor. 3:5–9). The human heart is like soil: it must be prepared to receive the seed before that seed can take root and produce a harvest. Like seed, the Word is alive and able to produce spiritual fruit, but the seed must be planted and cultivated before that harvest will come.
As in that day, so today, there are four kinds of hearts, and they respond to God’s message in four different ways. The HARD HEART (Mark 4:4, 15) resists the Word of God and makes it easy for Satan (the birds) to snatch it away. Soil becomes hard when too many feet tread on it. Those who recklessly “open their hearts” to all kinds of people and influences are in danger of developing hard hearts (see Prov. 4:23). Hard hearts must be “plowed up” before they can receive the seed, and this can be a painful experience (Jer. 4:3; Hos. 10:12).
The SHALLOW HEART (vv. 5–6, 16–17). This heart is like thin soil on a rock, very typical to Palestine. Since there is no depth, whatever is planted cannot last because it has no roots. This represents the “emotional hearer” who joyfully accepts God’s Word but does not really understand the price that must be paid to become a genuine Christian. There may be great enthusiasm for several days or weeks, but when persecution and difficulties begin, the enthusiasm wanes and the joy disappears. It is easy for fallen human nature to counterfeit “religious feelings” and give a professed Christian a feeling of false confidence.
The CROWDED HEART (vv. 7, 18–19). This heart pictures the person who receives the Word but does not truly repent and remove the “weeds” out of his or her heart. This hearer has too many different kinds of “seeds” growing in the soil—worldly cares, a desire for riches, a lust for things—and the good seed of the Word has no room in which to grow. To change the image, this person wants to walk the “broad way” and the “narrow way” at the same time (Matt. 7:13–14); and it cannot be done.
The FRUITFUL HEART (vv. 8, 20). This heart pictures the true believer, because fruit—a changed life—is the evidence of true salvation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:19–23). The other three hearts produced no fruit, so we conclude that they belong to persons who have never been born again. Not all true believers are equally as productive, but from every genuine Christian’s life, there will be some evidence of spiritual fruit.
Each of the three fruitless hearts is influenced by a different enemy: the hard heart—the devil himself snatches the seed; the shallow heart—the flesh counterfeits religious feelings; the crowded heart—the things of the world smother the growth and prevent a harvest. These are the three great enemies of the Christian: the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph. 2:1–3).
What heart do you have?
Are you growing?
Are you producing fruit (characteristics of Christ) that will last for eternity?
Is your fruit producing seeds that can be cast on soils that will fall draw others to Christ?
Dear Heavenly Father, Lord and Savior,
There is much to learn by going deep into what you are saying to us this morning. Thank you for your parables the show a picture of your true Kingdom and how it supposed to work, grow and harvest. Thank you for being a Master Teacher as well as our Savior and Lord. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for guiding us to Truth and understanding. Thank you for convicting and challenging us to live more productive lives as contributors to Your Kingdom.
In Jesus Name, Amen