THE SEED SOWN IN VARIOUS SOILS

MARK 4:1-20

As we begin in Mark chapter 4, understand that this is a continuation of the same day that began in Mark 3:20. It was a long and very emotional day. The multitudes pushed around Jesus to touch Him, and He was so busy that He didn’t even have time to eat. And these crowds that kept coming and coming to see Jesus and be touched by Him were interested in physical healing, not a spiritual one.

Not only that, his family, both distant relatives and His mother and brothers came to get Jesus and remove Him by force so they could bring Him home. They thought He was nuts. They truly believed that Jesus lost His mind and they loved Him so much they were trying to rescue Him from this dangerous and maybe deadly situation He was in.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the religious leaders were spreading rumors about Jesus. They couldn’t deny the miracles He was doing, for that was obvious for everyone to see. So they did the next best thing, at least in their minds, and told the people over and over again that the miracles that Jesus was doing was not of God but of Satan. Nice touch!

Talk about your tough days, and it wasn’t over yet. This day will continue on till the end of chapter 4 where we find Jesus sleeping in the boat as they are crossing over the Sea of Galilee in the evening hours. This evening we are going to pick up our story in Mark chapter 4, beginning in verse 1, as we look at the parable of the soils.

MARK 4

VERSES 1-2

1. Once again Jesus is teaching by the Sea of Galilee and the crowds are so large that He enters a boat so He wouldn’t be crushed and all could hear what He was saying. And from this boat Jesus taught them the things of God, doctrine, the truths of God they needed to know.

2. Understand this, the crowds were large, but the reasons they came varied tremendously. Some of course truly wanted to hear the Words of God and that is why they were there. Others were only interested in physical healing. While still others wanted Jesus dead and were looking for ways to accomplish that. Plus, there were many more reasons why people were there but Jesus was interested in only one, He wanted their hearts. Jesus wanted people to know Him. He came to save that which was lost.

3. Are the crowds that had gathered on the beach that day any different than the crowds of people that fill churches around America? Not at all. There are those interested in hearing the Word of God. Those that are curious. Those that could care less. And of course a variety of others in between. And yet, for what ever reason people are there, the Word of God still needs to go forth and then it is up to the individual on how they will see that, how they will receive it. And we will look at that a little closer in a few minutes, when we get into this parable.

4. Jesus taught in the open for all to hear His truth, and many have rejected it. Now Jesus teaches in parables, which literally means "to throw alongside." A parable was a picture that was being painted using something everyone was familiar with and applying it to a spiritual truth so that people would understand that spiritual truth. A simple one would be when Jesus said "I am the door." John 10:9. He wasn’t saying that literally He was a door, but you could picture that in your mind, and understand that the door was used to enter into a place. Jesus was saying that He was the door to life, to the Father, and all who enter through Him will find that life. And so the parables challenged you to learn if you were interested, and if you weren’t, it was a veiled truth.

VERSE 3

1. The first two words that Jesus spoke were there to get a persons attention, to grab a hold of them and get them to focus on what is being said. Jesus is not only instructing them to listen to His Words, but to look very carefully at the illustration He was going to use. Here, a sower is going to sow seed. That of course was a very familiar picture for the people, they lived in a culture that were primarily farmers. And so as they begin to listen to Jesus speak, they may also be aware of farmers in the fields sowing their seeds. They were forming a picture of the story in their minds of what Jesus was teaching them.

VERSES 4-9

1. In these verses we see four types of soil in which the seed feel upon. And of those four soils, only one germinated and reached a point of producing fruit. All the rest didn’t make it. What in the world is Jesus speaking about? We don’t have to guess because in a few verses He is going to explain what this parable is all about.

VERSE 10

1. A time when the crowds were gone and the 12 apostles plus other believers asked Jesus what in the world this meant. Remember, these 12 were the ones who were to carry on the ministry when He was gone, and they didn’t get it! He closed verse 9 by saying "...‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" I guess they heard what Jesus was saying, but they didn’t understand it.

VERSES 11-12

1. Here we see a contrast of two different kinds of people. Those who are hungry to know God and His Word, and those who aren’t. And the point that Jesus is making is for those who want to know Him, they will understand these parables. It is not a matter of intelligence, but of the heart. Thus, those who reject God and His Word, these parables will be meaningless to them. It would not matter how smart they were, they still wouldn’t get it. And please don’t get the idea Jesus was trying to hide things from people or be deceptive, but because they refused to receive the truth, they wouldn’t understand it. If they would turn to God they would be saved, but because they refused, they were lost in their sins.

VERSE 13

1. This parable will be the key to all the other parables. Why? Because the symbols used in this parable will be consistent in the other parables. For instance, the seed is the Word of God. Thus, whenever you read of seeds in different parables, it is referring to the Word of God.

VERSE 14

1. The sower here could be Jesus and/or it can be anyone who sows the seeds of God’s Word. It could be you or me! The thing we must remember is the seed is of equal quality. One seed is not better than the other. The potential for growth, for fruit is the same in every seed. Now if the issue is not the seed, if that is a constant, then what is the issue, what is the thing that is not a constant?

That is the soil in which the seed is planted or sown in. And as we are going to see, the soil is going to represent people’s hearts and how they receive the seed, or the Word of God. We need to remember that God’s Word is living, it is powerful, and it has the potential to change peoples lives. What is the only thing stopping that, stopping God’s Word from working or producing? Our own hearts, the condition of our hearts, as we are going to see as we examine four different kinds of soils, or four different kinds of hearts.

VERSE 15

1. THE WAYSIDE OR THE HARD HEART

The wayside was a path that had its soil pounded down so hard that nothing could penetrate it, it was like concrete. And thus, as the seed is sown it can’t penetrate the soil, and it remains on the surface for the birds of the air to come and snatch them away.

The idea here is this, those that have heard the truths of God over and over again, who keep rejecting it, there hearts will get harder and harder towards God, never allowing His Word to penetrate into their hearts and transform their lives. The birds of the air are representative of Satan and his demonic forces. And that too will be a constant in the parables. And as God speaks to these people, they refuse to listen, and it is like Satan coming and snatching the truths of God away. These people are not saved, they bear no fruit in their lives.

VERSES 16-17

1. STONEY GROUND OR A SHALLOW FAITH

In Israel the land is very rocky. Thus, before you could sow your seed you would have to clear the land of the rocks. Also, there is a limestone shelf under the soil that at times would come up very close to the surface. Thus, this would not allow the seed to grow its roots down deep into the soil but only remain close to the surface. Yes the seed would shoot up and grow fast, but before it could bear fruit, it would die because its root system was shallow, there was no depth to it.

Some will listen to God’s Word for a time. But as soon as the heat of tribulation or persecution comes their way, they wither and fall away. They have no root system from which to be nourished by. Yes they may have initially responded, but it was all superficial, all emotional, but nothing was real. They too are not saved, they did not produce any fruit.

VERSES 18-19

1. THORNS OR A CROWDED HEART

Intermixed with the seeds are thorns or tiny weeds. And as the seeds begin to grow, so will these weeds. And they will eventually choke out the seeds.

The weeds that Jesus was speaking of are the cares of this world. There is a competition going on here between the Word of God and the things of this world and the Word of God is being choked out. The cares of this world speaks of the anxiety a person has over daily life. These things can consume your life so much that the Word of God can’t grow. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." That is the right perspective we are to have!

The second weed that is growing is the deceitfulness of riches. And the idea here is that people believe that riches will bring them joy, peace, rest, and-so-on. Their life is focused on attaining wealth. And you are being deceived. Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" You can be the richest person in the world and outside of Christ, you will have nothing. People can allow riches to choke out the work of the Word of God in their life.

And the third weed is the desires for other things. That is the lust for things other than God, or craving for things other than God. In I John 2:15-17 we read "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."

Again this person is not saved, they produce no fruit in their lives. The cares of this world are more important to them than a relationship with God. And the work that tried to start in their life was choked out by the things of this world!

VERSE 20

1. THE GOOD SOIL OR A FRUITFUL HEART

This ground is good, the soil is rich, deep, clean and thus, as the seed is sown it produces life, it produces fruit. These are those people who receive the Word of God into their lives as they hear it and believe it. These are the ones that are saved!

2. Now something that is important for us to take notice of, 75% of the seed that was sown did not produce any fruit, only 25% did. That means that fruit, not foliage, is a sign of a true believer. As Christians God asks us to be farmers in a sense, and sow the seed of God’s Word. As we do, some will fall by the wayside, upon hard hearts and it will just bounce off. Others will fall by the stoney ground or have a shallow faith that will never stand the heat of tribulation and persecution. Its roots were not sunk deep enough, and their faith was shallow, it was not real. Some will fall upon the thorns or the weeds, and the Word of God will try to compete with the things of this world, but it will be choked out.

But thank God that there are those that have hearts ready to receive His Word, and as the seed is sown, they accept Christ into their lives and their lives are fruitful. Thus, sow the seed and see what God can do in peoples lives. It is awesome! If you don’t sow the seed, or you just sow a couple of seeds, you won’t see anything happen! Sow the seeds of God’s Word as much as you can and see the harvest that comes in!