Mark 4:10-11-“But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables.” NKJV
Mark begins this section of his gospel with Jesus teaching by the Sea of Galilee. In a previous chapter, Jesus had requested that the disciples have a boat near so that He could escape the press of the crowd. At that time, the boat wasn’t necessary, but now Mark let us know that the group has grown to such a capacity that Jesus needs to get in the boat to have some distance from the crowd.
“Then He taught them many things by parables and said to them in His teaching: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.”Mark 4:2-3 NKJV
If you have a study Bible, it probably has a subtitle that reads “The Parable of the Sower.” However, when you read this parable and understand what Jesus was teaching, this parable is not about the sower. The sower is not the main focus of the parable, and neither is the seed, although the seed is essential. In this parable, the seed represents the Word of God or the gospel of the kingdom, and that’s an important element of the parable.
In reading this parable, it is essential to know that the soil is the focal point. The ground represents the heart of the individual who hears the message of Jesus, which is the seed. There are four types of soil mentioned in this parable: the wayside, stony places, thorny ground, and good ground. Each of these soil types represents the heart of the individuals who hear the Word. Let’s learn what Jesus is teaching.
The first type of soil or ground that Jesus mentions is the wayside.
“And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.”Mark 4:4 NKJV
Jesus explains that not everyone who hears the gospel message will receive it. It will go over the head for some, and their heart will not be open to it. There is nothing wrong with the seed of the message, but it was as if the seed was thrown away for that person, so the birds ate it. An example of this is when someone hears the gospel, and they become hostile towards it, reject it, or mock it. They don’t even realize that the enemy stole that Word from them. It was wasted seed sown in their life because they were unreceptive to the Word.
Then we have the seed on stony ground.
“Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth, and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up, it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away.”Mark 4:5-6 NKJV
Jesus said this person also hears the Word and receives it with joy. However, this individual has no root to ground him, so he endures for only a short time. As he is persecuted or has some type of tribulation come upon him because of the Word, he is tripped up.
Since we are being taught about the kingdom, let’s just think about the salvation message. We have all seen that person who hears the gospel, and immediately they embrace it with joy. They are so excited, and we are excited for them. But we notice the next week, or so, they stop coming around. We find out later that this individual came across some things during the week that caused them to feel like what happened to them wasn’t real. They couldn’t handle the persecution from their families; they were thrown by the tribulations that seemed to come out of nowhere, so they stumbled. It doesn’t have to be the end for this person. They were excited about Him and received Him, but they had no root. Easy solution! They need to allow the seed in their heart to take root! They need to be discipled because if they aren’t, this seed will never bear fruit!
The thorny ground has a little more depth to it.
‘And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.”Mark 4:7 NKJV
Jesus explained that this person hears the Word but their heart wasn’t right when they heard it and they never allowed the Word to change it. Maybe this is that religious person we meet. They have heard the gospel and can recite the gospel but they can’t live it because the ground of their heart is filled with thorns. As they move forward in life, the Word doesn’t work for them like it should, they can’t get the victory, they still don’t know how to love others, they are challenging to get along with. Jesus said that the cares of this world, children drama, spousal drama, relationship drama choked the Word! The deceitfulness of riches, obtaining that promotion, making more money, keeping up with the Joneses, bigger homes, fancier cars, chasing things, got in the way! They became unfruitful! Maybe at one time they had some fruit, but they later became unfruitful as the thorns choked them to death! This doesn’t have to be their end. They can open up their hearts to the Savior and receive a new heart!
Lastly, we come to the good ground.
“But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”Mark 4:8 NKJV
This is the person we should all want to identify with. Jesus said this person not only heard the Word but accepted the Word as truth. This individual is excited about the Word and the Word has taken root in their heart and is producing much fruit. Their lives are blessed, they live what they hear and believe! They are the ones planted by the rivers of water. (See Psalm 1). This person will bear much fruit because the ground was ready for the seed. Jesus said that we wouldn’t all bear the same amount of fruit, some will produce thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred. That’s great news, because we are fruitful, even when we are not all producing the same way.
Let’s go back to the sower. The sower is the pastor, the Bible teacher, the Sunday School teacher, the conference speaker, your next-door neighbor, or friend. Anyone who is sharing the Word. In this text, the responsibility for bearing fruit isn’t on the sower but on every person who hears the Word of God. Only we can determine what type of soil our heart is in when we hear the Word. Lord, help us to have good soil, ready and prepared to receive your Word!
Being unreceptive, shallow, or too preoccupied with the world hinder the Word of God from taking root in the soil of our hearts. It hinders fruitfulness in our lives. This is why Jesus said it is such a vital parable, and it helps us understand others. What is produced in our lives depends on how we hear and understand the Word that is sown. Jesus said, “Let him who have ears to hear, let him hear!” Wonderful Jesus!