There are about 40 parables attributed to Jesus. Today we will start exploring one of them, the Parable of the Sower.
Text: Mark 4:1-20; also found in Matthew 13:1- 23
"Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
"9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” 10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
A middle-aged man was distraught over his wife’s stubborn refusal to admit she had a hearing problem.
One day he asked his family doctor for advice how to convince his wife that she has a hearing problem. The doctor promptly told him that when he got home he could confirm the hearing problem by opening the front door and from there asking his wife what’s for dinner. Then the doctor said, if she doesn’t answer, move closer to the kitchen. Repeat the question again, and if she still doesn’t answer, move right up to her ear and whisper in it, “What’s for dinner, honey?” In this way, the doctor assured him, she’ll have to admit she has the problem. So the man raced home with joy in his heart and opened the front door. “What’s for dinner, honey?” he asked. His wife made no reply, so he moved closer to the kitchen and asked again. “What’s for dinner, honey?” Again, nothing was said. When he looked into the kitchen, sure enough, there she was at the kitchen counter. So, he tiptoed over to her and whispered in her ear, “What’s for dinner, honey?” She turned and looked at him straight in the eye:
“For the 3rd time, I said, we’re having MEAT LOAF!”
We see in verse 9 Jesus saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
This of course is about the hearing and understanding of spiritual matters. Those who cannot hear, do not get it, and those who can hear, clearly understand. Most of the time we read through this parable and think to ourselves, “I’m so glad my heart is the good soil that Jesus holds up as an example of strong faith. I feel sorry for all those poor people, not like me, whose hearts are rocky, weedy or hard soil”.
It is very clear that the good soil are people who hear and understand the Word of God. It is also clear that the other soils are people who have trouble hearing the Word of God. So, when we read a passage like this, I think we generally see ourselves in the best light possible. You know, because we go to church, we know all about Jesus, and we believe. So we take comfort in our belief and move on to the next passage. This is a mistake!
Do not make the assumption that your heart is the good soil simply because you believe. Notice that the twelve closest people to Jesus, the people who Jesus called, the people who were believers, the twelve disciples are so stumped by the parable that Jesus has to explain it to them in detail? The twelve disciples, at this point, cannot possibly be good soil, because they do not understand. If the twelve disciples are not good soil, what makes us so quick to think that we are good soil?
In fact, we might just be a soil of lesser quality. I think, at least one of the things Jesus was trying to demonstrate is that while so many have been exposed to the Word of God, they still fail to live productive spiritual lives. In this parable Jesus compares our lives or our hearts to various types of ground on which seed is sowed.
From this parable, we learn that the conditions must be right for God’s Word to produce a harvest in our lives. And we also learn that we must properly cultivate our hearts to ensure that the right conditions are present.
So, that's the question we're exploring this week. What kind of soil are you? And, more importantly for each of us, how can we work our soil so that our hearts become the good soil that Jesus seeks for us to be?
But the fact that the disciples don’t get it is actually good news for us. We see in verse 11 that Jesus tells them that the secret has been given to them. In effect, Jesus tells us that though the disciples do not get the parable now, there will come a time when they will get it, when they will understand it. So what was true for them, it also possibly true for us.
If you have ever done even a little bit of gardening, you know all dirt is not created equal. There is dirt, there is good dirt, and then there is extraordinary dirt. Sometimes you are blessed with great dirt and sometimes your dirt won’t even grow weeds.
When I lived in Michigan, near a lake, I was blessed with extraordinary dirt. My lawn was just phenomenal. I could take off my shoes and walk around barefoot, marveling at how thick and lush it felt. This was great, but I didn’t do anything to it, except mow it. I rarely even watered it. The lawn was so great not because of the care it received, (or in this case the lack of care). The lawn was great because it sits in good soil.
This is what we want for our spiritual lives. The more open your heart is to God, the better the soil is, the more our yield will be in our spiritual life.
I haven’t always had great soil. When I lived in Houston, the soil was bad, it was so dry and alkaline that only tough weeds would even dare to grow in it. It was nasty stuff, hard as a rock. You had to use a pick axe to get through it, and it turned to slippery thick mud when it rained. It was worthless. We'd buy piles of top soil just so we could grow something besides weeds.
Poor soil not only limits growth, but also produces frustration and anxiety for the owner. Frustration and anxiety are definitely not what we want in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Is it?
We are NOT merely victims of fate; that our cards are dealt. This is not what Jesus is indicating by this parable. Remember, the disciples did not get it; they could not hear and understand, but later were all saved, except maybe Judas, and the teachers of the law did not get it, but later even some of them were saved.
But, know that whatever type of soil your heart is that is not how it always has to be.
Tomorrow, we will take a look at this farmer.