The Gospel of Mark – Part 15
The Seed and the Soil – Mark 4:1-20
Mosaic Rockford – Dave Spooner – Nov. 3rd, 2019
- This morning we are returning to our series in the Gospel of Mark and we are going to focus on the parable of the seed and the soil with application to your life today. It has been three weeks since we have been in this Gospel, so in order to get to this parable, we need to do a review to refresh our memory.
- The Gospel of Mark was written by a guy named Mark (some places John-Mark). He came from a strong Christian family (Acts 12:12) and was a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), who was one of the apostle Paul’s significant ministry partners and traveling companions (see Acts chapters 11-16). Mark was with Barnabas and Paul on an early missionary journey and left before the mission was complete (Acts 12:25-13:14). Later, Paul wanted to return and visit the places they had been, and he asked Barnabas to go with him. Barnabas wanted to take Mark along with them and Paul would have none of it, so Barnabas and Mark went one way and Paul chose Silas to go with him (Act 15:36-40). Later, Mark was reunited with Paul and they were in ministry together again (2 Tim. 4:14).
- Mark also had a very close relationship with the Apostle Peter, so much so that Peter called Mark his “son” (1 Peter 5:13). The Gospel of Mark is based upon the preaching and teaching of Peter and was the first and is the shortest Gospel.
- The whole book of Mark deals with the question of the identity of Jesus. Mark starts this Gospel with his assertion: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 ESV). Mark gives us his conclusion from the opening line. The whole book, in what it records, is given to help the reader understand the truth of his opening statement.
- The question is asked outright in the middle of the book when Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I am?” and then more pointed, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-29). Peter puts forth his answer by saying, “You are the Christ.”
- After this point, this Gospel then turns its focus toward Jesus’ death and resurrection as Jesus tells His disciples three times what is going to happen. Mark records what, indeed, did happen, including the confession and conclusion of the centurion at the crucifixion of Jesus, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39 ESV).
- This whole book is about the “good news” the “Gospel” of Jesus Christ and each person after reading this gospel has to make a decision as to “Who you do say that I am” and either choose to put their faith in Him and follow Him or write Him off and go on their way.
- Mark records the highlights and the headlines of the story of Jesus to build the case for His identity. He skips over the genealogies and birth of Christ and goes immediately to the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture with John the Baptist coming on the scene to “prepare the way of the Lord.” Then Mark moves directly into the baptism of Jesus, followed by the temptation of Jesus and how Jesus started His ministry by “proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is a hand, repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV).
- Jesus then calls His first disciples and ministers with authority in His teaching, commanding unclean spirits and healing many including lepers and paralytics. People were coming to Him from all over and it became very difficult for Him to go anywhere without a crowd gathering.
- The religious leaders caught wind of what was going on and Mark gives us 5 “conflict” stories of Jesus’ interaction with the religious leaders in His actions and teaching (forgiveness and healing of a paralyzed man, the question of fasting, the calling of Levi and eating with “sinners”, the picking of grain on the sabbath, and the healing of a man with a shriveled hand on the sabbath (Mark 2:1 – 3:6). At the end of these stories Mark records that the religious leaders began to plot how they could kill Him. All the while the crowds keep growing bigger and bigger.
- Jesus then goes away to pray, appoints the 12 and gives them authority. Jesus then was confronted and accused by His family of being crazy and accused by the religious leaders of being possessed by the devil. Jesus uses logic from the Old Testament to refute the religious leaders and teaches who His family really is (Mark 3:13-34).
- This brings us to where we are today. Chapter 4 starts the section where Mark gives us four teachings of Jesus in a row about the word and kingdom of God (seed and soil, lamp and basket, the power of seeds, and the illustration of a mustard seed). After these four teachings, Mark then gives four examples of Jesus demonstrating His power and authority, first by calling a storm, then delivering a man from a legion of demons, healing a woman with a long-standing bleeding issue and raising a girl from the dead. This is profound and amazing stuff. So let’s jump into the parable of the seed and the soil.
Mark 4:1-20 ESV
Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
- We have the scene: there was a very large crowd that had gathered to hear and see Jesus. Jesus got into a boat and pushed out into the water to teach the people. And He used parables that were used to teach truth. In this teaching He used an illustration that they were familiar with and that was also timeless and effective for all generations. He talked about seed, soil and the results of the seeds in different types of soil.
- The seed is the word of God. The word of God is “sown” onto the into the soil of our souls by many different messengers (creation, illustration, proclamation, illumination). The seed (word of God) is living and active (Heb. 4:12) and it has the power to produce and reproduce (Isa. 55:11). His divine power has given us everything we need to life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3). It is good seed, it is powerful seed, it is effective seed and it is the same seed that is given to all, but it does not have the same result in all places. The question of production is not in the effectiveness of the seed, but in the receptiveness of the soil.
- Your soul and life is like a garden, and in your soul, there can be all types of soil. So, I don’t want you to see this is four different types of people (even though a person can be characterized by one type of soil) but for different types of soil in each of our souls. Let’s take a look at these four types: the packed soil, the parched soil, the preoccupied soil, and the productive soil.
The packed soil
- This is soil that has become hardened over time. And it has become hardened because of sin, the sin of others, or the sin that you choose. It leads to unreceptivity and unbelief. The soil has been hardened and dried up and the seed then is swept away by the enemy.
Heb 3:12-13 ESV
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Eph 4:18-19 HCSB
They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.
- The solution to this is recognition and repentance. It is to cry out to God asking Him to “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10 ESV). And trusting that He will give remove your heart of stone and give you a new spirit (Ezek 11:19-21). This could be the totality of your soil of your soul or it could be some portion of it, ether large or small where the truth of God had not penetrated your heart and it has not been producing fruit in your life.
The parched soil
- This is where you want Jesus to fix your problems but not change your life. On the surface you are receptive, but only to a point. When the word of God helps you, you’re in, but when the word of God costs you, you’re out.
Mark 4:16-17 ESV
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
- These things will come to all of us in many different forms. Scripture teaches us:
2 Tim 3:12-15 ESV
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.
- It is not a question of if you will be persecuted, but when you will be. We are to continue in what we have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it. In order to have the roots of faith run deep, it requires a heart that desires the word of God and the power of God more than anything they are or hold onto.
- So where is it in your heart that there are things that you want more than the word of God? Often it is comfort, or pleasure or belonging or privilege – which stems from sin and leads to unbelief and unfruitfulness of the power of the gospel in and through our lives.
The preoccupied soil
- This is the soil of our soul that hears the word and receives the word, but the word proves unfruitful because it is choked out by other things.
Mark 4:18-19 ESV
And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
- You hear the word and receive it in your heart. But the truth does not produce the fruit because our soil is also occupied, or preoccupied, by other things that are growing. And these things that are growing do so by default. They do so automatically because of the fallen nature of our world.
- These “weeds” are the cares of the world (our care, our relationships, our future) the deceitfulness of riches – the continual pursue of more, desires for other things (popular, to winning, to feeling good, to collections to entertainment etc.). These are not necessarily sin issues but are allowed to remain and are cultivated to grow to the neglect and demise of the word and work of God in our lives.
- In order for the truth of God to grow into the fruit of God, we have to be intentional and persistent in weeding out the other things in our lives that will choke out the space in our lives for the word of God to actively and productively grow. We spend way more time preoccupied with ________ than we do in cultivating the word of God in our lives.
Heb 12:1-2 NIV
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
The productive soil
- This is the soil that when the truth is put into it, produces the fruit in an abundant way. This is soil that has been softened by humility, has been cleared of hardness by repentance, has been cared for with intentionality, and bears much fruit.
Mark 4:20 ESV
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
- These are the places where you will reap the benefit of having the fruit of the word of God growing in your life. It is seen in loving good relationships, it is seen in wounds being healed, injustices set right, provision, protection, wisdom, power, peace, clarity, joy, thankfulness and salvation. It is for you, but it is not about you and it extends far beyond you.
- You will be like a tree that is planted by still water.
Ps 1:1-3 ESV
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
- In our passage for today, Jesus also quoted from Isaiah 6 saying that He spoke in parables “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven” (Mark 4:12 ESV). Reading this in the context of Isaiah 6, these were the people that intentionally hardened their heart to God and God gave them what they wanted which in turn kept them from the word and kingdom of God. Everyone who truly wants the truth and the word of God will pursue it and it will be given to them. But to those who do not they will not understand it or receive it.
- We are going to take time right now to reflect and look at the condition of our hearts with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. In places that are hard, seek healing and repentance. In places that are shallow, ask God to remove the stony places. In places that are preoccupied and choking out the fruit of the word of God, make intentional changes, and in the places that are doing well, be encouraged and keep at it!