Why don’t we get more excited when we walk through the produce section at a grocery store? Don’t we know how many things can go wrong in the process of going from seed to store? Now, the excitement of growing our own vegetables in a home garden is something else. We feel proud, we celebrate, we want to continue growing more and seeing how much we can do.
Today we’ll attempt to figure out why we don’t get more excited about the produce isle…and how to make all our vegetable encounters more like the home garden experience.
This parable was chosen for our Palm Sunday service because it is a perfect example of the rocky soil we will read about in the parable. There was so much joy as Jesus entered the city and walked among them, but just five days later, many of those people were the same ones crying out “crucify him!” What happened? They had some kind of faith, but it was not true saving faith that perseveres and bears fruit. Their joy and their faith were short-lived.
There were other responses as well–skepticism, confusion, superficial enthusiasm, amazed recognition. And this begs the question, how can people respond so differently to the same man and the same message? If the proclamation of the kingdom of God is GOOD NEWS, why is it not being universally embraced?
The same is true for us today. People often ask me, “if Jesus is really the Son of God, why hasn’t God made it more clear? Why don’t more people acknowledge this truth?” Hopefully this parable can provide some insight.
What’s the focus? There is some debate whether the focus is on the seeds or on the different kinds of soils, but we miss the point by just looking at one or the other. The focus is on the way the seed merges with the soil to produce a crop. Consider the different results as examples of how the message is being received differently by different kinds of people…
Mark 4:1-9 – “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. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 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. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'”
ON THE PATH
These seeds are not ploughed, so they remain available for the birds. The seed fails to penetrate the ground, just as the message of Jesus fails to penetrate some beyond their existing worldview.
- Mark 4:14-15 – “‘The sower sows the word. And these are the ones who along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.'”
ON ROCKY GROUND
These seeds have no roots. They represent shallow “easy believism,” the enthusiastic but unstable convert. They are overcome by the pressure exerted by the social or religious environment.
- Mark 4:16-17 – “‘And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 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.'”
AMONG THE THORNS
Though these seeds do not die, they are unfruitful. The call for disciples to make more disciples is not being fulfilled.
- Mark 4:18-19 – “‘And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 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.'”
In the end, none of these are of any value to the farmer, since what he is looking for is the production of grain, not mere survival of the seed.
These seeds produce fruit and multiply. It involves hearing the word, accepting the word, and bearing fruit. The last piece is not optional.
- Mark 4:20 – “‘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 hundredfold.'”
This challenges us in our common thinking that we’re “good” as long as we don’t stop coming to church or self-identifying as Christians. Jesus’ parable shatters this mentality and removes it as a valid mark of discipleship. It is never enough to just “survive” as a Christian, true disciples are those who bear fruit, those who make more disciples.
WHO SOWS WHAT?
WHAT? The Word = the word of God. God has chosen to reveal his will in the world through the message he has sent in Jesus Christ his Son…which centers us around the Gospel of Jesus, particularly the good news of redemption through His death and resurrection.
WHO? The unifying figure of the sower is not directly explained by Jesus’ interpretation. Perhaps this suggests that ‘the sower’ encompasses God as the creator, Jesus as the living Son, as well as us, his disciples on earth.
This parables exposes the responsibility we have as Christians to sow the seed of God’s word across our networks and neighborhoods.
HOW DOES IT GROW?
While our job is to sow fruitful seed, it is not our job to make it grow. Our duty is simply to share the truth about Jesus and ask others to consider it for themselves. Not to make sure it’s the perfect timing, or the perfect delivery, or even to know what kind of soil it’s falling on.
Mark 4:26-28 – “And he said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.'”
- We don’t make the seeds grow, GOD DOES. But we can water and pull up weeds and keep the ground as clear from impediment as possible.
- It should be freeing for us to be reminded of this, to realize that we participate in the sowing, but God alone has the power to grow the fruit.
- God also is the one that works mysteriously to prepare the heart to hear the word.
- When God works, abundance follows.
IS SOWING OUR ONLY TASK?
v.29 – “But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
After scattering the seed by proclaiming the gospel and asking others to consider, we enter the equation again when God has made the harvest ripe. This happens by having the chance to walk alongside those who have come to new life in Christ, sharing knowledge and encouragement, helping them grow to maturity, to ensure their faith is not temporary, but a saving faith.
Saving faith is what is illustrated by the seed in good soil. It is a faith that perseveres, that produces fruit, that multiplies thirty- and sixty- and a hundredfold. It is seen as disciples who make more disciples. This multiplication happens through the spreading of seed–not planting one seed and hoping to see it sprout…but SCATTERING seed, trusting that God is going before you, coming alongside, and continuing after you.
1. Look Up:
- How do we understand God’s character better by being reminded that he is the one that grows the fruit?
2. Look In:
- Is your faith a rooted, saving faith that multiplies fruit?
- If you’re not yet connected, consider joining a Fellowship Group.
3. Look Out:
- How are you scattering seed in your life? Who is God putting on your heart?