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The Parable of the Sower – Devotional Thoughts from Mark 4:1-9

Mark 4:1-9
1 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.”

This passage should cause us to go two directions in contemplation. One, we should consider the sower, and two, we should consider the soils as we make application to our lives.

Jesus teaches using a parable as He explains why different people respond differently to the gospel. He compares the human heart to four different types of soil.
The first is described as a path; ground that is hard packed, unable to receive even the smallest of seeds.  This represents the hearts of those who hear the gospel and reject it outright. As Christ-followers we need not be concerned with this soil as representative of our own hearts, for we are in Christ! But we should be aware that some will respond to the gospel with pure hardness of heart; though they have eyes they do not see, though they have ears they they do not hear.

Next, the human heart is compared to rocky ground; earth that has a thin layer of soil on top with hard rock just bellow the surface. The seed of the gospel is said to spring up quickly because of the shallow soil, but the plant withers away quickly with the heat of the sun. This soil type should certainly concern us as professing Christians. We must ask ourselves, do I have depth to my faith? Do I really understand the gospel? Have I truly sunk my roots down deep into Christ through daily abiding in Him and His Holy Word? This is a question that we should ask ourselves throughout our Christian life if we hope to endure faithfully through the trials of life.

After this Jesus mentions the seed that fell among thorns. This, given the culture in which we live, should probably be of greatest concern to us. Jesus, in verse 19, says that the thorns represent the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things. I would guess that many Christians find their spiritual vitality and fruitfulness choked out by these pervasive thorns.

Jesus then mentions the good soil. This represents the heart that receives the gospel with gladness and continues to cultivate a spiritual life of depth based upon the gospel. It should be noted that it is only this soil that produces a harvest “yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

As we consider the soils, we should be encouraged to daily tend the garden of our souls. We must submit to God and His Word, asking the Holy Spirit to till the soil for depth and to weed out any potential distraction to the kingdom. I trust that if we do this, we will be fruitful in our ministry.

When it comes to the sower, we should notice one thing – the sower sowed liberally. The sower did not try to discern the quality of the soil before he cast the seed. From an agricultural perspective this sort of behavior is foolish (perhaps Jesus wanted this part of the story to be shocking to His listeners as a way to draw attention to this principle). Seed was expensive in Jesus’ day and a good farmer would have made quite sure that the soil was good before he threw the precious seed. Jesus seems to be communicating that when it comes to the gospel of the kingdom it is not our place to judge the condition of the human heart or the readiness of an individual to receive the gospel; we are simply called to sow seed and to leave the rest to God.

I wonder what kind of harvest we would see if we would stop judging by appearance? What would happen if we shared the gospel more freely? I think we would find ourselves in the midst of a great harvest! Truth be told, it might be those who, according to our judgement, appear to be furthest from the kingdom who are in fact the closest. The reality is that we have no idea what God is doing in the hearts of the men and women and boys and girls who live all around us. God is constantly tilling hearts; some soil is prepared and some is not. The only way that we will know if someone is ready to receive the gospel is to preach the gospel to them.

Church, I encourage you to apply the twofold message of this parable to your lives. Ask God to till the soil of your own heart and preach the gospel freely today.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Joe

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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