Lesson 17

The Gospel According to Mark

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

4:13 He said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How will you understand all of the parables? 4:14 The farmer sows the word. 4:15 These are the ones by the road, where the word is sown; and when they have heard, immediately Satan comes, and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 4:16 These in like manner are those who are sown on the rocky places, who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with joy. 4:17 They have no root in themselves, but endure for a while, then, when oppression or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they stumble. 4:18 Others are those who are sown among the thorns. These are those who have heard the word, 4:19 and the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 4:20 These are those who were sown on the good ground: such as hear the word, and accept it, and bear fruit, some thirty times, some sixty times, and some one hundred times."

Today's Lesson 

In Today's Scripture, Jesus provides an explanation of the parable that we discussed yesterday. This explanation is given to the few disciples that He had chosen. Yesterday we saw that Jesus used the example of the prophet Isaiah to explain why He spoke in parables to the multitude that had been looking for miracles. God had told Isaiah that he would speak, but that the people would not believe the words that God gave him to deliver. In the same manner, Jesus spoke in parables and many did not understand.


In a real sense, this parable also makes the same point. Jesus tells the story of the farmer who went out sowing his fields. Farmers usually sow their seed only on the prepared fields. This farmer is a little different though. Jesus said that this farmer sowed his seed everywhere. Some of the seed fell on the road, some on rocky land, some where thorns grew, and finally, some on the good soil that had been prepared. Jesus tells His disciples that this farmer is sowing the Word of God.


Each of these different situations represents those that heard Jesus speak. Some of them were like the seed that fell on the road. The ground was hard there and the seed did not sink into the soil. The birds, which represent Satan come and take the word away. Others are like the seed that is sown on rocky soil. The plant begins to grow, but it has no root. Because of the rocks, the plant cannot thrive and mature. Others are like seed sewn into thorny ground. It grows for a while, but other things grow in and choke the plant out. Jesus says that, "the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."


Some of the seed falls on the fertile ground that has been prepared. This seed grows and bears much fruit. This is the purpose for which Christ has come. Some hear the word and it prospers in them. On the fertile ground that has been properly prepared, the Word of God produces a harvest of salvation. God is the farmer and His word is the seed that He distributes. The word is distributed freely over all men. Some will respond. For others, the word seems wasted. But God has seed enough to spare. Unlike the farmer, He has an unlimited supply.


The work of the farmer is the same and the seed is the same. The only difference is the nature of the soil. Jesus is trying to prepare His own disciples for the day when they would be the ones spreading the seed. Not all men would respond with acceptance and joy. Even those who first accept the word may not continue to walk in it. Some have no roots and for others, things grow up in their lives that choke off the word. Jesus wanted His disciples to know that if this was true in His own ministry, it will be true in theirs later. Their responsibility to God was simply to distribute the seed. All other responsibilities were God's.


People are often taught in sermons and Sunday school that this parable is about the soil. We are encouraged to be the receptive soil that bears much fruit. But, as Jesus told the story and explained it, the parable is about the sower. Jesus was speaking to the multitude, even though many did not believe. One day His disciples would be responsible for sowing the seed. He wanted to tell them, "Sow the seed just like I do. Sow it everywhere and on every kind of soil." The parable was to encourage His own disciples during their own ministries. The people would not always listen. The disciples must speak and not grow weary even when they were not being heard, just like Isaiah. Just like Jesus.


Each of us has been given seed by God. It is the seed of His love, His grace and His truth. Are you distributing your seed freely wherever you go? Don't hold on to your seed until you reach the fertile soil. Spread your seed everywhere. Will you trust God to be responsible for the growth and the harvest?


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