The Parable of the Soils (Mark 4:1-34)

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.

 

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 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, so that

 

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. 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. 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. 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. 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.

 

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

 

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.

 

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

 

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

- Mark 4:1-34

Mark-Parable-4Pics

Chapter 4 of the Book of Mark introduces us to the first parable listed his Mark’s writings. As we studied through the first 3 chapters of Mark we see that He is very “straight to the point” and concise. Not a lot of time is spent on any one story or teaching but as we arrive at chapter 4, Mark dedicates nearly the entire chapter to the Parable of the Soils and 2 other parables about seeds and soil. The time spent on these parables should be a strong indicator of their importance.

If you are reading the ESV or NKJV, the heading in Chapter 4 will probably say “The Parable of The Sower”. In reality this is really not about the sower but about the soils, which is our heart. This parable also illustrates the different responses we should expect when the Gospel is preached.

Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Soils

-Key To understanding all of the parables (v13) And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The purpose of parables is often misunderstood. People think that Jesus used parables to make difficult things easier to understand. The Parables were actually meant to hide & confuse the things of God from non-believers,
and to teach the things of God to the true people of God.

And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

- Mark 4:9

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 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, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.

- Mark 4:10-12

This was a direct quote from the Prophet Isaiah.

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

- Isaiah 6:9-10

This truth of this “hearing” of believers is affirmed in John 10:27

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

- John 10:27

Mark-Parable-JesusBoat

1. The Soil Is The Heart

The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their HEARTS, so that they may not believe and be saved.

- Luke 8:12

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

- Romans 10:10

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.

- Proverbs 4:23

In the parable, each of the soils explains a condition of the human heart before and upon receiving the Gospel or the “seed”. When we preach the Gospel to the world these are the different reactions we should expect.

We do not control the condition of the human heart.

The influence of the human heart is a very important truth to understand. If we were to control the status of the heart, our job of preaching the Gospel and reaching the world for Christ would be incredibly stressful.

-Did I encourage that person well enough?
-Did I present or preach the message of the Gospel well enough?

Our duty is not measured by the character of our hearers, but by the command of our God. We are bound to preach the gospel, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is ours to sow beside all waters. Let men’s hearts be what they may the minister must preach the gospel to them; he must sow the seed on the rock as well as in the furrow, on the highway as well as in the ploughed field.

- Charles Spurgeon

1. Path

And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.

- Mark 4:4

-Stubborn / Hard Hearted
-Walked On / Calloused

“Stubborn, hurt & angry at the world, calloused and closed off.” (Pharaoh)

Mark-Parable-1Path

2. Rocky

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.

- Mark 4:5-6

-Uncommitted/Unfaithful
-No Foundation / No Root

“Always moving from one thing to another in life. Never rooted much in anything. Here one day and gone the next” (Disciples who walked no more)Mark-Parable-2Rocky

3. Thorns

Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.

- Mark 4:7

-Pleasure Seekers / Idolaters
-Distracted / Pre-occupied

“Distracted by the things of this world; Food, Drink, Sex, Money Family, Sports, Hobbies, Facebook, Electronics” (Rich Young Ruler)Mark-Parable-3Thorns

4. Good Soil

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And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

- Mark 4:8

-Soft / Tender Hearted
-Humble / Poor in Spirit
-Eager to receive

“Humble hearted to the word of God, broken and committed to follow” (Peter)

(Called Satan/Storms/Left Family & Career/Endured Persecution of the Jews)Mark-Parable-4GoodSoil2. The Seed Is the Gospel

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word.

- Mark 4:13-14

The word “word” in v14 is the word “Logos”. This is the “Word of God” Jesus Christ, the subject from Genesis to Revelation. The Seed is sown when the Gospel is preached

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

- Romans 10:14-15

The seed is good and sufficient

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes

- Romans 1:16

The Word does not need to be packaged, dressed up or made “relevant” to be fruitful!

-The perfect band
-A charismatic speaker
-Have an “anointed” atmosphere
-Evoke people’s emotions
-Have the perfect production
-Hip Environment

WRONG!

The Gospel is the POWER of God unto salvation!
-not how appealing the seed is to the ground
-not how nice the seed looks
-not how relevant the seed is

The seed is PERFECT and without blemish.

What determines the fruit is the soil it is planted in. All the seed, water and fertilizer will never cause concrete to be fruitful. Man does not come to faith by the cunning ways that the church can market the Gospel and entice the world into the church. Man comes to faith by a heart of good soil and the POWER of the seed of the Gospel. We are ALL called to preach and sow the word of God, it is a command from Jesus.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

- Mark 16:15

The parable said that the sower… sowed seed…. into all 4 different types of soils. We do not get to decide who to preach to and who not to preach to. The sower sowed in all the soils, even the ones that would not produce the fruit. Jesus did the same thing when he preached the Gospel to the Pharisees, knowing the a majority of them were hard soil that would not bear fruit, yet Jesus preached to them anyway.

3. The Fruit is the Proof

Out of all the soils, only one bore fruit.

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.

- Mark 4:20

Fruit is the true sign of the good soil and of the true converted and regenerated Christian.

-Evangelism/Preaching of the Gospel/Discipleship
-Fruits of the Spirit/Holiness
-Health/Wealth/Prosperity

I tend to lean towards the first. When we as the soil bear fruit, our fruit is then harvested and the seed is then replanted into other soil. This is the model for discipleship. The fruit can really apply to all the fruit in a Christians life. A true fruit bearing Christian will grow in the fruit of the spirit. . . . in holiness. . . . in discipleship.

1. Path

-Satan steals the word
-The hardness of heart

. . . . . .No Fruit

2. Rocky

-Persecution & Tribulation causes them to bolt. “They can’t take the heat”
-This isn’t what I signed up for!

. . . . . .No Fruit

3. Thorns

-The pleasures of the world choked the world. “If the Devil can’t scorch you, he will distract you and keep you numb with the flashing lights and pleasures of the world.

Do you love the things of the world? What consumes your thoughts? Time? Money? Passion? Are you more invested in your hobbies, career, man cave, tackle box, Facebook page, little black book, bank account, new car, new house, tabloid/gossip of the world than you are of the things of God. You might be getting choked by the world. This is where most false convert Christians end up in.

. . . . . .No Fruit

4. Good Soil

-This is the only soil that bears fruit, but the fruit it bears is 30/60 and 100 fold! This was a MASSIVE crop! Most research and most scholars would tell you that a phenomenal crop would be upwards of 10 fold. . . so to hear that the good soil yielded as much as 3000, 6000 or 10,000% would be unbelievable.That is the miracle of the Gospel Let us be good soil, bearing much fruit of the Gospel. To the unsaved, let us pray the God would till the ground of the hearts off those who do not believe. I believe that the Lord can change the condition of the hearts to whom we preach the Gospel. He who created the heart can surely till the soil. Let us pray that there would be much good soil for us to sow the word of God into.

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