THE GOSPEL OF MARK – FOUR SOILS… FOUR DESTINIES

CHAPTER 4

FOUR SOILS… FOUR DESTINIES

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” Mark 4:1-20

Although this is a long passage, this parable and its interpretation need to be read and understood together as one. This is a familiar story, but its significance can easily be missed. In the Hebrew mind, stories were read for identification. According to Jesus, the Word of God is the seed. The soil is the attitude with which the seed is received.

Hard ground implies that beliefs and attitudes are so fixed that new ideas and new understanding have no place in the mind of that person. He refuses to entertain the idea that he may be wrong and needs to be transformed by the renewing of his mind. He is not open to truth and continues to live by the lies that shape his thinking and behaviour. The Word of God has no impact on his thinking and he just keeps living the old way with his unsolved hang-ups and issues.

Shallow soil represents hearts that readily receive the Word which begins to germinate and grow. However, the tender young roots soon meet the resistance of a hard layer under the shallow topsoil. There is an expectation based on a belief system that this new life does not meet – and the heart begins to resist the tests that are part of the character-building God is busy with. The new life eventually withers and dies.

The third soil already has stuff growing in it. The new plants of Christian character germinate among the weeds but, since there is no room for both, and since troubles and trinkets have a powerful hold, the delicate plants of character lose their foothold and die.

The fourth ground is fertile and free of other encroachments. The heart is open and willing to receive the truth and patiently applies it, learning to submit to discipline and receive the grace that transforms the life through a mind that is being renewed day after day. The fruit of the Spirit is being formed in the life; the character of Jesus slowly becomes a reality and there is eventually a full harvest of righteousness that imitates God’s character.

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Luella Campbell


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