Summary: One of Jesus’ most famous parables was the Parable of the Soils. In this parable, Jesus explains why people do or do not respond to God’s Word.

#18 The Parable of the Soils

Series: Mark

Chuck Sligh

A sermon on the Parable of the Soils

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TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 4, beginning with verse 1.


Illus. – An elderly man had serious hearing problems for a number of years. His family tried again and again to convince him to get a hearing aid. Finally, he relented and went to the doctor and was fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed him to hear at 100 percent.

A month later he went back to the doctor. The doctor said with a smile, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”

The old man replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around listening to their conversations. I’ve changed my will three times!”

It’s amazing what we hear when we really listen. In today’s text, we’re going to see how Jesus couched his teachings in stories designed for those who would listen. Then Jesus told one of His most famous parables, the Parable of the Soils or sometimes referred to as the Parable of the Sower.

Let’s start reading the first part of verse 1 of Mark 4: “And he began again to teach by the seaside…”

Though Mark has mentioned some of Jesus’ teaching so far, most of his emphasis has been on His miraculous works, revealing His deity. Now Mark turns from Jesus’ WORKS to His WORDS, His teachings.

Jesus’ teachings are unparalleled. Once even some of the religious leaders charged to capture Jesus came back empty-handed, for they said “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46)—so mesmerized were they by His teachings. Even the worst skeptics to this day recognize Jesus as a teacher par excellence.

The second part of verse 1 gives us the setting for this passage of scripture. – “…and a very large multitude gathered, so that he entered into a boat, and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.” One reason Jesus taught from a boat may have been because of the press of the crowds. But there is another practical reason.

Illus. – Commentator John Phillips tells of being in Palestine when he served in the British Army. He and some others were at the Sea of Galilee with a chaplain where Jesus taught and he noticed how the hill sloped gently down to the sea. The chaplain told him to go down into the water, turn around and begin speaking in a normal voice.

Following his instructions, he was amazed: The still waters of the lake behind him served as a sounding board and the hills before him were a natural amphitheater. He spoke in a normal conversational volume, yet every syllable was caught up and amplified and heard clearly by all the men sitting on the hillside.

Verse 2 says, “And he taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching he said to them…” and then Jesus told his famous parable. This was the first of several parables and pithy sayings by Jesus in chapter 4. A parable is literally “something thrown beside something else;” that is to say, it’s A COMPARISON of something earthly with something spiritual. Someone has said a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Something on earth is compared with something spiritual so that the spiritual truth may be better grasped in light of the earthly illustration.

Jesus’ parables were riveting because He opened up spiritual truth in a way people could understand. He used these homespun illustrations, drawing from the lives of everyday people. They are simple stories in presentation, yet they convey profound truths. Let’s examine Mark 4:1-20 and see what it opens up to us:


Verse 3 says, “Behold, a sower went out to sow.” This introduction would have immediately captured the audience’s attention. In that agricultural society, seeing a farmer going up the furrows of newly plowed field with a bag of seeds to sow would have been a common sight at planting season. The sower went out to sow and as he did, he threw out the seed liberally. Not all seed would germinate, so he needed to sow seeds in every bit of land he had to get the best harvest.

In verses 4-8, Jesus talks about the seed falling on four types of soil and the results on each kind of soil.

The first was WAYSIDE soil in verse 4 – “As he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside, and the birds of the air came and devoured it up.”

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