Summary: This message seeks to answer why people can hear the same message but respond in opposite ways.
Although I have been a Christian for thirty plus years there are still so many things that puzzle me. How can people hear the life changing message of Jesus Christ and refuse to accept it? Why do people not jump at the chance to have all their sins taken away? However the biggest issue that puzzles me is this; “How do people hear the same exact words and react in totally opposite ways?” If I would pass these questions out as a survey, I believe that there would be quite the variety of different answers. At first this sounds quite discouraging, but take heart; God’s Word does provide the correct answers to these nagging questions. Today we are going to turn to the pages of the Readers’ Digest Condensed version of the Gospel to discover the answers. Which Gospel is that? Well, the shortest Gospel, the Gospel of Mark. In all fairness, I need to issue a warning; you might find the answers that we discover quite disturbing. In fact they may bother you deeply but if we honestly approach this text with an open heart and mind we will discover the keys that will enable us to become a growing and productive Christian. To really be what Jesus desires us to be, we must respond to the truths we find in this text honestly.
I. Setting the stage for a powerful parable.
A. The lake shore has become a regular location for Jesus’ teaching ministry.
1. The synagogues could only accommodate a limited number of people and the growing size of the crowds coming to hear Jesus required a much larger area.
2. Jesus resorts to using a boat so He could comfortably teach the large crowds that were pressing in on Him.
3. This particular arrangement would have been quite effective as this would have acted like a natural amphitheater allowing the people on the shore and hillside to hear Him as He spoke.
4. Scripture seems to imply that Jesus always had a small boat ready for moments such as these.
B. What exactly is a parable?
1. Growing up in Sunday School we were taught that parable was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
2. The Greek word for parable is parbole and it literally means something placed alongside something else.
3. Parable came in several common forms.
a. Stories taken from ordinary life to drive home a spiritual or moral truth.
b. Sometimes they took the form of a simile, comparison or analogy.
c. Once in a great while they could take the form of a proverbial saying.
4. Parables often presented more than one thought but the secondary thoughts were always connected to the main thought.
5. Parables were designed to cause the listener to discover important truths while at the same time hiding the truth from those who were too lazy or unwilling to see it.
6. There is an important warning about parables, don’t read too much into parables forcing them to say what they were not intended to say. All parables have one meaning unless otherwise specified by Jesus.
II. The elements that comprise this parable.
A. The main character of the parable is a farmer that went to his field to sow some seed.
1. Farming methods in ancient Palestine were quite different from modern methods. In fact the seed would be sown by hand and then plowed under to effectively cover them with soil.
2. Obviously the plants did not grow in neat rows like they do today. In fact regardless of how skillful the farmer was he could not keep the seeds from being scattered in those undesirable areas.
3. To ensure a good harvest the farmer would scatter the seeds in a very liberal manner.
4. The farmer would sow seed on both sides of the road to ensure that all available land was used.
B. The farmer planted these seeds with certain expectations.
1. Although we may view his methods as being haphazard, he did it in the most effective method for his time.
2. The farmer’s goal was to get the most seed as possible to fall upon the areas which had good soil.
3. The farmer wasn’t concerned with the fact that each seed he sowed had a one in four chance of survival. He simply hoped for a good crop.
4. The farmer’s main expectation was that his work would yield a crop capable of providing for his family.
C. The results of the seeds landing in various places.
1. Some seed fell on the hardened surface of the road where it would not be plowed under. This would have provided a great meal for the birds.
2. Some seed fell on rocky soil which was quite shallow and not capable of maintaining the necessary moisture. This would lead to the young vulnerable plants being scorched by the heat.