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Summary: God wants to produce a superabundant harvest in and through you. Will you believe it? Will you receive it? This message shows us what and how God wants to produce in and through us.

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GROWING AN ABUNDANT HARVEST

Mark 4:1-20

INTRO: This is the story of the sower and the superabundant harvest.

A. A sower sows

This is a story from everyday life. Its completely normal. Its about a farmer who puts on his long apron and fills it up with seeds. Then he walks over his field, scattering the seed with his hands.

This is typical of the farming practices of the day. First you scattered the seed around, then you plowed it under.

It was normal to throw seed over the entire ground, including the well-worn, compacted footpath along the edge. It would get plowed up later. If you weren’t quick about it, sure enough the birds would come and eat up all the seeds. And that region is legendary for ground that has a thin layer of topsoil with lots of rock underneath (familiar?). You wouldn’t know how rocky it was until you tried to plow it up. When those seeds came up, they wouldn’t survive the first withering heat of summer, because the roots on the new plants would be so shallow. And if there were thorny weed seeds lying fallow under the ground, you couldn’t tell, and you’d put seeds there too. When those plants came up, you’d be disappointed that the weeds choked them out, stealing nutrients and sunshine.

All of this is perfectly normal, part of the routine of farming this land. Then, something unusual happens...

B. A superabundant harvest occurs

Not all the seed fell on hard or difficult ground. Some of the seed fell on good, rich soil. It sprouted and grew, of course. Nothing particularly unusual about that. But look how much it grew! It produced a crop 30, 60, 100 times what was expected. If you are a farmer, that is a crop beyond your wildest dreams! 7,8, or 9 times was considered a great harvest. But this, wow!

Even though much of the seed doesn’t produce, still the harvest is huge!

Imagine putting your money in a CD at the bank and getting 30, 60 or 100 percent interest in a year!

What you’ve just heard is a parable. A story, taken from everyday life, that illustrates a spiritual truth. Something from daily life that is a picture of heavenly life. They come in many forms, such as similes, comparisons, proverbial sayings, etc.

This parable is one told by Jesus. Its recorded in Mark 4:3-9. Jesus told a lot of parables. In fact, parables were Jesus’ main way of teaching. Verse 2 says Jesus taught them many things using parables.

Mark tells us in verse 1 that Jesus told this parable one day while he was teaching a huge crowd down on the beach at the sea of Galilee. In fact, listen to how Mark 4:1-2 describes the size of the crowd. Read Mark 4:1-2. Jewish teachers typically sat down while they taught. Jesus has to get out in a boat off shore in order to have room. I’ve not been there, but my friend Will has. One night while at his house he pulled out his home video which shows how effective a speaking environment this was. The wind coming off the lake and the hill side make it possible for someone to talk in a regular voice and be heard all the way up the hillside.

C. Jesus then says its important to listen to this story

Well, that’s a good story. And apparently its important.

Jesus brackets the story in v. 3 and v. 9 with “listen!”

After he tells the story, in v. 10 his followers ask him about it. Here’s a place where I can really relate to Jesus. I always have people coming up to me and saying “What in the world were you talking about?”

They wanted to know why Jesus used parables, stories, and maybe you do to. Maybe you want to know what this has to do with you. Jesus tells you in v. 11. It has to do with a secret God has for you.

The purpose of parables, even this one is:

To reveal the secret to the faithful. Secret ("mystery") is truth previously hidden, now revealed. What is the secret of the kingdom of God? This rule, kingdom, has come into human experience in the person of Jesus Christ (Cf. 1:15).

This secret was given to those with faith - spiritual understanding and Jesus’ explanations - v. 34, even though they didn’t fully understand.

But parables were also used to conceal the secret from the faithless. Those outside - context is hostility and unbelief - 3:6,20,30

They got "riddles" - his message and mission was hidden.

Maybe you’ve had a math class that was like that.

Blinded by persistent unbelief, unable to see (2 Cor. 4:3-4).

"So that" - with the result, not purpose. Quotes Is. 6:9,10.

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