Summary: When you go and sow, the kingdom of God will grow.

Sowing the Seed

Mark 4:1-20

Rev. Brian Bill

April 30-May 1, 2016

How many of you plant a garden each year? Do you have seeds in the soil yet? I love that springtime is sowing time. I drove up to Madison on Tuesday afternoon for a speaking engagement and saw some farmers preparing their plots for planting.

Farming has really changed over the years. Tractors today are guided by GPS systems with sub-inch accuracy so that no section of soil is missed or any rows are overlapped. Seeds are precisely inserted into prepared soil along with a scientifically measured shot of insecticide to combat rootworm.

Some farmers still use horse-drawn planters and a few plant crops by hand. In Jesus time, farmers used a unique method for sowing seed.

Please turn to Mark 4 as we unpack the parable of the sower. Verse 1 gives us the setting: “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.” Jesus taught in the synagogues and He also taught by the sea. I love that He used different methods without changing the message. We must be willing to do the same. What worked some time ago might not work now. That’s why we’ve been emphasizing the importance of loving our neighbors, which we’ve defined as anyone in need that we come across. We’re to start with those who live near us and also take the gospel to the nations.

The crowd is massive so Jesus jumped into a boat and sat down. It was common for teachers to sit while teaching. The crowd is fanned up the sloping hillside in a natural amphitheater where they could see and hear Him clearly. It’s been estimated that up to 10,000 people could fit on this hillside.

In verse 2 we read: “And he was teaching them many things in parables.” The word parable means, “to throw something beside something else” and has the idea of placing two things together in order to teach a spiritual truth. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning, helping us to picture in concrete that which is abstract. Parables are like mental “time bombs” designed to be unforgettable and then to explode into meaning for those who are serious about listening to the Lord. There are approximately 35 parables found in the gospels.

Drop down to verse 10. I love how Jesus taught publically but also explained what He meant privately. That’s a good model for us. We must gather publically but also meet with Him privately in order to grow. In verses 11-12 He gives two purposes of a parable:

• They reveal. If someone is open they will understand the “secret of the kingdom of God.”

• They conceal. Conversely, if someone is closed and hardened, they will “indeed hear but not understand.”

In other words, we receive what we’re receptive to. If you are not open right now, you’re probably not going to get anything out of the sermon. Only those with receptive hearts will receive what God wants to reveal.

Verse 13 tells us that if we understand this parable we will be able to understand other parables as well: “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” Sounds like we better pay attention, right?

Fortunately, we don’t have to guess about the meaning of this message because Jesus provides an interpretation for the disciples beginning in verse 14: “The sower sows the word.”

Most parables have one overall meaning with lots of other applications. After reading and rereading this parable, I wrote down this summary statement: When you go and sow, the kingdom of God will grow.

Look at verse 3: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.” Jesus wants them and us to lean in and listen. The word “behold” is like saying, “Lo and behold!” and is designed to get our attention. Everyone back then understood how seed sowing worked. Perhaps Jesus is even pointing to a sower sowing while he is teaching.

A farmer would have a leather pouch across his shoulders filled with seed and would walk down paths slinging the seed out, much like we do when planting grass. The seed would be “broadcast” into all sorts of soil, some good, and some not so good [demonstrate by walking down the aisles].

The farmer’s goal was to get his good seed into good soil so it would grow because the seed has life in it. The seed is small but powerful and will produce fruit if the conditions are right. But it must be planted in good soil in order to achieve its intended purpose.

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