Summary: Sermon on the parable of the sower. One’s response to the Gospel depends on the personal inclination of his will.
The Four Soils Mark 4:1-20
INTRO.: Why do different people respond differently to the same message? Why do some reject the Gospel of Christ and others accept it and live Christian lives? Jesus provides an answer to this question in the passage before us. We will become more effective and joyful in our Christian life if we will understand and apply the truth taught in this parable.
As we begin to read Mark 4, we find Jesus teaching a large crowd from a boat. We are told Jesus taught them many things by parables. A parable is a comparison. The English word comes from a compound word that means to lay something beside something else (similar to the word ”parallel.”) This is the first of Jesus’ parables to be recorded by the Gospel writers. Parables may be long or short, but they are meant to teach one basic truth. Many other truths may be drawn from the parable but they always revolve around one central idea. In this case, that idea is responding to the Gospel message. (Read verses 3-9)
I. Let’s take a close look at the story Jesus told:
A. The farmer sows his seed in a way that seems really strange to me:
1. It is indiscriminate. No real life farmer would ever plant his seeds in this fashion.
2. Commentators say the farmer was sowing his seed in a “broadcast” fashion and some seed accidentally fell in bad places.
3. A skilled farmer could keep this waste to a minimum. In fact, standing on the ground planting by hand, he could be quite precise about where the seed went, and seed was a precious commodity.
4. The sowing of his seed seems, from the text, uniformly generous. Jesus is saying God intentionally spreads the Gospel everywhere.
B. The seed falls on four different kinds of soil. I suppose they are typical of the fields through which the Master walked.
1. Soil on the footpath that went through the field was so hard the seed could not penetrate and it became bird feed. ILLUS.: I have seen gulls and crows following tractors through fields in Illinois hoping some seed would accidentally drop.
2. “Rocky ground” refers to land with a shelf of limestone running just below the surface. No roots could penetrate it.
3. Some soil, untilled, contained thorny weeds that would rob the seedlings of water, sunlight, and nutrients they need ti grow.
4. The good soil was good because it was prepared to receive the seed. It had been tilled and fertilized.
C. Jesus concludes His parable with a call for attention; “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Verse 9)
1. This expression is similar to some we use; we may say, “I have the ear” of some important person or “I am all ears.” It refers to sympathetic attention.
2. What Jesus means is that those who are open to His message can learn truth from this story.
3. Obviously, not all who heard were inclined to accept the truth Jesus taught. That’s part of the reason He taught in parables. (Verses 10-12
II. Jesus interprets the various elements of His story in verses 14-20:
A. Does Jesus have anyone in particular in mind when He speaks of “the sower?” He is not given any name or other designation.
1. Mark has Jesus saying he is a farmer who sows “the word.” Matthew calls it “the message about the Kingdom.” (Matt. 13:19)
2. Jesus seems to have in mind anyone who brings the message of God’s Kingdom to men. Anyone who preaches or teaches the Gospel.
3. Such an individual is working under God’s supervision and by God’s power in God’s field, the world.
4. This is the same seed of which Peter writes in I Pet. 1:23. It is supremely important this life giving seed be sown everywhere.
B. Each of the various kinds of soil represents a different outlook or will:
1. The wayside soil represents a heart that is very hard and can’t be penetrated by the Gospel. Satan is quick to take advantage of this attitude to rob a person of the blessings of the Gospel.
2. These cold hearted persons respond with rejection or indifference to the Gospel.
3. We can say they are possessed of an unresponsive will.
C. The rocky soil represents folk who hear the Gospel and respond on a purely emotional level:
1. Their faith does not develop deep roots through teaching and study of the Word of God.
2. When testing comes their faith is found to be weak and shallow because they have relied on fickle feelings instead of God’s Truth.
3. They are possessed of an impulsive will. They are just as lost as the unresponsive.
D. The thorny ground represents believers who fail to grow spiritually because of their divided interest.