Summary: Different responses to the teaching of the Word of God.


Mark 4:1-9; Mark 4:13-20.

There were great crowds pressing to see Jesus, straining to hear His words, or perhaps hoping for a healing touch. The Lord entered into a boat and sat and taught, whilst the crowds stood on the seashore. The boat served as a pulpit, and the open spaces provided good acoustics.

We can imagine Jesus spotting a farmer sowing seed somewhere nearby, and using this to illustrate His own ministry. This parable (Mark 4:3-9), along with Jesus’ interpretation of it (Mark 4:13-20), is the most well-known of all His parables. Even whilst talking about it, Jesus was sowing the seed of the Word of God!

The Word of God is good seed: of that there is no doubt. So why is it that it does not have a good result in the lives of all those who hear it? The fault is in the soil.

No matter how well the farmer prepared the ground, there would always be some part of that rocky terrain that would not yield any fruit. On any account, seed scattered would not always land in the good soil, the prepared soil. No matter how ‘good’ the preaching, the Word of God only takes root in hearts prepared by the Holy Spirit (Acts 17:32-34).

Jesus speaks of four types of hearers, with four results:

1. There are those who hear and do not understand (Mark 4:4; Mark 4:15). The Word is snatched away immediately upon their hearing it.

2. There are those who seem to receive the Word in an emotional moment, and with much celebration (Mark 4:5; Mark 4:16).

Not everybody will be enthusiastic when you are converted. Some will mock and scold, questioning your sanity; others will bully and apply psychological pressure upon you to conform to the world; others will persecute and murder. Then there is questioning in the heart when it seems that God’s providence is against us.

There is no root in them, and they fall away at the first sign of trouble (Mark 4:6; Mark 4:17).

3. For some, the seed falls among thorns (Mark 4:7; Mark 4:18-19).

The cares of this world soon smother the good work that God would do in their lives. Those who lack, covet; and those who have riches must needs build bigger barns (Luke 12:18). There are dangers in both extremes (Proverbs 30:8-9).

4. Finally, there are those who hear and understand, and trust and obey (Mark 4:8; Mark 4:20).

How do I know that they trust? Because they bring forth fruit in their lives (John 15:16). A fruitless life is a rootless life: ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:17).

What is interesting here is the diversity: some produce a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. This is a matter of fact observation, rather than a criticism. Let us each do our utmost and our best, in proportion to the gifts and opportunities which the Lord has given us.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9).

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