Summary: Jesus makes it plain that our hearts determine how we respond to God’s word. What kind of heart do you have?
Read or recite Mark 4
Mark records three parables of Jesus in this chapter that all have to do with gardening. The Four Soils, the Seed and Earth Producing of Itself, and the Mustard Seed.
How many gardeners are present here today? Sun, rain, seed and soil are all important components of a good vegetable garden, right? These are also used as comparisons for the kingdom of God in Jesus’ teaching. Look at Mark 4 and think about this. How did Jesus teach the word about the kingdom of God? What would we expect to hear about from him?
When the multitudes there in Galilee gathered to see and hear Jesus, he chose to teach them in parables. Mark says that Jesus didn’t speak to them without a parable. Does that strike you as a bit strange? Now we know from Matthew that Jesus also taught in sermons that were clear and direct without parables. But if you look carefully you will notice that those sermons were addressed to his disciples, not the multitudes.
In Matthew 5:1-2 it specifically says: 5:1 And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.
2 And opening His mouth He began to teach them, saying…
Notice in order here: 1. He saw the multitudes. 2. He went up on the mountain. 3. He sat down. 4. His disciples came to him. 5. Opening his mouth he began to teach THEM. Who is “THEM”? Is “THEM” not the disciples that came to him after he went up on the mountain and sat down? The Sermon on the Mount is for the disciples, not the multitudes. Jesus always explained everything to his disciples. His message to the multitude was more mysterious. Jesus himself made the distinction when he said, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ’Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’" (Mark 4:11-12)
These parables of Jesus are for the multitudes. Their explanation is for the disciples. There is a difference.
How do you hear Jesus when he speaks? That’s the question this chapter discusses. It begins with Jesus teaching and calling them to listen! It ends with the disciples recognizing that even the wind and waves listen to him.
Do you know the difference between wind and waves and people who don’t obey Jesus?
The wind and waves know enough to recognize who made them and who is Lord, disobedient people don’t.
As we look at Mark 4 today, listen to the word and hear what God teaches us through it.
Jesus begins with the parable of the sower. That is the one we will focus on in our lesson today. Actually, a better title would be the parable of the four soils. In this simple story Jesus reveals to us eternal truths about God’s word and the various conditions of our hearts.
Has anyone here ever had heart trouble? My dad died last September due to complications from a heart attack. Heart problems are not to be taken lightly. Heart problems run in my family. Both my grandmothers died from heart attacks and my mom takes medication for her heart. I’ve had chest pains before too, especially when both our girls got married within six weeks of each other. I think I’m doing much better now, but only God knows.
If you want a long life, take care of your heart. If you want to live forever, it’s even more important to take care of your heart. Jesus gives us what we need as he shows us what we are.
Jesus tells us about the worst and best kinds of heart condition here in Mark 4. He gives us four types of heart conditions, beginning with the worst and working toward the best.
1. The first is the worst. There is nothing worse than a heart that is hardened to God’s word. Satan has free access to such a heart and he keeps it clear from any chance for God’s word to have any saving effect. You know people who seem to be this way, don’t you? Not that we can ever be judges of the hearts of men, but we are not spiritually blind either. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them.” What does a hardened heart look like? You can tell by it’s response to the word of God.
Jesus pictures this heart as a pathway that is walked on until it is so hard nothing grows there. It becomes a table for birds to eat seeds from. It’s a heart that allows Satan to snatch away all saving words from God. Jesus didn’t tell us how it got this way or if there is any chance for it to change. He only lets us know that as long as this is the condition, there is no hope for entering the kingdom of God.