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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Apr. 3, 2009

  • 2009 Apr 03

Four Hearts - One Soil


It’s been a long day. Jesus started the day teaching inside a home (Mark 3.20-21) and was approached by His own family who tried to “arrest” Him and drag Him back to Nazareth so they could ‘take care of Him’. Then He was attacked by the religious leaders (Mark 3.22-30) who said He was an agent of the Devil. He warned them that they were close to the sin for which there is no forgiveness. Then looking around Jesus explains who is really in His family (Mark 3.31-35) as He points to those at His feet.


Now He heads to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps the largest crowd yet has assembled. And He pushes out in a boat to teach them in a natural amphitheater at the cove by the sea. As many as 7-10,000 people could clearly hear Him speak from that ideal spot on the shore.


And it is here in Mark, That Jesus starts His famous parables. Parables are fascinating. Jesus didn’t originate them, but He did master them. Above all others Jesus was the Master storyteller and the supreme ‘parabler’. In the Gospels more than 35 of Christ's parables are recorded. Many others were spoken John says – but these are the ones He wanted us to hear.


Parables were primarily not for reading, but hearing. Not for studying but for heeding. And Jesus uses them to expose the hearts of His hearers. In His first parable, and most important parable, Jesus is the farmer, His Word is the seed, and the listeners are like soil. All the soils are essentially the same. It is the preparation that differs. One soil has become hard as stone, another has become shallow, another has become crowded, and the last – has become just right.


Jesus presents this parable with Himself as the farmer (Matthew 13:37) seeking to grow a crop. Everything, as far as farmer Jesus is concerned -- depends upon the harvest. All the soils get the same farmer’s sowing, the same seed, the same growing season, the same rainfall, and so on. But only one soil could be harvested, only one gave to the farmer what he needed and wanted. Only one soil made it to the end of the season and was carried home by the farmer. So from the perspective of the farmer – which soil was good? Only the one that gave a harvest!


Jesus explains that the soils are the hearts of hearers. The difference in the soils (hearts) is based on their willingness to accept to seed (Word of God). Jesus puts the responsibility for responding to His sowing -- on the hearers. He says some hearts are hardened, some are shallow, some are crowded, and some are ready and willing.

The Parable of the Same Soil

So here we are. Mark paints a scene on the lakeside; Jesus is telling stories from a boat just off the shore. By Capernaum to this day, the shore slopes gently down to the water. The water drops off so steeply that a boat can anchor close to the shore. The hillside is formed into a natural amphitheater that can easily hold 7-10,000 people sitting and standing – and everyone could hear Christ's voice as He spoke.

So Jesus begins by saying, “Look!”. Pointing off in the distance where a farmer is out working his field, “The sower went out to sow.” As He spoke their eyes followed the action of that farmer sowing. Their minds were engaged; they knew what He said was true. This is the essence of the parabolic method. And Christ's goal was always to take people from the here and now to transport them to the there and then.

Jesus always began with a common every day event that was happening at that moment on earth – and transported their minds heavenward; He began with the visible to get them thinking of the invisible; He began with the ordinary and led them to the extraordinary. Even a child could understand when Jesus told these stories.

But never forget that these were stories that first and foremost were spoken and responded to as they were heard. Jesus didn’t write them down to be dissected by the crowd – but spoke them to be mulled over and over in their minds.

Jesus went for an immediate response in their hearts. He wanted them to react in their hearts at that moment with truth and then either seek more – or sadly drift away. Parables are not allegories. A good allegory, like Pilgrim’s Progress, can be picked apart word by word. Every part has deeper meaning. Parables are different. They are short stories with a simple message. Not every detail of a parable has some deeper meaning. A parable is like a flash of lightning followed by thunder. The best way to study them is to ask – “What would stick in someone’s mind as they stood or sat hearing this for the very first time?”

Starting with Mark 4, Jesus has changed gears. The strong rejection of His message by the religious leaders in chapter 3 was followed by a switch to parables. In fact Jesus only uses parables from this point on in public teaching.

Jesus starts to target more than ever in His public ministry – individuals. Prior to parables He was calling to the nation of Israel to respond to the Kingdom of God. Now He asks for each person to examine their heart and see whether they would submit to God’s rule in their heart. So this parable is a presentation of the Gospel. Please join me at the lakeside, and listen to Jesus.

        Mark 4:1-20 And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” 9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” 10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “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, 12 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.’” 13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

This sermon continues covering:

The Heart that Seeks Jesus

1.    THE IMPENENTRABLE/Hard/insensitive HEART:


3.    THE CROWDED/distracted/divided HEART:




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