Four Hearts - One Soil
Mark 4 - Jesus perfected the art of parable telling. His stories were so relevant, so vivid, and so clear – people listened deeply and thoughtfully. Jesus drew people to action by these parables. He was so effective in communicating via parable that on more than one occasion some listeners wanted to kill Him.
Matthew 21:45-46 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.
The pattern Jesus followed was to take a common picture of everyday life that captured a person’s attention. Then Jesus expanded the story until it began to mirror some part of the listener’s life. Then if that person wanted to hear with their heart – that truth became a window into a spiritual truth that needed a response. Each correct response would open further truth. Christ's parables invited a person to examine and apply His truth to their life.
When the disciples asked Jesus why He used parables He explained that they revealed truth to some, hiding it from others. (Mark 4:10–12; Matt. 13:10–17). Thus the listeners were judged by what they heard. If it was nonsense to them – that meant their hearts were deaf to truth. If the parable made their heart seek to understand, they came seeking and confessing their need and Christ's truth was opened to them.
God's Word is truth. Jesus explained that we by our choices either prepare our hearts to receive truth – or to reject it. Truth is only heard by prepared hearts. This is so vital that Jesus mentions ‘hearing’ no less than 13x in this chapter. Genuine hearing involves truth acted upon and invites more truth. False hearing ignores and rejects truth and leads to further darkness. James defines Biblical hearing as understanding and obeying truth (James 1:22–25).
Jesus used the parabolic method so people would listen. After going outside of the synagogue, a crowd in the open air could walk away at any time. So Jesus had to interest them. The best way to capture people’s attention is with a good story and Jesus knew that.
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
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.
starts to target more than ever in His public ministry – individuals. Prior to
parables He was calling to the nation of
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.”
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