Mark 4:1–20 (ESV)
1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” 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 along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
What I think Mark is saying in 4:1-20 then:
a. Jesus has come to sow seeds for the renewal of Israel.
b. He sows everywhere (here is not particular)
c. The harvest will be great and will not fail.
d. The ones listening to Jesus will bear fruit if they do what he says
i. In Helenistic/Greek thought: (Sower=Teacher, Sowing = Teaching, Soils = Students.
ii. Jewish mind: God and Satan produce grief, hardship and ethical conflicts because of a cosmic battle. (God is the rescuer not the mind and education alone.
iii. The four soils are at the moment of the parable are the soils found in Israel at the time of Christ. Notice how the crowds, sick, disciples, religious leaders and political leaders respond to the word.
e. The disciples are learning first what everyone else does not yet know.
What I think Mark is saying 4:1-20 now:
Today we are sowers who should be bearing the seed of the person and work of Christ. Our focus should be on the task of sowing not soil testing and faithfulness not success.
How I think what Mark is saying applies to our lives today:
• What does this point mean for the non Christian today? Christ is renewal for those who believe today. John 3:16-17 If you hear the Word turn and follow Him by faith.
• What does it mean for us as citizens, as employees, and so forth today? Christ is renewal for the broken ways our world works. Don’t judge the soil of your co workers, friends and community. Bear the depth of the person and work of Christ in your heart (Ethics) toward all without restraint. Your friends and co workers should feel as if they have just been with Jesus (Our thoughts, words actions, desires toward them etc)
• What does it teach us about Christ today? Christ is renewal for His people. Christ’s kingdom cannot be stopped. The seeds of renewal have grown up and out of Israel and both fruit and sowers (of the message)can be found all over the Globe. Christ is our message His life, death and resurrection is like a seed planted left as dead and bursting forth into glorious life.
• What does it mean for us as individual Christians today? Christ is renewal for your life in Him. Find your worth and value in your call to sow not in the AMOUNT of harvest but THE harvest. God gives the increase. Continually look out for the that can stop you from sowing faithfully.
• What does it mean for our church as a whole today? Christ is our renewal from traditions, moralism and fruitlessness. We are here to become disciples so that we might reach our community for Christ (With HIS message and work)! We consume from God and other believers so that we might become better dispensers.
Readings for you to interact with this week…
- Monday reading: Q: Read Mark 4:1-20 again and think about how all the people listening to and following Jesus are responding so far in The Gospel according to Mark (The people: crowds, sick, possessed, religious leaders, political leaders, disciples, Jesus’ family) Are you seeing where the good soil is in the story? What kind of people are they (the ones with good soil). In the end of Mark do you think some of these “good soil” and poor soil people will surprise you with their reactions to Christ?
- Tuesday reading: Q: How do you see Isa. 6:9–10 being fulfilled in this passage? How has Israel’s “turning away” from their Messiah (or Christ) brought about the hope of healing for the whole world today? (John 3:16)
- Wednesday reading: Q:After reading these passages (Isaiah. 6:10; 43:8; 44:18) How do you see some of the false stories (below) contributing to Israel’s spiritual inability to hear and understand Jesus? Do you see any of Israel’s life story in your life story?
- the false story that “I am the center of the universe”
- the false story that “All that matters is what my small group thinks”
- the false story that “my nation is God’s nation”
- Thursday reading : Q: In Mark 4:10-11 The secret of the kingdom is being given to the disciples of Christ. Is this (secret giving and teaching)happening all at once or progressively throughout their journey with Christ? Do you see any similarities in your journey with God when compared to the disciples? What do you think Micah 6:8 has to do with our journey with God and understanding “the secrets of the kingdom”?
- Friday reading: Q: In the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) we say “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. What do you think the relationship between this prayer and the verse in Mark 4:20 is?
- Saturday reading : Kingdom of God, Kingdom of heaven By N.T. Wright:
“Best understood as the kingship, or sovereign and saving rule, of Israel’s God yhwh, as celebrated in several Psalms (e.g. 99:1) and prophecies (e.g. Daniel 6:26f.). Because yhwh was the creator God, when he finally became king in the way he intended this would involve setting the world to rights, and particularly rescuing Israel from its enemies. ‘Kingdom of God’ and various equivalents (e.g. ‘No king but God!’) became revolutionary slogans around the time of Jesus. Jesus’ own announcement of God’s kingdom redefined these expectations around his own very different plan and vocation. His invitation to people to ‘enter’ the kingdom was a way of summoning them to allegiance to himself and his programme, seen as the start of God’s long-awaited saving reign. For Jesus, the kingdom was coming not in a single move, but in stages, of which his own public career was one, his death and resurrection another, and a still future consummation another. Note that ‘kingdom of heaven’ is Matthew’s preferred form for the same phrase, following a regular Jewish practice of saying ‘heaven’ rather than ‘God’. It does not refer to a place (‘heaven’), but to the fact of God’s becoming king in and through Jesus and his achievement. Paul speaks of Jesus, as Messiah, already in possession of his kingdom, waiting to hand it over finally to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:23–8; cf. Ephesians 5:5).”