Jesus said, “Listen! Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and their birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it didn’t have much soil and it grew up quickly, since the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it didn’t produce fruit. Still other seed fell on good ground and it grew up, producing fruit that increased thirty, sixty, and a hundred times.” ~ Mark 4:3-8 (CSB)
In Mark 4, Jesus tells the crowds a series of parables, or illustrative stories Jesus used to make a spiritual point. The first was about a sower with seed and the different types of soils he encountered. When his apostles asked for an explanation, Jesus gave it in 4:13-20.
The seed is scripture, or God’s word. The sower is a person sharing God’s word with others. The soil is the condition of the listener’s heart. The path is where no soil exists and the seed of the word produces no fruit. The rocky soil is the person who hears and initially has great joy in the gospel but hard times cause them to walk away. The thorny and weedy soil is the person who also initially hears with joy but worries or desire for riches or other distractions draw them away. The good soil is the person who hears, responds in true faith, and has a life that is forever transformed by Jesus.
This parable tells us several things:
First, we should have no prejudice in spreading the gospel. We are tempted to think that certain people or certain types of people would surely never respond to God’s word, and we think others should hear it and believe in Jesus with no problem. The reality is, we don’t know the condition of a person’s heart-soil. We can’t see that deep. Jesus didn’t tell us to try to figure out the soils; he told us to sow the seed. Any person anywhere who will give us an ear is a person with whom we are called to share the gospel.
Second, we should be prepared when people walk away. As followers of Jesus, we often aren’t surprised by people who flat out reject the gospel. That’s the natural way of the human heart in its sin until our will is turned to Christ. We also aren’t often surprised by people who receive the gospel. That’s the whole point of evangelism, after all, to see people come to know and follow Jesus.
But we do get caught off guard by those who seem to be in love with Jesus and then they walk away. Yet, these represent half the responses in Jesus’ parable. Everybody dreams of a better life with more joy and purpose. Sometimes, the message of Jesus will pique a person’s interest due to the offer of an eternally joy-filled life. Yet, when they realize that doesn’t mean freedom from hardships now, or when the next big thing in their minds comes along, then they walk away.
They lacked a faith that truly sees heart-transformation. It should sadden us. We should pray that they would come to see the light of Christ clearly and truly follow him. But it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, Jesus told us to expect.
Third, a true Jesus-follower will experience life transformation. Good seed (which the gospel is always good seed) that falls on good soil produces fruit. Most often in the New Testament such symbolism of fruit represents a changed character—such as the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Not everyone will grow and change at the same rate—Jesus spoke of different amounts of fruit: thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. But a person who has truly committed their life to Jesus will experience spiritual growth. The good fruit of good character will become more and more evident in their lives.
Let us share the gospel with everyone who will listen. Then as that seed sprouts to growth, let us keep watering and fertilizing it with prayer, Christian fellowship, and more of God’s word to see it grow and produce more and more.
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