Masterclass: The Gospel of Mark

Part 4: Plant Seeds of the Good News

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As disciples of Jesus, we are called to sow seeds. Many of us struggle to share our faith with non-believers because it can be really hard or just plain awkward. It is our duty as Christians to share God's Good News with others. Without us sharing Christ with them, they won't even have the opportunity to grow or choose to follow Jesus. So, rather than us seeing sharing our faith as something that's simply challenging or even, at times, frustrating or disappointing, let's choose to see it as a means of bringing the Gospel to those who need to hear it. Our job is to scatter the seeds and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

Why Did Jesus Teach in Parables?

Do you ever wonder why Jesus spoke in parables instead of just saying exactly what He wanted His followers to know? About one third of Jesus’ teachings were communicated in parables! Parables are simple stories meant to facilitate the understanding of deep spiritual truth. It’s been said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus was taking tangible life situations with which the listeners were familiar, and using them to uncover the spiritual reality they did not yet understand. In Mark 4, these parables were often about seeds, which the agricultural society of His place and day readily grasped. 

Parable literally means to come alongside. Jesus came alongside His people, meeting them where they were to help them grow in understanding of the Kingdom of God. Remember, Jesus Christ is our Teacher, just as He taught His disciples! When you’ve taught others in your life, whether in a classroom, in a home, or anywhere else, you’ve probably seen the “aha moment.” That moment when the student’s gears are turning and then suddenly their eyes light up and they just get it. That’s the effect Jesus’ parables can have on you and I. Since their meanings are not plainly stated, and instead can be discovered in many layers, we are encouraged to spend time studying and pondering and reflecting on them. In doing so, we leave room for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth!

Jesus taught the crowd that gathered by the lake in Mark 4 entirely in parables. With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything (Mark 4:33-34). Jesus interpreted His parables to His disciples when they asked Him in private. Even though He is not in the flesh with us today, we can still be alone with Jesus! The Holy Spirit is with believers in Christ, and will help our understanding of the Word of God. This is why personal Bible study is so important — it leaves room for promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The Parable of The Sower

He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” (Mark 4:3-8)

Jesus’ own interpretation of this parable is recorded in Scripture for us. Jesus is the sower. The Word of God is the seed. And man’s heart is the soil. Often, God uses people to plant seeds throughout the world. Starting at verse 15, Jesus explains the four types of soils — reactions people have to The Word. 

  1. The Path: those who are hard-hearted to The Word, unwilling to allow it into their hearts. 
  2. The Rocks: those who take well to The Word at first but don’t take the time to develop roots, and therefore fall away when tough times come.
  3. The Thorns: those who allow The Word to be choked out by the things of this world. The distractions, idols, and worries of life become stumbling blocks to growth.
  4. The Good Soil: Those who hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown (Mark 4:20).

How can you and I put Jesus’ teachings from this parable to use? First, we should consider what the soil of our hearts is like. Are we accepting the Word of God and helping it to grow? We can identify what sort of changes we need to make based on which sort of soil we are like. This can change over time, too — we can be good soil but begin to get caught up in worldly matters and become thorny soil. And, by the grace of God, we can be the path, rocks, or thorns and be transformed into good soil. Ask God in prayer to make your heart fertile for spiritual growth.

Second, consider what this parable implies for our efforts to share the Gospel with others. Not all seeds we plant will grow. We cannot control the soil we drop the seeds on. But the more we scatter, the more successful our efforts can be. That is our command. It is God who makes seeds of the Gospel grow, and who controls the harvest!

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to his own labor. — 1 Corinthians 3:6-8


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