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Core text

And He began to teach again by the sea, and a large crowd was gathered to Him, so that He entered into a boat, to sit in the sea. And all the crowd was on the land facing the sea.

And He taught them much in parables, and said to them in His teaching:

Listen! See, a sower went out to sow.
“And it came to be, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the birds of the heaven came and devoured it. “And other fell on rocky places, where it had not much soil. And immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. “But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. “And other fell among thorns. And the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop
“And other fell on good soil and yielded a crop that came up, grew and yielded a crop, some thirtyfold, and some sixty, and some a hundred
.”

And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark 4:1-9

The reason

You may well ask why we are talking about this parable and why look at our presentation. This is a valid and proper question.
I advocate—and will continue to advocate until Jesus comes, that no one should believe what someone else tells them. Put it to the test and I often quote Acts 17:11 that states:

...the people here were of nobler character than the ones in Thessalonica; they eagerly welcomed the message, checking the Tanakh every day to see if the things Sha’ul was saying were true.

It does not matter who you hear. It may be the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Queen, the President of a country, your local pastor...or myself. Don’t believe a word they tell you until you have ascertained that they speak absolute truth!

There are far too many “voices out there” promoting their relative causes and that is why we are told to test the spirits in 1 John 4:1.

The problem we face is that for hundreds of years, people have not always done that and have passed down their version of their truth, from generation to generation in such a way that the original message is nothing like what we hear now. What is called “the Chinese whisper” is a good example that you can prove for yourself.

I will use one of the most well-known “Christian” beliefs about the “Nativity story” to illustrate.

I like it and I like such traditional practices as having a Christmas tree that I put up every year—but they are wrong—totally wrong! The bible does not say that there were three wise men! We have assumed so because of the three kinds of gifts involved.

We assume that they arrived at the same time that the shepherds arrived and the angels sang whilst the animals stood around that crib, but it was nothing like that!  Jesus might not have been in that “stable” In Bethlehem when the wise men arrived. That stable in an “inn” may not have been like that at all, but a place used for visitors in a house. He may have been 2 years of age at the time. The angels appeared to the shepherds, not everyone else and the shepherds decided to see for themselves.

We assume too much and turn such assumptions into man-made traditions. In similar manner, the parable of the seed, or the parable of the sower might not be what you have assumed. My reason for making this presentation is to reveal the truth of the matter after receiving questions about the matter. This message is about reading scripture—and liking it—and “getting it right”.  From the very beginning of my walk with the lord, more than 50 years ago, I told Him that I did not want anyone’s second-hand version or opinion. I wanted to hear the unadulterated truth and to hear it “straight from the source”.
That is not a strange or weird stance. After all, if the scriptures are God breathed or inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness. Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to fulfill any assignment God gives you. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Peter affirmed this saying:

And so we have been given the prophetic word—the written message of the prophets, made more reliable and fully validated by the confirming voice of God on the Mount of Transfiguration. And you will continue to do well if you stay focused on it. For this prophetic message is like a piercing light shining in a gloomy place until the dawning of a new day, when the Morning Star rises in your hearts.
You must understand this at the outset: Interpretation of scriptural prophecy requires the Holy Spirit, for it does not originate from someone’s own imaginationNo true prophecy comes from human initiative but is inspired by the moving of the Holy Spirit upon those who spoke the message that came from God. 2 Peter 1:19-21

Parables

Parables should not be mysterious. They appear in the Old Testament and in the New Testament and Jesus often used them, picking something commonplace and well-known to reveal a spiritual truth. The problem is that we do not always rely on the illumination that the Holy Spirit gives us and in so doing, we miss seeing the often hidden truth that comes by revelation and revelation alone.

Many people say that we do not know what God is going to do or  that there are mysteries that are hidden from us. Whilst there are indeed mysteries, God does not necessarily hide them “from us”—He may be hiding them “for us” (see Deuteronomy 29:29; Isaiah 45:19; Daniel 2:22; Proverbs 25:2; Amos 3:7; John 1515; 1 Corinthians 2:10 and Ephesians 1:9-10).  It is up to you and me to discover for ourselves what God says and we can do this because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He reveals all the truth to us, just as Jesus said He would in John’s gospel.

He can and does reveal the meanings of the parables and in this instance it is the parable of the sower and the seed.

The Lord said that if we can understand this parable, we can understand all of them.

The first thing one should do is to check the background and circumstances. Find out who Jesus is talking to, or talking about; where it is, when and why He is speaking. This is important because we could think that God is talking to the church, but He is actually relating to Israel and vice-versa. This is important when studying prophecy. Paul said that God deals with three different classes of peoples in 1 Corinthians 10:32:

Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God.

God has a covenant with Israel that still exists. He has a different covenant with the Church and there are those who have no covenant, so there are three different groups of people with whom God deals. If we think that He is talking about the Church, but is actually referring to the Jews, our theology, especially with regard end time events, can be wrong.

For such reasons, we need to look at the overall setting in which a particular story takes place.

If we approach it in this way, we can avoid the common pitfalls  or misconceptions people have about prophecy and this parable.

Much focus has been on the kinds of soil, the way the seed germinates and the attitudes of the hearers, all of which may be true, but not see the real meaning of the story.

Mark opens with the statement that Jesus started teaching again, so that means He had been teaching before this. His ministry involved much teaching. His ministry consisted of preaching about the Kingdom of God, teaching the principles of God, healing the sick and as necessary, casting out evil spirits. Now if He said that we could do the same things that He did and commanded us to do likewise, it behooves us to see if we really are doing that. A minister of the gospel is supposed to teach and preach and do what Jesus did.

As I said a while ago, we can often gloss over things and not see the full or the real picture and can then leap to conclusions.

Let us see what happened when Jesus came to the shores of the lake where fishermen were washing their nets after an unsuccessful venture during the night.

He entered into Peter’s boat and asked him to launch out a little so that He could preach to the crowd. We have assumed this was his first encounter with the Lord and then started to follow Him, but that is not so. Let us see what happened in Luke 4:31-44. Please note my emphasis.

And came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath days.
And
they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.
And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying,

Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God.
And Jesus rebuked him, saying,
Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.
And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying,
What a word is this!

for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.
And
the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about.
And he arose out of the synagogue, and
entered into Simon’s house.
And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.
Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and
he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them.
And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ.
And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them,
I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

In that account, Jesus spoke little to the evil spirit. All that He said was to be silent and leave the man. The devils recognized Him—and they can recognize us. They know who are real believers.

They know who are blood-washed and Spirit filled believers and they also know who are the flakes and pretenders—church attenders and religious folk. This is a principle seen in Acts 19 when the seven sons of Sceva tried to mimic Paul and failed miserably.

I often say that if we really have “got “it”, we do not need to pretend or force issues. Sometimes we say too much. A church group recently asked me to come with them to visit a woman suffering from cancer to pray for her. Here is a transcript of part of the message:

Thank you for being obedient to the call on your life and you have and continue to be such a blessing over our church family. One of my best mates’ ....., his mum ..... has cancer and is about to have bone marrow stem cell treatment, an operation that could save her life or she could pass away from it. Lachlan’s girlfriend Jess goes to our church and he goes to another church but sometimes comes to our church. Myself and a couple others are going to her house and laying hands on her and praying and believing for a miracle. That there would be complete healing and no long term impact on her health.
You have a gifting in this area and I was wondering if you would be available to come and pray over her with us this Saturday morning. No pressure and no worries if you can’t. We are going to my house at 9:15am this Saturday to meet and pray before going in together and getting to ..... house at 10am to pray over her. Blessings...

The Lord immediately told me to go and what to do, so I was sent on an assignment. He told me what He wanted done and to lay hands on her and that He would do what was necessary. On arrival, ..... introduced me to everyone. I shared what the Lord had told me, explained the scriptural principles such as James 5, anointed her with oil and said that the instant I touched her, there would be an impartation from the Lord to her and He would do what He wanted to do.  It was clearly evident that He touched her and she later said that an intense heat suddenly flowed through her body. The Lord gave me a powerful and accurate word of knowledge concerning the family.

I had completed my assignment and told them so, saying it was a “done deal” and stood aside. Any more would be superfluous and get into the area of works. Everyone agreed, but they all had to have their own little prayer, each of which in my estimation, was weak and wimpy. The risk in doing things like this is “undoing” what the Lord wanted. They thought they were doing great but knew little and should have been silent. I am teaching someone some principles here. Paul told Timothy not to be too quick to lay hands on people.

All that we have to do is walk into a room and we can take Jesus with us, because we are carriers of the anointing. Paul says that we are like a fragrance of Christ, so we can leave a trail of that fragrance behind us as we pass by even if we do not say a word.

It has generally assumed that Peter did not know Jesus before the miracle of the fishes, but Jesus had spent at least one night in Peter’s home and healed Peter’s mother-in-law before the sea-side episode the following morning. It makes me wonder how many other incorrect assumptions we have reached. We have assumed when the scriptures say that they forsook all to follow the Lord, this may also be untrue. Peter was a married man with a home, possibly a family and had partners in a fishing business. He could have left someone in charge so he could become a disciple. Later in John chapter twenty, Peter went fishing and there were at least two boats there. We are not told whose boats they were, but if he owned them, he did not need to obtain permission to use them at that late hour. If others owned the boats they may have wanted them for their own use. I suspect that Peter and his partners owned these boats.

That is the setting for the story at hand, when, after the events in Mark chapter three, Jesus started teaching once more and crowds of people came. This is just what it was like in Luke 5. As I look into His ministry more, it seems that Jesus followed “patterns” and if this is correct, then if we know and understand those patterns we can apply the principles also—and get the same results. This is not an unreasonable statement because of what He said in places like John 5:37; 10:25, 32-38; 14:12. The more I look at His words, the more I wonder how effective I am in my own ministry and how I compare with Him. Even as I write, it challenges me. It’s food for thought.

The setting
Them & us

Afterwards, Jesus, his disciples and those close to him remained behind to ask Jesus about his parables.
He said to them, “
The privilege of intimately knowing the mystery of God’s kingdom realm has been granted to you, but not to the others, where everything is revealed in parables.
“For even when they see what I do, they will not understand, and when they, hear what I say, they will learn nothing, otherwise they would repent and be forgiven.” Then he said to them, “If you don’t understand this parable, how will you understand any parable? Mark 4:10-13

Afterwards, Jesus, his disciples and those close to him remained behind to ask Jesus about his parables.
He said to
them, “
The privilege of intimately knowing the mystery of God’s kingdom realm has been granted to you, but not to the others, where everything is revealed in parables.
“For even when they see what I do, they will not understand, and when they, hear what I say, they will learn nothing, otherwise they would repent and be forgiven.
” Then he said to them,“If you don’t understand this parable, how will you understand any parable? Mark 4:10-13

Despite the numerous commentaries and debates over the parables, Jesus revealed that when we understand this particular parable, it is the key to help us understand every one of them. If you do not think so, then look at the last sentence another way... If you do understand this parable, you understand any parable...

It is evident that Jesus had been speaking to a mixed group of people. They comprised ordinary folk, onlookers, spectators, religious people and more than 12 disciples. Clearly there is a case of “them” and “us”. It might sound simplistic, but if we are not “one of us”, or a true follower of the Lord, we have to be “one of them” and there is a demarcation line. If you are “one of them”, you will not understand it, but if you are “one of us”, you have every right to ask Him to unlock things that have hitherto been a mystery and receive the answer.

He might not give you the answer immediately, or give it to you all at once, but He will reveal His truth and His purpose.

He wants us to know the truth.

The devil does not want us to know truth because it liberates us and empowers us. It enables us to say and do what Jesus said and did. The devil does not care if you read a bible—he can do that and is able to quote bible verses, probably better than you can.

He misquoted God’s own words to Eve, who added words that God never said! Check it out! He quoted bible verses to Jesus in Matthew chapter four and if he did that to the Lord, he will do it to us also! If we really do not know what God says, not second-hand information, man’s opinons and commentaries, Youtube presentations (despite their relative merit) and other things, the devil will con you.

The devil does not care if we conduct much reseach and spend precious time in looking at expository preaching, hermenutics, apologetics, exegesis, tense, verb and mood and numerous sources of information (that may be valid), providing we do not apply it and put it to work. Jesus chided the scribes and Pharisees for such things. They could tell if a semi-colon or a comma should be used, but never saw His revelation in the words. Look again at page 2.

He has no revelation knowledge and this is vital. If he did, then according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:8, he would not have contrived Jesus’ crucifixion.

What he does is to try getting us to doubt, using such words as, “Did God really say that?” as He did to Eve, or, “If...” as he did to Jesus. “Are you really the Son of God? Are you really saved? Are you really going to heaven? Are you really healed? Who do you think you are?” When such things happen to us, which they do, we need to know what God has said. What satan does not want to happen is for the word of God to start doing what it is designed to do.

The seed is the word

Mark 4:17-19 speaks about the word and then in verse 20 Jesus said that the word can have 30, 60, or 100-fold effect and I touched on the multiplication or growth factor earlier. God’s word is creative and has great powerful effect.

It is what we do with God’s word we should focus on, nothing else.

After speaking about letting our light shine and that nothing should be hidden (in the same breath as speaking about the word), He said to them to take heed how they hear the word and He was talking to His disciples.

If we call ourselves the followers of Jesus, we should also take heed to both what we hear and how we hear it and this all revolves around the word of God.

There may be many good reasons why this is so, but one thing we can take to heart is the faith component, for without faith, we cannot please God and we know that the just shall live by faith. This now raises another point. Some people say that they have no faith, or little faith, but we have all been given all the faith we shall ever have according to Romans 12:3. The issue is how much we use. We can use none, a little or use much. We can use 30-fold, or 60 fold, or 100-fold and the measure is up to us.
In simple terms, the more we “use it” the more we “release”. It is like exercising our spiritual muscles and doing workouts.

There is a classic passage some people use about faith and it is in Romans 10:17 we see that faith cometh by hearing and this hearing is by the (Rhema) word of God whilst most theological studies are in the Logos component.

This kind of word does not come by glancing occasionally at the bible or reading only the parts we like; listening to someone read a passage of scripture in a sermon, but by personal diligent study. Paul told us-

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 2 Timothy 2:15-16

The Greek word for approved is Dokimos and it is a term used in metallurgy or assaying precious metals like gold. It relates to an ancient practice of shaving coins and collecting the shavings. Eventually enough gold or silver was collected and became valuable to the dealer, but the owner of the coin payed for it by weight and was so cheated of its full value.

Measures were taken to make this illegal and the full weighted coin was Dokimos.

The reference to rightly dividing is Orthotomeō that is derived from two words that mean to rise perfectly vertically and horizontally and making a straight, clean and clear cut. It is like dissecting something with great precision and accuracy and it is a term that applies to surgical procedures. Think of going to a dentist with toothache and he sticks that dreaded drill in your foot. That may sound silly, but I hopefully described what this means and unfortunately many Christians have such experiences when it comes to studying God’s word.

From Paul’s description, we can be cheated of truth and perhaps cheated of the lifestyle God wants for us if we do not apply this principle. As it is with our salvation, it has to be personally applied. God speaks to us in several ways. One way is directly through the Holy Spirit. He can talk in an audible voice but from my understanding and experience that is rare.

I have heard His audible voice once or twice in my life. God usually speaks to us through other people and through His Word.

The latter is very important. If we do not read the bible—and read it properly, we cannot hear Him. Paul stated:

...the evil men and sorcerers will progress from bad to worse, deceived and deceiving, as they lead people further from the truth. Yet you must continue to advance in strength with the truth wrapped around your heart, being assured by God that he’s the One who has truly taught you all these things.

Remember what you were taught from your childhood from the Holy Scrolls which can impart to you wisdom to experience everlasting life through the faith of Jesus, the Anointed One! Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness. Then you will be God’s servant, fully mature and perfectly prepared to fulfill any assignment God gives you. 2 Timothy 3:13-17 (emphasis mine)

Remember of course that it is best to depend on original texts as many modern easy-to-read translations might not be accurate.

If we really and honestly want to know the truth, we have to approach it in the same manner and that can sometimes take a little effort. We think little of spending hours in front of a TV set, but opening  up that big black book is another matter.

Interestingly, we can get a lot from little time in the word if we really want to do so. The Holy Spirit can speak almost instantly...

It is a conundrum of kinds because it is up to us, but thankfully it is not totally up to us, because we can have assistance from the Holy Spirit who opens it up to us and for us.

That is why the Lord told us to be careful in what we hear and how we hear it. I’ve found out that this works. When I was studying for my doctorate, the Lord started asking the same question, “Robert, would you like Me to teach you?” so many times I started to get exasperated, but did say yes. I told Him that there were many other better people than me and asked Him, “Why me?” He replied... Because you listen! We can all hear His voice—but are we listening? If we want to understand the things of God, such as the parables, we need to open our ears to listen to His voice.

This parable is the key that unlocks every parable. Jesus said that if we understand it, we can understand every parable.

Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. Mark 4:13-14

This parable is all about the word of God.

It is not about the different kinds of soil, although differing soils can have an influence. It is not about the kinds of people or even about the sower. To a certain extent, it is not about what they hear, but how they handle it, or what they do with it. It does of course, depend on who and what you are listening to.  In our troubled and uncertain times when it seems that humanity is in total crisis with all those things you know are starting to happen on an increasing scale, we cannot trust any other source for our information and help other than the one thing that never changes—God’s word. I might sound over the top about this, but pause and reflect on it.

The media does not always tell the truth. Social media can provide information but not necessarily truth. “Christian” commentators have their own opinions and do not agree on things. You will find so many debates about the identity of the antichrist, the end of the world, conspiracy theories, aliens from space and other things, you could finish up in a terrible state.

Everyone, including me, has their opinion. People push their pet theories and assumptions. Is the earth flat or is it a ball? Will we go through the tribulation, half of it or avoid it? We debate how we should do church. People argue about how often and in what manner we have communion, or if church is to be held on Saturday or Sunday.

Some people almost want to fight you about the validity or otherwise of the gifts of the Spirit and the five ascension ministry gifts Jesus gave us. We can argue and split hairs over non-issues and still never know the truth. Jesus spoke about knowing truth this way:

...As He was speaking these words, many believed in Him. So יהושׁע said to those Yehuḏim who believed Him, “If you stay in My Word, you are truly My taught ones, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:30-32

I hope that we are all concerned about our eternal destiny, or eternal life, but what is it? Jesus gave a definition in John 17:3, saying:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

That word know is ginosko that describes the deepest form of intimacy we can know. It is an intimacy of relationship with God who is a spirit in the dimension of the spirit.

Do your research to keep abreast of events by all means—but not at the expense of tapping into the only true source of truth and enjoying that intimacy of relationship anyone can have, if they want it.

This parable is about the word of God. In there, you will find the answers that work.

Jesus brought it to a conclusion in verse 34.

With many such parables [Jesus] spoke the Word to them, as they were able to hear and to comprehend and understand.
He did not tell them anything without a parable;
but privately to His disciples (those who were peculiarly His own) He explained everything [fully]. Mark 4:33-34

Let us see this in other versions:

Jesus used many parables such as these as he taught the people, and they learned according to their ability to understand.

He never spoke to them without using parables, but would wait until they were alone before he explained their meanings to his disciples

Afterwards, Jesus, his disciples and those close to him remained behind to ask Jesus about his parables. He said to them, “The privilege of intimately knowing the mystery of God’s kingdom realm has been granted to you, but not to the others, where everything is revealed in parables.

We can see now that Jesus spoke in riddles to everyone and no one understood what He said, but the time came when He was alone with His disciples and then—in private—He explained everything fully.

They came to Him asking for understanding. God will respect your wishes in such matters. It depends on how hungry you are for truth and not just for information. If you are content with your current relationship, that is your choice and I believe that God will honor your choice, but I am not content. After 54 years with the Lord this coming September, I am finally starting to see that the more I learn the more I realize how little I really know.

It may also depend on your position or role in life. In my secular career I became the National Administrator in Telstra of part of the project that computerized Australia’s communications network. I was trained to be a high-level technical manager and had to understand the principles involved that included human relationship skills, budgeting (millions of $$$’s), administration and the like.

I became a member of the volunteer sea rescue organization and that required totally different training.

A chef in a restaurant does not need such training and experience. Nurses or dressmakers require different training again.

As a minister of the Gospel, the Lord has given me a task that on last count reached more than 1.26 million people in a teaching role, so I am very careful that I “do it right” and do not teach error. Someone’s life may depend on it. Therefore I must do diligence in all of my research and in what I pass on. At this very moment, I have 26 different versions of the bible and numerous study aids open before me on my computer and can do much research—but I rely on what the Holy Spirit gives me when I ask for understanding and when He assigns a task! That last point is more often than not totally overlooked, but people still “do church” and do things He did not ask them to do...

If you are a disciple of Jesus, He can and will reveal things to you—provided you want Him to. You may not have a calling and such a need as they did, but it still behooves you to do your diligence as a follower of the Lord to find the truth for yourself.

Religious folk will try to tell you otherwise. Put it to the test. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the truth that Jesus said He would.

In closing, may I encourage you to get hungry...

Robert


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