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
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 imagination. No 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 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 JewsorGentilesorthe 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 authorityandpower 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 onevery 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.
Mark stated that there was such a great multitude gathered there, He had to get into a boat to be able to teach and that the whole multitude was on the shoreline. Jesus was able to project His voice, which can be done without having to yell. Good preachers do not have to yell. Local tradition places His discourse at a place called the Cove of the Parables that is a natural horseshoe-shaped amphitheater. The acoustics apparently carried Jesus’ voice over 100 meters from the boat to a crowd of hundreds on the shore as He told about a farmer who sowed seed in his field saying that the seed fell on four kinds of soil, (a) along the path (b) on rocky places (c) among thorns and (d) on good soil.
Mark does not say whose boat it was or if any of Jesus’ disciples were in the boat with Him. I think that they were not there, because of the way Mark described it. It could have belonged to Peter and he may or may not have been in the boat.
The words used are πολύς (polys) meaning much, many or great; ὄχλος (ochlos) meaning a disorganized throng of people or an irregular crowd; πᾶς (pas) meaning all or every kind. This may have included the disciples and if so, they had to have been in the crowd. Later on we see that they found themselves alone with Jesus and we shall see more of this shortly. Verse two now tells us what Jesus did.
And he taught them many things by parables
Jesus sat beside the Sea of Galilee to teach. Unlike many modern trends where a speaker stands on a platform behind a lectern or pulpit that has practical merit, sitting was a typical posture for teachers. Sitting is an act of resting. Jesus’ act of sitting down to preach indicates position and authority, so it seems that although the workload was heavy (which is often the case in ministry), Jesus was at peace within Himself and able to rest. He was so much at ease within Himself, He could sleep in a boat in the middle of a storm!
When He grew tired, He sent people away. Kings sit down to dine at table whereas servants stand. When at a restaurant, waiters stand but those eating sit down.
If we are priests and kings unto God as seen in scripture, we should be able to “sit down” in rest in our spirits, despite things that seek to disturb our peace—the peace Jesus gave us.
He taught many things and the Greek meaning for this is also polys. What He said had to be very extensive.
He said exactly those same things to everyone present in parables—the crowd, religious folk and the disciples.
We need now to know what the word parable means. In the Greek, it is παραβολή (parabolē) that comes from two other Greek words, para meaning beside and ballō that means to throw. When we run them together it means a casting, throwing or placing things side by side. It compares one thing with another and can be translated as figure. The bible is full of types and shadows, figures, symbols and examples...or...Parables. Jesus used everyday events or things to compare them with spiritual truth.
If, for example you asked Him what something was like, He could have picked up a piece of fruit and describe what it was, that it had seed inside it and that when the fruit seed was planted, it would grow into a plant that in turn reproduced by growing more fruit after its own kind. He often said things such as, The kingdom of heaven is like... See Matthew 13, 20 and 21.
Interestingly, He told the disciples that the mysteries of the Kingdom were given to them and we shall elaborate on that soon.
Jesus was speaking in parables to everyone there. If you look at verse two, He taught “Them”—the crowd, the religious folk and the disciples, but no one, including the disciples at that time, understood a thing.
Mark said that Jesus taught them in His doctrine. This included everyone present at that point but we need now to look at the word doctrine.
It is didachē and before I elaborate on that, please look at something in the Hebrew that is very relevant. You may have come across the word tôrâ (תּוֹרָה) that usually means law, regulation, instruction, or teaching and it was originally used to describe the instructions for daily conduct that God gave his people. Proverbs 3:1 and 6:20 are good examples
Mark called it Jesus’ teaching. We call it His gospel, but so too did Paul in Romans 2:16, 16:25 and 2 Timothy 2:8. This tells me that we can and should make it personal, or make it our gospel and we can and should legitimately do that by saying what they said. This is perfectly scriptural. One such reference is in Hebrews 10:23 that states-
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)
That word profession is Homologia that basically means to say the same things that God says. What he says is not in a prayer book or a churhc rder of service but in His word, or the bible, but I hasten to add that the “version” you use should be as accurate as possible to the original language. Many modern translations lack that ring of authenticity, often missing things in the translation process.
We know that Jesus was and is still a Jew and so He observed all the Jewish customs and traditions, fulfilling the Law, but not annulling it. The problem was that the Jewish religious leaders had “twisted” The Law and turned it into the traditions of man that Jesus dislikes. He told those people in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to destroy The Law or The Prophets, but to fulfill them. He later touched on certain aspects of The Law such as murder or adultery putting it into right perspective with His famous, But I say unto you.
He said that one need not literally commit the act of adultery, but to think of it or have the wrong heart attitude. He made it real to life and added a dimension that the legalists did not know about and that was His doctrine. Such legalists and theologians today can share excellent information and that is what it is...information, but it can often lack that dimension of which I speak that brings light and life changing revelation.
There are two words to consider when thinking of doctrine. One is didache" that Mark used and there is another called didaskalia that Jesus used in Matthew 15:6-9 when He chided the religious leaders—the hypocrites who had rendered the unadulterated word of God ineffective by their teachings and man-made traditions and doctrines. That’s all most folk knew. They were never taught truth and it is a human trait that still exists. One way to put it to the test is to visit any church you like and look around you to see how many people bring a bible—and read it. See if the man behind the pulpit reads from one and encourages everyone to follow along with him. See if they follow an order of service when certain things take precedence over biblical principles. Check the fruit!
In Colossians chapter two Paul tells us not to let anyone tell us what to do with regard food and drink, “holy days”, sabbath days, “touch not, taste not, handle not” in verses 16-22 when he says that they are all according to the commandments and doctrines of men and not of God. See also 1 Timothy 4:6-11; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 3:15-17 and Titus 2:7.
There is indeed a pattern as I alluded to earlier and it was the pattern that the Father gave Jesus, who followed that pattern, adopting it as His doctrine.
He was teaching His doctrine and no one understood it. Even today, this parable is not always understood. People talk at length about the kinds of soil into which the seed fell and they may be right about that, technically speaking. They often liken their growth or lack thereof with the conditions of people’s hearts and again be correct. It is often used as a salvation message tool, but, although there may be such to glean that way, the parable is not about them at all. Let us now see what Jesus said before continuing.
Hearken; Consider this: A farmer went out to sow seeds. As he cast his seeds some of it fell along the beaten path and soon the birds came and ate it. Other seeds fell onto gravel with no topsoil and the seeds quickly sprouted since the soil had no depth. But when the days grew hot, the sprouts were scorched and withered because they had insufficient roots.
Other seeds fell among the thorns, so when the seeds sprouted so did the thorns, crowding out the young plants so that they could produce no grain. But some of the seeds fell onto good, rich soil that kept producing a good harvest. Some yielded thirty, some sixty—and some even one hundred times as much as was planted! Mark 4:3-8
I am a faith preacher and I am a personal friend of many large word of faith ministries around the world, but some of their teachings have gone into excess when it comes to money. Tithing is a contentious matter and on most occasions, is preached erroneously, because the tithe is not necessarily about money, but food that was to be provided to widows, orphans, strangers or proselytes and Levites according to The Law. The verse often quoted in Malachi relates to literal food, such as venison using the word טֶרֶף (tereph). Unfortunately when this is made to be a financial issue, the risk is that it becomes like one of those pyramid marketing schemes where most of the money goes to those at the top. Please conduct a thorough investigation into the matter. We all want to be blessed and increased in every area of life and that is our Christian heritage. It does include finances—but it is not just about finances. It is bringing release to captives.
God is about increase as demonstrated in the 30, 60, 100-fold principle. To explain, please look at a piece of money. It is printed on one piece of paper, with two faces, each worth the value shown but you will never receive more than that. If you multiply it by 30, you will receive 30 times as much as what is written on the note and no more. That is as far as it will go because that is simple maths and economics.
Please now look at any piece of paper. It also has two sides, but if you fold it over, four sides will be made, not two. Take 30 sheets and fold them over and the result will be 120 (not 60 if all that happened was doubling numerically). Take 60 sheets and fold them over, then take 100 sheets and fold them over. The results far exceed simple multiplication. There is a term called paging up in the printing industry. whereby one sheet of paper folded in 2 can make a 4-page book. Two sheets make an 8 page book. 4 sheets make a 16 page book and so on.
God’s multiplication factor however is limitless. Look on it as an exponential curve that if this continued unabated, the outcome could be something beyond our comprehension, like 30-60-100-500-10,000-1,000,000-fold and keep growing.
Scientists say that the universe is still growing or expanding. If this is true, perhaps it is because God commanded everything to be fruitful and multiply but to my knowledge did not give an expiry date.
I think that the Lord wants us to think outside the box. Religious mindsets limit God so much that He cannot do what He wishes to do.
Jesus could not perform a miracle in His home town for this reason, so please do not put God in a box. Conversely, do not treat God like a Santa Claus who keeps passing out gifts, because we tithe, sow money, or behave well.
On face value it may seem that Jesus is repeating His words, hearken and behold, like saying, “listen, listen”, but they are different.
We can hear something, like the wind blowing and not really pay any attention to it, or like hearing traffic noise when you are living on a busy road, but not really “hear it” because we get used to it and tune out. A visitor from the countryside however could have many a sleepless night because of all the noise! You can have the Television set on or a music CD playing and although noise is coming from them, are not really hearing a thing. The sound blends into the background.
When in a crowd of talking people, the voices are mere mumbling sound and unless we get close and listen attentively to someone in particular we cannot make out what they are actually saying. The word for hearken means something like that. It comes from a word that means we can hear it, but are not really paying any attention to it.
The original text says, Hearken! Behold. It means to listen and see. It talks of taking notice or having perception of it. You may have heard the term “seeing it” or “getting it”. Look at children in church or some adults too for that matter who are sitting there whilst the preacher is speaking and they are just not paying any attention. The Lord is basically saying, “Listen up and pay attention”. This is consistent with what He said afterwards, saying as one translation puts it:
If you have ears, listen! Mark 4:9
As we start to look at the parable itself, it seems that this person sowing the seed was not really very smart. He did not have the technology we have today of course, so clearing the land was not easy, but despite that, I see a problem here and it seems to be an attitude problem. Little preparation may have been the issue.
My father-in-law owned a large property where he raised cattle and two of his sons grew sugar cane. I often visited and helped out, growing some produce of my own as a part time hobby farmer on a small portion they let me use.
The sugar mill allotted a kind of quota called an assignment to the farmers each season and when they did, the farmers prepared new fields. My father-in-law hired a contractor to clear the land by bulldozing trees and ripping the soil open with a big D9 bulldozer.
He then followed up with his own smaller tractors, one of which was a crawler tractor with a blade in front and a single ripper behind. He also had two wheeled tractors to which were fitted different implements, like planters or a rotary hoe attachment. I often drove these tractors, preparing the land for planting more sugar cane and my own hobby farm products.
Sometimes I helped use explosives to blow some trees and after that, pushed them into a gully with the bulldozer. In this process, we removed rocks and debris like tree roots to ensure that the soil was ready for planting.
The aim was to prepare the soil and then arrange the soil by creating furrows that were ready to receive the seed or cane.
The sower in this story did not have such facilities and so did the best he could. He walked down the line throwing out his precious seed and it was very labor intensive, possibly with uncertain results. It was a kind of hit and miss process and we cannot adopt any hit and miss approaches in the Kingdom. Making sure that no seed was lost should have been important, but it seems that he was not as careful as he should have been and seed was scattered everywhere.
There are spirituals lesson in this, one of which is not to waste our time and effort and resources by being “seed throwers”.
Jesus wasn’t! He never did anything unless it was on an assignment given Him by the Father. He was a sent one, or an apostle.
That is what it means. If we want to be truly effective for the Lord, we must be sent ones and not went ones and the church is full of went ones.
I say that of the sower because of Jesus’ description as follows next.
This man allowed the seed to fall by the wayside and the word for wayside is Hodos, meaning a well traveled path, a road, a journey or a highway. Hodos speaks of habit patterns and they can lead to over familiarlty. There is a saying, familiarity breeds contempt and that should be avoded. Hodos is like getting too close to a pathway, a thoroughfare, a footpath people often walked on, or perhaps a well trodden trail that animals use regularly. In farming communities, such trails are made by cattle as they walk to the water source, or to the milking shed as a matter of habit and the land is treaded on so much, it is trampled flat.
The sower actually let some seed fall as if he was a creature of habit who became sloppy and careless in what he was doing.
It is little wonder that the birds of the air swooped down to eat it. Birds of the air can often speak of evil spirits, so if we associate this seed or the act of casting out the seed with spiritual activity like sharing the Gospel, the enemy immediately went into action to stop anything from happening.
The significance is that if you or I are attempting to sow the seed of God’s word, we should be wise enough to make sure we do so when we can be most effective. It is like casting our pearls before swine. People are so accustomed to their way of life, their mannerisms, habits or Hodos, that, unless we really have something to offer them, they ignore us and just keep walking.
The next thing Jesus mentioned was how and where the seed fell. Here, the soil was totally unprepared and was not ready to receive the seed. It makes me wonder why the man even bothered. He had not removed the rocks. I understand that there are different kinds of soil of course, but surely a wise farmer will do his best to remove what he can and prepare the soil before trying to plant anything. Once more, I understand that the facilities available in those days might not be conducive to this, but even a simple garden rake could have helped shift some of those rocks and expose good soil to give the seed a chance.
As I pondered over this, I thought of crusade events or meetings in which we ask unsaved people to attend. We want to see them be born again and rightly so, but there are a few problems we face. One is that in our enthusiasm, we want someone to raise their hand, come to the front to an altar call, say the sinner’s prayer and receive Jesus. That’s great. I do and encourage others to do likewise, but the problem is that sometimes we “force issues” because we want to see them saved. If we are “results oriented” we can keep pressurizing people so much that they will say that prayer just to stop it...to get out of the heat...to placate us, wanting us to quit.
Their hearts have not changed. The seed falls onto unprepared soil and they go away untouched, or touched a little without any substance. Jesus told us that no one can come to Him—unless the Father draws him. The Holy Spirit today is the person we need and rely on to succeed in our ministry efforts. When attempting to “win the lost”, we must learn to follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit and act only when the window of opportunity is open. Paul wanted to go to Asia in Acts 16:6 to preach the gospel which is a noble desire, but the Holy Spirit forbade him. It was the wrong time! Others now go to Asia with His permission.
A genuine conversion may indeed have taken place and we jump for joy and they go back to their homes, but the environment there might not be pleasant, or even hostile to the things of God and they may not be encouraged. They may be opposed and presecuted.
If there is no proper follow up, it is as if we have brought a baby into the world, leaving it to fend for itself and my concern is what happens to those people. Many churches cannot handle an influx of souls. Many churches want to have daughter churches and become involved in church planting,but the Lord never told us to plant churches—He told us to make disciples. His command to Peter in John 21, was to feedHissheep. There is an order of progression involved there from feed My lambs to feed My sheep.
Pastors cannot bear lambs—sheep do that. Pastors are to feed the lambs so that they can grow and mature and reproduce.
This means we take a newborn baby, feed it the milk of the word, help it grow to the full stature of Christ and help it in its newfound life so that it can grow and mature, stop drinking milk and feed on good solid food. They in turn then do likewise. Hebrews 5, especially verses 11-14 and some of chapter 6 then makes good sense. We need to remove the stones, loosen up the soil and make sure that the seed is planted in the right place at the right time. The latter is very important because there are distinct times and seasons in nature. There is a time to sow and a time to reap and in between there are times of weeding, fertilizing and watering the seed before the new shoots emerge. Jesus said that in conjunction with teaching this parable.
And He said, The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed upon the ground, And then continues sleeping and rising night and day while the seed sprouts and grows and increases—he knows not how.
The earth produces [acting] by itself—first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
But when the grain is ripe and permits, immediately he sends forth [the reapers] and puts in the sickle, because the harvest stands ready. Mark 4:26-29
Nine times in Ecclesiastes 3, specific mention is made to timing and to be really effective in ministry, we must factor this in.
Well meaning people often invite me to visit them to their part of the world and keep asking me when I am coming, even though I keep telling them that I do not know the precise time and that all the Lord has told me is to wait. Travel was impossible due to COVID-19 and has not yet been fully restored. I simply do not know what will happen and the Lord is not saying a word at present.
As I said earlier, Paul wanted to go to Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbade him. The need was there and the opportunity was there—but it was not the right time. He spoke of a fourteen year delay in returning to Jerusalem in Galatians.
Abraham would not wait and Ishmael was born and if you read his story in Genesis, God stopped talking to him for 13 years!
Impatience can be disastrous. It takes time to ensure that people are rooted and grounded in the word of God and capable of standing for themselves. People fall away because they do not receive good teaching in an ongoing basis. It’s good to have great meetings but what happens afterwards? We need to make sure we are not getting them to join our church, but to become disciples of Jesus.
Some of the seed fell amongst thorns or Akantha and this speaks of several things. In Matthew 7:16, the Lord used this same word to speak of false prophets. It is an illustration of those who have been exposed to the gospel of grace, only to forsake it for one of works.
In the parable, the thorns represent the ones who hear the word but turn their attention to the attractions of the world system.
The bible speaks of renewing our minds in places like Romans 12:1-3.
Before we are saved, we lived in the world system that is governed by the god (lower case) of this world and shaped by it according to 2 Corinthians 4:4. After we are born again, according to Colossians 1:13 we are taken out of that system and placed into God’s Kingdom. We have to learn new ways of living.
When this seed then fell amongst the thorns and briers without proper rooting, the issues of life, trials and testing, problems and difficulties, being exposed to lies and false teachings or allowing the old flesh life to dominate us, the seed could germinate but slowly dies out or the tender shoot is choked out and we revert to the old life.
Jesus then said that some seed fell in the right place, or the good and productive ground where it not only germinated but took root but thrived. We often major on the 30-60-100 fold return and link it with sowing and reaping and rightly so, but stop there. It is not about money as often purported and it is not so much as how much is multiplied, but what is multiplied—and how much is used!
Each of us is different. We have different DNA, education, opportunities in life, capacity to handle things, geography and other matters, each of which plays a part. A large framed man as an example may be able to lift heavier objects than a small framed woman. An athlete may need to eat more healthy food than an office worker. A growing child can eat a parent out of house and home whilst an older person might not eat as much as a youth.
Our abilities to comprehend things also differ, so one person can only handle a 30-fold portion, whilst another can deal with 100-fold. What is important is that we each make full use of what we can handle. A 30-fold person is no better than a 100-fold person so the percentage factors are not the issue—what we do with what God gives us is. It would be far better for a 30-fold person to use 100% of what he has than a 100-fold person only using a 30% portion of what he has been given.
Jesus told the same things to everyone present. The disciples were there. The crowd was there and the religious leaders were there, but no one understood what He said. Let us see what happened next.
Afterwards, when he was alonewith the Twelve and with hisotherdisciples, they asked him, “What does your story mean?” Mark 4:10
We have a tendency to assume things. We often think that Jesus only had twelve disciples, but that is not so. In Luke 10, we see that the Lord appointed an additional 70 disciples and sent them out on ministry assignment, so that makes 82 disciples.
John said that many of Jesus’ disciples left Him-
...It is the Spirit Who gives life [He is the Life-giver]; the flesh conveys no benefit whatever [there is no profit in it]. The words (truths) that I have been speaking to you are spirit and life. But [still] some of you fail to believe and trust and have faith.
For Jesus knew from the first who did not believe and had no faith and who would betray Him and be false to Him.
And He said, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father. After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him. Jesus said to the Twelve, Will you also go away? [And do you too desire to leave Me?] Simon Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words (the message) of eternal life.
And we have learned to believe and trust, and [more] we have come to know [surely] that You are the Holy One of God, the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of the living God. John 6:63-69
We have seen that merely being a seed thrower does not work. The Holy Spirit draws people, reproves the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and that the Father who sent Jesus enables us to come to Jesus. These things must be factored in when we are trying to do something for the Lord. Unless He is in it, we can throw all we like and nothing may happen.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:21-23
The Lord did not deny that they had done such things. They may have done what they claimed. The problem was that He had not authorized them to do so.
We have seen that there were 82 disciples, but there were more and some of them left Jesus for the reasons we touched on that included thorny ground, unprepared soil, cares of the world and so on, but Jesus had more disciples then these. In 1 Corinthians 15:6, Paul said that more than 500 brethren saw Jesus after His resurrection. So much for traditional teaching!
Therefore when Jesus had finished speaking, His disciples and others came to Him asking Him to explain the parable. We do not know how many there were, but it is feasible that many more than 12 were present. Could the five hundred have been there?
We do not know, but what we do know is that His disciples asked Him to explain the parable.
He had been speaking to a motley throng of people and after that, when He was alone with His disciples, they came to Him and asked Him to explain what He meant. He did not take the initative—they did! This tells me it is up to us as individuals to want to know more and take the effort to find out. God is not secretive, but it sure seems that way at times.
If it is not plainly revealed, we have to dig for it-
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a thing. Proverbs 25:2. See also Acts 17:11
It is often said that God hides many things from us, using such scriptures as 1 Corinthians chapter two and Isaiah 64:4 to say that the thing of God cannot be perceived by the ear, or the eye and so on, but from what Paul said immediately after that proves otherwise.
...But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16. Emphasis mine.
Paul clearly told us that the intellectual approach simply does not work. To understand the things of God, we must approach it all spiritually and not intellectually. The crowd was trying to understand what Jesus said intellectually.
Many theologians are like that, with the result that, although they excel in their fields, they do not seem to draw from the Holy Spirit those things that pertain to life and true Godliness—things that work.
In Luke 24 two of Jesus’ disciples were walking to Emmaeus “communing” and “reasoning” together about what had happened.
They were having a religious argument and it does not really work. Such reasoning is in the realm of the mind or the intellect and we know that this does not always work, because we rationalize things and often get into debate which they were doing. They did not recognize Him until He opened up the scriptures to them and they were His disciples! Unless the Holy Spirit who now represents Jesus and who is the Spirit of truth and our teacher opens things up to us, we cannot understand a thing!
Jesus’ disciples did not understand a thing He said until they asked Him to explain it!
That is very important. God will not force a thing on you. You must ask for it and when you do and are ready to both receive and retain it, He is there! Before I had read all the books in a bible and before I ever said one word, I freely admitted to the Lord that I knew less than nothing but wanted to know “The Truth” and asked Him to reveal that to me. Without knowing it, I did what those disciples did.
Them & us
Afterwards, Jesus, his disciplesandthose 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 theothers, 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 disciplesandthose 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 theothers, 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 wordand 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 thathe’s the Onewho 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. Thenyou 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; butprivatelytoHis 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 disciplesand 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...
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