Text: Mark 4
Summary: The Parable of the Sower. Resist the devil and run to the Head of HR, Jesus Christ. HR = Hear and Receive Jesus.
Father, we come to your Son, Jesus Christ, today. And we have tons of questions from Mark 4. We know that we are in a spiritual battle. So before we ask the questions, I come in the authority of Jesus Christ and I bind every unclean spirit. I rebuke you, I cast you into the abyss. I pray that there be no distractions. No spirits would bother us or torment us. We just want to have an audience with the Son of God, Jesus Christ and we want to ask you, Lord Jesus, questions, and we pray that the right questions will be asked, that all the answers would just be revealed and illuminated through your word. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen
From Mark 4, if Jesus were here and you could ask Him anything about the text, what would you ask?
Before I get into the kinds of questions I asked, let me first give you my conclusion. Resist the devil and run to the head of HR. Jesus Christ. HR – I’m not talking about human resources. Jesus Christ is the head of HR and that stands for Hear and Receive.
Jesus gives a parable of four different types of soils and to the crowd all they get is verses 1 through 9. They leave with no further explanation. And they are like the first type of soil where the word is given because everybody has access to hearing the word. The word of God was given, you hear it. But if you’re in the crowd or if you’re a Pharisee, if you’re a religious person, you hear it and then you leave with no understanding and you’re like the fulfillment of verse 12.
12 so that “‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
This parable in particular is foundational and every parable builds upon this.
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
There is a link between this parable and even the parable that we just covered, The Parable of the Talents and The Parable of the Minas. And if I were just to boil the theme one word, it would be faith. If you do not have faith in Jesus, you’re like the person whose seed was heard and planted but it just landed on the path. It did not penetrate. You’re like the one person talent who just buried it and you just walk away with no understanding.
But I don’t believe that applies to anybody in this room. I don’t believe anybody here is the one talent servant. I don’t believe anybody here is the path-like heart. Because if you were then you would be hostile to Jesus. You wouldn’t even be here listening to teachings and parables about Jesus. So that let’s just scratch that. That’s not us.
We know clearly in the first soil that Satan comes and he snatches the seed. We only hear Satan referenced in the first soil and we think, well, Satan is not there in the rocky ground or the rocky heart. Satan is not there in the thorny heart. We make a grave mistake by downplaying the activity of the enemy. Without understanding this world, much of life will not make sense. Unless you deal with the reality of evil, you will not understand this parable. You must believe that there is an enemy and that we as believers live behind enemy lines and every day is a fight. It’s a fight for our faith.
If you do not understand that there’s an enemy, you know what happens? God gets all the blame. When things don’t work out, when there’s a tribulation, when there’s difficulty, when there’s persecution, when we are being deceived by riches and we are worried and our life is not panning out, you know who gets all the blame if you don’t believe in evil? God gets all the blame.
So we need to believe that there is an enemy and he’s always on the attack. He may rest for awhile, but he’s always looking for an opportune time to attack. Satan is mentioned out right in the first type of soil, but he’s there in the other two as well, the rocky and the thorny soils.
So let’s look at the rocky heart in v16.
16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
And these believers are sincere, but they’re shallow. They hear the word with joy, they received the word but they are shallow. And so when the first sign of trouble or tribulation comes, they fall away. A tribulation literally means you’re under pressure, you’re being hemmed in and your options are being reduced. When you’re younger, you have so many options in front of you. As you get older, you realize your options are narrowing and you may have had a certain script for life, but if things don’t happen the way you envisioned, and you realize I’m running out of time and things are not working out, things are not panning out, there’s a pressure that builds in you.
And Satan will use that tribulation to tempt you away from Jesus Christ. Whereas God uses the same trial. He doesn’t tempt you. He doesn’t want to defeat you through the trial. He wants to build you up. And so every tribulation, every trial, there’s a choice. We can allow Satan to tempt us and defeat us and drag us down, or we can let God build us up.
Persecution literally means you’re being hunted down like an animal because of your faith. It says there will be tribulation and persecution that will arise on account of the word.
And the one question that I had when I read this is, what is the “word?” What is the “word” which if you fall away from this “word,” you lose everything? Because you might think it’s a generic term for “logos” which means “word” in the Greek.
You might think, I can pick anything in the Bible. The Bible mentions discipleship. So if I fall away and I stopped being a disciple maker when tribulation comes, then I lose everything? Is that the “word” that Jesus is talking about?
Or is it church? A lot of people talk about how important church is and that’s included in the word, so if we fall away from church attendance, then you lose everything? Is that what it’s talking about?
When it says logos, we know that logos is not an idea, but it is a person, Jesus Christ. So Jesus is the Word and so I am a sower and I am sowing Jesus to you today. I’m offering Jesus to you today and you have a choice whether to understand and wrestle with Jesus regarding your life. And with Jesus, you’re wrestling and trying to seek to understand and eventually receive or to reject. I am sowing Jesus to you today that He is the word.
Because if you fall away from Jesus because of tribulation, then you’ve lost everything. If you fall away because of the persecution and you renounce your faith in Jesus, you’ve lost everything. So it is the word that is being sown and this is the foundational parable on which all the other parables are built. It is faith In Jesus.
How do I know so confidently that this is talking about faith. I mean, we can bear all kinds of fruit. You can bear the fruit of love. You can bear the fruit of patience. You can bear the fruit of self-control and gentleness. Or one of the fruits of the spirit is faithfulness or faith. And to me that is the beginning. If you do not have faith, you don’t have any other fruit of the Spirit. It starts with faith.
Why can I be so confident that Jesus is talking about faith? One of the questions asked was, what does Jesus think of of the hearts of the disciples? Are they good soil? Are they fruitful because fruit is not external. The fruit is internal. We are the fruit. So would you look at this clan and say they are fruit bearing, that they have 30, 60, 100 times fruit?
And you might say, well, Jesus said I explained it to my disciples and isn’t an explanation enough. They heard it. They didn’t walk away like the crowd. They heard it. They asked Jesus and because they understand, does it mean automatically they had hundredfold fruit just by hearing and understanding? We may make the mistake that by understanding what this text is about, it automatically means I will bear fruit. That is not true because it starts with faith.
Bearing a hundredfold amount of faith and then along with faith, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith and self-control. It starts with faith. How do I know it’s faith? Because Mark chapter 4 ends with Jesus calming a storm and he says of them, have you still no faith? This chapter is all about faith, the same way the Parable of the Talents was all about faith. The Parable of the Minas was all about faith. This is the foundational parable on which all the parables sit. It is about faith in Jesus.
Why do I say it’s connected to the other parables?
24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. 25 For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Verse 25 sounds familiar. It’s the same line that Jesus gives in the Parable of the Talents. Because if you have one portion, one measurement of faith, it can grow to two. And two can go to four, and four can go to eight, and it can be 30, 60, 100 fold. There is no limit to how much your faith can grow.
And it says with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. That’s referenced in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 7, where it says do not judge because with the measure you use to pronounce judgment on other people, that measurement will be used to you, and that’s a punitive thing. Right? Like don’t be that kind of a judgmental person. But here when it says the measure you use, it’s positive. You use one portion of faith, God will measure out a second portion and He will give it to you. You exercise two portions of faith, God will measure out an additional two, and you’ll have four. See this is positive because He’s adding.
The more you use, He’s adding to it. This is all about faith. So the last time you were under a tribulation, you were under a pressure situation, when life didn’t turn out, because remember everything is a preparation for a possibly a final test. The final test is when the nation’s hate us and they’re rounding us up to be killed. That is the final test and there are small tests along the way. When was the last test that you can recall when you were in a pressure situation and you’re hemmed in and your options were being taken away from you, how did you respond?
If you have a thorny heart or rocky heart, did that thing derail you and Satan had a field day through that tribulation? You have to understand that it’s a spiritual battle every day and so we resist the devil. Do we just resist and in our own resolve, do we just say, I’m stronger than the devil. No, you’re not stronger than the devil. He will wipe you out, he will deceive you. He will devour you. But if you run to Jesus Christ, Jesus is stronger than the devil and Jesus Himself will protect you and guard you and keep you. So you have to understand that there is a tribulation, a test, a trial, possibly at the end times, persecution, how you respond to these things that can derail us, it’s all about faith.
If you start shaking your fist at God, Satan has won. If you say, God you did this to me, God you don’t love me, you didn’t give this to me, I’ve served you all these years, then Satan is winning. You have to recognize there is a tribulation that is upon you and how you respond, is it faith?
Or is it departing from the faith, a falling away?
Actually, the word for falling away is “offended.” We’ve talked about that word. It’s when John the Baptist was in prison and he was wondering, why is my life turning out like this? I didn’t sign up for this. I just spoke the truth to Herod and now I’m in prison. This is not what I signed up for and he was being offended and so he asked his disciples, can you go to Jesus and ask him, are you the one? He’s being offended. He’s on the verge of falling away. Even John the Baptist as great as he is because his life didn’t pan out the way he had hoped. But John the Baptist is a great man, because he did not fall away. He was on the verge of being offended by this final tribulation that he had to undergo, and he expressed his faith in Jesus to the end. That’s why Jesus commends him.
So think back to the last time you were under a tribulation, a trial, a test. Were you offended at Jesus? Or did you express your faith in Jesus, saying, Jesus, I bring the situation to you. I don’t understand why it’s happening, but I trust you. That’s how you overcome. That’s how you overcome. You bring the uncertainty, the frustration, the failure, you bring it before Jesus and Jesus will fight for you. And that’s how you remove the rocks.
It’s very simple. This is the act of faith in God, bringing your response to the tribulation to Him. You’re bringing your heart before Jesus and Jesus is removing the rocks and He’s protecting you. He’s fortifying you and you are being built up through the tribulation and the test. He’s preparing you possibly for the end time persecution so that even if you’re the last man standing, you will not renounce Jesus, you are that kind of a tough person.
I think the one that applies most to us is the third type of heart, the thorny heart in v18.
18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
The cares of the world, the better translation is anxiety or worry. And the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things, the other things is all inclusive. When it says other things here, a better translation would be all the rest, everything else. Jesus is your desire as a Christian. And He has to be your number one desire. All the rest are potential things that can derail you.
And you notice when it comes to care / worries or deceitfulness of riches or desires, another word for desire is a longing. Another word for longing is lust. These are strong desires, strong longings, strong urges. You notice when it comes to these three things, it says these things enter in. They start out external.
But through your worry, through your greed, through your desire for other things, it’s like there’s an opening and you’re saying to Satan, attack, I’m vulnerable. Our worries, it’s an opening. When Satan sees that you’re worrying, it’s like you’re shining a light. Its neon and it’s saying, attack here, I’m vulnerable here. And Satan, when he sees it, he will go through that worry.
You know what worry does? This is straight from the Greek. Worry splinters you and fractures you. Before you worried, you were whole and you’re at peace. But once you leave a vulnerability called worry, a spirit of worry can come in and it actually does something on the inside. It splinters and fractures you. The same way that if you’re deceived by riches, you’re greedy. A spirit of greed comes in and will wreak havoc in your life because you will pursue money more than you pursue God. Because his god is money, and you could possibly waste your life pursuing that which cannot satisfy or bring security. Being a greedy person damages you.
And lastly, this is all encompassing, all your other desires, all your other longings, all your other lusts. It’s almost too simplistic to say but it’s true. These are clues that Jesus has to be your supreme desire. And if Jesus is your supreme desire, all the other desires fade and its hold over you. When you long for Jesus, longing for other things will diminish.
You might say it’s easy for me. If you’re single you look at me and I’m married. You might long for marriage and I can say, I don’t long for it, but you might say, yeah, it’s easy for you to say because you’re married. I realized 19 years into my marriage that marriage is not it. Marriage is not it. This is just a preparation for the real marriage that is to come with Jesus Christ. And so the longer I am married, of course we are getting closer, myself and Jackie, but my longing for Jesus is also on the rise because marriage is showing me a tangible picture. This is a living example and a metaphor for what it’s going to be like with me and Jesus and so my longing for Jesus is increasing through earthly marriage, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I longed, and you could say, I desired and I even lusted after ministry success. And so that one I can say I’m with you, I haven’t tasted it. But I know satisfaction is not found there. So I don’t have to experience the success and say, oh, it’s not there, and learn the hard way. I can already see it without experiencing it. I already know that satisfaction is not found in ministry success. I have too many examples of people that I see on the news, people just even in my life, that they are so busy, so stressed, so frazzled, they fall into scandal and I just know that’s not how Jesus wanted these pastors to live.
I just I already know and so I don’t have to learn the hard way. And so there are things that you learn as you go through it and there are things you can just know. That I should desire Jesus first. I should long for Jesus first. I should lust after Jesus. Every other thing will grow strangely dim as you desire Jesus. You turn your eyes upon Jesus, everything else will grow strangely dim. This whole passage is about Jesus. He is the word and you need to hear Him.
But hearing him is not enough. You need to understand, and the disciples they got an explanation. You could say, okay. It’s a done deal. They understood. They understand what this passage is talking about, but I don’t know about you, but when I read the explanation, I still didn’t understand.
I didn’t understand that Jesus, you are the word. I didn’t understand about how I can actually bear 30, 60, 100 fold. But as I bring this text before Jesus the same way that Jesus explained the first level of understanding to disciples, do you think that’s all there is? That what’s recorded in scripture is all that you’re going to get from this parable? If you go to Jesus, He will unpack it for you more. Jesus doesn’t spell it out. He didn’t say, I am the word. He could have been so clear and say, I am the word. Come to me. Have faith in me. Why are you worried about the wind when the storm hits and you’re in a boat, it’s all about me. He doesn’t say it because he wants the disciples to keep coming to Him and keep asking Him.
And you will get more and more understanding. So I get a passage like this and then I just try to understand but just understanding in your head doesn’t mean you’re bearing fruit. And so I bring this text, like I read it a week ago and then I just keep bringing it to Jesus. I’m talking about it with Jackie. We’re trying to just get to an understanding level and what does this text mean, and all the while we’re bringing it to Jesus.
I’m trying to show you how to study the Bible. It takes more than 15 minutes and then move on to the next chapter. When something strikes you in a chapter, you want to sit on it until the answer is given. You sit on it. So you don’t have to read all of like five chapters in a week. Just sit on the one section that stands out and just keep asking Jesus. What do you mean by this? What do you mean by this? Because certainly just understanding did not produce the fruit in the disciples that Jesus promised because Jesus says to the disciples, have you still no faith? I don’t see the fruit. Jesus explained it to them, but it’s more than understanding.
And what the Lord showed me this week, when it comes to the first soil Satan just plucks it, right? They hear it but it gets plucked.
16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately RECEIVE it with joy.
The second soil. They hear the word and immediately they receive the word. And the word for “receive” means to take hold of, to seize aggressively. See, this person is very sincere but shallow. He or she just hasn’t been proven yet. This person hasn’t overcome tests and trials and tribulations over a period of time. Each one of us has to go through tests and trials.
That’s why there is a final exam in school. You can think, I know the material. I went to lecture. But until you get the final exam and you pass the test, you cannot say, I actually understand. So, this person is receiving the word. He’s seizing or taking hold of the word.
The good soil is mentioned in v20.
20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and ACCEPT it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
“Accept” it – it’s an okay translation. And I understand why they translated it this way. Because did you know that the actual word is “receive?” But it’s a different word for “receive” than previously used in v16? It’s not the shallow but sincere person who “receives” the word, who takes hold of it, who seizes it. This word for “receive” is different. You hear the word and you welcome it. It’s a relational word.
You “welcome” the Word from close. It’s like somebody shows up at your door and you open it. You let them in. The Bible also uses this word to express times when people may come to your door and these are false teachers and you do not open the door. You do not welcome them. Somebody is close and you take them in. You welcome them.
You see, Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the person. He shows up at your door. He wants you to welcome Him, receive Him, accept Him, acknowledge Him. So what if we have rocks and we’re stumbling due to various tribulations and tests? We bring the situation to Jesus. And that is an act of faith. And Jesus will remove the rocks. You just go to Jesus. You receive Jesus. He is near you. You go to Him.
The same with the thorns. If you have worries, what do you do with the worries? Do you just hold them? Do you say, I just got to grit my teeth and not worry? Do you just hold on them, or do you release them?
You bring the worries to Jesus. You have greed in your heart. What do you do? You repent of it. You bring it to Jesus. Even repentance is an act of faith where you go to Jesus.
You have other desires, other longings. You got to bring them to Jesus and confess with your mouth, Lord, I don’t understand why I have these desires and lusts and longings, but I know the answer is you, Lord Jesus. These are the rest of my desires and longings. I know these will not satisfy me. Jesus, can you be my ultimate satisfaction so that whether I actually achieve these things or not, I’ll be okay?
So, of course, every pastor wants to see many people come to know Jesus. Every pastor wants that. But I’ve submitted that desire under Jesus and said, Jesus, it’s up to you. If I get to be a part of that, great, I’ll gladly welcome that type of future. If I don’t get it, Jesus, it’s not the end of the world because I have you. That is an act of faith where you bring your other desires to Jesus. You’re not dismissing them entirely. You’re saying, Lord, this is what I have in my heart. I bring my desires before you. Whether I receive it or not, it’s up to you, Lord.
You trust him and all the while Jesus is taking the thorns out of your heart. He’s cultivating a heart that can desire him above everything else.
Every time we you see your response to a tribulation, it’s an opportunity to exercise your faith. Every time you are worried, it’s an opportunity to exercise your faith. Every time you are tempted to chase after money and material possessions, it’s a time to exercise your faith in repentance. Every time you acknowledge your other longings, you have an opportunity to bring them to Jesus Christ. This chapter is all about faith.
Jesus is the Word and He’s so close. All you have to do is welcome Him. Some hear the word and understand it. But ultimately you have to accept/receive the Word. And if you receive Jesus, you will bear thirty, sixty, a hundredfold.
It’s like in John 15. You have to abide in the Vine. And if you do so, what or whose fruit will come out of your life? Is it your fruit? No, it’s Jesus’ fruit. All you have to do is stay close to Jesus and His peace, His Joy, His love will be born in great quantities in our lives. All we have to do is exercise our faith and bring everything to Jesus. All of our longings, all of our worries, all of our greed, all of our wrong responses to trials, bring them all to Jesus.
Father, thank you so much for sending your Son to die on a cross for our sins and for opening the door to the kingdom through the coming of King Jesus. The secrets of the kingdom start with the King and we have to know the King and all the secrets will be illuminated to us eventually.
Your truth is like a light. It shines. It’s not meant to be put under a basket. It’s not meant to be hidden. It’s not meant to be kept a secret. You are waiting for your disciples to ask you questions. And you promise, if we ask, you will answer. And we will understand. And as we keep on asking and we keep cultivating a relationship with Jesus, every time we go to Jesus with our questions, we are expressing our faith. We’re using the measure of our faith.
I pray that all the brothers and sisters here would practice our faith and overcome the evil one who is trying to derail us, to discourage, to deceive us at every moment. He is attacking and we have all these vulnerabilities. No wonder we’re prey to the prowling lion who seeks to devour us.
Lord Jesus, we ask that once we come to you, that you will fight for us. You will defend us. You will keep us. Jesus, we come to you now. We pray that you cleanse us and that you cast out every unclean spirit from us. And we pray that every one of us here would bear one hundredfold fruit of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (or faith), gentleness and self-control. This is fruit is all Jesus’ fruit. And so if we bear this fruit in our lives, we give you all the glory. It’s not our fruit. We don’t have a right to to look down on other people who are less fruitful.
Father, as we look at our own lies, I pray that we would not be deceived by Satan who wants us to look at our fruitlessness. That is not the point of this parable. All we do is sow the seed. All we can do is water the seed. That’s our responsibility. We need to exercise our faith. That’s all you ask.
We’re not supposed to analyze ourselves and ask, where is the fruit? That is what Satan does. Satan will accuse the brothers and sisters — where’s your fruit? You don’t love God. Abandon your faith. You haven’t changed. That is Satan’s voice. Help us to recognize it.
This passage speaks to the certainty of fruit. The fruit may be right below the surface. We just have to be faithful and exercise our faith, planting the seed, watering the seed. Perhaps, fruit is right under the surface. We might not see it. But overnight, it’s going to break forth. Fruitfulness could be just on the horizon. We don’t see it yet, Lord.
Teach us that we’re not supposed to focus on our fruitlessness. We’re supposed to focus on the fruit giver, Jesus Christ. The vine, Jesus Christ. We focus on Him and the fruit will surely come. It’s not our fruit. It’s Jesus’ fruit. Thank you, Lord.
We pray that you encourage us as you take away the thorns and the rocks, as you soften hearts. We pray that you administer and deposit the seed on good soil. Thank you, Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen