He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. (Mark 4:2-3)
The fourth chapter of Mark opens with one of Jesus’ most familiar parables. Most people call it the “Parable of the Soils.” Some like to focus on the seeds, or the sower, but it is basically an illustration of how God’s Word works in our hearts.
Jesus uses four soils to help us understand where God’s Word can work best. The first soil is a crust of earth on a beaten path through a field. If a seed falls there, it can’t take root and will be quickly eaten by the birds. The second soil is rocky and prevents the roots of the seed from growing once it germinates. A young plant quickly dies. The third soil has weed seed in it, and as the good plant grows, the weeds grow alongside and choke it out. And the fourth soil is fertile, free of rocks and weeds, and capable of producing a great harvest.
One of the reasons this parable is so valuable is because Jesus explains it in detail to His disciples. This was not always the case. Sometimes Jesus purposely left a parable hanging, and listeners were left to mull over its possible implications. But this time He made it clear He was talking about people’s responsiveness to the Word of God, and Satan’s attempts (the bird that ate the seed from the path) to stand in their way.
Which seed are you? What kind of soil do you have in your life?
I will be honest and tell you I feel more like the whole field when I try to relate to this parable. Sometimes I ignore the Word of God and Satan snatches it away. Other times I dive into God’s truths with great enthusiasm, only to be distracted by the first trial on the horizon. Then there are the weeds I allow in my life that choke out some of the growth God is trying to accomplish in me. But thankfully, much of God’s Word does find its way into my heart, taking root and transforming my being.
At the risk of projecting my experiences on others, I suspect we can all relate to each of these seeds and soils. The truth is, we are inconsistent in our openness to the things God wants to teach us.
And we probably always will be. Why? …Because of that blasted bird! He is behind it all, devouring our opportunities, blurring our focus, and choking out our efforts. Where’s my shotgun?
Well, unfortunately, we can’t bring Satan down with a 12 gauge. But we can outwork him. We can cultivate our heart by changing our habits and deepening our resolve. Did you know the decision not to stay up late on Saturday night watching TV, so we can be awake when we study God’s Word with His people, is one way of outflanking Satan? Sometimes we look for dramatic ways to change our lives, but more often transformation is a result of the small decisions we make as we turn up the soil and make room for God to speak to us.
Here comes the farmer! Don’t let any seed go to waste!
Dear God, help me be the kind of place where your Word can grow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.