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Mark Pt 18: A Survey of Soils

The Gospel of Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:51
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We now move along in our tour through Mark’s Gospel, and we are now introduced to something new, for we are moving from the works of the Master to the words of the master.
For now Jesus begins to teach in parables and the first parable we come to is the Parable of the Sower. The Parable of the is probable one of the best known parables, and you may well be familiar with it. In all honesty it really isn't about the sower, but is really focussed in upon the soil itself, and we will see that as we go through.
Nobody could tell a parable like Jesus. He was not only the master-carpenter … He was the master-story teller. He could illustrate a timeless truth by telling a story that everybody could relate to.
So, what is a parable? Somebody once defined a parable as ''a earthly story with a heavenly meaning.'' Actually the Greek word (parabola) means ''something placed along side, a comparison.
In a parable truth is cast alongside life and life interprets the truth. In other words, a parable takes the common, everyday events of life and uses them to illustrate the deep things of God.
Now, we have a fair bit to get through so we need to march on this morning, so lets get straight int the text.
Firstly notice with me...

1. The Location of Parabolic Teaching

Mark 4:1 KJV 1900
And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.
The Lord moved from land to sea, having dealt with his confused family, presumably still in the house mentioned in Mark 3:19, Jesus now moves outside, and such is the crowd that he borrows a boat and in effect makes it his pulpit.
Now, you may think how is this a good idea, how will they hear him, for they didnt have pa systems in those days, no electrical amplification, surely this method would be inneffective!
So picture the scene Jesus in the small boat with his face towards the shore and the multitudes spread out over the hillside, how will they hear?
By now we should have released that nothing Jesus did was by chance, he knew exactly what he was doing.
John Philips in his Gospel of Mark commentry tells of a time when he was a brithish soldier in Palestine and he was on a tour of Gallilee.
I remember the padre telling us all to sit down on the slopes above the lake. There was a busload of us, and we were seated at least fifty yards from the lake itself.
The chaplain took out a pocket Testament and opened it to this chapter. He handed it to me and told me to go down to the lake, turn around at the water’s edge, face the sitting soldiers, and read aloud the first nine verses. He told me to read in a conversational tone of voice and not to raise my voice at all. I did as I was instructed. The still waters of the lake behind me acted as a sounding board.
Every syllable was caught up and amplified and heard clearly by the men sitting on the hillside. The whole area turned out to be a natural amphitheater, and the acoustics were remarkable. A microphone was unnecessary. The lake was its own amplifier.

Evidently, the Lord had been in someone’s house when His mother and brothers arrived. Now, having put them in their place, He came out of the house and went down to the shore of the lake. He borrowed a boat and made it His pulpit.

We can picture His sitting in that little vessel with His face toward the shore. Before Him stretched the multitudes, spread out over the hillside and eager to listen to His words.

Many years ago, when I was a soldier in the British army in Palestine, I went on a chaplain-conducted tour of Galilee. I remember the padre telling us all to sit down on the slopes above the lake. There was a busload of us, and we were seated at least fifty yards from the lake itself.

The chaplain took out a pocket Testament and opened it to this chapter. He handed it to me and told me to go down to the lake, turn around at the water’s edge, face the sitting soldiers, and read aloud the first nine verses. He told me to read in a conversational tone of voice and not to raise my voice at all. I did as I was instructed. The still waters of the lake behind me acted as a sounding board. Every syllable was caught up and amplified and heard clearly by the men sitting on the hillside. The whole area turned out to be a natural amphitheater, and the acoustics were remarkable. A microphone was unnecessary. The lake was its own amplifier. The Lord knew all about the acoustical qualities of the area and took advantage of them to address vast crowds with ease.

The Lord knew all about the acoustical qualities of the area and took advantage of them to address vast crowds with ease.
So are sound system is in place, next Jesus begins to speak, and we have

2. The Revelation of the Parabolic Teaching

Mark 4:3 KJV 1900
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
Hearken - Be listening, it carries an authoritative snap with it, he had to quieten them to hear, the crowds remember were looking for physical healing but Jesus mission was to bring spiritual healing.
So he begins by saying -listen - shush your mouths and open your ears, this is important!
“there went a sower to sow”
now the crowd would be familiar with this, a lot of the crowd were farmers, again they could relate to the illustration
Mark 4:4 KJV 1900
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
The “wayside” is the common path across a field, it is ground that is so frequently trodden under food that it has become hard and virtually impenetrable. It is ground so hard, that the seed lies on the surface making a ready meal for birds who snatch it away.
This is our first type of soil
Mark 4:5–6 KJV 1900
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
Here the seed falls on shallow soil, there is insufficient depth to allow it to germinate, and soon the sun scorches it. It has no root system, and dries up and withers away.
this is our second type of soil
Mark 4:7 KJV 1900
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
Here the thorns and weeds left unchecked grow up and choked it, literally strangled it so it could not grow and bear fruit
this is our third type of soil
Mark 4:8 KJV 1900
And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
In this case the seed fell on to “good ground” and grew.
So now we have our fourth type of soil.
Now to see the truth contained in the parable, the knowledge of the explanation is needed, so the question is why teach in parables, because if the explanation is not known then it is just a riddle is it not?
Again, Jesus wasn’t being awkward here he knew exactly what he was doing, which leads us to

3. The Intention of the Parabolic Teaching

Mark 4:10 KJV 1900
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
So the 12 disciples and the wider group of followers get alone with Christ, and remember this is their first exposure to Christs Parabolic teaching, and they ask the question not wanting to embarrass themselves in front of the multitudes maybe, they get the Lord alone, and say what was all that about?
Christ then responds
Mark 4:11 KJV 1900
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
He had deliberately adopted a method of teaching, He told them, designed to reveal and conceal at the same time. It was part of the genius of the Lord’s teaching that He could use such simple, everyday things to accomplish so profound and complex a goal.
Matthew gives us the fullest account of the “mystery” parables (chap. 13).
All of them record failure and a mixture of good and bad.
All of them were designed to deal with the now evident Jewish rejection of Christ.
The nation had failed. Now what would happen to God’s eternal plan to establish a kingdom on this planet?
Well, that purpose was now to be postponed for an unspecified period of time. Israel would be set aside temporarily, and God would introduce on this planet something entirely new—the church.
The church would carry forward God’s wider purposes until those purposes were complete and God could resume His dealings with the nation of Israel
Meanwhile, God’s kingdom purposes underwent a change. A new phase was introduced—the “mystery” phase, heralded by the “mystery” parables (Matt. 13). All of this was about to be revealed by the Lord. His own would come to understand all of this; the unsaved never would.
The present age of grace (the church age) fills the period between the postponement of the kingdom and the inauguration of the kingdom. The church looks forward to the kingdom and prays, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
then Jesus goes on to quote
Isaiah 6:9–10 KJV 1900
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; And see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, And make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
Mark 4:12 KJV 1900
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Israels rejection and the apostasy of their leaders was bringing this judgement!
For those closest to him, however the Lord would continue the teaching and our final point as we look at

4. The Explanation of the Teaching

The sower - is the one who sows the word
Mark 4:14 KJV 1900
The sower soweth the word.
pretty easy, now what about the soils, remember we had three poor soils and one productive soil
The soils in this parable represent different groups of hearers, as there are four types of soil, so too there are four types of hearer.
The First Soil -
Mark 4:15 KJV 1900
15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
The “wayside” is the common path across a field, it is ground that is so frequently trodden under food that it has become hard and virtually impenetrable.
It is ground so hard, that the seed lies on the surface making a ready meal for birds who snatch it away. This soil represents The indifferent heart.
The indifferent heart is a hardened heart. According to the words of Jesus such a heart is easy prey for Satan,
a) Illus: Pharaoh’s heart – no sooner had he heard from Moses, or even experienced a plague, than he cast all the thought of it aside and continued as before.
So the good seed of God’s Word does not take root in an indifferent heart.
The Second soil
Mark 4:16–17 KJV 1900
16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.
If the first heart was indifferent this soil represents the heart that is IMPULSIVE.
This is pictorial of one who makes an impulsive decision who even make a profession of faith. Maybe it’s an emotional, decision…yes, but there’s no depth or root to it, it is what is sometimes referred to as ‘easy-believism’.
My Pastors called these the Alka-Seltzer Christians: a lot of fizz at first but soon they fizzle out.
Shallow believers are revealed in times of trial and tribulation.
Third soil
Mark 4:18–19 KJV 1900
18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
This soil represents the Impure heart
Jesus identifies the thorns as “the cares of this world.” “and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in.”
So now we see a heart that is taken up with the cares of the world, with making money, with lusts and worldly pleasures”
The thorns and weeds here may have been cut away at ground level, but the roots were still there.
So it is with the worldly heart – unless there is genuine repentance – a turning FROM sin, TO God, then the life is going to be plagued by the thorns and thistles of worldliness.
Let’s be clear now: these three examples are NOT believers who lost their salvation…but people who were never saved at all!
The evidence of a true believer is that they bear fruit.
Jesus said, by their fruits ye shall know them, and it is quite obvious that in each of the first three scenarios no fruit is likely to be yielded.
Which brings us to one more soil type. the productive soil
Mark 4:20 KJV 1900
20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
In this case the seed fell on to “good ground”, and Jesus tells that the good ground is not just one that hears the Word, and makes some kind of impulsive, emotional decision, but one who understands the Word and is persuaded by it
This is the INGRAFTED heart.
This is the heart that humbly receives the truth of the Word, in genuine faith and repentance this one gets saved and is filled with the indwelling Spirit of God.
Here is a heart that is receptive to the gospel. It hears. It heeds, holds the Word i
and, mixed with faith, it germinates.
It takes hold, and Satan cannot snatch it away.
The Word prevails and proves its presence by the production of fruit. Christ is to be seen in the believer’s life—in some more than in others, but Christ is seen
This soil produces fruit.
Conclusion
So there we have the parable of the soils, and Jesus began by saying listen up, the teaching was important.
Remember there were many that came to Christ, the crowds were growing, but Jesus knew there hearts, and this teaching of the parable presented the cold hard truth,
4 soils but only one produced fruit, 1 out of 4, and so it would prove with the crowds that followed, they would wain when things weren't going there way, there would be no fruit in their life because they had no real root.
Now we apply all this to our day, to our Church, and i wonder, if you were to be honest with God, were is your heart this morning?
What soil type would you be?
The hardened heart? closed to things of God, no matter what you see?
maybe its the shallow heart - your just playing games, saying what others want you to say?
maybe its the crowded heart, trying to play both sides, one foot in the world and another in the Church.
My prayer this morning as that your heart is the fruitfull heart, the heart of true born again believer, that is committed to allow the seed of the word to grow in your life and produce the fruit that is pleasing to God.
We would do well to heed the warning of this parable and examine ourselves to make sure our hearts are indeed right before God.
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