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Mark 4:1-20


Intro: This passage finds Jesus still ministering in the city of Capernaum. Great crowds of people have gathered to hear Him teach the Word of God. In this instance, the crowd is so large that Jesus gets into a boat and uses it as a pulpit to teach the people who have gathered on the seashore. This passage also showcases a change in the way Jesus teaches the people. This is the first time Jesus would use parables to teach spiritual truth.

The word “parable means to cast alongside of. Someone has defined a parable as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. 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.

You need to use caution when you try to interpret the parables in the Bible. Some people make the mistake of trying to make every single twist in the parable mean something spiritual. As a result, many false doctrines and foolish teachings have sprung to life. A parable is designed to teach one primary truth. When that truth is understood, the parable becomes clear.

Jesus often used parables. In fact, there are nearly sixty of them in the Gospels. Why did Jesus preach in parables? He answers this question for us in verses 11-12. He used parables to reveal truth to those who were open to what God was saying and to conceal truth from those who had closed their minds to what God was saying.

It wasn’t that Jesus was intentionally trying to send people to Hell. He was merely giving them what they wanted. They had heard the truth preached and they had rejected it. Thus Jesus began to preach in a fashion that required people to think about what they were hearing. Those who were sincere and hungry for the truth would have that truth revealed to them. Those who were closed minded to the truth would have that truth concealed from them. He was simply giving them what they desired!

Today, we are going to consider The Parable Of The Soils. This parable was told to the multitudes in public and explained to the disciples in private. In explaining this parable, Jesus tells us what each element of the parable means.

Everyone who heard this parable could immediately relate to what Jesus was teaching. They had all seen a farmer walk into his field and begin to sow seed into that field. They had all seen the crops spring up and begin to grow. Jesus used this common scene to teach a deep spiritual truth.

He tells us that the “sower is one who sows the word of God. It might be the Spirit of God, a preacher, a teacher, a missionary, a Gospel song, a Gospel tract, a one on one witness, etc.

The “seed is the Gospel of grace. It is the good news that Jesus came into this world, died for sinners, rose again from the dead and offers full and free salvation to everyone who will receive Him into their heart and life. In this parable, some of the seed produces fruit and some does not. The problem does not lie in the seed. All the seed was good seed. Each kernel held the potential to produce fruit. The problem was not the seed; the problem was the soil.

The “soil in this parable represents the heart or the mind of the person who hears the Gospel of grace. Everyone who hears the Gospel hears it in a different way. Some revile it, some reject it and some receive it. It is the soil that is the primary emphasis of this parable.

I want to examine this parable today. I want to point out the kind of minds that hear the Gospel and how each responds to it. As we move through these verses, I would like for you to examine yourself. You will encounter your own mind in these verses today. Let’s consider the minds that are revealed in this parable as we think together about The Parable Of The Soils.


I. v. 4, 15 THE CLOSED MIND - The “way side refers to the narrow footpaths that ran beside and through the fields. These were the roads of the day and the soil on them had become as hard as concrete from the feet of the travelers and animals that had walked upon them. When the seed fell on the footpath, it could not penetrate the soil and it remained there in the open, only to be devoured by the fowls of the air.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Matt. 13:19, we are told that this speaks of the person who hears the Gospel, but who doesn’t “understand it. That is, they cannot make the connection between the claims of the Gospel and their own life. They cannot see how the Gospel could possibly hold any value for them or their life.

Maybe they are steeped in sin and refuse to believe. Maybe they are calloused and cold toward the things of God and refuse to hear. Maybe they have hardened their hearts for years against the call of the Gospel and like a path trampled underfoot for centuries, they have become hard hearted!

Whatever their need, they are hard hearted and the seed of the Gospel cannot penetrate the soil of their mind. They hear the Gospel and dismiss it as foolishness, 1 Cor. 1:18. When the seed is sown, the devil and his minions come “immediately to snatch away the Gospel seed. Satan does this by distracting and diverting the mind. He causes them to forget what they have heard by focusing their thoughts on earthly matters. (Ill. His tools and tactics Lunch, the race, the game, the distractions in the service, etc.) This causes the person to become even more hardened against God. This person has a heart that is not prepared for a work of grace leading to salvation.

The “seed was good, but the soil was unprepared to receive it. The seed could not penetrate the soil. The seed could not germinate. There could be no life. There could be no fruit. This is a picture of a lost mind.


II. v. 5-6. 16-17 THE CONFUSED MIND - These stony places are common in Palestine. Often there will be an outcropping of limestone rock covered by a thin layer of topsoil. This soil looks like it is ready to be sown. This ground looks good and productive and seed cast here will germinate and quickly spring up into a promising plant. But, because there is no depth of soil, as soon as the sun beats down on the tender plant, it withers and dies without producing any fruit.

This kind of soil speaks of the mind that makes an emotional response to the presentation of the Gospel. This is seen in the words “receive it with gladness.

         Perhaps this person heard the Gospel and said, “That is just what I need! I might as well give Jesus a try.

         Perhaps they came to an altar and prayed because a friend did.

         Maybe they tried to use Jesus as a “spare tire in a moment of crisis. They ran to Him in their trouble and abandoned Him when the trouble passed.

         Perhaps they were in an emotional service and they got “caught up in the moment and made a profession. This happens a lot in revivals and youth meetings.

         Perhaps they heard a shallow presentation of the Gospel that presents the benefits of salvation but does not share the costs. This person knows nothing about repentance, dying to self, and turning away from the old life.

         Maybe they got in one of those services where the preacher has people bow their heads and repeat a prayer after him and raise their hands if they were saved.

Many millions have been inoculated against the Gospel by some flimsy Gospel presentation and by a false profession of faith. Whatever happened, they made a profession, they are excited, they are active, and they are accepted as the real deal. But because they have no depth to their profession, they fall away when the persecutions and tribulations associated with knowing Jesus arise.

They begin to have problems with simple matters like church attendance, prayer and reading the Bible. They have a difficult time making a genuine, lasting break with their sins. They shrink away from the radical claims of Christ and the cross, Matt. 16:24. They become offended when they are mocked, ridiculed, laughed at or persecuted for their profession of faith. These are the people who make a profession, often running well for a time, and then wind up right back in the world. In the end, they are further away from God than they were before they made their profession.

Were they really saved? No! How do we know for sure? There is no fruit of salvation in their life! By the way, when a profession of salvation is real, it will last! We often call these types of people “backsliders or carnal Christians. In my opinion, they have never been saved. If the Lord saves your soul, He will change your life, 2 Cor. 5:17. When God changes a life, He does it forever. What He does in you will last. You may fall, but you will not stay away from His house, His presence, His throne, His Word, His people and you will not be able to stay out of His will, Ill. 1 John 3:9.


III. v. 7, 18-19 THE CLUTTERED MIND - This soil looks like it is ready to be sown, but underneath the surface are the living roots and seeds of thorns and weeds. The soil has been tilled and the thorns have been cut down, but their roots are alive and well, just under the surface. When the seed falls here, it springs to life quickly and gives every indication that a good harvest will follow. When the seed springs to life, so do the thorns and weeds that were already there and they soon choke out the tender plant. The young tender plant withers and dies without producing any fruit at all.

This is a picture of a person who tries to have the benefit of the Gospel while still clinging to the old life of sin. Without a conscious break from the old life of sin this person does not have a chance of being saved. The seed of the Gospel cannot survive to produce fruit in a heart filled with other things. The seed will have the ground or sin will have the ground, but it cannot be shared! Jesus said it was the cares of the world, the quest for earthly riches, and the lust for the things of this world that spelled disaster for this kind of soil. This kind of person begins well, but soon fades away, having their profession choked out by sin and the world.

Were they really saved? No! How do we know? There is no fruit of salvation in their life! When Jesus comes in to a life, He causes the redeemed person to make a clean, clear break with the old life of sin. I will say it again, we like to look at people who have made a profession and who are back out in sin and say they are “backslidden and out of God’s will or carnal. More likely, they have just never been saved to begin with! (Ill. Col. 3:1-10; 1 John 2:15)

Ill. Preachers have fed a generation the lie of “easy believism and have failed to tell lost people that a holy God demands repentance, along with faith, before a lost soul can be saved. If you have made a profession and there has been no change in your life, then you need to repent and call on Christ for salvation.


IV. v. 8, 20 THE CULTIVATED MIND - Some of the seed fell onto good ground. This was ground that had been worked and prepared. It had been plowed and tilled and it was ready to receive the seed when it came. The seed germinated within the heart of the soil and the plant began to grow. When the plant reached maturity, it began to produce fruit that brought honor and gain to the farmer.

This is a picture of the heart that has been plowed deeply by the Word of God, and tilled by the convicting work of the Holy Ghost, John 16:7-11. It is a picture of a heart that has been worked over and prepared by the grace of God.

When the seed of the Gospel enters this kind of heart, it germinates, grows up and bears fruit to the glory of God. This heart alone pictures that kind of life that can truly call itself saved! Why do I say that? This is the only soil that produced fruit!

The only difference between these types of soil was fruit. On the hard soil, the seed never penetrated the hard ground and was carried away. On the other three soils, the seed penetrated and disappeared, but only that which fell on the good soil produced fruit! The only obstacle to salvation is unbelief, but anyone who is willing to accept Jesus on His terms is good soil!

This soil represents the only soil among the four that pictures a saved heart. You see, when Jesus enters a life through the Gospel message, He will make His presence known beyond all doubt. He will cause the new believer to begin to bear fruit for the glory of God. If you will notice, v. 20, some of the seed produced more fruit that others. The amount of fruit in your life is also a work of God’s grace as He uses you for His glory. But, every child of God produces fruit in his or her life! If a person lacks spiritual fruit, that person is simply not saved!

So, what kind of fruit does good soil produce?

         Good works – Col. 1:10

         Holiness and righteousness – Rom. 6:22; Phil. 1:11

         Genuine spirituality – Gal. 5:22-23

         A burden for souls – Rom. 1:13

         Praise and thanksgiving – Heb. 13:15

         Sharing material goods – Rom. 15:27-28


Conc: In verse 10 Jesus says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. That is both a challenge and a warning!

The Lord is challenging you to look at your heart today. Examine your profession of faith and be sure you called on Jesus to save you because you were convicted of your sins, and because He was calling you to come to Him. That is the only way you can be saved, John 6:44. Examine your life today and see whether or not your life is producing spiritual fruit to the glory of God. If you are not saved, you need to come to Jesus today and settle that matter forever. Got any fruit?

This parable is also a warning. The Lord is letting you know that you are responsible for what you hear. He has shown you that you need to know your own heart. He has shown you that the soil of your life will be judged by the fruit it bears. Got any fruit?

Are you in a personal, faith relationship with Jesus Christ today? Are you saved? Would you like to be saved? If you will come to Jesus, in simple faith, and ask Him, He will save your soul? Got any fruit?

Are you producing the kind of fruit you would like to see? Are you producing the kind of fruit that is pleasing to the Lord? If you are saved and there are needs in your life, you need to come to the Lord today too. He will help you with the needs you have in your life. Got any fruit?

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