March 13, 2016
A reminder to readers: We have begun a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Pretend with me that you have hired a painter to paint one of the rooms of your house. He dips his brush deep into the can and brings out a brush filled and dripping with paint. Some paint got onto the windows, some paint got onto the carpet, some was splashed over the front of the TV and, praise God, some paint made it on the wall and made them beautiful. I hope I’m not describing the painter at work in your home, but I hope I give you some feel for this farmer out sowing his seed. He’s an extravagant sower, throwing the seed everywhere. He’s tossing onto the rocks, he’s scattering it onto the briars and bushes, he’s scattering it along the hard, beaten path. He sows everywhere without any concern for conserving seed.
What is this all about? Who is this extravagant, dare we even say it, wasteful sower? Yet, this is exactly the picture which Jesus wants us to have in our minds as we think about God’s word in the world. Jesus Himself, in verse 14 of our text, makes it abundantly clear that this seed is about the Word of God being sown into the world. In every case, the sower is the same. God is the one who sows His Word into the world – though prophets, through the Scriptures, through his Son Jesus Christ, and through those called to herald the apostolic message. God is the sower in all four cases.
In every case, the seed is the same, it is the Word of God. The only thing that changes in the parable is the condition or quality of the four different soils. This is a parable about an extravagant sower. Jesus is, shall we say it, the “Sower-in-Chief.” All of us, from time to time in our lives, have all of the heart conditions set forth in this parable. We have all had times when we have hardened our hearts to the Word of God, or allowed the worries of this life to creep in. Maybe we have allowed ourselves to become shallow, and so forth. There may be times when our hearts are open, and, if we are honest, we all have recognized times when other considerations have choked out God’s Word. Life is like a moving picture as we live our lives before God. There is no place for pride here.
We should see ourselves in all of these soils. But, through it all, God is pictured here as the constant extravagant sower. As the Sower-in-Chief, He is not giving up on you, or on this world. In fact, the great truth of this parable is that His sowing is more consistent than the Devil’s snatching. His sowing is more powerful than the Devil’s eating. His sowing is more enduring than the Devil’s tribulation. His sowing is more persistent than the Devil’s choking! What a great Savior we have! Despite all the ups and downs of life and despite our own weakness and struggles, Jesus is the great sower in our lives! He keeps giving us the grace of His Word. He keeps sowing into our lives. In time, we will produce that great harvest—the hundredfold harvest—which He has destined for his Church. Our job is to stay close to the Sower-in-Chief. This is why this parable has never been called the Parable of the Soils, or the Parable of the Four Heart Conditions. It has, rightfully, always been known as the Parable of the Sower. He is the subject of the sentence in the Book of life.
This is the mission of Seedbed, isn’t it? We are sowing for a great awakening. Our whole interest and heart is to extravagantly sow God’s word into the world. We don’t worry about the soil, we just keep sowing and, in time, God will bring forth His harvest. Thanks be to God.
- Hold this text up like a mirror and think about your own life and heart. Are there ways you are resisting God’s Word in your life? What can you do today to become more supple and open to His Word?
- Is there someone in your life who you are tempted to give up on? Have you quit sowing God’s word into their lives because you are tired and just don’t think it is worth it? What can you do this week to be the instrument of God’s extravagant sowing in someone’s life. Perhaps you can be the agent of Jesus Christ, the great Sower-in-Chief!
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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.