New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Sower
4 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. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 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 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satancomes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 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. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 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.20 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.”
A Lamp on a Stand
21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”
24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. 32 Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”
33 With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. 34 He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.
Jesus Calms the Storm
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Mark 4 is rich with spiritual truth. It reveals one of the most important principals for understanding how God’s Kingdom grows through the “Parable of the Sower” (Mark 4:1-25). This parable is discussed in three of the gospels - Matthew 13, Luke 8 and Mark 4. I would encourage you to read this parable in all three gospels; each of them throw a slightly different light on this parable to help us understand what Jesus is talking about.
Jesus talked in parables. A parable is a fictitious story that illustrates a spiritual truth; a story that we can easily understand and through it be lead to a revelation of a spiritual truth. Jesus compared them to mysteries. Mysteries are hidden secrets that are not obvious to our understanding. To understand these mysteries and parables we need spiritual hunger, desire and passion which will lead to revelation.
The parable of the sower talks about someone sowing seeds. Since understanding of farming was common to most people in Jesus’ time, they understood the concept of sowing seeds and finding the best soil, so it would produce the most fruit. They also understood the things that could prevent a seed from germinating, growing to maturity and producing fruit. The goal of any farmer is to bring forth most fruit from any crop. Jesus related this natural truth to how things grow and expand in the hearts and minds of people in the kingdom of God.
After Jesus gave this parable, the disciples asked Jesus to explain it. Jesus said something very important in verse 13 - “And He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?” This is huge! Jesus was saying to them that if they cannot understand the spiritual truths behind the parable of the sower, they will not be able to understand any of the parables.
In the Old Testament after something important was said in the Psalms that you needed to ponder on, you will see the word “Selah”. “This is a Selah statement” - I heard someone say that in everyday understanding, this means - “stick that in your pipe and smoke it “, or to give a more modern emphasis to this - it is like when someone drops a microphone after making an important point, so it is to say, “Let’s drop the microphone”. I think the picture is that this is very important and we need to ponder this and gain understanding on its importance and significance.
Jesus was saying that the key to understanding all parables is through understanding the parable of the sower, or the key to understanding how the kingdom of God works is through this parable.
The kingdom operates though sowing seeds; the seed, according to what Jesus says is the “Word of God”, and that seed is sown in the hearts of men. This is not our natural heart; it is our spiritual heart. I call our spiritual heart the “Womb of the Spirit”. The heart is where the spirit and the soul unite. The womb is where the seed and the egg come together, life is conceived and incubated until birth. So, when our spiritual hearts take in the word of God and believe it, spiritual life is conceived and incubated and then grows in us. That is what happens when we receive Jesus - we take the word in, we believe in our hearts, then we confess it with our mouth, then new birth in conceived in us and life comes forth.
When we hear the word of God, and allow it to take root in our life, it is just like a seed germinating in the ground; it takes root and grows. Once it grows, it starts to change and transform us; it becomes part of us.
In this parable of the sower, Jesus talks about four different places the seeds fall. The first is by the roadside. Here He says that they don’t even have a chance to germinate, because the birds eat it. The second is on rocky soil and although they take root, the soil is not that good and it cannot get the nutrients and water it needs; so the seeds are scorched and die quickly. The third is among thorns(weeds) and when the seed germinates and grows, the plant gets choked and does not produce fruit .The fourth is on good soil; the seeds germinate and bare a great harvest.
I think it is up to us on how the soil of our hearts and the atmosphere within our hearts turns out. So in this devotional time, let’s spend some time mediating on these scriptures and ask God to:
Help us understand this parable - Eyes to see spiritual truths and ears to hear spiritual truths that are being revealed just as Jesus talked about in this chapter.
Help us understand how these principals work in our lives so we can expand His Kingdom in our lives.
Help us on how we can better cultivate the soil and the atmosphere of our hearts to make sure we receive and bear fruit.
God, give us eyes to see and ears to hear your word. Help us prepare our heart so that it would be the perfect soil for your words to fall. Help us care for the seeds and make sure things don’t get in and take the word from us, or choke it out and constrict us from bearing fruit. Give us grace that we may be the ones who bear fruit and produce a great harvest for the Kingdom. Amen.
What we are part of is bigger than the part we play and the part we play is prayer, which is partnership with Jesus for the transformation of history. Prayer is God’s ordained way to bring His miracle power to bear upon human need.