Questioning Through Mark: 4:1-9

The Parable of the Sower:

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, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

1. Do you have ears to hear? Ears to hear compared to what? Ears to speak or see? Jesus’ phrasing is interesting. Ears, by nature, are for hearing. So why does Jesus say “ears to hear” instead of “Do you hear?” Because Jesus is highlighting the difficulty of hearing truth and receiving it into the heart. Hearing is more than processing sound. It is internalizing the heart of what is being said and responding to it with wisdom and understanding. Ironically, in the next passage, Jesus must explain to his disciples what the parable means. And the whole point of the parable is that some who hear the Gospel get it and produce fruit, and some don’t–for various reasons like temptation or worldly cares.

mark 4, 9

2. What are your expectations for the Gospel? Are we expecting that every time the Gospel goes out it will land on good soil? Or are our hearts defeated and frustrated, believing that the only soil left is shallow and that the seeds of the Gospel can find no good place to land anymore? Jesus relies on common agricultural knowledge in this parable. Farmers sowed seed indiscriminately over a wide area of land, sometimes through crossroads, knowing that not all seed would provide crop. Sometimes, seed was sown before the ground was even plowed–on hard soil–and then farmers went back and plowed later. What is Jesus’ point? Not all who hear will receive and produce a crop. Many who hear the Gospel will not receive it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t spread the seed. We are called to be farmers of the Gospel. 

3. Are you farming the Gospel? Or are you concerned with sowing something else? Some other legacy? Some other good cause? It is no good to fight for issues of social justice without the backdrop of the cross and resurrection and a call to repentance.

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