Recounting the Parable of the Soils

A Bible Exposition Of Mark 4:1-20

Each year in the U.S., there are on average about 610,000 deaths due to heart disease. That’s one person every 42 seconds. And although death will eventually take each one of us, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 25% of these deaths were preventable.  

By preventable they are basically saying someone died before age 75. 150,000 people die each year, not because their body has aged to the point of wearing out, but because they have lifestyle decisions that have contributed to a weak heart. The rest of their body outlasts the cardiovascular system. 

And the concern for the Center for Disease Control is this: if people would just pay attention to the risk factors and manage them we could extend all of these lives. And so, they have infographics and educational resources encouraging people to pay attention to the warning signs of heart problems. 

Things such as an unhealthy diet (high in sodium especially), a lack of physical activity, obesity, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If these are prevalent in your life and you aren’t doing something about it, then you have a heart that is being destroyed and you will die prematurely. 

I never met one of my grandfathers. He died at a young age. Not from cancer or an accident. But it was due to not taking care of his heart. There were avoidable warning signs, but he persisted in his lifestyle. He ignored the warnings.

And so, it is spiritually. We can’t see our heart, but we can see warning signs that there are problems.

Satan’s goal is what? Deception. He wants to confuse. 

  • Convince genuine believers they are not saved… doubt, fear, worry, confused = ineffective
  • Convince false believers that they are saved… all is well with my soul when it is not= inoculated

In today’s passage, we have one of the clearest explanations in Scripture of diagnosing our spiritual heart condition.

It is a very simple passage to understand. Growing up I misunderstood and applied this passage. The take-a-way for me was: work on the soil of your heart. There is an application here, but this isn’t the main point of the message.

King Jesus is here proclaiming His kingdom and the message is—receive the message of the kingdom.  Why this parable? Why located here by Mark? Because it is setting the tone for the rest of ministry. Jesus is giving His listeners categories so that they can process the various responses to Jesus.

Jesus is saying right here, over the next year and a half of my ministry life as I proclaim truth people are going to respond to me differently. And so, it validates that Word of God, even when people reject it.

Mark’s 4 Elements in Recounting the Parable of the Soil

  1. The context of the parable (1-2) setting
  2. The content of the parable (3-9) story
  3. The consequences of the parable (10-12) significance
  4. The clarification of the parable (13-20) substance

Mark 4:1–20—1 He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. 2 And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching, 3 “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 “Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. 6 “And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 “Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 “Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” 9 And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 10 As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. 11 And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, 12 so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” 13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? 14 “The sower sows the word. 15 “These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. 16 “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; 17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, 19 but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”