The One Year Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), October 5
Beginning with His first command to mankind at creation, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28), God revealed His interest in reproduction. The first children would have been birthed in a perfect environment, had Adam and Eve not sinned; instead the first children were birthed outside of the garden of Eden, where Adam had to till hostile soil. Likewise, the human heart has often proven hostile to the message of redemption.
Jesus uses the parable of the soils to teach His disciples about the makeup of the crowds who have come to hear Him, lest they become enamored with crowd-building. Jesus divides the crowd into four groups:
- Those with hardened hearts – “And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mk. 4:15). Seeds need to be planted in soil where there is little traffic (unlike a path where travelers tread). Paths represent the presence of others. Hardened by the patter of many feet (ideas and philosophies), the path becomes resistant to the seed’s entry. Satan minimizes or refutes the gospel message, and the hearer resists the implantation of the Word. The Word is simply stolen away from the heart that does not understand and resists the Word.
- Those with shallow hearts – “These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble” (4:16-17). Many are ill-prepared for the persecution that accompanies the Gospel, and without roots they soon fall away. Shallowness is a growth inhibitor; the plant dies before can reproduce.
- Those with conflicted or distracted hearts – “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (4:18-19). The Word is choked out by competing factors (thorns and thistles)–relationships, excessive attention given to entertainment, hobbies, consumerism, etc. Again, the plant dies before it can reproduce.
- Those with receptive hearts – ”But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (4:20). Jesus makes clear that reproduction is the success-metric of a sown seed.
The parable of the soils clearly demonstrates that the problem lies not with the seed but with the condition of the soil. Hardened hearts prohibit implantation. Shallow hearts prohibit maturity. Fertile soil readily produces thorns and weeds, which grow up and choke the life out of the young seedling. Prepared soil receives the seed and matures the seedling until it reproduces. All four soils hear, but only the fertile soil hears and understands.
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Lk. 8:1-8; 19-21; Mk. 3:20-35; 4:1-20; Mt. 12:22-50; 13:1-9):
Luke’s Gospel records narratives about Jesus’ forgiving women and lists some of the names of women who followed Christ. What does this reveal about Jesus’ view of women? How does His view contrast with that of the religious crowd?
What does Jesus’ liberating people from demons reveal about demons and their activity?
What does Jesus’ use of the Jonah story reveal about those who require signs to believe?
Review 2 Samuel 12:1-6. Stories penetrate mental barriers in a way that leaves people vulnerable. Therefore good teachers (and the best teacher of all) often use stories as teaching devices. What does Jesus reveal about the seed in his parable of the soils?