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Parables of Jesus: The Sower and The Seed (Mark 4:2-9)

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

The Parable of The Sower and The Seed

The parable of the sower and the seed is one of the Lord's most iconic parables. Nevertheless, even though the Lord's own explanation of the parable has been preserved for us in the gospels, there are a few details that we usually miss.

Here, then, is the parable, as recoreded in the Lexham English Bible:

And he began to teach them many things in parables, and was saying to them in his teaching, 3 “Listen! Behold, the sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened that while he was sowing, some seed fell on the side of the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up at once, because it did not have any depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose it was scorched, and because it did not have enough root, it withered. 7 And other seed fell among the thorn plants, and the thorn plants came up and choked it, and it did not produce grain. 8 And other seed fell on the good soil, and produced grain, coming up and increasing, and it bore a crop—one thirty and one sixty and one a hundred times as much. 9 And he said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 4:2-9, LEB)

The Lord's Explanation

Let's make a quick rundown of the Lord's explanation of the elements in this parable:

  1. The seed is the word (Mark 4:14)
  2. The seed that falls in the path and is eaten by birds represents those who hear the word, but then Satan takes the word from them (Mark 4:15)
  3. The seed that falls on rocky ground and is scorched by the sun represents those who receive the word with joy, but then fall away because of affliction and persecution. (Mark 4:16-17)
  4. The seed that falls among thorns and is then choked by them represents those who hear the word but remain unproductive because of the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth, and various desires (Mark 4:18-19)
  5. The seed that falls in good ground represents those who hear the word, receive it, and bear different quantities of fruit.

What You Probably Missed

There are a few things you probably missed as you read through the parable and the Lord's explanation. Understanding these details will probably give you a better appreciation of what this parable is all about.

The Word

The first thing you may have missed is the word. Yes, we know that the seed is the word, and we also know that the word is God's word. But, what exactly is Jesus calling God's word? If we assume that the sower is Jesus (which makese sense because he is the one teaching the crowds in verse 2), what Jesus calls God's word is neither the Bible nor the gospel you and I know today. Instead, God's word are the teachings of Jesus, specifically his parables.

Jesus was not preaching expository sermons based on the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament); nor was he preaching the gospel as we know it today: for he had not yet been crucified and resurrected. Instead, he was teaching the secrets of God's kingdom (Mark 4:11). Through his parables and the rest of his teachings (at least in Mark's gospel), Jesus was launching God's kingdom and teaching people how God's kingdom actually works.

Mark 1:15 actually tells us the gospel that Jesus was preaching: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the gospel!” (Mark 1:15, LEB) The gospel (good news) that Jesus was preaching is that God's kingdom had come.

The Judgment

As Jesus explains the purpose of his parables to his disciples (Mark 4:10-12), he is actually commenting on the parable he just told: that of the sower and the seed.

Think for a moment: the purpose of the parables is judgment. The parables are meant to prevent people from understanding and repenting. Isn't that what happens throughout the parable of the sower?

Even though the word is sown, three quarters of the seed fail to produce fruit. Some seed is stolen by Satan, some seed is neutralized by affliction and persecution, and some seed is made unfruitful by greed and desires. What is that? That is not divine failture, but divine judgment.

The Purpose

What is the purpose of the seed? What does the sower want to accomplish by sowing seed? Does the sower want the seed to be eaten by birds? Does the sower want the seed to be scorched by the Sun? Does the sower want the seed to be choked by thorns? Of course not! The sower wants the seed to bear fruit—that's the reason he is sowing seed.

From the sower's point of view, three quarter's of the seed was lost: the only seed that was not lost was the seed that bore fruit. How much fruit it bore does not really matter: what matters is that the seed bore fruit. The seed that matters is the seed that bore fruit.

Next time you hear someone ask which of the four groups of people were save realize that the person who is asking the question missed the point of the parable: only one group of seeds was not lost—the one that bore fruit.

The Fruit

One of the greatest mistakes I have heard proclaimed from a pulpit is that the fruit God wants from us, believers, is souls converted to Christ. Absolutely not!

Yes, God wants us to proclaim the good news about His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, God wants peope to repent and believe in Jesus. No, the fruit are not the souls that you and I have to win. That would mean that our salvation is dependent on our convincing people to believe in Jesus.

What then is the fruit? The fruit of which Jesus speaks is none other than repentance (Mark 1:15, 6:12), which is characterized, not only by recognition of sins, but also by faith in Jesus as the Messiah (Mark 8:29, 38) and obedience to him as such (Mark 8:35, 9:7).

The Point of the Parable

Jesus, Israel's long awaited Messiah, had finally come. He was proclaiming that people should repent, and he was teaching about God's kingdom through his parables. The only problem? His parables weren't easy to understand: you had to pay close attention to what he did, what he said, and what he was all about—you also had to receive his teachings as the word of God. If you didn't, you might miss the Messiah (and be condemened).

What do you think?

© 2022 Marcelo Carcach

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