Jesus' Parables of Grace [Secure eReader]
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eBook by James W. Moore
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: Six session short-term study of Jesus' parables: The Sower, the Seeds, and the Soils "Broadcasting the Seed"; The Prodigal Son "Anxious to Love, Quick to Forgive, Eager to Reconcile"; The Elder Brother "The Awful Pain of Feeling Rejected"; The Unjust Judge "What Can We Count On From God?"; The Good Samaritan "Eyes Too Busy To See"; The Least of These "Do Everything As If You Were Doing It for Our Lord"
eBook Publisher: Dimensions for Living/Dimensions for Living
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2005
Chapter 1--The Sower, the Seeds, and the Soils: Broadcasting the Seed Scripture: Mark 4:1-9
One of Jesus' most fascinating parables is found in Mark 4:1-9 (see also Luke 8:4-8; Matthew 13:1-9), the parable of the sower. Or is it the parable of the seeds? Or perhaps the parable of the soils? What is Jesus saying to us through this graphic parable about how we can best serve God and his kingdom? What is the surprising point of the parable of the sower, the seeds, and the soils in Mark 4? What does it tell us is the best thing we can do for God?
Remember the parable with me. The sower went out to sow his seed. Some seed fell on the path and could not grow because the ground was too hard. Some other seed fell on rocky soil, and because the ground was shallow, the plants sprang up quickly but then quickly died away because they had no roots, no depth. Other seed fell among thorns, and there the plants tried to grow, but the thorns choked the life out of them. Still other seed fell on good soil and grew and yielded a great harvest.
Let me point out that the parable accurately reflects the sowing process as it would have been done by a Galilean farmer in New Testament times. Contrary to our modern farming practices, they did it just the other way around. Nowadays we go out and plow the field and then plant the seed; back then, they did just the opposite. That is, they scattered the seed first, they broadcast their seed indiscriminately, and then they came later and plowed the seed under. This, of course, is why the seed in the parable fell on four different kinds of soil. The Path Soil: The hard, "packed-down," "crusted-over" path soil was first.
The second was the Rocky Soil: a thin layer of soil on a thick layer of rock. Because of the layer of rock, the roots could not go down deep, so the plants would spring up quickly and then quickly die out.
Then there was the Thorny Soil.
And finally, the Good Soil.
Now, it's interesting to note that despite the fact that three of the four soils here are very unpromising, nevertheless the parable ends victoriously with a great harvest. That's very interesting, isn't it?
The question is, What is the central point of this parable? Over the years, there have been a lot of discussion, a lot of dialogue, and, as a matter of fact, quite a bit of disagreement about what the main point of this parable is. What I would like to do is outline for you four different interpretations of the parable and let you try to find yourself somewhere between the lines. Let me give you the four different possibilities first so you can move along with me as we develop them.
(1) Some say the point of the parable is with the Soils—that it has to do with hearing, namely, hearing God's Word.
(2) Some say the point of the parable is with the Teller—in other words, that it is autobiographical; Jesus is describing his own experience as a teacher.
(3) Some say the point of the parable is with the Harvest—that it has to do with doing your best and trusting God for the future.
(4) Some say the point of the parable is with the Sower—that it encourages us to love unconditionally, to sow the seeds of kindness indiscriminately.
Let's take a look at these, one at a time.
First, Maybe the Point Is with the Soils
Maybe it's about hearing the Word of God and responding to it. This is probably the most traditional and most popular understanding. It can be well documented because the parable, as it is recorded in Mark, begins with Jesus saying, "Listen!" Listen, with an exclamation point. And then he ends the parable by saying, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"
When you think of it, this interpretation is fascinating because the soils in the story do seem to represent the way people either hear or don't hear! Think about it.
First, the Path Soil hearers would be the closed-minded people, the persons who are hard, crusted over, and will not listen. They hold God at arm's length. They will not let God or God's Word penetrate their lives.
Next, the Rocky Soil hearers represent the persons who are shallow. They hear, they get enthusiastic, they respond quickly, but they fade away quickly because they have no depth, no roots. They shrivel; they wither and die out.
The Thorny Soil hearers would be the persons with mixed-up priorities. They give their time and energy and effort and creativity to all the wrong things.
And finally, the Good Soil represents those hearers who receive the Word of God and work with it to bring forth new life.
Now, there is a danger with regard to this approach: It tempts us to categorize people. That is, when we read the story and we hear about these different kinds of soils and hearers, it's very easy to begin to think that "John" is Path Soil and "Betty" is Rocky Soil and "Bill" is Thorny Soil and, of course, I am Good Soil! To do this is to miss the point. If this parable is about hearing, then what the parable is really saying to us is that these soils represent four potentialities that reside in us all of the time.
Copyright © 2005 by Dimensions for Living