Jesus often used parables to convey the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Stories are more adept at importing eternal truths to the heart than traditional lectures. Often, we take what Jesus told in a story and separate the teaching from the story, losing the intended mystery in our attempt at explanation. Jesus was a masterful storyteller because He is the author of The Story and His stories are designed to draw us into Himself. The parable cannot be fully grasped apart from a relationship with Him. One foundational parable stands as a test to how we receive revelation pertaining to His Kingdom and that is that of the sower and the seed.
Jesus sat down in a boat near the shore as the crowd filled the land in front of Him.
He knew that the very story He was telling them was being lived out in the telling. “Behold,” He implored His voice carrying on the wind, amplified by the water, to the gathered people. “The sower went out to sow; as he was sowing some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. . . Other seed fell among the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop” (Mark 4: 2-7).
Even in the telling, this was happening. Some of what He was sowing into the large crowd would never take root, in others, it would spring up and die quickly, and in others, the thorns would choke it out. But then he continued, “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” (Mark 4:8).
Then He proclaimed, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9). This placed the responsibility for heeding His words on those listening.
Time passed and the crowd dispersed leaving him alone with the twelve disciples.
They began to question Him about the story He told. They wanted it stated plainly, not in stories. He told them that they have been given the “mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables” (Mark 4:11) It would seem that they had the inside story already as they walked closely with Jesus, still they persisted in asking Jesus to share more with them on this story.
Jesus responded that if they could not understand this parable, how were they to understand all the others. It would seem this one was elementary to understanding the Kingdom. It was foundational for the other parables.
He goes on to retell the story in more detail to His disciples, “The sower sows the word,” He begins.
“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” (Mark 4:15). Now Jesus was unpacking the parable by interpreting the seed as the word and the stealer of that seed as Satan. These are the people who live beside the road, the road being the Jesus for He is the Way. These people are not committed to Christ but hope to reap the benefits without a commitment. What is sown into them is quickly snatched up by the enemy for it has no place to grow in those who walk beside the road instead of along the road of Jesus.
He continues, “In a similar way these are the ones whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who when they heard the word immediately receive it with joy; and they have firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mark 4:16-17). These are similar to the first group of people, but they seem to have stepped a little closer than those walking beside the road, but there is no depth to their relationship with Jesus. The seeds prosper temporarily, but they cause a shaking to align the person with the truth of the word. The word had not taken deep root and they fall away.
Again with the seed sown among those full of the worries of the world, it is choked out and becomes unfruitful.
However, Jesus continues, speaking now of those who are the good soil, “hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold” (Mark 4:20). These, He tells us, are those who may appear hidden for a time, but those who are hidden are only hidden and kept a secret to be revealed and come to light. For lamp is to be put on a lampstand. Moreover, a lamp upon a lampstand pushes back the shadows and floods the land with light so are those who bear the fruit of the Kingdom. The revelation of the Kingdom once brought to light, illuminates from a high point where all can see the glory of the Lord.
Jesus goes on to state that, “for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away” (Mark 4:25). This verse must be kept in the context of the story. The people who have are the ones who have good soil with deep roots in Jesus. When they hear the word of the Lord they produce the fruit of it in their life. It is for this reason Jesus then says, “If anyone has ears, let him hear.” If we have the ears that hear; we will hear the voice of the Lord and His word will be made alive in us to where the fruit is produced a hundredfold. The Kingdom is always advancing, it produces, is fruitful, and life-giving. Where the Kingdom is established it continues to grow as the word continues to be sown in the good soil.