Mark 4:3-20 contains an extensive account on agriculture to teach an important spiritual lesson. Four types of soil and their production abilities are considered. The parable and ag teacher is Jesus Himself, using the soil for an important lesson.
Good soil and the production of the fields are a joy. Good farm ground is so amazing. But we are also familiar with poor soil. A farmer in Villa Alicia, Honduras, was asked why he would not plant seed in the plot of ground on his property. His reply was, “Poor soil.” Even the goats could not live on the grass from that soil.
This parable of Jesus tells us that some soil, or certain listeners to the Word, choose not to be inspired enough to even produce the poorest fruit.
In verse three Jesus demands our attention when He says, “Hearken.” Verse nine says, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” We dare not close our ears to this important subject. In verse thirteen He asks that if you cannot hear from this parable, how can you learn from any of My other teachings? In our text, Jesus walked on the earth teaching and preaching. Today He has his ministers, the Christians who spread the seed. They are the sowers. The seed is the Word. The soil is the one who hears. In this parable, all had opportunity to hear.
The first soil was the listener by the road way—a poor listener. In fact, he was the worst of the audience. He was given an opportunity to hear, but had no holding capacity. This listener came to church with no intention of learning. Christ was not in his thoughts at all. Possibly his mind was filled with other thoughts during the service, or he was too tired to pay attention in this worship service. He was not a good listener. In this case, the devil very quickly snatched away all the good this listener did hear. It was gone immediately. Verse fifteen shows that the devil had first chance to steal this seed. Someone has said that “the greatest thief is someone who would steal the truth from us.” Many today hear but few take it to heart.
Verse sixteen gives the example of another soil, the stony ground. The Scriptures would imply that this listener was one of the first to be at church, and really enjoyed the message. He accepted every word. All those who met him knew he had a good day. But the quick fire he displayed was all gone by 3:00 in the afternoon. It was only thunder and lightning, but could not produce rain. The rough experiences of life and the ridicule he received soon had him down. Jesus said he was soon offended. This offense was probably the worst product of this listener. How could this happen within the fellowship? Too many have been lost from the church because of offenses. They are not only lukewarm in the church, but gone from the church. This is a real stony field for the devil today – a hard, stony field. This listener could be worse off than the former one who had no holding capacity like the wayside soil. This listener is a so-called fair weather Christian.
Verse eighteen shows a strange soil that is already infested with thorns. now again we notice the listener could have been to church. He had the opportunity to hear the message, and he did. But the thorns were so evident. There was no heart ready to receive the Word of God. Jesus said it could be the heavy cares of life, the terrible effects of affluence, or the deceitfulness of assets that had already filled his mind. Maybe the stock market that day was his priority. Riches, possessions, and cares smothered the message, leaving the hearer unfruitful. This listener was no benefit to the fellowship. His money and assets are in a bag with a hole in it.
The only soil to be commended in this lesson is the good soil. This would be the listener filled with the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 3:16 says, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness.” It does not take a genius to recognize these people. They will produce seven days a week. A salesman once told me of a certain Christian man he knew. He said, “That man is as honest as the day is long.” What other report or testimony would be expected of God’s people, the good soil? These people will build the homes and churches needed in our day. These people may even save a nation. Verse twenty tells us the amount of product may vary, but they never produce bad fruit. The mystery of godliness is not what man can do. It is what God can do with a good listener, with good soil. They will produce some thirty, some sixty, and some an hundred fold. These people will have an influence on all society today.
God bless His people with listening ears yet in our day!