Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’” – Mark 4:1-12
When I was in 5th grade, our family moved to the country. We lived there for about 9 months, and during that time had some wonderful experiences. Fresh milk from the dairy farm across the road. A 3 acre pond with plenty of bluegill and bass to catch. Many places to explore and discoveries to make.
One of those discoveries was the difference between pole beans and bush beans. I don’t recall whether there was a different taste between the two, but I do recall the difference in how they were picked. Pole beans grew on a vertical lattice that made picking easy – well within reach! Bush beans not so much. But they, and the other produce in our garden plot, provided a bounty of fresh vegetables. Thirty, sixty, or 100 fold? Not sure. But there were plenty. And we planted the seeds in anticipation of such a harvest.
Jesus uses this imagery to teach us about the Kingdom of God. Sowers sow so they can harvest. Sometimes there is a bountiful harvest. Sometimes not. The most significant reason that Jesus cites here is the condition of the soil onto which the seed is scattered. No talk about tilling, fertilizing, watering, or disease prevention. Just the soil matters.
When we planted our garden, we had first had a local farmer come and plow up the garden spot. The ground was ready for our sowing. We didn’t use a broadcast method of sowing that Jesus seems to allude to here. So it’s not likely that many seeds – if any at all – fell among the thorns or hardened path. But had they, the result would be just as Jesus described it.
So how is the “soil” of your heart? Are you open to the grace and truth of God’s word? Are you consumed by the weeds of bitterness, fear, anger, and worry? Have the cares of this world choked out God’s calling to repent and believe the Good News of Jesus? Are you hardened to the extent that you don’t even want to listen to God’s word?
By the power of the Holy Spirit we can open our hearts to hear God’s word. We can make ourselves available to God’s work through a humble heart and a teachable spirit. This is God’s will for us. He sows the seed of his word into our hearts so that it takes root and and produces a harvest of righteousness to God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.