TEXT: Mark 4:1-20
The students will be able to define the four types of soil, and parallel them to man’s spiritual awareness and development.
Jesus taught, using parables to illustrate a point. This method aided the memory of His hearers. To those who desired to know, the Lord revealed the meaning of the parable (Matthew 13:10-15).
In Bible times after the soil had been plowed with a crude wooden plow, pulled by oxen or other animals, the farmer sowed the seed on the ground and then used some method to get it under the soil. There were two methods of sowing: one was tossing the seed by hand; the second, to attach the bags of seed to animals, with holes in the bags large enough for the seeds to trickle out. As the animals walked over the plowed ground, the seeds were distributed. In this story, likely the seed was thrown by hand.
In the story of the Sower and the Seed, the Sower is Christ or His followers. The Seed is the Word of God. Seeds over 4,000 years old found in the tombs of the Pharaohs still germinate. This is a wonderful illustration of the fact that God’s Word never grows too old to produce “new life.”
The parable of the “Sower and the Seed” is one that applies anytime God’s Word goes forth. The sower sows the seed, the seed is God’s Word, and the ground is the soul in whom the seed is sown. Within the four classes of ground discussed in this lesson, each person can be found.
- What is a parable?
Response: Let your students give their definitions of a parable. They should understand that it is a simple story or natural illustration used to communicate a spiritual truth, moral lesson, or religious principle. Matthew Henry called parables spiritual or heavenly things described in language borrowed from things of this life. A parable is a comparison between natural things with which men are familiar and spiritual things with which they are not so familiar.
- Why do you think Jesus sometimes used parables when teaching?
Response: Parables served a two-fold purpose. They revealed “the mysteries of the kingdom” to those who would know and treasure them. On the other hand, those who were insensible to spiritual things heard only a story which provided temporary entertainment.
- Jesus often said, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” What do you think that means?
Response: Allow time for your students to offer their explanations, bringing out that this phrase refers to spiritual perception rather than physical hearing. Ask them to point out the difference between physical hearing and spiritual hearing. Sometimes people may hear the message of the Gospel with their physical ears, and yet not respond to it. Stress that the difficulty is not with the physical ears or mind, but with the heart. It is this issue with which the parable in our text deals.
- What happened to the seed that fell by the wayside? How does that describe the spiritual awareness of some people?
Response: The fowls of the air devoured it. Have your students define the wayside ground. Those by the wayside are “indifferent hearers who are spiritually deaf.” What tactics does the enemy use to prevent people from heeding the Word? He takes it away before it can take root. What would the remedy be for this situation?
- What happened to the seed that fell upon stony ground? What spiritual characteristics does the stony ground describe?
Response: Your students should define stony ground as “unstable or emotional hearers.” Have your students make a detailed list from Scripture of characteristics exhibited by this ground (shallow, easily offended, lack of endurance, lack of stability under affliction and persecution, etc.). You may wish to refer your students to Matthew 13 and Luke 8 for supporting details. How can one guard against acquiring these undesirable characteristics?
- What happened to the seed that fell among the thorns? How does thorny ground parallel with the spiritual life of some?
Response: The thorns sprang up and choked it. Your students should conclude that these are encumbered hearers. Their priorities were set up wrong. What are some specific cares of life that entangle people today? In what way are riches deceitful? How do they encumber? What can one do to ensure that his heart will not become thorny ground?
- How can we prepare ourselves to be good ground? Make a list of suggestions.
Response: Establish a circle response (Teacher’s Handbook, Page 34) to bring out the possibilities. One item that could start your discussion might be the importance of hearing during church (i.e. song services, testimonies, Scripture reading, preaching). How can our hearts be cultivated? watered?
- Do you think it is better to produce thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold?
Response: Whether we produce thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold is not what is important; it is rather that we produce the best that we are capable of producing. See Colossians 3:23.
- Look up the references for the following Bible characters and write down what type of ground you think they represented. Be prepared to explain your answers.
A. Saul — 1 Samuel 28:15
B. Solomon — 1 Kings 11:4
C. Belshazzar — Daniel 5:22-23
D. Zacchaeus — Luke 19:6,8
E. Judas — John 6:70-71
F. Felix — Acts 24:25
G. Paul — 2 Timothy 4:7-8
H. Demas — Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10
Response: Following is a list of “soils” represented by each Bible character. Be aware that there may be more than one acceptable answer. Your students may interpret the verses in a slightly different way; for example, choosing stony rather than thorny ground.
A. Thorny — The seed was received, sprang up, endured for a time, then was choked by cares of life. 1 Samuel 13:13
B. Thorny — The seed was received but was then choked out by love of this world.
C. Wayside — The seed trodden down, was never received.
D. Good — The seed was received with understanding and yielded fruit.
E. Thorny — The seed was received but along came a lust for other things.
F. Wayside — The seed just lay there, and was snatched away by Satan.
G. Good — The seed was received, kept, and brought forth much fruit.
H. Stony — The seed was received with joy but had no root, so only endured for awhile.
Take five sheets of construction paper of varied colors, and five sheets of white construction paper. Cut all the sheets of paper into large heart shapes. Cut a door in each sheet of the colored paper. Back each colored heart with a white heart. Paste pictures of (or draw) each type of soil onto the white hearts. Inside the fifth heart paste a small purse mirror. After discussing the four types of soil, ask your students what kind of soil they are. Open the fifth heart and let them look at their own reflection.
Show your class a cross section cut from a tree to show the rings of growth. Use this to illustrate how we must grow in Christ step by step. As we grow we can know more of Jesus and His love.
Show your students one strong plant, and one wilted or withered plant. Use them to illustrate that the Bible says we need a special kind of nourishment to be strong Christians. We need good doctrine, godliness, and godly exercise. We need to nourish ourselves with the Bible and with clean thoughts, prayers, love, and care for others. This is spiritual exercise which helps us grow strong.
Show your students some weights, barbells, or other types of exercise equipment. Explain that a Christian life is similar to weight lifting. First, God is the source of your strength; second, God trains you in His Word so you will be prepared; third, you must practice and live your life to honor God; and fourth, you must grow in God to handle progressively larger problems. You must cultivate good soil to be a healthy Christian.