And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. — Mark 4:8
My garden book has this to say about soil: “Entirely satisfactory garden soils are rare indeed, and when they exist they usually represent careful preparation and careful management over a period of years.”1 I know where they are coming from. In the yard surrounding our previous home, we had very fine, clay-like soil. There were no rocks to get in the way, but when the soil was wet, it was so dense that the drainage was poor. By plowing huge amounts of sawdust into this — along with needed nutrients — we eventually came up with a workable mixture. However, it took a great deal of effort!
At our current home, the situation is somewhat reversed. The first time we dug a hole in our back yard, after penetrating the top few inches of soil, we were surprised to encounter dense, gray-colored gravel. To make any headway in this, we have to use a pick — and when doing so, sparks fly as the metal strikes the rocks. Drainage is so bad that a nurseryman recommended we replace it with a mound of good soil before planting a tree he had sold us.
Jesus told a parable comparing people’s spiritual receptivity to soil. As Christians, we desire our hearts to be good ground — soil that is “entirely satisfactory.” However, having such good spiritual soil will not happen accidentally in our hearts any more than it happens accidentally in our yards. Just as physical ground takes cultivating and work to make it good, so we must work to cultivate receptivity in our hearts.
Careful spiritual “preparation and management” includes gaining strength from God’s Word and prayer, paying attention when God’s Spirit corrects us, and patiently enduring the trials that come our way. We want to be watchful that we are not drawn away from God by the busyness of our schedules or the allurement of earthly pursuits. God will help us to have good spiritual soil if we will be sure to do our part to cultivate it!
Jesus often used parables in His teaching. These were common situations used to illustrate spiritual matters. Those who heard Him were required to think deeply to understand the meaning. In today’s text, verses 2-9 tell the parable, and verses 13-20 give the application.
In Jesus’ time, farmers sowed seed by hand. A large bag was slung over the shoulders, and seed was thrown by handfuls as the farmer walked through his field. Farmers made sure to sow plenty of seed, knowing that some would fall on the wayside, rocks, or among thorns. Jesus told His disciples that the seed in the parable represents the Word of God.
The wayside was the ground of a path. It was hard, and birds could easily pick up the seeds there. Spiritually, this soil represents the hard heart which does not even allow God’s Word to enter. In this situation, Satan can easily snatch the truth away.
The stony ground was large slabs of rock with only shallow soil on top. Stony soil depicts a sinner who receives the Word but quickly falls away because there is nothing in which it can take root. Jesus wanted His followers to know their relationship to God needed to be deeply grounded in faith, not emotion, so it would stand in adversity.
The thorny ground had weeds that choked the planted crop. This soil symbolizes Jesus’ followers who allow recreation, work, school, finances, and other cares of life to take precedence in their lives. A warning is given about materialistic desires and the deceptive attraction of riches.
The good ground was considered good because it brought forth fruit in varying amounts. The emphasis was not on the quantity of the crop, but on the fact that the ground produced fruit. This soil represents those who “hear the word, and receive it.” The words receive it could also be translated “welcome it.” Those whose hearts are good ground do more than just agree with what they hear; they wholeheartedly accept and act upon it.
In the final portion of today’s text (verses 21-25), Jesus used the illustration of a candle to emphasize the responsibility of those who hear His Word. A bushel was a container that held approximately eight gallons. The beds of that time were mats that could be rolled out of the way during the day. Either the bushel or the bed mat could have been used to obstruct the light of a candle, but obviously that would defeat the candle’s purpose. Much better illumination would result when the candle was placed on a candlestick.
Jesus came to shed the Light of the Gospel in the world and to give His life as the atonement for humanity. Therefore, those exposed to His Light needed to “take heed” and pay attention to what He said. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you” could be translated, “The measure you give will be the measure you get.” Obedience to the Lord’s teachings results in a better understanding of more truth. Refusing the truth results in spiritual decline and eventually spiritual death — “For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The opposition to the Son of God
B. The consequences of the opposition to the Son of God
2. The institution of a new program by the Son of God
a. The setting (4:1)
b. The parable of the sower (4:2-20)
(1) The parable stated (4:2-9)
(2) The use of parables (4:10-12)
(3) The parable explained (4:13-20)
c. An admonition (4:21-25)
Let’s make sure that we are cultivating good spiritual soil!
1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 6th ed. Menlo Park, California: Sunset Publishing Corporation, 1995.