Andrew Fountain - The Parable of the Sower

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Full sermon notes - The Parable of the Sower

“A farmer sowing seed”

Image source: L. Balachandar

  • The story of the sower who sows seed which lands on four kinds of soil
    • This picture shows that even today seed is sometimes planted in this way—here it is rice being sown
  • Given pride of place in each gospel
  • Focus on Mark today, but also found in almost identical form in Matthew and Luke
  • It is the Parable about Parables

Mark 4: The Sower

  1. Hear! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed,
  2. some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.
  3. 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. 6And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.
  4. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.
  5. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
  6. And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
  • Deceptively simple—you could teach it to young children
    • How would you explain it to them?
  • Starts and ends with the command to hear!
    • So this is clearly the focus of the parable
  • So why do you think the disciples didn’t understand?
  1. Part of the problem is that most of you already know the explanation
  2. Part of the problem is that they thought they already knew everthing
    • Jesus was going to free them from the Romans and bring them prosperity
    • So which bit of the parable is about Romans, Jesus?
    • Which bit is about us getting rich?
  3. Part of it is that they already had a story of the sower that was slightly different (more in a moment)

Mark 4 —Jesus explains

  1. And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
  2. The sower sows the word.
  3. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
  4. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.
  5. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Mark 4 —Jesus explains cont’d

  1. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,
  2. but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
  3. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
  • That is a pretty clear explanation.

2. The Old Testament Sower

  1. Part of it is that they already had a story of the sower that was slightly different:

Jeremiah 24 —Return from Exile

  1. Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans.
  2. I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not uproot them.
  3. I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
  • We know from their writings at the time that the Jews at that time saw themselves as still being in exile.
    • They were back in the land physically, but the ancient glory of the kingdom of David & Solomon had not been restored.
    • They understood this as a kingdom of national glory.
  • There is a dimension to this that is still being fulfilled in our day, with Israel and the land, but that is not the primary application that Jesus is making
  • How does this relate to this parable? At all?
    • In one, the people are being planted, in the other, the seed is the word.
    • But if you think of God’s word not as just information, but life-giving
    • The words contain the life-giving power of God

Jeremiah 31

  1. Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah…
  2. …as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD.
  3. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah
  4. …I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • This “New Covenant” replaces the old. Jesus replaces the sacrifices.

Isaiah & Colossians 1

  • Isa 27:6 In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.
  • Isa 37:31 And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.
  1. “the word of the truth, the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world, it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth… be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
  2. …so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

3. The Embarrassing Quote from Isaiah

  • There is a sequence:
    Parable / something about parables

Mark 4:1–34

1–2 about parables Intro: “he was teaching them many things in parables”
3–9 parable The Sower and the four kinds of soil
10–12 about parables “their ears are deaf” Isaiah 6:10–11
13–20 parable The Sower—explained
21–25 about parables “Pay attention to what you hear...”
26–32 parable Two more Sowers
33–34 about parables Conclusion: “He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.”

Quote from Isaiah 6 —Embarrassing?

  1. And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables.
  2. 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,
  3. so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
  • Is this God’s heart?
  • There have been many efforts to water it down, by re-defining some of the words
    • The problem is that it is fairly clear!
  • Others try to ignore, or sideline it
    • The problem is that it is right in the centre, beteen the parable and the explanation
    • In fact it is what the parable is about!
  • Jesus came as a prophet—the ultimate prophet
    • Old Testament Prophets spoke very often in parables
    • Isaiah was the greatest of the O.T. prophets
    • Jesus is taking the words of Isaiah and claiming them for himself
  • context in Isaiah

Isaiah 6

  1. He said, “Go and tell these people:
    ‘Listen continually, but don’t understand!
    Look continually, but don’t perceive!’
  2. Make the hearts of these people calloused;
    make their ears deaf and their eyes blind!
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
    their hearts might understand and they might repent and be healed.”
  3. I replied, “How long, sovereign master?” He said,
    “Until cities are in ruins and unpopulated,
    and houses are uninhabited,
    and the land is ruined and devastated,
  4. and the LORD has sent the people off to a distant place…
  • Why preach if they were not to respond?
    • to goad into listening
    • the tenth did in v13

Don’t look at this screen!

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  • But partly Is was prophetic, a last attempt to get their response
    • They were just about to be judged.
  • Jesus is saying “Don’t be like Israel in Isaiah’s time!”
  • Was Jesus’ preaching ultimately a success?
    • Well.. yes!
    • So how was it different to Isaiah?
    • Isaiah prophesied a future ministry that would very different:

Isaiah 44

  1. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
  2. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.

4. Message

  • This is the message for Newlife Church!

NewLife Church

NewLife Church

Image source: Heather Smith

New Life

  • The kingdom is about new life
  • This new life comes from the words of Jesus (the sower)
  • The new life is obtained by receiving and responding to the teachings
  • Warning to the disciples and to you!
  • Let’s look again at Jesus’ explanation:

Mark 4 —Jesus explains

  1. And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
  2. The sower sows the word.
  3. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.
  4. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy.
  5. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

Mark 4 —Jesus explains cont’d

  1. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,
  2. but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
  3. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
  • Joyfully receiving the words of Jesus can look like new life, but it must continue.
  • What is the fruit?
    • If you plant wheat, what do you get?
    • Corn?
    • Jesus sowed his own life in love (John 12:24)
  • We need to be clear what this seed is:
    • Jesus caused his words to be written down accurately through the Spirit
    • He also tells us that through the Spirit, he wrote the rest of the Bible
    • He also tells us that he continues to speak to us throught the Spirit...

Summary

  • Listening to Jesus is a matter of life and death
  • We tend to filter his words through our own desires
  • Many Christians have thin and weak fruit because of poor hearing
  • Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Updated on 2013-09-23 by Andrew Fountain

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