Day 69, Mark 4

We, of course, read Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and the Soils in Matthew’s Gospel three months ago. Let’s consider it a little more closely today. It is not a parable about heaven-bound Christians who are more or less receptive to their pastor’s sermons. It is a parable that explains why some people are saved and some are not. Describing the first soil, Jesus said, “the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).

Notice that it was not the sower who determined which seeds germinated, grew, and bore fruit. The sower simply scattered the seed. Rather, it was each soil that determined if the sower’s seeds germinated, grew and bore fruit. I can almost hear a stampede of Calvinists running for the doors! Sorry my beloved Calvinist friends, I didn’t write the Bible! God wants everyone to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), which is why Jesus died for everyone (1 John 2:2) and why He told us to preach the gospel to everyone (Mark 16:15). Yet some hearts are receptive, and some aren’t. That is why some are saved and others are not.

In the first scenario, some seed fell beside the road where the soil would have been hardened by foot and animal traffic. It was easy pickings for the birds. Similarly, hardened hearts make it easy for Satan to “take away the word which has been sown” (4:15).

God is grieved by people’s hardness of hearts (3:5; 16:14), which would make it quite odd if He was the one who was hardening their hearts. Calvinists are quick to point out a few verses that speak of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Indeed, as an act of righteous judgment, God may further harden the heart of someone who has already hardened his own heart to the degree of sending away his day of grace. God is not, however, in the business of hardening the hearts of people who otherwise would have been receptive. That would make God worse than Satan and worthy to be spit upon, and Calvinists will not find a scriptural example of Him ever doing such a wicked, unrighteous thing.

In the second scenario, the seed fell on rocky soil. It germinated and sprouted, but because the soil was thin, when the sun rose the soil dried up and the plant withered, having no deep roots. Jesus said this represents those who initially receive the word with joy, but who fall away when affliction or persecution arises. According to Luke’s version of this parable, Jesus said that these are people who “believe for a while” (Luke 8:13). They are temporary believers. So these plants represent people who hear the gospel, happily believe it, experience new life (germination) and even begin to grow spiritually. Under persecution, however, they abandon their faith. Surely I’ve now started a stampede of “once-saved-always-saved” advocates who are running for the doors!

In the third scenario, the seed fell among the thorns. Those seeds also germinated, sprouted and began to grow, indicating that Jesus was describing new believers. Thorn bushes, however, choked the young plants. The thorns represent “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (4:19) which, taking priority, prevent believers from bearing fruit, which is not a good condition to be found in at harvest time. So beware of worries, riches, desires, and anything that might take priority over serving God!

The fourth soil is the only good soil, representing, according to Luke’s account, “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). It is the only soil that produces fruitful plants, which means it is the only soil that produces people who will ultimately be saved, since faith without works cannot save (Jas. 2:14). In spite of soothing sermons that assure us that God’s grace is sufficient to overpower the warnings of God’s word, Jesus never lies.

For this reason it is all the more important that we obey Jesus’ admonition to “take care what you listen to” (4:24). Satan is extremely generous when it comes to sharing his lies. Beware!