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02.06.11 The Key to Jesus’ Sayings, Mark 4:1-9 Sermon Summary

by on February 17, 2011

Summary Points

  • Fruitfulness in the spiritual life
  • The three fruitless soils and how to determine if you have them
  • The fruitful soil and what it takes to have it
  • Three hopeful messages from this parable

Almost all of Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Mark appear in chapter 4. The first parable is of the sower and the soils. Mark presents this parable as the key to understanding all of Jesus’ sayings. And the key is fruitfulness. In the Newer Testament, spiritual fruitfulness can have many meanings. John the Baptizer says people must bear the fruit of repentance. Jesus says God is glorified as people bear fruit, by which he means they become increasingly faithful disciples. James says that faith is proven by fruit.

In the parable of the sower, seed falls on four different kinds of soils. Only one of these soils produces a harvest. The other three fail to do so. What is the nature of those fruitless soils?

The first fruitless soil results from it being too hard. In spiritual terms, it is “hardness of heart.” Hardness of heart results when God has spoken something to us and we neglect to listen and do what God has said. The classic example is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Moses delivered the message that God wanted his people set free, and Pharaoh refused. His heart was hardened, and God’s Word bore no fruit in his life. See below for a way to determine where your heart may be hardened.

The second fruitless soil results from the ground being infested with rocks. The seed sprouts, but withers because the roots are shallow. These “rock blocks” don’t allow our spiritual lives to deepen. Rock blocks result when we hold grudges and resentments about the past, or fail to accept things about the present. If we dwell on past injuries or the ways our lives aren’t ideal, we remain shallow, and God can’t lead us to spiritual depth and maturity. See below for a way to determine where there may be rock blocks in your life.

The third fruitless soil results from the presence of thorns that grow alongside the sprout and eventually choke the life from it. Jesus identifies “the cares of the world and the deceit of riches.” Note it isn’t the world, or riches, that are the problem, but preoccupation with them that distract us from God’s work in our lives and our bearing fruit. These aren’t the only distractions, but they typify the dynamic of our spiritual attention and activity being sidetracked and bearing no fruit. Below you’ll find a suggestion on how to determine where the choker thorns are growing in your life.

Finally, the parable identifies a fourth soil that bears a harvest. What are the nutrients that allow this soil to be fruit-bearing? Well, it isn’t hard-hearted, it isn’t made shallow by rocks, and there are no thorns choking the sprout. To nourish the soil of our souls, we can do things we know we should do. We can trust God more along the lines of Jeremiah 17. There we are given the image of a fruitful tree, what makes it successful, and what causes others to fail. Essentially, the issue is where we place our trust and our actions based on that trust.

This parable offers three hopeful observations for those who have ears to hear. First, good soil is possible. Even hardened soil, rocky soil, and weedy soil can be made good soil. Second, even though soil can change, it doesn’t do it alone. The sower helps to soften, clear, and weed bad soil into good soil. Third, if there is no harvest this year, the sower will faithfully return and sow seed again next season. There’s always another opportunity to become fruitful.

Questions for Further Reflection

  • To discern where your heart has become hardened, ask yourself, What do I know I should do, but don’t? (James 4:17)
  • To determine where there may be rock blocks in your spiritual garden, as yourself, What do I need to forgive or accept in my life?
  • To identify the choking thorns that threaten your spiritual fruitfulness, ask yourself, What am I not praying about?
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2 Comments
  1. Pst oparah laurence permalink

    I just want to thank God for the writer because thiswork is very educative and insightful.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. 07.13.14 Of Seed, Soil, and Spirit Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Sermon Summary | Thinking Faith

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