There’s only one picture, but it depends on what angle or perspective you’re looking at it from.
By the end of Mark chapter 3, the disciples must be wondering the same thing about Jesus. How is it that people see and respond to Jesus in different ways?
Some people, including Jesus’ own family, thought He was losing it. The religious leaders said Jesus was Beelzebub, that He was Satan or at least on Satan's side.
The disciples saw Jesus differently though. He was the one that chose them, even if they didn’t understand everything He said.
To them Jesus wasn’t mad or under Satanic influences, but rather He was their rabbi (teacher & master par excellence).
But they must have wondered, why doesn't everyone see this? Why doesn’t everyone follow Him?
It's a question we might still ask today. Why are there so many different reactions to Jesus? The word gospel means good news.
The good news that Jesus came to restore us to a full relationship with God isn’t just good news, it’s the best news ever!!!
But if that’s the case why doesn’t everyone respond as soon as they hear it? Why is it that people still push back against the best news ever?
Jesus addresses this question at the start of chapter 4 in Mark’s Gospel. As the crowds gather by the seaside, Jesus climbed into a boat & began to teach them many things in parables.
As I understand, parables were earthly stories with heavenly meanings.
Jesus tells a story about a man sowing some seed. It’s something the crowds were very familiar with.
Before massive machines and large sections of land, farmers had to walk up and down the fields, scattering seed to be planted.
The parable that Jesus told explains why some people respond so differently to the best news ever.
On the path or wayside
The first seed fell on the path or wayside and didn’t even have a chance to take root before Satan came along and snatched it away. (Mark 4:4,15)
This is like those who hear the best news ever, but it goes in one ear and out the other.
They respond with no more than 'that's good for you’. They are the ones who automatically resist anything to do with God.
One of my friends is always objecting to the idea of life after death. He believes that once your dead your dead, that’s it.
What I found interesting about our discussion is our capacity to even talk about life after death—where does that come from? It seems to me that this question has already been settled.
According to Eccl. 3:11, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He also set eternity in the human heart...”
I think its also important to remember that some people are resistant because that’s how they’re conditioned. (Through the media and other sources, they’re told that church is irrelevant and outdated)
This might true on some fronts, but they simply use this as an excuse for rejecting the best news ever.
So, we need to pray for our family and friends that God’s Spirit might soften their hearts and that they would be good listeners and act in faith.
We need to be careful that we don't drift into that kind of response ourselves. It’s so easy to take God’s Word for granted, to read it as a daily ritual without ever allowing it to penetrate our hearts.
On Rocky Ground
If the first seed didn't get a chance to start, at least in the second soil the seed took root, at least on the surface.
Mark 4:5: “Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang because it had no depth of earth.”
When it comes to these people hearing the best news ever, they are ones who start out with a bang, but its more of an emotional response. Jesus says they immediately receive it with gladness or great joy. (v. 16)
As long as life is easy then everything is just peachy. But all it takes is a little bit of pressure or stress and their emotional faith falls apart.
I know what I’m talking about, I too caved into my newfound faith, I was ridiculed by my friends, and my family did not exactly support me. (I got discouraged and gave up)
It was only by the grace of God and the hound of Heaven that I came back. Fortunately, I went to Bible School. (I literally had to leave my surroundings to get stronger and I haven’t looked back since)
There's a real challenge here for us to nurture and to come along side those who are new or weak in the faith.
It's a great tragedy that the seed gets a chance to start but can't survive. This is where the church family can play a crucial role in fanning the flame of a deeper faith. (It takes a village to raise a child)
One of the main reasons why the best news ever reached Europe and then our own continent is because the Apostle Paul spent a good portion of his life building into many 1st century churches.
Those 1st century churches were far from perfect and if it wasn’t for Paul addressing critical & carnal issues, I doubt that the best news ever would have reached our shores. (Ray Vander Laan alluded to the same thing on more than one occasion)
Even for ourselves, we need to allow the best news ever to take root in our lives. As I understand it, trees that are battered the most by storms are the ones that grow the tallest and survive the longest. (i.e. The Sequoia trees between the central valley of California and the Great Basin)
I know one thing for sure, no one is exempt from the storms of life. How do we respond when they come, who do we turn to? What are we anchored to?
So, in this second soil, the seed starts but doesn't survive because of all the outside pressures. In the third soil the seed doesn’t fare very well either.
Amongst the Thorns
Mark 4:7, “And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.”
This soil is little closer to home. My neighbor’s front lawn is overtaken by dandelions (the devils yellow flower) which is what dandelions use to be called.
One of the challenges I’m having is keeping my own front yard being taken over by dandelions, to keep them from taking root on my front lawn.
Someone had a discussion with me once that bees need flowers, dandelions etc. so they can pollinate.
I get that, but my response should have been they have Heritage Park they can fly to, and besides Heritage Park is loaded with dandelions and they don’t have very far to fly from one dandelion to the next.
Jesus explains what the thorns/weeds in our lives can be like.
Mark 4:19: “the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things that come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing.”
This is perhaps the greatest challenge for us as believers. I know its so easy for me to get bogged down with the concerns of this world. (Maybe even dandelions)
It’s easy to worry about my own health, wealth, and successes, or at least to be well-liked and not to be sidelined. It’s not that these things in themselves are bad.
Money, relationships, work and play are all good gifts given by God for us to enjoy. But we’re warned to not put too much stalk in them.
Jesus warned of the danger of storing up treasure on earth, about being more worried about the things of this world than His kingdom.
After all we are just passing through. Eventually I will have to give my boat up or give it to someone else. And here’s the challenge, sometimes we can’t see the weeds and thorns in our own lives, as they slowly creep in and take over.
This is why it’s so important that we keep meeting with other believers, encouraging one another, and helping each other keep the best news ever central to our lives. (COVID -19 won’t last forever)
The last soil and thank God this last soil is possible even beyond our own expectations.
After three bad types of soil, Jesus says some seed fell on good soil or good ground. (v. 8)
Here the seed springs to life, grows up and yields a bumper crop. This is the kind of soil we should be aiming to be like.
Jesus doesn’t describe what this bumper crop looks like. But in Galatians, Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Could Jesus be referring to the fruits of the Spirit? The nature of the gospel is that it transforms, it transforms our relationship with God and our relationship with each other.
The best news ever produces a bumper crop as we allow His Spirit to have control – we would call it yielding, submitting, obeying, surrendering. (Words easy to write down but not so easy to live out sometimes)
In Jesus’ parable only one type of seed is sown. But the soil it lands in determines what kind of yield it will produce.
Jesus tells this parable to explain to His disciples, and to us, why there will be so many different responses to the best news ever.
Our responsibility is to sow the seed, and then we are to pray that it lands in good soil, and that the people who hear the best news ever will accept it by faith and grow to be a bumper crop.
Let’s pray this year that God will lead us to the good soil that will produce a bumper crop for Him.