Friday, February 19, 2010

The Hard Soil

Last Sunday, we began to study the Parable of the Soils from Mark chapter 4. We had some interesting sound issues during the sermon, but I hope it didn’t detract from the privilege of hearing God’s Word.

Jesus did not always speak in parables. In fact, for quite a while in his ministry, he was very straightforward, teaching lessons and commands and stories and illustrations, but not parables. As Mark 3:23 and 4:11 tells us, Jesus deliberately began speaking in parables to conceal truth to those who rejected Jesus and were guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the parables were a way to continue to reveal truth about the kingdom of God to those who were genuine believers

The Parable of the Soils is the first parable recorded in the Gospel of Mark. It has four parts, and we studied just the first part together last Sunday. There were three points:

1. The seed. Living in an agrarian society, many of Jesus’ audience were either farmers themselves or walked by farms every single day on their way to work or the market. Jesus uses the familiar metaphor of farming in many of his parables. In this one, he explicitly tells his disciples that the seed being sown represents the Word of God (Mark 4:14). We, like that farmer, have a duty to scatter the seed of God’s Word into the lives of those God has put in our path. But take heart, the results do not depend on your knowledge or skill. The seed itself has power to transform lives (cf. Romans 1:16-17). Just scatter it faithfully and you will be amazed at what God begins to do.

2. The soil. The soil in Jesus’ parable represents the heart of man (cf. Matt. 3:19). The dirt in this story, hardened over time by continual foot traffic, was resistant to the seed. This soil represented the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who had blasphemed against God (Mk. 3:22). Likewise, there are many hard-hearted people today who sadly want nothing to do with God, Jesus, the Bible, or the Church.

3. The snatcher. For the farmer, any seed that drops is the loss of a precious commodity. But for the birds, it is a free meal. Quickly, the birds swoop in and devour the seed. Jesus then draws a parallel in how Satan often snatches the seed of God’s Word away from a hard heart before it has the opportunity to penetrate. It’s in one ear and out the other. Satan may do this through self-righteous religiosity, through false teaching, through ignorance, fatigue, distractions, etc.

Questions for thought and discussion:
  • Is it possible that this kind of soil describes me -- that I may feel very religious and self-righteous, but in reality am not allowing God's Word to penetrate my heart?
  • Who is someone that God has put on my heart to 'scatter seed' and start building a relationship to witness to them? What step will I take this week to do begin doing this? (e.g. make a phone call, invite to lunch, invite to church, etc.)
  • Who is one friend or relative that this hard soil describes? Have I given up witnessing to them? What strategies have succeeded or failed in the past?
  • Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26. What does this passage teach us about reaching hard-hearted people?
  • What can I do each week to ensure the preaching of God's Word is not being snatched away by the devil? What should I do on Saturday, on Sunday, on Monday?
Due to audio problems, we were only to record the first 15 minutes of Sunday's sermon. It is now available for free download on our podcast site.

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