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Jesus Teaches by Parables

(Mark 4:1-9, 26-34)

Lesson 10 -- second quarter 1998
May 3, 1998

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 1998, Christian Light Publications

You got ears? Good. So do I. Let's put them to use as instructed, and let's hear about this parable of the soils. By the way side. This soil is hard-packed. Hungry birds patrol the area. As it presently stands, this place just won't work too well for agriculture. Those interested in planting here will need to work up the soil and devise a bird-elimination strategy. Many people's hearts resemble the wayside soil: the Gospel just doesn't make much of a dent. And before the sower realizes, the devil has done his deed with the seed. Now, suppose you were the Gospel messenger. What would you do? Will you just say, "Oh well. I had no intention of planting the seed, after all. Some you win; most you lose"? Or will you work the ground, replant the seed and stand guard against the devil?

On stony ground. When the seed lands here it finds a more welcoming environment. The soil is much more receptive and penetrable. The seed takes off, sprouting quickly. But all those rocks just below the surface! Somebody didn't put enough work into this area, so the roots probing downward are thwarted in their efforts to draw nourishment. Those unforeseen obstacles prove the seed's undoing. The sun comes up and mercilessly takes advantage of it. Zap! Many people are that way--the Truth finds welcome entry into their hearts, and begins quickly to develop towards fruition. Alas, someone has fallen down on the job. Someone should have been there to help cultivate depth of understanding and commitment. It could be said that this soil "woke up this morning feeling fine," but when the tests came and fine feelings fled...zap! Even when things go super, don't leave your garden alone!

Among thorns. Perhaps this soil had once been a thistle patch. Thankfully, the gardener worked it up well before planting. (Or did he settle for just whacking down and burning the plants?) The seed grows well here; both the good seed and the thistle seed, that is! The race is on, but the seed hasn't much of a chance in an untended garden. The thistles outperform the good plants, then finish them off by choking them off from their life sources. It could have been so different! And that is precisely what we hear said about so many people! Everything spiritual hums right along so well and development proceeds apace. Fruit-bearing season gets closer and closer. But someone has been negligent. Materialism, worldliness and legitimate present-life concerns sneak up, but with a vengeance. And there goes the much-anticipated fruit...along with the plant. Never underestimate the power of the stuff and the demands of this life.

On good ground. The dream of gardeners and farmers--fertile, well-prepared soil. The seed planted here develops, matures and reproduces beautifully. What a harvest! Could it be, though, that this good ground was originally hard, stony, thorn-choked or all of the above? Good gardens and bountiful crops don't come from mere dreams, you know! Before the harvest can be reaped there must be much hard work, beginning even before actual planting. Can we bring ourselves to believe that all people have this same potential? And are we willing to invest ourselves to the extent required to help them reach that full potential?

Now reread the parable and ask yourself this question: "What can I do with my own heart as though it were the soil here?" Because it is!

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