The Ground of the Gospel

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lass=MsoNormal align=right style='text-align:right'>1) 3-8-09…AM…SBC     2)“The Ground of the Gospel”

Mark 4:1-20

(Luke 8:4-15; Matthew 13:1-17)


A little boy who wanted one hundred dollars very much prayed and prayed for two weeks, but nothing happened.  The he decided to write a letter to God requesting the one hundred dollars.  When the post office received the letter addressed to, “God, USA,” they didn’t know what to do with it, so they sent it to the president at the White House.  The president was so impressed he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a five dollar bill thinking, “That should look like a large sum of money to one so young.”  The boy was delighted with the five dollars and immediately sat down to write a thank-you note to God, which read, “Dear God, thank you for sending me the money.  However, I notice that for some reason you had it sent through Washington, D.C., and as usual, the government deducted ninety-five percent. (World’s Greatest collection of Church Jokes, p95)

Parables are kind of like…A good joke – you have to understand the components of the joke in order to laugh

Ø      you can have the joke explained to you but the end is then not so funny – follow the components (Paul Harmon)

Ø      when it comes to understanding parables we are at a severe disadvantage because of lack of knowledge of most of the components – we often need help from an outside sources  (handbooks) – they are still useful for today

Ø      The word parable has the idea of placing, or laying, something alongside of something else for the purpose of comparison. [1] - illustration laid next to truth to help us understand – (more than illus. and earthly/heavenly)

Ø      A true parable gets the listener deeply involved and compels that listener to make a personal decision about God’s truth and his or her life.

Ø      So penetrating and personal are parables that, after they heard several of them, the religious leaders wanted to kill the Lord Jesus! (see Matt. 21:45–46)[2] - Allegorizing

Transition into the Parable scenario:

Ø      Jesus apparently leaves the house where He has been teaching and went down by the Sea of Galilee

Ø      While by the sea a crowd once again began to gather – Luke tells us “people from town after town” came

Ø      To facilitate speaking to such a large crowd Jesus moved into a boat – lake setting made it ideal for teaching

Transition:  It is in this setting by the Sea of Galilee that Mark records for the first time Jesus’ parabolic teaching

Ø      The parable begins and ends (v. 9) with an admonition to listen thoughtfully, which shows that the meaning of parables is not always self-evident[3]

1)   Identifying the components of the parable                           v1-9

A-  Sower/Farmer

1-      one day a farmer went out to plant seed – the seed was sown first and then it would be plowed under

2-      he tossed his seed bag over his shoulder and began spreading the seed handfuls at a time

·       not rows of dirt tilled up with neat little rows in which to place every kernel – farmer present????

Ø      while spreading handfuls of seed it would have been impossible to control accurately where all the seed fell

Ø      it is from these soils that Jesus teaches this parable

B-    Soil – types of ground the seed falls on         v4-8

1.      Surface #1 – The Path/Road – hardened by travel

The Result – trampled by foot, bird food, seed didn’t fulfill it’s purpose, went to waste


2.      Surface #2 - Rocky Ground – some of Israel’s tillable soil is found on top of layers of rock

The Result – no deep nutrition, no roots, appearance of immediate success and vibrant life

3.      Surface #3 – Thorns

The Result – thorns choked out the nutrients need for the good plants, no grain produced

4.      Surface #4 - Good soil

   The Result – Harvest of massive proportions, amazing given the soil climate

Transition:  (v9) Then Jesus used a familiar phrase that would have communicated to listeners the significant accountability of understanding what they just hear…listen closely and take to heart

2)  The Reason for speaking in parables                        v10-12

Ø      those that were with him wanted to know two things – Why parables? What does this one mean? (Mt/Mk)

1-      To those who had true faith the mystery of the parables was given – those outside just heard stories

1 Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

2-      to those with faith the parables served a divine didactic purpose – there was spiritual meaning in them

3-      Jesus quotes the Isaiah passage to illustrate that the teaching in the parables was to be concealed to those on the outside—those without truth saving faith

Transition:       But v1-9 themselves this divine teaching is not made clear, because the basic story tells nothing but the literal account.  It was only to His disciples in v13-20 that Jesus explained the meaning, because an unexplained parable was nothing but an impossible riddle, whose meaning could only be guessed at.[4]

3) The Meaning of the Parable           v13-20


Ø      Jesus challenged them that if they couldn’t discern the meaning of this parable they would not be able to discern any of the other parables that were meant for them either

A-    The three main components in Jesus explanation of this parable are…the sower, the seed and the soil

1-      The Sower is never specifically identified – Matthew refers the Sower to Jesus in Matthew 13:37 parable

2-      The Seed – identified by Mark as “the word”, Luke - Word of God”- Gospel of God (Mk 1)

3-      The Soil – the parallel Gospel accounts make the soil connected with the hearts of mankind

Ø      the result of the hearing of the gospel always and everywhere depends on the condition of heart of those to whom it is addressed.[5]

1-      Surface #1 – The Path/Road – individuals that Satan distracts from the message of the Word

The Result – the individual, upon hearing the Word, is influenced to dismiss it’s relevance                            

2-      Surface #2 - Rocky Ground – individuals who receive the Word with joy and later abandon during trial

The Result –    they do not continue in the Word and show that the Word never took root

3-      Surface #3 – Thorns – individuals who crowd out the Word with the cares of the world

The Result – The Word is choked out and becomes unfruitful (not a reflection on the Word)

4-      Surface #4 - Good soil – individuals whose hearts are receptive to the life changing power of the Word

The Result – it bears more fruit in this life then could ever be imagined

Ø      the emphasis in this parable is found in the ground that is different from all the others presented

Ø      So what can the Word accomplish for us…


1-      It won’t do anything if we allow Satan to distract us from receiving the Word – the first three types of soil

A-    We all know that Satan will try every trick in the book to keep of from being pierced by the Word

·         James 4:7 “resist the devil and he will flee from you”    1 Peter 5:8 “lion, seeking someone to devour”

·         How has he been successful at that in your life within the last 48 hrs leading up to this service

·         Are you convinced that your trial is to big for God to handle—have you dismissed the Bible’s relevance

·         Were you deceived last night into thinking that that TV show, that movie, that book, surfing the internet was more important than being well rested to focus on God’s Word

·         How has he been working on distracting you since you got here this morning

-          has he made our kids act like the little devils they can be on Sunday morning specifically to distract

-          were you late this morning—did you have to rush here this morning and then get everyone to their classes and then miss out on the beginning of the service and specific emphasis that comes with it

-          Has he distracted you by thinking—why do have to sing from so many song books! (hy—ch—scr)

-          Are you distracted by animosity towards someone or some aspect of this church

Ø      What’s the point?—the point is that Satan will do anything he can do distract the Word from taking root in our lives

·         He wants you to be distracted so that you don’t allow the Word to grow in the good soil of your heart

·         He wants you to allow the cares of this world, greed, money and a host of everything to suck the life of the Word right out of your life

So what do we do about that?                        We counterattack Satan’s feeble attempts with the powerful Word of God

To put it in the context of the question we have been coming back to again and again in the book of Mark,

2-      What is a Christian?                A Christian will be…

-          An individual who accepts the Word and it’s implications for life – you wrap the Word around your life

-          Someone who knows the word well enough to use it offensively against the onslaught of Satan

-          Someone who will continually revisit their own love for God and His Word

3-      God’s Word is more powerful than the devil’s distractions

-          it is powerful enough to divide the joints and marrow-hard outer part of the bone/the soft tender inner part

-          we must labor in the Word if we are not going to be people who hear and don’t understand

-          How have you given yourself to knowing the Word of God so as to not be distracted from it


[1]John MacArthur, Matthew (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 345.

[2]Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, "An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire 'BE' Series"--Jkt. (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Mk 3:22.

[3]James A. Brooks, vol. 23, Mark, electronic e., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001, c1991), 79.

[4]John MacArthur, Matthew (Chicago: Moody Press, 1989), 345.

[5]William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, vol. 10, New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark, Accompanying Biblical Text Is Author's Translation., New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001), 156.

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