0955 Mk.4.1-20 Insiders and Outsiders Pt.3 - Parable of the Seeds

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People had different reactions to the word of Jesus on the Kingdom of God. Jesus uses this parable to distinguish between the "insiders & "outsiders". Those who would bear "fruit" for God and those who would bring Him no return.

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When I was young - about 13 yrs old - I was at a place called Oxenford - about 10 mins north of the GC - at the house of a friend of the family
It’s a place now that is full of shops/markets & the like - almost inner city
But back then it was pretty well, country
We went out to the front of the house that was beside a road but about 30 mtrs from it
The father of this family brought out a shotgun & they were going to shoot ducks in the ponds behind their home
But before he did this, he asked me if I’d like to have a go at the gun
I thought I’d have a crack, so he walked up the road & put an empty shoebox, tacking it onto a tree
He came back, passed the shotgun to me & said to aim for the box on the tree, but beware, it has a good kick so make sure you have it firmly pressed back into your shoulder
I kind of aimed the best I could - cause the gun was rather heavy for a 13 yr old & bang - just about took my shoulder off
Believe it or not, I actually hit the box
However, it was a bit of false indicator, since it was a shotgun & not a rifle
Shotguns shoot pellets that spread out - so you could have been off target but still hit it with the pellets
This is an illustration of what it’s like when the sower sows the seed of the word - it scatters & spreads out broadly & what they land on is going to determine what response you’ll get if & when the plant springs up
Jesus is now giving explanation for all the different responses people have had of Him as His word of the kingdom goes out
There has been the enthusiasm & commitment of the original followers when He called them to become fishers of men
There has been the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit from the Scribes who have come from Jerusalem & who attribute Jesus’ work to the devil & sorcery
There has been the response of His family who thinks He has gone stark, raving mad
There have been those who are pressing & flocking around Him desperately trying to touch him, like people who are scampering in a last minute sale at a department store
They are hoping to find relief from physical or spiritual suffering
Then, there are those utterly fascinated & curious by His incredible authority to drive out demons
Q. If His preaching of the kingdom of God is good news, why do we have so many differing responses to Him with plenty of rejections?
Q. If the demons acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, why will the religious leaders, His family & the crowds not acknowledge Him as such?

1. Parable to Divide the Insiders from the Outsiders

Jesus’ call right from the getgo was a welcome invitation to everyone who would consent to repent & believe in the Gospel
Mark 1:14–15 NASB95
14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
But Jesus had many mixed reactions to this call to repent & believe
He had people coming to Him for a fix - no interest in wanting to repent or believe
So long as He would heal me physically or spiritually, then I’ll hang with Jesus
But the call of the kingdom was always to repent & believe
Just as Jesus said when He was called by His family - “whoever does the will of God, he is My brother & sister & mother”
The will of God, of course, is to repent & believe in the Gospel
This parable today will explain what puts people in the Insider camp or the outsider camp
The ones who do not repent & believe in the Gospel & those that do
Mark 4:30 NASB95
30 And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God, or by what parable shall we present it?
This parable today is about the kingdom of God & the people who either align themselves with it or keep distant from it

1a. An Enigma, a Riddle, a Cartoon

A parable is a bit like a riddle & put in images similar to that of cartoons
Jesus’ parables are meant to divide and are meant to be obscure
Here in the New American Bible, a Catholic edition, you get a clear picture of the force of this passage
Mark 4:11–12 NABRE
11 He answered them, “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been granted to you. But to those outside everything comes in parables, 12 so that ‘they may look and see but not perceive, and hear and listen but not understand, in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.’ ”
On the surface, this sounds disturbing
That the parable has the intention of hiding the reality of the Kingdom of God from people
Q. Is this so? Is this how we are to conceive it?
I don’t think it’s this simple
This is not a statement of God’s intentions, but a radical way to make a division between those who are God’s & those who are not
These parables still fall back on the choices of a person
The problem being, however, is that many people have closed up their heart to God
The parables make it clear who has closed their heart to God & who hasn’t

2. Having Ears to Hear

When Amy was younger - well even before she became a Younger - Amy would come into my study & start talking to me about something
However, if I had something pressing on my mind, I would outwardly be saying “oh yes, oh right”, but I’m not really listening
All of a sudden, she would stop mid way & say “Dad, you’re not listening to me”
I’d go, “Oh sorry, darl, I’ll do better - keep going”
That illustration is a rather superficial one since what Jesus says about listening is much more than just listening with the ears
It has more to do with accepting & acceptance of what you hear
Q. Does the person have the ears of the heart to hear?
Having ears to hear is the main theme of this passage
There are those who really & truly hear with the heart in what Jesus says - these are the insiders
Those who fail to hear are the outsiders - they are those who have ground that is unsuitable to the growth of the seed (actually the word of the kingdom) that lands on them
In their hearing, they do not pick up on the heart of what Jesus & the kingdom is all about
So the division between insiders and outsiders is connected with how each group ‘hears the word’
Who takes the truth to heart
Mark 4:9 NASB95
9 And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark 4:24 NASB95
24 And He was saying to them, “Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.
This is why Jesus explains the parables to those who are open to His word
We can think of this like a radio that needs to be tuned into the Jesus station
Those who want to hear will tune the radio to the point where they can clearly understand & accept what is being said about the kingdom of God
Those who don’t want to welcome the words of Jesus, will tune out, so that all that get it crackle
They have other concerns that overshadow the message of the kingdom - I’ll talk about some of those a little later
There is, likewise, the general aversion to the radical call of commitment of one’s life in Christ, which many think is too demanding
This call means hearing & accepting a message that says to deny yourself, take up your cross & follow Jesus even through suffering – even to the suffering of a cross
A parable is like a snowplough that has the pointy “V” shaped blade that as it ploughs through the snow, it separates the snow from one side of the road or the other
The parable separates the sheep from the goats those who have ears to hear, eyes to see & those who are spiritually stone deaf & blind
John 9:39–41 NASB95
39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
Jesus wants the spiritually blind to see
But many who claim to see are wilfully blind to the kingdom of God
There is the question too, as to why some are open & respond with interest to the message of the kingdom, yet there are those who remain indifferent to it
What we need to realise here is that human decision seems to be secondary to God’s doing
This is hard to understand
How the different kind of soil came to be different in the first place
Why do some hear with ears to hear while others can’t hear!
“...the message of the kingdom of God is something so paradoxical, so totally opposed to natural human insight, that it takes nothing less than divine revelation to enable people to grasp it.” — R. T. France
As Jesus says to His disciples: “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything bin parables”
Here again - to those who are outside get everything in parables
Those on the inside are able to get privileged information about the parable
Mark 4:33–34 NASB95
33 With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it; 34 and He did not speak to them without a parable; but He was explaining everything privately to His own disciples.

3. The Intention of the Sower

I mentioned recently that my underlying thoughts coming out of Bible College was that if the word of God was heard by everyone, then the world would come to Christ & people would do what the word said
Perhaps, it was a naive understanding of human nature on my part
In a way, I perhaps knew it could not be the case, but I was so convinced by the power of God’s word, that my thinking was naive
I was, to be honest, disappointed that I saw so many deaf ears & so many indifferent to what God was saying that it broke my heart
I haven’t changed my assessment of the immense power of the word, but I’m now more realistic about human nature
This parable, in a way, is dealing with my struggle about why the word wasn’t taking root in people’s lives
The intention of the sower is to produce a crop - for it to be fruitful
We see in this parable, however, that some produced a crop whereas others either fizzled away or didn’t even have a start
The intention of the sower hasn’t changed, but the condition of the ground is so different that they produce different results
To me, the ground represents the heart of a person
Different ground are the different responses to the message of the kingdom
This is why “how you hear” is the main point of this passage
There are six seeds here: 3 which are unfruitful & 3 which are fruitful
3 failed & 3 succeeded
The 3 that failed represent the “outsiders” & the 3 that succeeded represent the “insiders

4. Outsiders Are the Fruitless

Jesus explains the type of ground that restricts the seed (that is, His word) from producing a fruitful harvest
On the first seed - The seed or the word which is sown beside the road
When the sower sows, the seed is scattered & a number of seeds fall on the hard road where it can’t sink into the ground
These seeds are easy pickings for birds that come along & eat up the seeds
Jesus says that Satan immediately comes & takes away that word
Q. But how does this happen?
No slight on those who sometimes don’t get the point of a cartoon, but it is like a person who only sees the picture & has no idea of the meaning
I don’t mean for you to think that you are like the seed fallen beside the path, but I think you should get what I mean
These people cannot see the kingship of God coming through Jesus’ word - they see nothing but a picture
Then you have seed sown on the rocky places
This is a picture of the hyper enthusiastic convert who is all excited about a relationship wih the Lord until he hits the ground realising the demanding nature of being a disciple & he falls away
Literally, he stumbles - as a person walking on the path of life in Christ, but then trips over big time & he’s out
This person is temporary since the hardship of discipleship starts biting esp. when the world expresses its dislike of your faithfulness to Jesus
Then, this person crumbles in the face of a hostile world
Then you have seed sown among the thorns
These are the ones that are not persecuted by the world, but are choked by the world
These are the ones who are too wed to the world & when the world dictates to this disciple how they should live, they follow
In essence, true discipleship is choked out of existence
To the point where this person who professes Christ becomes almost indistinguishable from the world
He may continue in that way, thoroughly self-deceived, until all is revealed on the day of judgement
What is mentioned here, specifically, are the attractions of the world : being the deceitfulness of riches & desires for other things - things that choke out the things of God
Since he is so tangled up in the world, he also frets or worries about all the things in this age/world
He is choked & misses those opportunities that make for fruitful discipleship
Notice that this person is choked - becomes unfruitful
It doesn’t say that he walks from the faith
It implies that he has deceived himself as to the genuineness of his faith
In contrast with the rocky ground, the threat to discipleship here among the thorns, does not come from worldly threats, but from the disciples own divided loyalty
Again, his life will be revealed on the day of judgement
You can hear echoes of this in Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount
Matthew 7:19–23 NASB95
19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
There has to be genuine change that reflects on the fact that the ground in which the seed was planted, becomes good ground
There needs be an assessment to how you are hearing the word of Jesus & how you are appropriating that word
So we see that the first seed never got started
The 2nd seed got started but shrivelled & died
The 3rd seed survived but was unfruitful & couldn’t produce grain
In the end, none of them were any good to the farmer
He is not looking for survival, but for grain, for fruitfulness
It seems that the outsiders are people who had seed that has been either scattered beside the path, received on rocky ground or received among the thorns
I think this is an immense challenge to all of us, but it is not inconsistent with the other teachings of Jesus
You may be aware of the apostle Peter having a moment of relapse in His walk with the Lord
Actually, he had more than one while he was trying to work through the matters of Jesus’ mission
Jesus explained to His disciples His road to the cross & His resurrection
This was not in Peter’s mind as the right path, nor even an optional path for Jesus to take
Peter roundly rebuked the Lord for that, but Jesus laid out Peter’s issue
Mark 8:33 NASB95
33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
In this, you see the real issue: what happens is an unhealthy heart/mind set on man’s interests, “my interests” & hence the inability to grasp what is God’s interests
Now by God’s grace, a person need not stay as rocky ground or ground under thorns
They may well end up becoming good ground, ready & willing to receive what the Lord has said & to put it into practise

5. Insiders Are the Fruitful

As I have casually read this parable, I often missed the fact that there are 3 unfruitful seeds because of the particular ground on which they fell & 3 fruitful seeds
I usually thought that it was 3 unfruitful & 1 fruitful
But you can see that the 3 fruitful are the 30, 60 & 100-fold
The difference here is that there were some who were sufficiently interested in what Jesus had to say to join the 12 apostles in asking for further clarity on the parables
Mark 4:10 NASB95
10 As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables.
The others went away, however, having heard nothing but the parable
They got what they wanted from Jesus, perhaps healing, an exorcism, or food & then they went on their way
Like those 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus & only one came back - a Samaritan - to give God glory & to say thank you
Discipleship is demanding & it’s not just about what Jesus can do for you, but what you can do for Jesus
I recall much talk in Bible College about the Cargo Cults that operated in some countries where missionaries had been working
They were having great success in mission - at least they thought they were - until they realised that the conversions came as the cargo rolled out
In other words, Christianity was the flavour of the month as the rice was provided by Christian donations to the mission, but with no rice, you had no converts
There is always a risk of allusion when it came to conversions when they came with real physical benefits to the recipients
So here, we see that the good ground will produce differing results, but they will all be acceptable to the farmer since they all produce a return
30, 60 & 100 fold
Matthew 25:14–15 NASB95
14 “For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 “To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.
When He returned, this happened...
Matthew 25:20–21 NASB95
20 “The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Matthew 25:22–23 NASB95
22 “Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Both the one who received the 5 talents & the one who received the 2 talents were both given the same praise from the master
The key is that whatever we have received, that we are faithful in the use of what we have been given
So there are different yields by different disciples, whether 30, 60, 100 fold, but they were all producers that brought a yield to the master
So the point of the parable is “be careful how you listen”
Let the word of Jesus sink into your heart & accept it
Let your life, then reflect that word that was sown
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