A CG Bible study reflection from Mark 4:1-34
In the great field of people, the word of God is sown to all (v14), not knowing where it will land or what fruits it will bring to bear. Jesus himself was sowing this seed but we now too have the privilege to sow His seed though the power of the Holy Spirit. However, the word does not always bear fruit – not through the fault of the word but due to the fault of the hearts in which it is sown, the type of soil it is sown in. Some are quick to rejoice, but are not willing to make the sacrifices that picking up the cross demands and fall away quickly when suffering comes (v17). This could be the pressure from those around you to conform, or the fear of being called old-fashioned or narrow-minded. Others hear the word but it is overshadowed by their present worries and desires (v19), such as success in relationships, academics or by other worldly standards. And in all this the Devil is prowling, looking to snatch away the word when your guard is down (1 Peter 5:8).
However, on closer inspection there is much more to Mark 4 than just the lessons of the parable. A parable isn’t just an illustration – an illustration requires a truth to be illustrated, but Jesus never states a truth. Understanding the truth requires a key, a key that is given as a gift (v11), without which the parable would have been nothing more than an interesting story. Much like the disciples who needed Jesus to explain the parable truth to them (v10), we would also have been blind to all parables (v13) unless Jesus revealed to us the truth of the parable by His Spirit. Considering this, how blessed are those who do understand the parables of Jesus. Not only do they gain the benefit of the spiritual truth illustrated; they also display some measure of responsiveness to the Holy Spirit. When we read the Bible, ask and rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truths behind it:
"Therefore Jesus used the parabolic method, not in order to blind them, but in order to make them look again; not in order to prevent them coming to forgiveness, but in order to lure them toward a new attention." (Morgan)
Since God has given us His Spirit to be able to come to know and understand Him through parables, let us carefully consider His word to learn more about him – what a gift this is (v9, 23)! Our efforts will be measured back to us – and more - (v24) and through this we can trust that the tiny seed that was sown in us will be grown enormous (v20, 34). If we are good, fertile soil, the seed that God has planted in our hearts will produce a crop for harvest.