Mark 4:1-9 (ESV)
1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Mark transitions from the house where Jesus taught, to the Sea of Galilee. Again, a very large crowd followed him. In fact, the crowd was so large that Jesus had to get into a boat to teach the masses gathered on the shore. There is actually a place on the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum known as the “Bay of Parables.” Because the land gently slopes down to the bay, sound can transmit beautifully, and it would have been possible for Jesus to preach to thousands of people there. Verse 2 states that Jesus taught many things in parables. A parable is used for comparison. The one using the parable will illustrate an unfamiliar truth by comparing it to a known truth. Jesus began his Parable of the Soils with the charge to “Listen!” He exhorted the crowd to both hear and think about what he taught. He told them about a farmer who scattered seed along a path on ground with rocks, on ground with thorns, and finally, on good soil. The farmer in Jesus’ parable wanted to get every possible square inch of area covered by seed in hopes that some would yield plants that produced a harvest. Jesus’ audience was quite familiar with farming, and these illustrations should have made sense to them.
The farmer in Jesus’ parable did whatever he could to provide an opportunity for the seed to find good soil. He was willing to scatter seed wherever possible. It could seem discouraging that only a quarter of the seed actually feel on soil that produced a harvest. But at the same time, to the farmer, the fruit that resulted was worth all the effort. What a blessing for the farmer to enjoy the abundance of thirty, sixty, and one hundred-fold return on the seed that landed in the right place. What about you? Do you “withhold” seed from ground that you perceive can’t be productive? Or do you scatter seed wherever you can? Let’s make sure we are like the farmer in this parable, willing to do whatever we can to get as much seed out as possible for the joy of harvest time. Whom have you been reluctant to share the gospel with? Do what you can to pray for and get time with that person, and then scatter seed. You never know what kind of soil God is preparing under the surface.