I love to garden. The warm weather has me making plans for my new landscape. Here, however, I will be battling the appetites of numerous deer and squirrels. I’ve been spending a lot of time perusing deer-resistant plant lists. But the challenge will be worth it, I say to myself.
Growing anything anywhere can be a gamble. Jesus knew that. But he planted anyway.
In Mark chapter 4, Jesus is talking about planting seed. Sowing is the word used, and it has the meaning of scattering seed. This scattering is generous and indiscriminate. Picture a farmer walking and throwing seed everywhere he walked: along the road, into grass and weeds, around stones. This is not what a successful farmer does.
In my region the 2017 average net cash farm increase is the highest in the nation at 15.3%. To get this increase, a successful farmer considers his ground. He clears it, improves it and keeps it well fertilized and watered. He plants his precious seeds with diligent care, not wasting it on sparse, infertile ground. His goal is to make a profit. It isn’t easy.
But Jesus is not teaching about responsible farming. The seed He is scattering in Mark 4 is the Word. He scatters without considering, indiscriminately and generously. He offers Himself and brings the Words of His Father to the world without prejudice, without categorizing...without marketing.
A good businessman would run a few surveys, pinpoint his audience and mold his message to fit the data. Then he would take that message to his target audience.
But Jesus has no target audience. His Word is available to anyone. It is for the hearer to decide what is to be done with It. The responsibility of receiving falls to them.
Jesus describes four types of hearers.
The first is the example of the seed sown along the path. This path provides access to many people— many feet who walk here— many philosophers with ideas and worldviews, one no better than another. The collected truth of mankind. It is here that the Word is heard and Satan comes to take it away. Airo is the word “take away”, and it means to lift, to remove, to make doubt. The Word is lifted from its prominence, it is removed of its power and this hearer doubts its claims.
The second hearer is described as the stony ground. This is the temporary believer. He accepted the Word in his mind, but has not rooted it deep within himself. He does not take it to heart or consider it much. It is planted in the knowledge only. Satan attacks that knowledge by trials whether in the physical body concerning illness, a financial crisis, loss, strife or some other circumstance. Then this hearer is offended. The word used is skandalizo, and it means to scandalize, entrap, trip up, entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure. The hearer has been tripped up, is displeased with the Word and abandons it.
The third is the distracted hearer where the Word is cast among weeds. The Word is heard, but the hearer does not take the time to nurture or meditate Its truth. Life goes on. Things happen. The delusion of riches and possessions, the longing for things, experiences and achieving goals takes precedence. The busyness strangles the Word and Its reasoning. The hearer becomes barren, dry, with no spiritual peace, love, patience or understanding.
The fourth hearer is the one who embraces the Word above any other. He meditates on It. Takes It in, and lets It change the way he thinks. He memorizes It. His life is molded to Its truth. This is the good ground that brings the harvest, the blessing into his life. The blessing can be 30 fold or 100. It depends on him. How much will he value or measure this seed? One fold doubles. A hundred is symbolic for the best. A farmer would be ecstatic at that kind of return. But that is the reward waiting for anyone who is willing to really hear and diligently nurture.
You may see yourself depicted in one group of hearers. But as Christians, the truth is we possess a heart with all the types of the ground Jesus pointed out. Good ground is made. It is our job to find those areas in our lives that are crowded, weedy and hard. It is our job to read God’s Word and give It first place, to let it determine our values, behavior and thoughts. It is our privilege to receive His Spirit into our hearts and allow It to speak to us, to teach us, to comfort us and to empower us. Everything else will be added on. Don’t worry; He promised.
What have you done with the Word of God?
What type of ground are you struggling with right now? What can you do to make it good ground?
Image by Markus Spiske courtesy of StockSnapi.o
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