Interpreting the parable of the sower as simply about coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus is missing its full significance. The familiarity of the story can cause you to switch off to an interpretation that is relevant to both the new and the experienced Christian. In the final part of this series, we explore the good ground.
Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:8-9)
And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” (Mark 4:20)
Finally, the good soil. Scholars say that a good yield in those days was 10%. So it would have been dramatic when Jesus said 30%, 60% or 100%. He’s talking about dramatic, phenomenal fruitfulness. Some argue that this is the whole point of the parable. That Jesus is promising something awesome in it’s growth potential.
What characteristics does the good soil have?
It hears the word
Well here we have it; ‘they hear the word’. This is a simple phrase. They hear it, take it in and grasp what it has to say. The Greek used for ‘they hear the word’ for the other three soils is the Aorist tense. It means they heard it once. With the good soil, the present continuous is used. They hear it and they keep on hearing it. We need to be in a place where we’re hearing the word, to be in a church where the Bible is preached.
I had the privilege recently of being at the memorial service of a dear friend, Arnold Bell. He’d been one of the teachers in the Newfrontiers training program for some years. People gathered from all over the country to give thanks for his life. It was thrilling to hear people giving testimony. One of the first was a fun, down to earth woman who had grown up in the church in Sheffield where he’d been the pastor. She said she had been listening to Arnold preach for about 12 years and he’s changed her thinking. He helped her understand. She understood the grace of God because week in week out, she’s been in a church where the Bible was expounded. She kept on hearing and receiving.
It accepts the word
In Luke’s account of the parable, it says they hear ‘the word in an honest and good heart’ (Luke 8: 15). To me, that means they take it for what it is, they accept it. When reading the Bible, we can sometimes think ‘well I don’t agree with that’, and we get confused. But we have to lay down our confusion and think ‘well that’s what it says’.
So what we need to do is hear what He says and receive it in a good and honest heart. We benefit much more from the Bible, if we let it speak to us what it is saying, and are changed by it. Then we start thinking His way, we change our world view and get into line with Him. Jesus isn’t cold and indifferent, we find in these verses again and again he says ‘listen’, ‘listen to this’. He’s inviting us to hear what He’s saying. I know for myself, over the years, I’ve had to change my view because suddenly I’ve seen ‘oh the Bible says that, I never understood that before. Accept what He is saying.
It doesn’t let go of the word
In Luke’s gospel, it also says the good ground ‘holds it fast’ (Luke 8:15). This is in contrast to the rocky soil which immediately gives up. No this holds it fast. I heard someone say recently, ‘what is an oak tree? An oak tree is an acorn that refused to give ground.’ Or there’s the story of Caleb, I love Caleb, don’t you? Caleb said ‘I’m 80 years old, but give me this mountain, God promised it to me 40 years ago’. He held it fast, he wouldn’t let go of the promise.
It perseveres with the word
Again in Luke’s account it says they ‘bear fruit with perseverance’. The good soil perseveres. We need to have patience. We need to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherited promises. It’s not passivity
It bears fruit
Let’s understand this; to be a Christian is to bear fruit. It’s to have another life growing within you. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says ‘when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.’ Isn’t that exciting? When you hear preaching, what you hear is the word of God. And it’s at work in you. It works in you when you believe it, when you accept it. The word of God bears fruit, it brings freedom, it means we can walk in holiness. We don’t have to keep failing. There are words that can change us and set us free. It has power of itself to transform. So the good soil receives it with patience and faith and celebrates the wonder that the word has power.
This post is adapted from a sermon preached at King’s Church Kingston called “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear”