Sowing the Gospel

The Son of Man sows the seed of the gospel in the world where it grows into the kingdom of God until the harvest at the end of the age

The Parable of the Sower provides the key to understanding the other parables. Its point is that the kingdom of God began to invade the present age with the proclamation of the kingdom of God by the “Son of Man.” Jesus inaugurated the process, and ever since, the kingdom has been advancing throughout the earth though largely unnoticed.

The process will culminate at the end of the age when Jesus returns to reap the harvest produced by the “sowing of the gospel” on the earth by him and his disciples.

As Jesus stated in his discourse on the Mount of Olives, when the Son of Man comes, he will dispatch his angels to gather the “elect” from the four corners of the earth. But that final day will NOT COME UNTIL the good news of God’s kingdom has been proclaimed to “all the nations of the earth.”

Sowing seeds - Photo by Dương Trí on Unsplash
[Photo by Dương Trí on Unsplash]

Thus, the Parable of the Sower presents not only the pattern of how men received the “
word” when it is preached but also the procedure for how the kingdom of God advances on the earth until its consummation.

What is a parable? The Greek word commonly rendered “parable” means “something that is thrown alongside, to cast beside” (Strong’s - #G3850). It is a saying that is laid alongside something else for comparison - an analogy.

His parables are stories drawn from everyday life and often feature jarring images to grab his audience’s attention. They illustrate one or two points of comparison. His parables most often concern the “kingdom of God.”

And in the parable, the stress is on how the seed interacts with different types of soil. The “Sower,” the “seed,” and the method of sowing are the same for each soil type - (Mark 4:1-9).

What happens to the “seed” once it contacts the “soil” is the real point, and the “seed” falls on four soil types - hardened, rocky, thorny, and fertile soil.

A harvest of thirty, sixty or a hundredfold is extraordinary. This is an exaggerated figure to catch our attention. With his kingdom, regardless of how insignificant its beginnings, the results exceed all expectations.

MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM


The disciples then asked why “outsiders” receive parables without explanation, yet insiders receive parables with explanations?

Parables separate insiders from outsiders. They both reveal AND conceal. They are a blessing to some but bring judgment to others:

  • (Mark 4:10-12) - “And when he was alone, they who were about him with the twelve questioned him as to the parables. And he was saying to them: To you, the mystery has been given of the kingdom of God, whereas, to them who are outside, in parables are all things coming to pass that they may surely look and yet not see, and surely hear and yet not understand, lest once they should return and be forgiven.

Christ’s saying alludes to a passage in the book of Isaiah:

  • Go! And say to this people: Hear on but do not discern, see on but do not perceive; stupefy the heart of this people, and their ears make heavy, and their eyes overspread, lest they see with their eyes, and with their ears should hear, and their heart should discern and come back, and they be healed.

The contrast is between those who hear the parable and receive its explanation and those who do not. This is the pattern in his teaching ministry. Some men react in faith to the good news, but others are blinded by unbelief and reject it. The failure of some to understand is a sign of divine judgment on their hardness of heart.

Jesus declares to his disciples that they have been “given the mystery of the kingdom of God.” The Greek noun rendered “mystery” does not refer to something esoteric or mysterious, but to something hidden that now is disclosed.

The unveiling of the mystery is “given.” It cannot be acquired through human effort or intellect. It must be received from God. The “mystery” is revealed to those who follow him and hearken to his words.

The word “parable” occurs twelve times in the gospel of Mark, and each time in a context of opposition to Jesus. By means of parables, he reveals the “mystery of the kingdom” to hearers, but he also exposes his opponents and their hardness of heart.

In Isaiah, the prophet receives a vision of Yahweh sitting on his throne when the prophet hears his call to bring the words of God to Israel. He is warned that the people will not heed his words, and inevitably, judgment will follow. Yet a remnant will heed the words of Yahweh.

INTERPRETATION


The parable concerns the process of the kingdom expanding in the world, and how men will respond to it. It is being implemented through the proclamation of the gospel proclamation - first by Jesus, then by his disciples - (Mark 4:13-20).

Wheat Harvest - Photo by Tom Hauk on Unsplash
[Photo by Tom Hauk on Unsplash]

The proclamation of the kingdom of God by a ragtag group of poorly educated Galileans appears weak to the human mind. But that small beginning initiates something far larger. But the results cannot be seen at the time the “
seed” is sown.

In the end, the proclamation of the gospel will usher in the long-promised reign and realm of God, including everlasting life for everyone who responds to it in repentance and faith.

The parable is about the four different ways the word of the kingdom is received. The seed sown on the hardened soil meets with no positive response.

Some seed is received initially with enthusiasm but then forsaken when circumstances become challenging. Others receive the seed, but then it is smothered when they turn their attention to the competing forces of this age.

And the seed that falls on good soil represents the men and women who hear the gospel, respond to it with faith, and then bear fruit.

Jesus faced outright rejection by some, initial acceptance by others who were not prepared to pay the required costs, and acceptance by still others who later recanted because of the deceitfulness of riches.

It is the same for every disciple who heeds the call and begins to sow the good seed of the kingdom of God. And disciples faithfully preaching the gospel - regardless of how things look - is how the kingdom of God advances across the earth until its consummation when Jesus arrives to reap the final harvest.

And “sowing” the gospel was why the “Sower” was sent into the world, and is the primary task that has since fallen to his followers.



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