7–13 January 2018.

Mark 4:1–20 (click to read).

In Mark 4 we find one of Jesus’s great parables. In this story, a farmer takes handfuls of seeds and scatters them all around him. But the seeds fall onto four different types of ground, with each producing very different results. Some seeds fall on a hard footpath, where they have no chance of growing. Some seeds fall on shallow soil, where they can’t put down roots or grow well. Others fall among thorny weeds and struggle to survive. But finally, some seeds fall on good soil where they grow well and flourish.

Jesus explains to his disciples what we already know: that this little story has a deeper meaning. Jesus tells this story to represent the way God’s word spreads throughout the world. Jesus spreads out the good news like a farmer, and the four examples of soil represent the different ways that people respond to that news. Some people’s hearts are like a hard footpath, too hard to receive God’s word. Some people’s hearts are softer, and they do accept the word; but their faith doesn’t grow well because their hearts are burdened and weighed down by the many troubles and worries of life. But others hear the good news, gladly accept it, and allow it to grow and take root in their hearts and lives.

A really bad habit many of us have is to label people. We look at others and label them in all kinds of ways: as lazy, troublemakers, sinners, or people with hard hearts. Maybe we look at others and simply write them off as people who would never accept God’s message. We get so used to labelling people that we even do it to ourselves.

But the point of Jesus’s parable here is not to encourage us to give labels to others or to even divide ourselves up into these four different types of soil. Because in our lives, haven’t our hearts been all these different types of soil? Sometimes our hearts are hard and reject God’s message. Sometimes we really want to believe and trust God, but we struggle because of the worries and hard times we are going through. Sometimes we really want to hold on to God, but just wish that others could help us pull out the weeds in our lives that are choking us and our faith. And sometimes God’s message of hope and love really does grow well in our hearts and produces wonderful fruit. If we label others or ourselves, it makes us think that no one has a chance to change. But that’s not true.

The good news is that Jesus doesn’t just give us his good news once. He gives his word to us every day, giving us more and more chances to receive it and allow it to grow in our hearts. So even if yesterday our hearts were hard and unresponsive, let’s not give up! Christ is a good farmer, and through his power and grace he can break apart even the hardest soil and help his goodness to grow within us.

Pastor Stephen Lakkis