The Parable of the Sower - Bob Sawvelle


Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?Jesus, God in human flesh, is truth revealed.

What is obvious to many is hidden to multitudes. Neither Pilate, the religious leaders, nor most of Jewish society in Jesus’ day could understand the message of God’s kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated. Today, this dynamic hasn’t changed. Many are looking for truth, truth is in front of them, but because they are not “hearing” and “seeing” what God is revealing, truth remains hidden and obscure.

The parable of the sower, perhaps the most important of all the parables, explains why so many are unable to discover the truth of the mystery of God revealed through Jesus. This week, we begin a two-part series within our series to look at this parable more closely.

Two weeks ago – “A Study of the Book of Mark Pt. 9

Mark 3:20-21, 22-30, 31-35: Mark embedded three stories into one section in order that each story may help interpret the other.

In the first and third stories, Jesus is misunderstood and thought “out of His mind” by His own family. The second story involves the Jewish scribes declaring that Jesus was casting out demons by the “prince of demons.” The supernatural workings of God seem irrational and even insane to an unbelieving world.
To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to harden one’s heart so completely that one refuses to recognize the acts of God and even attributes to evil the good works done by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. The result: a person shuts the door to the Holy Spirit’s inner work of grace that leads to conversion.

Mark 4:1-20: Parable of the Sower and the Mystery of Kingdom

Once again, Jesus begins to teach in His favorite setting—the open-air meeting by the sea of Galilee. This time, Jesus gets into a boat to teach—nice pulpit!
He has been teaching and demonstrating the Kingdom of God among them. Large crowds have followed. Then, accusation and opposition began to occur with the religious leaders. Last week, family misunderstood Him and the Scribes accused Him.

Ironically, the demons could recognize who He was, but His family, many supposed followers and religious leaders couldn’t. Why were they so blind? The parable of the sower will give an answer to the varied response to Jesus.

The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9)

Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God in Mark 1:15, and now He begins to explain the meaning of the Kingdom through parables.
This parable is fundamental to comprehending the Kingdom of God. Truth is to be believed and practiced—truth can progressively mature in our hearts and lives.

What is a parable? A parable is a short, memorable story or image, usually drawn from nature or daily life, which conveys spiritual truths. The parable is a “similitude” a story to tell, a spiritual truth to be discovered.

In this parable, Jesus describes diverse types of soil and how these soils determine the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the Word sown. However, this parable isn’t primarily about the soil. Rather, it is about people “listening,” enabling them to receive the truth spoken.

Take a closer look at verses 3 and 9, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Vs. 3 literally means “Listen, look!Listen and use your imagination to understand what is being said.

OT Shema, Deut. 6:4, “Hear, O Israel!” To hear means to absorb, to appropriate deeply, and to allow the message to sink in and change one’s whole life. Jesus is, in fact, doing this—he is teaching them about the Kingdom of God, but not all are hearing.

Humanity can “listen” but not really “hear” or “understand” what is being said. The word is proclaimed (seed sown), but it must be heard (received) and responded to. It’s not enough to hear a word spoken to you – faith and obedience are required to see the fulfillment!

Parables did not cloud the truth, rather they revealed the state of human blindness.

To understand the Kingdom Truths, one must “pursue” God—not “resist” God. A question each of us must answer for ourselves is, “Am I really listening?” Activity is required on your part to really “hear” what God is communicating.

From Wanderer to Christ Follower

Before I became a Christ follower, I was raised in a church tradition that portrayed God as “distant” and “uncaring.” My perception of God was that He wasn’t speaking to humanity today.

I enlisted in the US Navy in the 70’s, and on my way to boot camp, I was given a copy of The Way Bible translation—I’m dating myself! A high school friend’s mother, Barbara, gave me the bible and asked me to read the Gospel of John while I was in boot camp. I respected Barbara a great deal, took the bible, and read John during my boot camp experience. It was the first time in my life that I really read the bible with the intent to “hear” and “understand.” Here is what I discovered.

Growing up, despite attending church for years, I never expected God to speak through His Word or by the Holy Spirit to me. Like many, I wasn’t “hearing God” because I wasn’t “listening for God.” On top of that, the soil of my heart was filled with “weeds and rocks.” Now, at age eighteen in the Navy, I’m reading the gospel of John and this book comes alive for me! Now I’m “hearing” what God is trying to communicate through Jesus. For example, John 1:12 became truth to me, “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” NLT

The soil of my heart didn’t change, but I started listening to what God was communicating through His Word. The result: new birth and a changed heart. We often focus on changing the heart of people instead of helping them “hear” about God’s love and grace foremost. Most of us who need to change know that we need to change, but change only comes through understanding the truth of the mystery of the ages—Jesus Christ.

The act of hearing positions you to understood truth that is revealed. When a person doesn’t “hear,” perhaps through a hardened heart, unbelief, or simply not paying attention to what God is communicating, truth is hidden and opaque. Truth is wrapped in mystery, those who hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness will discover the mystery of the ages—Jesus Christ! He is truth revealed.

The Mystery of the Kingdom (Mark 4:10-12)

After sharing the parable of the sower with the crowd, Jesus is alone with His disciples later and they ask the meaning of the parable. He explains that the mystery of the Kingdom has been revealed to them. But, to those on the outside, everything comes in parables—stories that veil the truth.

A key to understanding this statement is found in the word “mystery.” Mystery, as used in the OT, refers to God’s plans that are secret, yet revealed to the prophets for the sake of God’s people (Dan. 2:19, 28; Amos 3:7).

Amos 3:7 CEB “Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.”

In the New Testament, the mystery, or whole plan of salvation, was eternally hidden in the heart of God and has now been revealed in Christ (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:3-9).

Revealed truth is an invitation to encounter God and grow in knowledge of the truth.

God’s hidden purposes are not a “puzzle” to be completed through human wisdom. The mystery of the kingdom is not understood through intellectual pursuit, rather truth is discovered through God’s revelation to us.

Mark 4:11 says: “To you it has been given to know …” Truth comes to those, who through humility and surrender, choose to hear and obey what has been freely been made known through Jesus. God reveals truths to create growth and expansion of the Kingdom.

Deut. 29:29 NKJV: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.Revelation is generational—your grasp of God’s revealed truth affects your children’s children.

Prov. 25:2: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” As a child of God, a king and priest in His kingdom, you have a responsibility to pursue God and what He has concealed to be revealed! Hunger will lead you into encounter with God that deepens your understanding of God’s purpose.

Blinded by Truth

But what about those outside? Mark 4:12: Jesus describes their predicament by quoting from Isa. 6:9-10, “Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand…

God wasn’t cruel to ancient Israel nor to mankind today. Hardness of heart (Mk 6:51-52) causes people not to “see” and “hear” what God is revealing. The Kingdom of God is concealed not by God’s divine choice but by human will.

A further factor is the tendency of humanity to evaluate truth from human reasoning (Mk 8:33). Truth is only understood by God’s revelation to childlike hearts.

For those who persist in their rebellious ways toward God, the parables remain “opaque,” so they “see and don’t perceive… hear and don’t understand.” God’s desire is that they would repent, turn to Him, be converted and forgiven.

This reality applies to all revealed truth. We can, through unbelief or hardness of heart, restrict the flow of grace into our lives by resisting revealed truth. For example, divine healing. If we conclude that God “ceased” doing miracles through his people at the end of the Apostolic age and completion of the Bible, we can “silence” the efficacy of the truth of healing for today.

Final Thoughts

Are you listening? Is Jesus Truth personified to you? How is the soil of your heart? Proverbs 4:23 sates, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT) Your ability to hear and understand truth is connected to foremost your willingness to listen and secondly the condition of your heart.

Next week, we will look further at the parable of the sower and the Progressive Nature of the Word, and how understanding of truth unfolds progressively as we pursue God.


Bob Sawvelle


For a more in-depth look at the Parable of the Sower, watch this message from Passion Church:

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