The Disciples are getting a little insider information here in Mark 4:1-20 regarding the mystery of kingdom. However, Jesus’ “insider info” for the twelve disciples and the new exodus is for those outside in other words it is not exclusive. This is in sharp contrast to the ministry of the religious leaders and gatekeepers kingdom image where “insiders info” is really only for a few chosen folks. The religious leaders Jesus kept encountering thought union with God involved grace but not for “them” (outsiders). These religious leaders like Jonah seem bent on ignoring the second half of the Abrahamic Covenant Genesis 12:1-3. Jesus ministry like the main point of John’s story reminds the reader that God’s kingdom blessing is actually for and not against the nations. Jesus brings this beautiful parable of the soils into the context of those insiders who think they’re different or better than those aliens of the promised kingdom. Jesus is sowing seeds for the renewal and new creation of Israel but as a whole they don’t seem to have perfect soil.
The disciples get an opportunity ahead of time to see how Israel will respond to the message of the Kingdom of God being born into our world through Jesus. In this parable the Sower is the teacher, the sowing is the teaching and the soils are the students or hearers. Some will teach that this passage is about cultivating the mind but that doesn’t work with the context. The soils fit well to describe Israel’s renewal through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Some in Israel (path) will hear and the evil one takes their understanding. Some in Israel (rocky ground) hear the word get excited but when things get tough they give up and quit, Others in Israel (thorny ground) hear the word but the world and its cares consume them to the point that they bear no fruit. There is good soil however in other words some in Israel will hear Christ, understand him and the fruit of renewal/new creation will manifest among them.
Our world is in desperate need for renewal today. In a time when fruit is in such demand there is very little supply in our world today. I think we could benefit from more of a commitment to faithful seed sewing. More relevant proclamation of the person, work and imminent return of Jesus is what we need from disciples today. I could do with a bit less of the frivolous soil testing that goes on among us today. This passage does not prepare us for soil care but soil responses to the life giving message of Jesus. This is relevant for us who are laboring faithfully in ministries all over the world and seeing such little fruit. God has called his disciples to a ministry of seed throwing not soil and fruit recovery. Let Jesus be the resurrection and the life in our ministries. We are not called to find success in soils and fruits but faithfulness in our work for the one who can cause growth.
From this passage we can learn that Christ proclaimed brings about true renewal. He is the active ingredient of renewal so he should also be the power and source for change in our Gospeling. In and of themselves things like unity, tradition, even soil prep or fruit care can become lifeless lifestyles centered on imperatives. We are reminded in this passage that maintaining and observing moral imperatives will not produce lasting fruit apart from Gospel declaration. Why? Because first and foremost in our personal ministry’s we must remember that God causes growth regeneration and renewal (1 Corinthians 3:6). So in short keep proclaiming Jesus so we can remember the source of our fruit.