Every two or three months, a business man called Rigby was in Edinburgh for the weekend. Each time he tried to persuade another traveler to accompany him to the church he attended while in the city. Once the man he had invited was moved by the sermon and yielded himself to Christ. The next day Rigby was walking by the pastor’s house when he stopped to tell him that the message had been used by the Lord to save a soul. As the pastor listened, silent tears ran down his face. When the story was done, he told Rigby he had felt that all his efforts the day before had been a failure and that knowing how God had used it made all the difference. When he asked for the visitor’s name, his expression changed to one of delighted surprise. “You are the man I have been looking for for years.” As he was speaking, the pastor retrieved a bundle of letters. He read these excerpts to his visitor: “I was spending a weekend in Edinburgh when a commercial traveler called Rigby invited me to go to your church. The message of that service changed my life.” “I am a young man and the other day I came to hear you preach at the invitation of a man called Rigby and in that service I decided to dedicate my life to Christ.” There were twelve letters from men who had been invited to that church by Rigby. Four of them had become ministers. In Mark 4:1-20 we learn about four responses to God’s Word and how to identify which describes us.
Humbly ask the Lord to help you focus on His Word and understand it, ask Him to help you know how to obey it, and commit to do what He shows you.
Read Focus Verses
As you read Mark 4:1-20, pay attention to Jesus' words and notice how He explains them.
Keywords - Jesus Christ
Marking the references to Jesus Christ helps Him stand out as the main character of this passage and the whole book of Mark.
Mark the references to Jesus Christ in Mark 4:1-20.
Where was Jesus as He was teaching in this passage?
Where was the crowd as Jesus was teaching?
What does verse 2 tell us about Jesus' teaching?
What common thing happens in the parable according to verse 3?
What was the first type of ground to get seed, and what happened to it?
What was the second type of ground to get seed, and what happened to it?
What was the third type of ground to get seed, and what happened to it?
What was the fourth type of ground to get seed, and what happened to it?
Ears to Hear
What kind of person does Jesus address in verse 9, and what does He say?
Who asked Jesus for an explanation in verse 10?
In verse 14, what does Jesus say the seed represents?
What do the different types of soil represent?
What is the result of God's Word being sown on a receptive heart according to verse 20?
Just in Case
In today's story, Jesus had to go out onto the lake in a boat to be able to teach the crowds. In Mark 3:7-10 we see that He had almost had to do it that day, too.
Luke 5:3 shows us Jesus had already done this at least once.
Out in the Boat
Matthew 13:1-2, which is right before Matthew's account of the same parable Jesus told in today's passage, tells us about the crowd and why Jesus got into a boat to teach them this day.
Perhaps you've wondered how Jesus could have been in a boat and have a crowd hear Him. This short video takes us to the land of Israel and lets us see and hear for ourselves.
Verse 2 of today's passage mentions that Jesus was speaking to the crowd in parables including the one recorded in the verses we're presently studying. Verses 10-13 talk about parables and explain why Jesus used them. We'll study those verses in depth in the next study plan called, "Parables: How to Understand Them."
Romans 10:13-17 explains why the sower is needed.
Why, according to Romans 10:13-17, is a sower needed?
In Matthew 28:18-20 we find out who is called to be a sower.
Philippians 2:14-16 further instructs us.
The Bride of Christ
Revelation 22:17 does, too. (Hint: remember that the church - the group of all Christians - is called the bride of Christ.)
James 4:17 doesn't leave any wiggle room.
Who has God called to be a sower of the Word of God?
Why do you think Jesus used the analogy of a farmer planting seed to describe a Christian's work of sharing God's Word?
In Isaiah 55:10-11 we see why it is the Word of God we are to spread.
We see more reason in Hebrews 4:12.
Why God's Word?
Why are Christians to spread God's Word?
Just like the hard-packed soil of the road that didn't receive the seed at all, a hard heart will not receive God's truth as we saw in Mark 3:1-6.
Hating the Light
John 3:16-21 reveals the root of this attitude.
What do these verses tell us about those whose hearts are like the road in this parable?
So They Won't Be Saved
In Luke 8:12 which also records this parable, Jesus explains why Satan loves to snatch away God's Word out of people's hearts and minds.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 describes Satan's efforts in another way.
Prowling to Devour
1 Peter 5:8-9 warns us about him and tells us how to respond to him.
Pay Diligent Attention
Hebrews 2:1 warns us to be careful not to be hearers who are distracted from God's Word and what it commands us to do.
What does Satan try to do to those who hear God's Word?
Resisting the Devil
How should Christians make sure they don't let Satan devour them or distract them from God's Word?
Those represented by the stony ground show that their faith is not real when troubles come. These people don't think of troubles for Christ's sake the way Philippians 1:29-30 teaches Christians to think about them.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 shows that Christians should expect trouble to come because of their faith.
How To Respond
In Matthew 5:10-12 Jesus explains how Christians should respond to these persecutions.
Revelation 2:10 reveals that there is a reward for those who endure persecution with real faith.
Warning and Comfort
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 brings both warning and comfort to Christians.
How should true Christians think about persecution for Christ's sake?
How do times of trouble and persecution toward those who claim Christ's Name help reveal who has truly received the truth about Jesus Christ and trusted in Him alone for salvation?
It isn't persecution that reveals that the faith of those whose hearts are represented by the thorny ground isn't real. What do the thorns represent?
He Cares for You
We cannot live lives without cares in this world, but 1 Peter 5:6-7 tells us how to keep them from choking us.
What should Christians do with the cares of this life to make sure the cares do not keep them from being fruitful?
Consider what Ecclesiastes 5:10 says about loving riches.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 warns about the temptation to pursue riches.
In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus teaches us about treasures.
What do these verses tell us about the deceitfulness of riches?
1 John 2:15-17 tell us about the lusts of other things that can creep in.
All of Us
Ephesians 2:1-10 reveals that all of us naturally follow after these lusts, but God made a way for us to be free from them and please Him.
In 1 Peter 1:13-16 we find that Christians are not to follow these earthly passions anymore but to be holy as God is.
Romans 13:14 explains how God's people should do this.
Consider what Galatians 5:22-24 says about it.
Why do earthly passions choke out God's Word in those that follow them?
Why and how do God's people not follow these lusts anymore?
We find an example of someone like this in 2 Timothy 4:10.
What does this verse say about why Demas walked away?
Jesus says that the seed on the thorny ground was unfruitful. His parable in Matthew 13:24-30 shows us that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between a true believer and a false one until it comes to bearing fruit. As you read, the tares or weeds Jesus mentioned look almost exactly like wheat in the field until it comes time to bear fruit.
Matthew 7:19 reveals what it means to be unfruitful.
Works and Faith
James 2:14-26 helps us understand that while works cannot save a person, not doing things consistent with the faith a person professes displays that they do not have true faith.
What does it show about a person if they do not bear fruit, or, in other words, if they don't live as God has instructed by doing the things He has commanded?
If the weeds can look so much like good wheat, how seriously should we take God's warnings about making sure our faith is real?
How does Jesus say a heart that is good ground responds to hearing God's Word in verse 20 of today's passage?
Take a closer look at the word translated accept or receive. Strong's Concordance adds that it can mean "to delight in."
Origin: from (3844) and (1209)
- to receive, take up, take upon one's self
- to admit i.e. not to reject, to accept, receive
- of a son: to acknowledge as one's own
What does it mean to receive or accept God's Word which is the first evidence of true faith?
Vine and Branches
John 15:1-11 tells us how Christians bear fruit.
Fruit of the Spirit
Galatians 5:22-25 reveals more about this source of a Christian's works that please God.
How do Christians bear fruit (do good works) that please God?
In 2 Peter 1:1-11 we see the basis of the true Christian life.
What does 2 Peter say are the foundation (verses 2-4) and building blocks (verses 5-7) of a fruitful Christian life?
The end goal of a Christian's fruitfulness is stated in Philippians 1:9-11.
What is the result of a fruitful Christian life?
Keeping it Plowed
It isn't just in the matter of salvation that our hearts can resemble the soils in Jesus' parable. Farmers don't plow a field once and expect to be able to plant without plowing the next year. James 1:19-27 shows that a person's willingness to receive and do God's Word on other matters reveals the genuineness of their receiving His Word about eternal life.
Romans 12:1-2 also shows us how a Christian can keep their heart soft and receptive to God's Word.
According to these verses, how can Christians keep their hearts soft and receptive to God's Word? What kinds of things will demonstrate that this is true of a person?
Philippians 1:6 gives us a sweet assurance about those whose hearts received God's Word of the gospel like the good soil.
John 10:27-29 tells us why this is so certainly true.
God's Good Work
What do these verses promise about those who are truly saved?
In 1 John 2:19 we read what to think of those who looked like they had received the Word, but in the end show that they are like the rocky or thorny ground.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:21-23 that some of these false professors will even do things that look like fruit sometimes.
What do these verses in connection with Jesus' parable of the sower tell us about people who looked like Christians but walk away or bear no real fruit?
In Revelation 3:14-22 Jesus speaks to people in church who are not bearing fruit - notice His invitations.
1 John 1:5-10 speaks of this also, and shows Christians what to do when they find they are not walking in the light.
So, if a person who claims to be a Christian finds they are not bearing fruit or not bearing much fruit, what do these verses tell them to do? How does God say He will respond to them when they do?
Read Mark 4:1-20 and picture the story as you read.
As you've studied these words of Jesus, what has stood out to you about what God says regarding your own life and about your relationship with the Lord Jesus and others?
What kind of soil best represents what you have been? Do you coldly or indifferently reject God's Word like the hard path? Do you eagerly receive what God says until it makes life difficult? Do you gladly hear God's Word but gradually grow distracted by other things so that you never do what He shows you? Or do you receive God's Word and act on it - bearing fruit to His glory?
Time to Plow?
Has the Lord challenged you that you need to plow up the soil of your heart to receive His Word - either for the first time in salvation or again in obedience? How are you going to make specific plans to spend time in God's Word and in prayer to renew your mind and heart and apply what you are learning like you saw in today's study?
Jesus says that those who truly received the gospel will bear fruit to different degrees. One hundredfold is one hundred times. What if there were thirty, sixty, or a hundred people in heaven someday because you'd told them about Jesus? Of course, as a sower, not all of the seeds you scatter will bear fruit, but that should just encourage you to tell even more people so more of God's Word falls on good ground. Are you being a sower and telling people about Jesus? Who will you tell about Him this week?
We hope this study has challenged you to examine your own heart, to receive God's Word and live it, and to share it with others.
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