“And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13, emphasis mine)
On earth as it is in Heaven
Jesus goes on to line out the different states of mind (and heart) in which those standing by and listening find themselves upon hearing God speak. And before I go any further, God speaks in more ways than we know (see Psalm 19:1-3). So, so much in this world is God trying to tell us something. It usually boils down, quite simply, to Him telling you He loves you.
So, Jesus lists four types of people who receive His words and teaching. Those who are “by the way side” (Mark 4:4); those whose minds and hearts are compared to “stony ground” (4:5). There are those individuals who let “the cares of this world” (4:19) prevent God’s Word from bearing fruit. And then there are those who are compared to “good ground” (4:20). Believers in the truest sense of the word who “hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit” (4:20). As an aside, I like Mark’s rendering of the Parable of the Sower. It appears in both Luke’s Gospel as well as Matthew’s, but not John’s. No big deal there. I love the setting for this particular lesson from Jesus—the seashore. It’s almost as if the reader (or listener) is being invited inland by Him with the intent of seeing the land—and therefore the idea of planting and harvest (they were an agrarian society, after all)—through the correct lens.
“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24, emphasis mine)
But back up with me a moment to Jesus’ statement from the top of the page. Look at the italicized line: “And how then will ye know all parables?” As I read this line in the King James Version, I feel like Jesus—were He inclined to order His parables by importance—would place this at the tippy-top of the list, as most important. If faith is real, there’s a certain way that it works. And if faith is real and it is therefore the one thing connecting us to God (tantamount to love, of course), it is imperative that we take the time and truly steep in this parable so that we understand how God has spoken to us and indeed used our native tongue to convey His very presence through His Son—the “Living Word.” (John 1:14)
“Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b)
All of the above
“And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” (Mark 4:26-28, emphasis mine)
I’m writing this at a coffeeshop. I sit at my perch and look out the window at a cluster of shrubby grasses that have grown tall and unruly in the months I’ve been coming here writing and doing homework. Observing these grasses grow in my absence reminds me of the passage above. Evidently they’re receiving what they need in order to continue growing. It goes without saying (I’m going to say it) that “if God so clothe the grass,” (Luke 12:28), He is already doing “exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20) In light of these truths, let us so seek after “Our Father who art in Heaven” and till the soil of our hearts so that His Word and words will take root therein and bear fruit therefrom. Find a simple passage or verse or even one line that God has spoken through a prophet of His or a writer in His residence. Even something contemporary that was published after antiquity. If it came from His heart (the mouthpiece doesn’t really matter—stay within the truth of His Word) then it’s designed (and destined) to bear fruit. The Holy Spirit will show you and lead you.
“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, emphasis mine)
The best expression of the above verse is Jesus Himself. Notice the confidence God has in seeing His thoughts and ideas come to pass! If you struggle, as I sometimes do, with knowing you’re effective for God and seeing (and feeling, and knowing) that His Word is bearing fruit in your life, take heart. Jesus is your friend and He already knows, not only what’s on your heart, but also the intricate details of His call on your life (that’s the fruit referenced in the Parable of the Sower, if you didn’t already know). Talk to Him; tell Him that you’d like to bear fruit or more fruit and He’ll see to it that your heart becomes that “good ground.” He’ll walk across the waves to your shore (calm them if need be) and meet you where you’re at. God bless you.