Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/21/14 Sermon - The Heart of the Matter

“The Heart of the Matter”

Mark 4: 1-20

 

Before we begin looking at today’s Scripture, I think it is important for us to do a bit of review. You see, today’s Scripture reveals a paradigm shift in Jesus’ teaching and I want us to review what Jesus has done up to now so we can clearly see how and why He has shifted.

 

Today’s Scripture reading began at the beginning of Chapter 4 of the Book of Mark. You may recall, the Book of Mark does not begin with the birth of Jesus, like that of Matthew and Luke, but with the birth of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Mark begins with Jesus out in the desert with John the Baptist, being baptized. God proclaims Jesus as His Son, whom He loves and in whom He is well pleased.

Jesus then spends 40 days in the desert battling more than the heat during the day and the cold at night. He is in a spiritual war with Satan and comes out victorious. From there, John the Baptist was put in prison and Jesus begins his three year ministry on earth proclaiming the good news,

“The time has come, the kingdom of God is near, Repent and believe the good news!”

And let’s not be confused, the “good news” is Jesus has come to be the Messiah, the one to save His people. Now the Jewish people understood the concept of Messiah. They had been waiting for the Messiah to come and free them for centuries. It wasn’t what the Messiah was, that was confusing, it was who and how? You see, the Jews knew the promise of Isaiah 9 was that the Messiah would come, a son would be born and He would be the wonderful Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and of the increase of His government there would be no end. They were expecting the Messiah to establish a glorious unending Kingdom, here on earth. The Jewish people would have also memorized Isaiah 45, on how the Messiah would not only be embraced by Israel, but He would be embraced by the nations of the world, that He would come to the Gentiles as well as Israel.

John the Baptist had just been preaching a messianic message, preparing the way.

Then up steps Jesus. In the first three chapters of Mark, Jesus has been performing miracles, healing the sick, casting out demons, demonstrating His uncanny understanding of the Scriptures. It should have been obvious that His power had to have come from God.

 
But….
 

The religious leaders didn’t see things that way. They saw things differently. Jesus wasn’t doing things “their” way, which meant He couldn’t have been from God, so the only way to explain His supernatural powers was to say they came from Satan. Jesus had become a threat to the religious leaders’ credibility and the best way to convince the common people that they were right and Jesus was not, was to maintain the mantra that Jesus was from Beelzebub.

And who should the people believe?

The religious leaders who have been teaching what has been taught for centuries, or this 30 year old carpenter, who was an illegitimate child from Nazareth? Why everyone knew that nothing good could come from Nazareth.

 

The people were caught in the middle. Jesus certainly was doing good, never in history had anyone done what He was doing. But every good Jew knew that in order to remain “good” one had to follow what the Pharisee’s had established.

 

Note, at this time in history, Pharisaism dominated Judaism.  The religion the Jewish people were following had been transformed over time to fit the leaders of Judaism, not God. It would have been “radical” for a faithful Jew to not follow what the Pharisees said.

 

At this point in the story of Jesus’ ministry, that is what we have….. radicals. You see there are only a few followers who actually believe and are willing to change their lives and follow Jesus, regardless. And last week we saw Jesus identify them as His, “mother, brothers and sisters”. Those people who have a real relationship with Jesus, because they do the will of God and the will of God, and according to John 6:40… is to believe in Jesus.

 

This is where the paradigm comes in. Up until this point in Jesus’ ministry, He has been preaching the Word, telling everyone who would listen all that He knew and all that they needed to know. Today’s Scripture reveals a twist in the road. From now on, Jesus will only be speaking to the crowds in parables. And he begins with the parable commonly known as the “Parable of the Sower” or some may know as the “Parable of the Seed”.

I would like to label it the “Parable of the Soil” and I will explain why in a minute.

 

First, I think it is important for us to understand what exactly a parable is. The root word from the Greek – para, means to lay something aside something else. So a parable would place one thing alongside another for comparison. Generally in a parable, the comparison is between something you know with whatever you are trying to teach. In this parable, Jesus is taking the concept of sowing seed, which everyone in Galilee has had experience in doing and would immediately understand and comparing it to proclaiming God’s Word, or evangelism.

 

It is also important to note that in every parable Jesus uses, there is a “WOW” factor. A piece that can only be explained by the presence of God.

 
Let’s get back to today’s parable.
 

In Mark 4, we have a crowd again, and the crowd is so big, Jesus has taken the boat He asked for and pushed it off the shore a ways, so that He can be heard.

I want you to picture this in your mind. Jesus is in the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a lake, and He is in a small boat, just off the shore. The beach is full of people who are sitting and listening to Him speak. There is no PA system, but because of the nature of water and the hills in the background, there is a mini amphitheater and Jesus’ voice is being bounced off the water and can be heard by the massive crowd.

 

Jesus begins his parable with the word, “Listen”  This particular Greek word for “listen” is used 10 time in the book of Mark and it is an imperative that means, “Take note”, pay attention. Something important is about to be said.

 

Then He proceeds to tell the people something they have known all their lives. They are quite familiar with what happens to the seed when they sow it and grow a crop. They are in an agrarian society that lives and breathes by what is grown and are quite aware of the possible places the seed could land and grow or not grow. As far as the eye can see there are fields that are marked by footpaths which they use to get from town to town.

And if you look out over the landscape you can tell where the “dry” spots are, the places where just below the surface there is hard rock and where the crops have tried to take root and are unable to because the soil is so shallow. And you can see where the crops are really growing well and producing fruit. The only part of this parable the common Jew would immediately question is at the end where Jesus said, it “produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred fold.” There is your “WOW” factor. You see, if a Jewish farmer was able to produce a crop that was tenfold he was seen as successful. No one produced crops in Israel that multiplied thirty, sixty or a hundred fold”. That would have made the crowd scratch their heads.

 
Jesus ends his parable with
            “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
 

This is where the paradigm begins. You see, up until now Jesus has not made a distinction between the twelve disciples and those whose were following him closely and the crowd. You will notice, Mark writes,

            “When he was alone, the twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. And Jesus responded with,

            “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables.”

 

Clearly Jesus is making a judgment. He is distinguishing between those people who believe and those who don’t. And He is treating them differently. We now have the insiders and the outsiders. And based on where you are, determines whether Jesus is going to explain the parable or not.

 

Now before you start questioning Jesus’ actions, let’s try to put this in perspective. Jesus has been preaching the “good news” for almost two years now. He has become a bit of a celebrity and the crowds are getting larger and larger. Jesus knows that not everyone in the crowd is there because they believe He is the Messiah and is committed to following Him forever.

 

He knows, because He’s God, and omniscient, that there are those in the crowd who are there just for the show. Just to get healed and feel better, or just to say they saw Him for themselves.

Jesus also knows his days are numbered. It is now time to get down and dirty. Either you are going to follow Him, no matter what, or you are going to come when it is convenient and when it is not convenient, you are going to do your own thing. This is where Jesus makes the decision to “not throw his pearls to swine”. Now mind you, even those who look like they are on the inside, turn out to be outsiders. But for the most part, Jesus is now only going to explain his parables to those who really want to hear.

 

Jesus begins His explanation of this parable by sharing that the understanding of this parable is important because it will be needed in order to understand any other parable. Thus it is the first parable Mark begins with.

 

I want you to realize, that reasoning has not changed today. You see, this parable is at the heart of what concerns every person in this room who calls themselves a Christian.

 
            “You who have ears to hear, may you hear.”
 

The number one requirement for Christians today, and always, is the what is known as “The Great Commission”.

Just before Jesus left earth to return to His Father, after He had risen from the dead, Jesus instructed His followers to do the following,

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing the in the name of the Father and of the Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is the mystery of God. Everything thing else is in Scripture works toward making us better able to fulfill the Great Commission.

That is why we are here in this world. To take the gospel out of this building, out of our heads and out of our hearts and pass it on.

And it is the explanation of this parable that will give you the freedom to do so.

 
So, please “Listen”.
 
The farmer sows the seed.
 

There is no description of the farmer. Jesus doesn’t say one thing about the farmer, other than the farmer sows seed. The farmer isn’t called a “good” farmer, a “talented” farmer, there are no qualifications for the farmer, except to sow the seed.

 

The seed is “God’s Word”. There is only one seed. The farmer doesn’t do anything to the seed, except sow it.

 
So, there is no discussion about the farmer.
Every believer is the farmer.

If you call yourself a believer, than you are the farmer in this parable. And you are called to spread the seed,

which is the Gospel,
which is Christ,
the story of Christ.
 

Paul wrote, “I’m determined to know nothing among you except Christ and Him crucified.”

And, Paul was described as having no charm, his speech was contemptible and he had nothing going for him.

 

The only thing that changes in this parable is where the seed lands. This is why I believe it should be called the “Parable of the Soil”. Jesus compares the various types of soil to the various types of hearts of the people who hear the gospel. Let’s review what they are:

 

1)      “Some people are like the seed along the path. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” Their heart is hard. No sooner do they hear the gospel than they are on to other things. Sounds good, sounds bad, doesn’t matter, because I have more important things to think about.

2)      “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. BUT, since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” This person, actually hears the word, not only believes the word, but realizes it is a good thing and that it brings joy, but, as soon as joy is no longer in their life, and troubles come, the focus is not on the word, and because there was no root, their relationship with Jesus was superficial, and they fall away.

 

3)      “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word, but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” This believer has roots, but this believer lives among the thorns. Things take over their lives and become more important. Sure, they are good people, doing what God requires, maybe even growing, but notice, they are not bearing fruit. The nutrients and growth are not helping the believer to reach out and follow “The Great Commission” and see others come to Christ and be part of the kingdom, or help those already in the family become strong. No, there is no fruit. The believer is more focused on the worries of life, consuming wealth, and other things, so the Word goes no further than that person.

4)      “Then there are those whose heart is like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop, thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

This is where God takes ¼ of something and makes it 100%.

 
 
 
So, all of us are sowers and we have the seed,
which is the gospel concerning Jesus Christ.
The issue left for us is the soils, right?
This is the key to this parable.
 

I don’t know about you, but understanding this parable gives me the freedom to just be who God has called me to be. To share the Gospel and to share how Jesus has made a difference in my life and continues to make a difference. And whether or not that seed grows is dependent upon the heart of the one I’m talking to. According to this parable, it doesn’t matter whether I am a great preacher, whether I have entertained you enough or the music has been played well enough. What matters is

that I preach the Word,
that I don’t change it,
but I allow the Word to be what it is,
and that I pray for your hearts.
 

Each week I have been encouraging you to share what you know about God with someone else. Jesus is telling us here that is all you have to do.

 
Share his Word.
Sow the seed.

You don’t have to be anything other than who you are, and you don’t have to have any special fertilizer to add to the seed to make it grow.

Because it is the heart of the one who is listening that determines what happens to the seed that is sown.

In a way, that takes you off the hook,
UNLESS,

You find your heart happens to be like one of the first three described in this parable.

Which means,
if your heart is hard,
shallow, or
consumed with earthly things,
you are not concerned with sowing any seed.
 
That is the “Heart of the Matter”.  
 
 
 
 
 
Let’s pray.
 

Lord I do pray that the hearts of those listening to me today are like the good soil.

That they are not hearts that are hard,
They are not shallow,
And they are not hearts consumed with worldly things.

I pray that you create in everyone here a clean heart.

One that is open to the Word of God,
so open,

that we feel compelled to share your love with someone else this week and always and fulfill

The Great Commission.

And we claim your promise that you will never leave us or forsake us.

 
AMEN.