The Parable of the 4 Soils (Hard Soil)
If you have a Bible, turn to Mark 4:1-20. In Mark 4, Jesus is teaching through a series of parables. A parable is a visual story with a deeper meaning. It’s believed that Jesus would teach based on the scenery around Him. If He were walking along the Sea of Galilee, He would teach on becoming fishers of men. If He were walking through a vineyard, He would say, “I am the Vine, you are the branches.”
In this story, there is a strong possibility that Jesus is walking along a field, and said, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and at it up.” Everyone would recognize this scene. They would picture a guy walking through the fields with a seed bag slung over his shoulder, broadcasting seed.
The fields of the day were very similar to ours, with one exception. Due to walking being the primary mode of transportation, these fields were crisscrossed with beaten down paths. If someone needed to walk into town, they would save time by walking across the fields. As long as they stayed on the path, the farmers didn’t mind. However, as more people walked on the paths, they became hard and compressed.
Picture in your mind, this man walking along the path and scattering seed. As he slings the seed towards the good soil, some will fall on bad soil. Some would fall on the path. Some would fall along the roadside. Some would fall in the weeds, and some would actually make it to good soil. This is the picture that Jesus uses to explain the condition of the human heart, and how it responds to the seed of the Gospel.
Soil One: Some people are hard to the Gospel (v. 3-4, 15):
The Soil (Verses 3-4): “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and birds came and ate it up.” (NIV)
The Explanation of the Soil (Verse 15): “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” (NIV)
Key Thought for Soil One: They don’t understand the Gospel.
One of the best ways of gaining insight into a text is to see if the parable was repeated in one of the other Gospels. This same parable is also found in Matthew 13 and in Luke 8. It is the explanation in Matthew 13 that gives a lot of insight into this first soil. In Jesus’ explanation of the first soil in Matthew 13:19, He says, “When anyone hears the word about the kingdom yet doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.”
This person represents someone who is hardened to the things of God and the soil of their heart is still unbroken. The Word of God does not penetrate the surface. As a result, they do not understand the Gospel message.
How does someone get this way? 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us, “The god of this world (who) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”.
John MacArthur described this person as follows:
“The reason he does not understand is not due to any deficiency in the message but to his own hardheartedness. He is the person often referred to in the Old Testament as stiff-necked. He is unconcerned with the things of God, completely indifferent to anything spiritual. The word makes no penetration into his mind or heart. He does not give the gospel the least consideration, thinking it to be total foolishness. He has so continually and consistently resisted anything that smacks of spirituality, that the soil of his heart has become pounded down until it is impervious and insensitive.”
Based on the description given in the Word of God, this individual is without Christ. However, even though a person is turned off to the Gospel today, it does not mean that we are excused for sowing seed. When you and I are faced with a person is it totally hard to the things of God, what should we do?
Pray for God to break the hard ground of the human heart with the Word of God (Romans 10:14-17).
Pray that God will open their eyes to the truth (1 Corinthians 1:18, Acts 17:18-20, Acts 26:18).
Pray that God will bring them under conviction (Acts 2:37). The men at Pentecost were “cut to the heart” when they came face to face with the Gospel of Christ.
(2) Sow Seed:
Part of the hardness of this person’s heart has come by witnessing the hypocritical lifestyles of many Christians. The world is looking for someone who has been changed by the power of God, and is living in accordance with that encounter. As you pursue God relationally, He will sow the fruit of righteousness around you. When God gives you the opportunity, graciously sow the Word of God in their lives (conversations, books, cards, e-mails, etc.).
(3) Love Unconditionally:
A person’s spiritual condition has nothing to do with whether we love them. So many people have hated Christ, the church, and the message of Christianity, but they were captivated by unconditional love. We must remember that they are not turned off to the Gospel because they understand the Word and reject it; their heart is hard and they do not understand the Word. Love this person. Even when we don’t agree with the same ideology, people still relate to love.
Begin to identify people around you that are described by the first soil. Take time to let these truths sink in. Look for ways to pray, sow seed, and love unconditionally.