Sundays on Mark (8)

Continuing our simple Sunday reflections on the Gospel of Mark

This week, the parable of the sower, Mark 4:1-20

It is easily missed in Mark’s sparse prose how tumultuous and chaotic the crowd scenes must have been around Jesus. A repeated pattern occurs (as in Mk 3) of the swelling crowds literally causing Jesus to retreat from land and teach from a boat ( maybe as earlier, already prepared in case it was needed) with the people lined up on the shore. An indelible image.

The first recorded parable in Mark is probably the most famous. Really a parable of the soils rather than the sower, it speaks right into the earthy world of the listening Galilean peasants. At the end of the story they are left with the cryptic ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ You can only assume they were as in the dark as the disciples.

We’ll come back to the explanatory quote given to the disciples from Isaiah 6:9-10 next time. But the story itself poses the question to the listeners – and to us – what type of soil are you?

– One already resistant to the idea that this local man could be the Messiah?
– One hoping Israel’s day of liberation is dawning and eager to hear – so long as particular expectations and hopes are being fulfilled?
– One initially receptive but more focused on short term material concerns?
– Or one ready to receive, trust and follow the words of the man from Nazareth wherever they lead?


Heavenly Father, help us to have ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to receive your life-giving word. 

The Parable of the Sower

1Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”

9Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that,
” ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’

13Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14The farmer sows the word. 15Some 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. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20Others, 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.”


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