"Meanderings in Mark"
Series on Mark, Lesson 15

The Parable of the Human Heart

Read: Mark 4:1-20

Text: Mark 4:15b (KJV) the word that was sown in their hearts.

Theme: The response to the word of God is determined by the condition of the heart of the hearer.


Introduction:

QUESTION (Ask before reading the scripture): What role does the Bible play in our lives? What role in our initial salvation? What role in our continuing Christian walk?

QUESTION - This morning we will examine a parable. What is the purpose of this literary form in Jesus' teaching? Why did He use parables? What was He trying to accomplish?

QUESTION - Are there any guidelines to keep in mind when attempting to interpret a parable? Is there something we should look for in interpreting parables?

ANSWER - QUOTE (Barclay) - "It is always wrong to attempt to make every detail of a parable mean something. It is always right to say, 'What one idea would flash into a man's mind when he heard this story for the first time.'"

READ SCRIPTURE

QUESTION (Ask after reading scripture): Is this parable talking about salvation? If so, what does it teach about the experience of salvation?

QUESTION - Is this parable talking about something other than salvation? If so, what?

The parable of the sower and the seed is a masterpiece, speaking to every group of people in some way:

Although it is unwise to try and make every point of a parable mean something, it is still useful to dissect it a little. Notice the various aspects of the parable - the sower, the seed, and the soil.

QUESTION - What does the sower represent? What does the seed represent? What does the soil represent?

Notice the four types of soil (or human heart) mentioned by the Lord:

The conclusion of the parable is that the determining factor in sowing is the soil (ILLUS - our garden), and the determining factor in how we respond to Christ is the condition of our heart.


I. The Hard Heart.

A. The illustration (hardpan where the sower walked)

B. Made that way by many feet walking over it!

QUESTION - Does this apply to the experience of salvation? How?

1. Some people listen to too many preachers.

2. Some people listen to one preacher too long.

3. The problem is indifference to the message.

QUESTION - What do you think of the following quote by William Barclay?

QUOTE (Barclay) - "Christianity fails to make an impact on so many people, not because they are hostile to it, but because they are indifferent. They think that it is irrelevant to life and that they can get on well enough without it."

QUOTE - "More good things in life are lost by indifference than ever were lost by active hostility."

QUESTION - Does this apply to someone who is already saved? How?

QUESTION - If someone has a heart that is hard and indifferent to the Word of God, how might we get to them?

QUESTION - Have you ever found yourself in this verse as a believer? Why? What can we do to avoid letting our hearts remain in such an indifferent condition?

C. Sometimes we need to break up the soil.

QUESTION - What are some ways that we might "break up the soil" when attempting to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who seem indifferent?

ILLUS. - I once participated in a hospital visit with a preacher friend. The person we were visiting was the father of a member of my friend's congregation. The person we were visiting was quite lost, and vocal about it. He had stated on many occasions that he had no interest in Christianity. But, for the umpteenth time, my preacher friend was calling on him and witnessing to him. This time, the person's need was great, as he was in precarious health. After a few moments of discussing his health and situation, my friend asked if he could share the good news of Jesus Christ with him. The man responded, "If you want to waste your time, go ahead." To my shock, my friend said, "I don't," and walked away. We later heard that this rough treatment actually made the man think about his spiritual condition for the first time in his life.

QUESTION - What are some ways that we might "break up the soil" in our own lives, when we see indifference to the Word of God creeping into our own hearts as believers?

QUESTION - If we apply this parable to the experience of salvation, do you believe that Jesus was describing a saved person when He described this "hard heart?" ANSWER - No.

II. The Shallow Heart.

A. The illustration (shelf of rock over which thin earth lay - common in Palestine).

QUOTE (Barclay) - "There was the rocky ground. This was not ground full of stones; it was a narrow skin of earth over a shelf of limestone rock. Much of Galilee was like that. In many fields the outcrop of the rock through he shallow soil could be seen. Seed which fell there germinated all right; but because the soil was so shallow and held so little nourishment and moisture, the heat of the sun soon withered the sprouting seed and it died."

QUESTION - What type of person do you think is pictured here?

QUESTION - Does this apply to the experience of salvation? How?

QUESTION - What do you think of the following quote?

QUOTE (Barclay) - "There are two troubles which cause this collapse. One is the failure to think he thing out and to think it through, the failure to realize what it means and what it costs before he start is made. The other is the fact that there are thousands of people who are attracted by Christianity but who never let it get beyond the surface of their lives. The fact is that with Christianity it is a case of all or nothing."

QUESTION - If we apply this parable to the experience of salvation, do you believe that Jesus was describing a saved person when He described this "shallow heart?" ANSWER - No.

QUESTION - Does this apply to someone who is already saved? How?

QUESTION - If someone has a heart that is shallow, how might we get to them?

QUESTION - Have you ever found yourself in this verse as a believer? Why? What can we do to avoid letting our hearts remain in such a condition?

III. The Crowded Heart.

A. The illustration (fast growing thorns, choking out new sprouts, shading them from the sun, killing them).

QUOTE (Barclay) - "The Palestinian farmer was lazy. He cut off the top of the fibrous rooted weeds; he even burned off the top; and the field might look clean; but below the surface the roots were still there; and in due time the weeds revived in all their strength. They grew with such rapidity and such virulence that they choked the life out of the seed."

QUESTION - What type of person do you think is pictured here?

QUESTION - Does this apply to the experience of salvation? How?

B. This is the crowded heart.

1. Prioritizes Christianity low.

2. Many things take precedence over Christ.

ILLUS. Howard Hughes

QUOTE (Solomon) - Eccl 2:8-11 (KJV) I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

QUESTION - If we apply this parable to the experience of salvation, do you believe that Jesus was describing a saved person when He described this "crowded heart?" ANSWER - No.

QUESTION - If someone has a heart that is choked with weeds, how might we reach them for Christ?

C. This one, perhaps more than the previous two, applies to the saved as well as the lost.

QUESTION - How does this apply to someone who is already saved?

QUESTION - What do you think of the following quote?

QUOTE (Barclay) - "It is easy to pack life with such a multiplicity of interests that there is no time left for Christ. The more complicated life becomes, the more necessity there is to see that our priorities are right, for there are so many things which seek to shoulder Christ from out the topmost niche."

QUESTION - Have you ever found yourself in this verse as a believer? Why? What can we do to avoid letting our hearts remain in such a condition?

IV. The Fruitful Heart.

A. The illustration (good, deep, well-cultivated soil).

QUESTION - What type of person do you think is pictured here?

QUESTION - Does this apply to the experience of salvation? How? Is Jesus referring to a saved or a lost person here? ANSWER - Saved

QUESTION - What three actions occur in this person that leads to his / her salvation?

B. Hears the word.

1. So did the first, but Satan removed it.

2. So did the second, but difficulties disillusioned.

3. So did the third, but poor priorities displaced it.

4. Only this one really LISTENED.

QUOTE (Barclay) -"We must hear it; and we cannot hear it unless we listen."

C. Receives the word.

QUESTION - What is the difference between "hearing" and "receiving?"

QUESTION - What do you think of the following quote?

QUOTE (Barclay) - "The human mind is an odd and dangerous machine. We are so constructed, in the wise providence of creation, that, whenever a foreign body threatens to enter the eye, the eye automatically closes. That is an instinctive, reflex action. Whenever the mind hears something that it does not want to hear it automatically closes its door. There are times when truth can hurt; but sometimes a distasteful drug or an unpleasant treatment must be accepted if health is to be preserved. To shut the mind to truth we do not want to hear is the straight road to disaster and to tragedy."

D. Bears fruit

QUESTION - What is the fruit referred to here?

QUESTION - Does this apply to someone who is already saved? If so, the fruit is obviously not there own salvation. What is the fruit for a saved person?

1. Not every believers bears the same amount of fruit (30, 60, 100)

2. Every believer bears SOME fruit.

John 15:5 (KJV) I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Conclusion:

QUESTION - Now that we have studied the parable of the human heart, we can ask the most important question. Remembering that the purpose of the parable was not to be dissected and studied at leisure as we have done this morning, but rather to drive home one simple truth, we ask this question: "What was the most important truth of this parable; the main point that Jesus was driving home with this illustration?"

ANSWER - The response to the word of God is determined by the condition of the heart of the hearer.


Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 1997 William E. Johnson.