MARK 4:1-20 ‘THE 4 SOILS’

There is nothing more important you will do in this life than respond to God’s Word. What does Jesus mean when He uses the term ‘God’s Word’? God’s Word embodies who He is. It is the revelation of His character, His will for mankind and the ways in which He calls us to relate to Him.

God’s Word is given to us though Scripture, by The Holy Spirit in various ways and Christ was the living Word. The Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s Word. God’s Word has a purpose in our lives; through recognition, surrender and obedience to IT we are reconciled and united with Our Creator. Biblical Salvation!

The gravity of this passage is immense! Jesus states it’s importance clearly…Christ is basically going to say; If you can’t understand how the Word of God works in this world with different people you will not understand anything else about God.

What happens with my response to God’s Word determines my eternity.What I do with God’s Word on a daily basis is a measure of my stewardship of that Word.

Mark 4:1-20

1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so He got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore.

  • The Sea of Galilee, NW shore
  • They had prepared for this day [mark 3:9]
  • Instead of clamoring to touch Him, they chilled, and became teachable

2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field…

  • The way HE taught was with real life situations, relatable examples…
  • You don’t need to be a farmer to understand, just need to have seem ‘ground’
  • He begins with ‘Listen’! He is declaring this to everyone
  • The farmer starts with intention: desire is to plant what he has so it bears fruit
  • He has seeds from the previous crop

some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.

  • 1st Soil, not even soil…
  • Part of the field he was planting in had a path [exposed ground]
  • Birds eating it is finality…

5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.

  • 2nd Soil, there is dirt there but rock below [field clearing = rock removal]
  • It started strong, but over time and in normal conditions…
  • No roots = No Future…for plants and people

7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.

  • 3rd Soil. Plant can grow in this soil…problem is…
  • Other plants were using that soil, and they were there first!
  • They were more established and dominated the resources
  • There were little seedlings that did not reproduce
  • All mature things reproduce

8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

  • 4th Soil, fertile soil: Receptive / Prepared / Positioned
  • They not only sprouted they grew to the point of reproducing [giving off seed]
  • They continue to reproduce maturity that reproduces…multiplication of maturity

9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

  • Those who The Holy Spirit gives the gift of ‘Illumination’ do well to pay attention
  • Do you have ears to hear?

10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked Him what the parables meant.

  • Debrief time: The twelve & others…what others? [audience]
  • They all wanted to know… They were teachable

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” [Isiah 6:9b-10]

  • Permitted to Understand = Spiritual Illumination [Matthew 16:15-17 [‘not flesh..]
  • Secret = Mysteries [mysteries ARE Knowable by nature]
  • God’s Word says some people will not get it!
  • When God himself speaks [Jesus on Earth] it will go over people’s head
  • The opposite of not understanding is turning to God, [repenting] being forgiven

13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?

  • The way of the Word of God is rudimentary
  • The basic method of a parable is to apply the principle of the example
  • Only parables so far were about garment patching & wineskins [2:21-22]
  • This really is the ‘Intro To Parables’ portion of Christ’s school of God’s Word
  • Recognize pattern of ‘spiritual application’ Jesus shares, use it as an example

14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.

  • The farmer has something [God’s Word / Gospel] and HE wants to reproduce it
  • Soil #1 is given the Word of God, they ‘HEAR’ it
  • But it is taken before they ‘LISTEN’
  • Seed on a footpath is exposed to the birds / people live exposed to satan / evil
  • It is too easy for the birds to find and devour…

16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.

  • Soil # 2 ‘Rocky Soil’
  • The conditions were nothing extraordinary: [problems & persecution normal]
  • Is God’s Word too hard when life happens?

18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.

  • Soil # 3 among the thorns…[thorny crown]
  • Things that were there before the Word, established things, suck up all the life
  • Worry about material needs, wealth, and status take priority over God’s Word
  • God’s Word can’t get healthy enough to produce fruit in this person…
  • Whatever is not healthy enough to reproduce, dies!

20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

  • Soil # 4 ‘The Good Soil’ What makes it good? Rather WHO makes it good…
  • The seed / Word of God falls, they hear it AND accept it
  • God’s Word Planted in ‘fertile / good’ soil produces more of the same
  • Not addition, Multiplication!


Jesus Christ teaches there are four distinct ways the Word of God works in people’s lives. Christ says this parable is foundational in understanding His message.

The ‘Farmer’ spreading seed is God reveling His ‘Word’ [His Will & Ways]

The ‘Field’ [Our World] has four distinct ‘Soils’ [Geographic Areas] representing different people receiving God’s Word.

Soil 1: A path that has no chance of growing seed. Exposed to the enemy, the seed / Word of God dies. This person lives without acknowledging or obeying God’s Word.

Soil 2: Soil that has rocks beneath. Unable to establish roots, the plants cannot endure ‘normal life’. The seed / God’s Word, is emotionally received but has no future. This person is open to God’s Word for a season, not eternity.

Soil 3: Soil that grows stuff. Choked out by ‘needful things’, this seed does not get the resources needed to thrive, it does not mature and reproduce. This person cannot prioritize God’s Word over material and emotional lusts.

Soil 4: Soil made to grow ONE particular thing. The seed / God’s Word is able to mature and reproduce, multiplying what was planted. This person is the ‘Good Soil’. One who is fully surrendered to God’s Word & Will. This is what Biblical salvation looks like.


Since Jesus says this parable is so important, let us make it the topic of conversation for the next week.

What principals in God’s Word have you at times been a footpath or rocky soil to? How might you change that?

Get with someone you trust and evaluate each other on how much the cares of this world impact your discipleship to Christ, then hold each other accountable to change.

How can you be a bigger part of multiplying the Gospel? Initiate change today.