blindmen4Four groups in Chapter Three. Four soils in Chapter Four.

The same Jesus in Chapter Three. The same seed in Chapter Four.

Radical differences in the way groups react to Jesus in Chapter Three. Radical differences in the way soils react to the seed in Chapter Four.

Only one group grasps the essence of Jesus in Chapter Three. Only one soil produces a seed-worthy crop in Chapter Four.

It’s obvious when you see it. The connection between the parable and the preceeding chapter is purposeful. The parable is “commentary” on the judgments. The parable is the elephant evaluating the blind men.

So, let’s belabor the obvious.

The seed sown on the path sounds a lot like the Pharisees. They hear what Jesus says. They see what he can do. They witness the miracles. But their hearts are so hardened, Jesus cannot penetrate. He bounces off them, no matter how he tries to pierce and bind and bond. He would do damage if he could. He would intrude and infect and disrupt.

But he isn’t given the opportunity. Satan flies up and snatches away faith before it can set down roots.

The seed sown on rocky soil sounds like the crowds. Oh, they receive Jesus with joy. They are excited—almost hysterical—about his ministry and his miracles. They want more. They urge Jesus to feed their faith with his miracles. But then the sun burns. It sears and scorches. And with the heat, the faith of the crowds withers. It doesn’t go deep enough. It is a shallow, rootless thing.

The seed sown in thorny soil reminds readers of Jesus’ family. They believe Jesus is special. They are proud of him. They love him. But (in their humble opinion) the eldest son has taken a good thing too far! What about the family? What about the family business? What about tomorrow? It’s not right for Jesus to focus exclusively on kingdom matters. He has other responsibilities. “What about us? What about our future and security?”

The seed sown in good soil, of course, sounds a lot like the disciples. The Twelve heard Jesus and believed in him and gave themselves to his purposes. They accepted him as the Seed: Messiah, Christ, the Holy One of God. And the result was a crop of faith: overflowing … transforming … world-changing.

Jesus tells this parable (4:3-9)—and then explains the parable to his disciples (4:14-20)—because he wants them to understand a hard truth about spiritual realities. Mark lets us listen in as Jesus tells this parable because there is a hard truth we need to hear as well.

  • You can lead a blind man to Jesus, but you can’t make him see.
  • Each person will respond to Jesus based on his/her own nature.
  • Faith will grow—or not—depending on what sort of heart a person has.
  • And not every heart is the type to produce a faith-crop. In fact, most hearts are not good soil.

That’s a hard truth. That’s bad news, not good. But the disciples cannot change this spiritual reality. Jesus himself cannot change it. All he, all they, all we can do is sow seed and let the seed show.