Four Reactions to the Spoken Word

Four Reactions to the Spoken Word

    “Did you know you are a saint?” That was the first thing my college freshman roommate said to me one fall morning as we were preparing to go to class. “I’m a what?” was my totally surprised response. It was a startling question, and it immediately got my attention. My reaction was one of surprise, yet I was interested to know what she meant. She had my attention and began to share with me Ephesians 2:19:
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.
    I went on to learn more about being a “saint” and continue to this day to enjoy the fruit of God’s abundance in my life.
    When my roommate shared God’s Word with me, I wanted to hear more. Each time the Word is spoken, a reaction will follow. In Mark 4:3-9, Jesus Christ shared with a crowd of people the parable of the sower. Then, in verses 14-20, he taught a group of disciples what the parable meant. A parable is a story drawing a comparison to emphasize a truth. The spiritual truth Jesus taught in Mark 4 is concerning the four reactions people will have when they hear the Word of God. If we want to increase our understanding of how people will respond when we speak the Word, these verses are a great resource.
    First, let’s cover the parable.
Mark 4:3-9:
Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.
And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:
But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.
And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.
And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
And he
[Jesus] said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
    It is not clear from these verses alone what spiritual truth Jesus Christ was teaching the crowd. From II Peter 1:20, we are reminded that the Scriptures are not of anyone’s private interpretation. Here in Mark 4, the Word doesn’t interpret itself in the verse. This parable will become clear as we keep reading the context.
Mark 4:10-12:
And when he was alone
[no longer with the crowd], they [the disciples] that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all
these things are done in parables:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand….

    The disciples did not know the meaning, so they asked. Great idea! The Word begins to interpret itself in the context starting in verse 14, as Jesus Christ explained the parable.
Mark 4:14:
The sower soweth the word.

    We may already have had an image of a sower in our minds from the start of the parable in verse 3, “Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow.” Rather than sowing seeds though, our image now changes to sowing the seed of God’s Word.
    To more clearly understand sowing the Word, let’s consider the first two words of verse 3: “Hearken; Behold.” These two words are used here in very similar ways and could be understood as “listen” or “pay attention.” It could read, “Listen! Listen! There went out a sower to sow.” This emphasis arrests our attention.
    The words “went out” are the next interesting part of verse 3 in light of sowing the Word. The sower was not in a rocking chair on his porch throwing seed out in the yard. He went out! It’s like the Way Productions song “Get Up!” Some of the lyrics of this encouraging song are “You’ve gotta get up—Get up!—and get out of the house if you wanna move the Word of the Lord.” By reading verse 3 in light of verse 14, we learn that we are to pay attention and get up and out when it comes to sowing God’s Word.
    Getting a sharper mental image of how a sower worked will help us to understand this parable. An old method of sowing involved the sower wearing something like an apron with seed piled in it. Then, by hand, the seed was scattered over cultivated land.
    Verse 4 says that as the seed was sown, “some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.” The wayside is uncultivated land along the sides of unenclosed fields, like a beaten path where travelers passed. The seed thrown by the sower’s hand often scattered beyond the cultivated field, ending up on the path area. The ground was hard, so the seed could not penetrate the soil. Then the birds devoured the seed. In verse 15 the parable becomes clearer.
Mark 4:15:
And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan
[the adversary] cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.
    The seed of the Word was sown, and the Word was heard. Yet, likened to the birds of verse 4, Satan immediately took away, carried away, or stole the Word that was sown by the wayside. This is the first category noted in the parable.
    There will be people who hear the truth we speak, but then it is taken away. Did I say or do something wrong? Was it a waste of time? These are understandable questions that we may ask ourselves, but from this parable in God’s Word, we are learning that some people will react as if they never heard a word we said. Their response is not our burden. Just as the wayside is uncultivated, some people’s hearts are not prepared to receive the seed of God’s Word. To speak the Word is never a waste of time. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that His Word never returns void….

This is an excerpt from the September/October 2005 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2005 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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