Give the Reverend Dullard Drydust enough time and he will manage to confuse most sections of the Bible. Because we preachers are notorious for getting hung up on Greek tenses and purpose clauses and theological trivia, we often shy away from those passages that appear nontechnical and plain.
Like the parables, to be specific. Like Mark 4, to be exact. Not only is that particular parable simple and straightforward, it's even interpreted for us by Jesus, the One who thought up the story in the first place. And since it has to do with a farmer-type who pitches some seed on different kinds of soil, it doesn't seem to have the sophisticated ingredients needed for homiletical hash. After all, there's not a lot you can say about the story of a farmer who drops little seeds here and there in haphazard fashion—or is there?
At first glance, maybe not, but after some thought, I'm convinced there's more here than any of us ever dreamed. And since the Son of God explains its essential meaning, the story cannot be twisted or forced to fit the fancy of some hungry-eyed pulpiteer looking for three points and a poem.
This is a profound story about life—real life—your life and mine. It boils life down to the four basic responses people have toward spiritual things.
The "seed," according to the speaker, is "the word." I believe we're safe in saying that "the word" refers to truth. God's truth. Truth for living. Life-giving words provided for us by the Lord our God. The Scriptures, yes, but also the insights, the perspective, and the wisdom that grow in us when the seed takes root.
The four different "soils" represent people of all ages and interests and backgrounds who respond to the things of the Lord in various ways. Some listen, then immediately reject—instantly they turn it off. Others hear and seem to enjoy it and even respond well on the surface, but soon spin off when their bubble bursts and the going gets rough. Still others grab hold and initially embrace what they hear, but by and by they get sidetracked as their growth is throttled by life's "thorns." Then, as always, there are those who hear, believe, grow, hang in there, and before long begin to reproduce as healthy plants in God's vineyard.
It's obvious that the first two groups are those who are not born again. They are rootless, lifeless, and fruitless. It's obvious that the last group is born-again: submissive, active, and productive. But frankly, I'm bothered by the third group.
They are Christians, because they grow and get right on the verge of bearing fruit, but their growth becomes retarded. These people hear everything the fourth group hears. But those insights and needed truths are never really accepted, never allowed to take root and grow. Why? Because thorns have come in—thorns which suffocate the normal healthy growth of each plant.
Thorns like these trip us up and cause untold misery. They are killers! Tomorrow we'll talk more about the threat each type of thorn represents and about Jesus's solution.