The Book of Mark: Chapters 3-4

More deliberate healing on the Sabbath, His miraculous work attributed to Satan,  and a clear explanation of what He meant by the parable of the Farmer and the four soils.  Prepare to hear something new in this episode of the Gospel According to Mark! This study covers chapter 3-4:20.


In this session, we’ll be discussing Mark 3 and if the good Lord’s willing, a little bit of 4. And so let’s begin in Mark 3. You know we’ve been taking about a chapter at a time, I think we’ll perhaps get a little more than that done tonight, but I don’t like to predict these things because we just never know. And so with that in mind, and with the expectation that we’ll be able to accomplish this, we’ll begin with Mark 3.

Verse 1:

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, and so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. And Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

All right, so now you understand from our previous studies, that the Lord has, on at least a couple of occasions, gone out of His way to challenge this Sabbath tradition that they had, and that in many places is still a part of our week, even today.

In our last session, we discussed the meaning of this, and we discussed why the Lord goes out of His way in the Gospels to break the Sabbath law. He doesn’t break any other laws, He doesn’t do anything else to irritate people, but He seems to take particular delight in breaking the Sabbath. And so we discussed why that is and what the Sabbath law really is, and I don’t want to go into it too deeply tonight, but if you missed the session or want to review it we have the CD, and you can order a copy of that (they’re free), you can also download it off of the website. It’ll be there within the next couple of days because it’s all ready to go onto the site and so you can download it from there.

So we won’t bother going into all that except to say that people who think that the Sabbath is a day of the week are missing the point. The Sabbath is not a day of the week; the Sabbath is a state of mind. And if that doesn’t prompt you to want to study this more, then I don’t know what will! But please, if you’re curious about that, find a way to get a copy of our last study so you’ll be able to get all that.

Now the other thing that’s interesting to me about these first couple of verses is that in verse 2, it says they were watching Him to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. There’s no question in their minds by now that He can do this, even His enemies agree that He can do this. He has the capability; they’ve seen Him heal people. There’s no debate about that, and there’s no questioning, there’s no where’s your proof, none of that’s going on because, in the first place, the law required that anyone who was healed from a disease had to go report to the priest and be cleared by the priest before they could come back into the community in some cases.

And so they had the verification, they had the eyewitness accounts, they knew that these people were healed. There were crippled people walking around, there were people who had been sick almost to death, and they were up and well. All of this was happening, and nobody had any question about the fact that it’s happening. What they’re watching here tonight—or in this passage—what they’re watching is to see if He’s going to challenge them, and more specifically, if He’s going to challenge the Sabbath restriction. 

All right, so you know it’s on because He’s called this man to stand up in front of everybody in the synagogue.

Verse 4:

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

Now in a minute, you’re going to see why. So let’s just read on and then we’ll come back.

He looked around at them in anger 

Now, this is gentle Jesus, meek, and mild. Walks around patting little children on the head and telling everybody to turn the other cheek, right? 

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

And this is why He said, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Because you see, healing this man’s hand had nothing to do with saving his life, so it’s not that He was calling into question whether He had the right to heal this man’s hand. He knew what was going on in their minds, and He knew that they were plotting to kill Him. And He says, in effect He says, You’re sitting here in this room with Me, plotting to kill Me on the Sabbath?

You can understand their frustration, can’t you? Because they can’t pull off anything with Him! They can’t even have a secret thought about Him without Him knowing about it. Let’s turn back to Matthew 12:11-12, where we get a little more complete view of this same event.

You know, Mark is the Reader’s Digest Gospel, because it’s very abbreviated, it’s very “just the major points,” it’s all condensed down to just a few major points. So we often have to go to other places—we’re going to do that a lot tonight—to find out what was really going on. 

In Matthew 12:11, it’s the same event. And Matthew has Him saying in verse 11: 

“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 

Because it was legal, if you had an animal who was in distress, on the Sabbath, it was legal to save the animal.

And verse 12:

How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. And the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

And so you get a little more detail here as to some other things that He had said there.

All right, so, He’s done it again, hasn’t He? He’s healed this man on the Sabbath. Now you remember, their law said that if in the case of a life-threatening illness, it was okay for a physician on the Sabbath to keep a person from dying, but they weren’t allowed to do anything that would make him better. All they could do was prevent him from getting worse, and then make him stay alive for at least another day, so that on the next day when it wasn’t the Sabbath anymore, they could come in and heal him. That’s what the law said, and that’s the way they interpreted. I shouldn’t say that’s what the law said, that’s how they interpreted the law. There’s a big difference, isn’t there?

All right. So we’ve got that, now let’s go down to verse 7. 

Mark 3:7:

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. And when they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, and Jerusalem, and Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.

Now you may not recognize all these places, but what He’s talking about—and you remember there are no cars involved, no airplanes, no trains, no buses. These people traveled on foot. He’s got people following Him from Syria, from Lebanon, from Jordan, and from all of Israel. Pretty much the whole northern part of what we call the Middle East today, there were these crowds following Him around from all these different places, in days when it might have taken some of these people two or three days walking just to get to where He is.

Verse 9:

Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. And whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.

He would take no witness from the enemy. He would not permit the enemy to witness on His behalf.

Verse 13:

Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. And He appointed twelve.

Designating them apostles. The word apostle means sent one. So an apostle is somebody you send out.

That they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges.

I believe it is, which means—I’ll just do the English part:

“sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

So these are the original, the first twelve disciples. Now, we call them disciples, He’s already designated them as apostles. A disciple is a student. An apostle is one you sent out, like an associate, more like. 

Verse 20:

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Even His own family thought He was crazy. But here’s what He’s going to say about that:

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

So Jesus called them over to him and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”

I get a couple of emails a week from people asking me if it’s possible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit and if that’s really true that they’ll be eternally condemned. And of course, you know there’s a website where you can go and record your blasphemy of the Holy Spirit just so that everybody will know you’ve done it. And so I won’t give you the name of it because I don’t want to tempt you to do that. But kids call in, and they offer their blasphemy, and they record it, and you can play them on YouTube, and you hear all these people blaspheming the Holy Spirit. They are missing the point. A lot of people miss the point of this, so let’s clear it up. Here’s the point.

Man’s words come from the motive of his heart. These Pharisees had made a profession of studying God’s work, and in addition, they had been eyewitnesses of the Lord’s miraculous work. My point is, they knew better. They knew what they were doing. They were trying to stop this movement, they were already plotting to kill Him, but they still had to find a way to turn the people away from Him. 

Because as one of our politicians recently said, it’s not a good idea to make Osama Bin Laden into a martyr because all you do by making him into a martyr is you increase the number of his followers. And so this person is advocating that he be captured and made to stand trial and be sentenced, and put into jail or executed or whatever by a court of law instead of going out and putting a gun to his head and shooting him.

So this is what the leadership was up against there. Making Jesus into a martyr would have just increased His following, which, in fact, is what eventually happened. So what they’re trying to do is discredit Him. But they know better. And so the motive of their heart was evil, and that is what condemned them. 

A nonbeliever speaks out of the motive of his or her heart, and they can commit the sin of blasphemy. But a nonbeliever is already condemned, so it doesn’t make any difference. A believer has the Holy Spirit in his or her heart. A believer cannot blaspheme the Holy Spirit. It’s impossible because the Holy Spirit is in the believer’s heart and is influencing the believer’s activities.

And like Jesus said earlier, Satan doesn’t condemn Satan. The Holy Spirit doesn’t condemn the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t happen. None of us has to worry about whether or not we are, or ever have or ever will, blaspheme the Holy Spirit, because it’s impossible for a believer to do that. So breathe easier, all right? You’re safe. 

And in Matthew, we have another passage we can look at in chapter 12. It says in verse 35—oh, it’s verse 34 we’re going to start with. 

Here’s Jesus speaking to these Pharisees:

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?

He’s talking about the same thing, by the way, here. 

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

So that’s your Scriptural basis. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Now, what’s the difference? There’s only one. What’s the difference between a good man and an evil man? There’s only one. What is it? It’s the condition of your heart. Because man’s heart—Jeremiah 17:10, is it? Jeremiah 17:9 is where it is, that’s right: 

The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.

You see, when David sinned and was confessing in Psalms 51, he said,Create in me a new heart.” He didn’t say fix my heart. He knew his heart was incurably bad because he has a sin nature, so he wants a new heart. That’s what happens when you’re born again, you get a new heart. You don’t get your heart fixed, you get a transplant, okay?

And so the only difference between the good man and the evil man is his heart. And so, in Matthew 12, He is saying it’s out of the overflow of our heart that we speak. If the Holy Spirit dwells within our heart, it’s impossible for us to speak of blasphemy, for Him to speak of blasphemy against Himself basically.

And so this so-called blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, what it turns out to be, is an indication of the fact that the person who’s saying it isn’t saved. And so, yeah, he’s condemned because he was already condemned because if he’s not saved, you know? Saying something to the Holy Spirit doesn’t make it any worse. When you’re unsaved, you’ve got it as bad as you can get it right? You can’t make anything worse. 

And so what did Jesus say in John 3:16?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But then it goes on in 17 and says but some have rejected Him, and they are already condemned. Okay, so you got that straight? Are we saying more than we need to say about that? It’s okay to say yes to those things.

Okay, that’ll work too. All right. Then verse 31 now:

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

Now we know that Jesus had three brothers, probably a couple of sisters and, of course, His mom. And so they’re all following Him around there. 

And in verse 33, the Lord said:

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Of course, it’s a rhetorical question. He knows who they are. He wants them to know this following thing. 

Verse 34:

He looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Now we have some backup for that, Romans 8. Romans 8:29 it is. It says that the purpose—or one purpose, we’ll say—of our salvation is to be conformed into the likeness of God’s Son. 

This is 8:29:

For those He conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Okay, so there’s your verification of that. In the churches in the past, I have sung this song, maybe you have sung it too:

You’re my friend
And You are my brother
Even though You are a King

Do you remember that line from the song?

As the deer panteth for the water,
So my soul longeth after Thee

And so that’s out of a song, and then the second verse says:

You’re my friend
And You are my brother
Even though You are a King

And that’s the verification here. The confirmation of this is in Romans 8:29. God wants us to be one of the Lord’s brothers. He wants that for us, to be conformed to His image. After we’re saved, this is the purpose of our life, to allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to the image of the Lord, so that He can be the firstborn among many brothers, okay?

And if you look at Galatians 4, Paul says it in even more detail. He says in Galatians 4:4, Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia:

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive full rights of sons.

Now what he’s talking about there is that in the Greek culture, and in the Roman culture, even though you were a son of your father, you had no legal right in his household until he determined that you should. And so sons, especially of wealthier families where there were estates involved and things like that, sons went through a formal adoption procedure so that their own father could legally adopt them as sons, giving them the right to his estate. Unless he did that, they didn’t have the right to his estate. And so in the Greek culture, I think it was around age 14. In the Roman culture, it was anywhere between 14 and 18, whenever the father thought the son was worthy. But until the son went through that adoption process, he had no legal right in his father’s household. He was no better off than a servant, do you understand that?

Okay, so when Paul says here in Galatians 4:4 and in chapter 5:

To redeem those under the law, that we might receive rights of sons.

That’s what he’s talking about; he’s talking about being adopted into the household of God. When you are born again, John 1:12 said:

To those who believed him, he gave the them right to become children of God

What he’s talking about here is the same thing Paul’s talking about in Galatians 4. It’s being adopted into God’s household; you are one of His children.

And then Galatians 4:6 says:

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but you are a son; and since you are his son, God has made you also an heir.

And so you are now an heir in God’s estate. Now in the Greek culture, only boys could get this, but as Paul’s writing here, the pronouns are inclusive. They are male and female. So we are all children of God, okay? And we all are heirs of His inheritance, and we all have a claim to His estate, a legal claim to His estate. 

Do you understand that? Do you know what that means? You’re not just somebody who believes in something; you own a piece of the universe! And you have a legal claim to that piece of the universe. And that’s one of the benefits of becoming a believer, okay? You can cash it in someday! All right. I’ll take mine now. Let’s go get it.

Okay, so then back in Mark, here you see, this is not just some little thing that’s going on here that He’s talking about, “Who are my mothers and my brothers and my sisters?” He’s saying this is a legal issue with God, and He has obligated Himself to make you an heir. 

Now in Romans 8, we won’t bother to go that, but you can go to Romans 8 around verse 15 as well, and Paul says the same thing in the letter to the Romans. But there he says that we are not only heirs, we are joint-heirs with Christ. And so, what is the law in the Hebrew culture? The firstborn received a double portion, right? And everybody else got an equal share of what was left.

So if there are four sons, the estate was divided into five parts. And the firstborn got two of those five parts, and the others each got one part. So the firstborn always got a double portion of whatever the estate was, and that’s how they calculated that. And that’s what Paul says to us in Romans 8

It says in Romans 8:17:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,

So you have a legal position; you are legally now adopted into God’s family, and you have a legal right to share in His estate. And it’s just as legal in the eternal land and universal sense, speaking of the universe. As your right to any estate, a share of any estate of your father’s, is here on Earth. It’s as legal as that. We could get into the legal aspect of this and go all night. In Ephesians 1:13 when Paul said:

The moment we first believed, we were marked with the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

That word deposit is earnest money. That’s what the Greek term is. It was also a legal term. It’s like when you buy a house, and you put down an earnest money deposit, it obligates you to follow through on the purchase. When you became a believer, God sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in you as a deposit that guarantees that He will follow through on His purchase of you. Do you understand that? It guarantees that, and He’s put money on it. More than money, He put down the Holy Spirit as a down payment on that. He is serious about this, you see.

People that say that you can’t depend on your salvation, that it’s conditional and you can mess it up and lose it, they can never explain to me how God gets the Holy Spirit back out of you.

Because if He sealed it in you, and He uses it as a guarantee, it’s His earnest money deposit that guarantees it. He’d have to break His word to do that. And He doesn’t do that kind of thing; He’s not human. That’s right. He’s not a man that He should lie, or the son of a man that He should—do you know that verse from Numbers? Change His mind. He’s done this, and He’s done it forever. And it is done, and you can’t get away from Him any more than He can throw you away. It cannot happen. 

Why are we so stirred up about that, I wonder? I guess maybe it’s just me, I don’t know. It is an eternally crucial issue! It’s a matter of your eternity.

This next part is the one that I want to get straightened up too because in every chapter in Mark it seems we’re running up against something that is a huge misunderstanding in the Church. And because of that misunderstanding, many people needlessly live in fear in bondage, when God said, I came to set you free from this.

And yet man has turned it around and said: No, He came to put you in greater bondage than you were before!

Now it’s not just a matter of keeping the Commandments; now you can’t even think about breaking one or else you’re condemned.

Well, let’s look here, and we’ll see. Because in the beginning of chapter 4 here, there’s an issue here that has to do with the Church that is really, I think, critical to our understanding when we look around us.

Because what’s one of the complaints that people who don’t believe in eternal security? What’s one of the complaints they make about it, is that people go up front, they go to the altar, they say a couple of words, they mumble this prayer, and then they’re saved and then they just go on and live their life like they always have. They don’t pay any price for it, they don’t change anything, they don’t sacrifice anything, they just go on and live their life the way they always did.

Well, this will explain some of that. In the first place, there is no requirement for changing behavior in order to be saved. The change in behavior happens after you are saved. That’s right. And it’s only because you’re saved that you have the power to change your behavior because without the Holy Spirit you can’t change it, and you don’t get the Holy Spirit until you’re saved.

People read me all these verses from Paul, saying you have to live like this, you have to live like this, do this, do that. What they don’t understand is Paul is writing to people who are already saved. He’s writing to the Church. The church in Rome, the church in Galatians, the church Ephesus, the church in this place, the church in that place. All the people Paul was writing to are already saved. Now he’s telling him here’s how to live a life that’s pleasing to God, and here’s why you should do it, because look at all He’s done for you. But we miss that part sometimes. 

So let’s look. 4:1:

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 

I’ve been in that spot; it’s a perfect amphitheater because the hill goes up steeply from the water’s edge, and you can stand on the shore of that, and you can be heard 100 yards away in just the normal speaking voice. They didn’t have big amplifiers and speakers and all that stuff in those days. But you can be heard, standing on the shore, speaking up into this amphitheater even today. It’s on the Mount of Beatitudes.

Verse 2:

He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said:

Now he’s going to give them what Matthew calls the Kingdom Parables. And of course, Mark does an abbreviated version of it. Matthew takes a whole chapter; Mark takes a few verses. So we’ll go back and forth a little bit. But He says in verse 3:

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. And it sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear any grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

Now before we go any further, check up along the side of your head and see if he’s talking to you or not. If you have ears, you need to understand this.

Verse 10:

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him came up and asked him about the parables. And he told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,

“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”

This is a quote from Isaiah 6:9 and 10. He’s saying He’s speaking in parables for a double purpose, to enlighten the believer and to confuse the unbeliever. That’s its double purpose. Because you see, the Lord will let you have whatever you want. He will let you have whatever you want. 

If you say to the Lord, Lord, thy will be done in my life.
The Lord will say, Okay. And He will perform His will for your life.
If you say to Him, Lord, my will be done.
He’ll say, Okay.

And He’ll let you go off on your own. In fact, He’ll help you, take your will to its ultimate extreme conclusion, hoping that you’ll come to your senses along the way and say, Wait a minute Lord, I didn’t really want that after all! 

And so He will allow an unbeliever to take his unbelief to extremes to show him how silly it is. Unfortunately, some of them don’t get it. He’ll also allow a believer to take his belief to extremes to show what a blessing it is, hoping that we’ll see the difference between the two. That, in a nutshell, is what all that meant. 

But now He’s going to explain the parable because He wants us to understand it.

Verse 13:

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?

Good question, Lord!


The farmer sows the word.

Now in the Matthew version, He says that He’s the farmer and the seed is His Word. So that makes it a little clear. You can read this in Matthew 13, by the way. The whole chapter is devoted to this in Matthew 13. The farmer is the Lord, and He sows the Word.

Verse 15:

Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.

This is what’s meant by the birds coming and pecking up the seed before it can even barely touch the ground. Keep in mind that He is referring to Satan in the parable as the birds, okay? This will be important. Now in 2 Corinthians 4:3 and 4, each one of these will confirm it for you.

2 Corinthians 4:3 and 4. Listen to what it says.

Verse 3:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

This is what Jesus meant when He says the birds come along and peck up the seed.

Paul explained it in 2 Corinthians 4 that the god of this age (who’s that? Satan) has blinded unbelievers to this. It’s not that God doesn’t want them to hear it, it’s that they have, by their own actions, allowed Satan to blind them to the Gospel, and that’s why it’s veiled. It’s not that it’s a secret, God in Isaiah says, I’m not some guy who says “Come seek Me in vain.” He says: I made Myself plain to everybody! I’m right out there! You look at Me, and you’ll find Me.

In Matthew 7, He says: 

Everybody who asks will receive; and everybody who seeks will find; and everybody who knocks the door will be opened.

It’s not a tricky thing to do. But by our own choices and by our own behavior, some people allow Satan to blind them to this so that they cannot comprehend it. That’s the seed that falls on the path. It’s snatched up right away by the evil one.

Now you go down back to Mark, and you see in verse 16:

Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Now for the explanation of that, we’ll go to Colossians 2:6 and 7. 

Colossians 2:6 says:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

And so the seed comes into our heart and then it has to take root. How does the seed take root? Well, what He is saying here is, strengthen in the faith as you are taught. And remember in Romans how he says, “Faith comes through hearing of the word of the Lord.” 

I read a startling statistic the other day that said more than 80% of people who respond to altar calls in revivals or big stadium meetings and things like that, over 80% of those people never again set foot in any kind of a church. Never again are exposed to the Scripture, never again do anything. The Word never takes root. In the passion of the moment, they come running down with some friends, they say the prayer, they go home feeling great, and like Mark says they received the Word with joy. 

What happened is, it went into their head, but it never got to their heart. And He says that’s the seed that falls on the rocky places. As soon as normal life comes around again, and they get a little bit of persecution, or somebody laughs at them, or they have a problem or two, they deny the whole thing. Because it never really got there.

So the one who is represented by the seed sown along the path had no comprehension. The one who is represented by the seed sown in the rocky places had no conversion, and that’s why he fell away. Some will use this verse to say, Well, that proves it! Once saved always saved isn’t right.

Because here are these people, they received the Word, and then they fell away. They got it into their heads, but they did not get it into their hearts. And that’s what He means when He says it didn’t take root. Because the Word takes root in your heart, it doesn’t take root in your head.

You can talk to people about the Bible all day long, and you can quote verses to them, and they can quote verses back. And you can have these fascinating intellectual discussions, but if nobody’s heart got involved, nothing happened there. It didn’t do anybody any good. Do you understand that? Okay, that’s the second part.

Now 18. Mark 4:18:

Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Now that, my friends, is a very important word. Making it “unfruitful.” Fruit, by definition, does two things, it feeds someone, and it creates a new life because there is seed in the fruit. So when the fruit falls from the tree, either somebody eats the fruit and is sustained by it, or the seed goes into the ground and creates a new tree just like the other one. Sometimes both happen. 

Now let me explain this to you, and listen carefully.

Salvation bears no fruit. There is no fruit born when you are saved because you neither fed someone else, nor did you create a new life somewhere. Salvation happens only to you. It is not designed to bear fruit.

It’s what happens to you after you’re saved that determines whether you bear fruit or not. And so your bearing of fruit has nothing to do with your salvation, you understand that? Salvation is a very personal event; it happens one time in your life. It’s a very personal thing where God gets His hold on you, and He is never going to let go. There is no fruit borne there at all. The fruit is borne later.

And what it’s saying here in Mark 4 is that for some people, they are so preoccupied with the things of this world. We have this little tag we put on these people, call them carnal Christians. Which really applies to all of us if you stop to think about it, we’re all carnal Christians, but we like to call other people carnal Christians, don’t we? Because they’re still concerned about getting ahead in life, they’re still worried about the car and the big house, they’re still worried about looking good to others. They’re still worried about the things of this world.

And they’re so worried about those things that they never bear any fruit. I call them God’s secret agents because you would never know they were saved! They live next door to you for 20 years, and you would never know they were saved because they’re sleeper agents, you see! And they’re under deep cover, and it never shows! Nobody would ever! But they’re believers.

The seed came into their heart; that was the first step. The salvation step took place, but there’s no fruit. So the first seed, no comprehension. The second seed, no conversion. The third seed, no fruit. 

Now the verse for that one is John 15. Back in the high tech days, I used to just click my little remote, and John 15 would appear on the ceiling behind me, but we’re going back to do it like Moses did it, so we’ll all have to look it up.

John 15:5:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

There are people who use this as a verse that says, Well that’s proves you can lose your salvation.

But remember, salvation is not a fruit bearing event. He doesn’t say, You won’t be saved anymore. He just says, You won’t bear any fruit.

You’re not letting Him be Lord of your life. You’re letting Him be your savior, but you’re not letting Him be your Lord. And that’s the two-step process, letting Him be your savior means you’re saved, letting Him be your Lord means He will use your life to bear fruit. 

And so what Jesus is saying is, If you don’t let Me do that, you’re not going to bear any fruit because you can’t do this on your own.

And so this is the third seed. He’s saved, but he’s so focused on the things of this world that he never bears any fruit. 

And now the fourth one, in verse 20:

Others, like seed sown on good soil,

This is the one about us so you can pay attention here and smile.

Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, or sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.”

That’s what bearing fruit is all about. And so you can’t bear fruit without being saved, but you can be saved without bearing fruit. You can live like most Christians do, by the way—a defeated, purposeless, worthless life in the Kingdom sense. 

They may amass great fortunes; they may have beautiful homes and children; they may have all the fancy blessings that this world has to offer, but they don’t bear any fruit for the Kingdom. 

Now when they go up in the Rapture, and they get to Heaven, they stand before the Lord. 1 Corinthians 3 says that everything they did will burn up in the fire. But then it says they themselves will escape, but only as one escaping the flames. They’ll come into the Kingdom with their tail feathers still smoking, but they’ll be in. Because it’s not how we behave that saves us, it’s what we believe that saves us, you got that?

Okay, now once we believe, the thing we should be happy to do out of gratitude for being saved, is to say, Okay, Lord, use me to bear some fruit. And that’s what Paul’s letters are all about. 

He’s saying you shouldn’t be happy just to be saved! The Olympic athlete is not happy just to be qualified to run the race! He wants to win the crown! You ought to be the same way. You shouldn’t be happy just to be saved; you should want to win crowns for yourselves. These athletes, he says, they do it just for crowns that wither away in a few days. 

But our crowns last forever. Shouldn’t we want to win those crowns? You can’t even start to win a crown until you’re saved. It’s like qualifying for the race; you can’t run the race until you’re qualified. You can’t run the race for the Kingdom until you’re saved. But once you are, you shouldn’t be satisfied with just that. 

Now, the Lord will let you do that, because like I said, He’ll give you whatever you want. He’ll let you just take the grace, get yourself saved, if that’s all you want, okay. But what He really would like is some demonstration of gratitude. I mean, when you go all out and do something great for your kids, and they are just kind of, okay see ya later. And they barely thank you for it. Sometimes you have to say, Aren’t you going to say thanks? Uhuh, thanks bye.

That’s ingratitude, isn’t it? You don’t like that, do you? Doesn’t it make you wish you never did it? Well, that’s kind of the way it is, although the Lord doesn’t wish He never did it. But that ingratitude grieves the spirit of God because it’s like saying to Him, I know you gave Your life for me Lord, but so what. So what. I don’t have to do anything in return, so I’m not going to.

Now you can do that, but it’s one of the most incredible demonstrations of ingratitude ever presented anywhere in the human race, you understand? This is the great issue then, this issue of the soils, and the four seeds. We really fell, our seed fell in fertile ground, and we should let ourselves blossom. 

The entire New Testament is devoted to explaining the benefits of doing that. This idea of living a sacrificial life because you’re a believer, it doesn’t come from the Bible. This doesn’t come from God. This comes from men who try to control other people’s’ behavior. 

You go ask, if you could find one—if I could bring one in here now, we could do this, and I’d know exactly what would happen. We could take an Olympic athlete, a gold medal winner, we could bring him into this room, and we could say, “How long did you prepare for that gold medal?”

I’m going to use the example of a marathon runner I happen to know something about. His name is Frank Shorter, and he won the marathon. Way back when the marathon—he’s the one that made the marathon running—he started the whole running craze, by the way, in this country because it caught on. 

When they asked him how he prepared for that, and how many days a week did he train, and all that kind of thing, he ran in two marathons, one in Germany and one in Canada. He was in training for seven years to run those two races. 

When they asked him how often did he train, he said, “I can remember, out of those seven years, I can remember two days when I didn’t run.”
They said, “What a terrible sacrifice! You gave up some of the best years of your life for that.”
He says, “I didn’t give up anything. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Look what I got!”

There’s no sacrificial life. Unless you’re talking about giving up soap operas. I don’t want to step on any toes here! So I’m being careful!

If we understood what we have gained, we would never talk about a sacrificial life, ever. The only people who talk about sacrificial lives do not understand what they have received. And that my friends, is a huge violation of Biblical principles. The people who taught them to act that way, in my opinion, don’t deserve to be in pulpits. Because the only time you talk about sacrifice is when you’re giving up something for nothing. And none of us ever gave up something for nothing! We gave up some little terrible thing for some great big good thing! That’s not a sacrifice. It’s like giving up a dollar for a million dollars, that is not called sacrifice! That’s an investment. 

All right. So that’s the real point I wanted you to get out of this, we’re not going to go any further in Mark tonight because we’ve used up the time that we had available to us; we try to keep these about an hour, and so we’re not going to try to go any further in chapter 4 here tonight, we’re going to stop there. 

He goes on to talk about some other things here, and we’ll want to pay more attention to those when we get to them than we have left for this evening. And so let’s make sure we just get that point, all right?

Let’s make sure we get that point of the four types of seed because He’s talking here about the effect of the Gospel in the world. And He’s saying some people hear it and don’t comprehend it, it just goes right over their heads. And we read that that’s because they have permitted the enemy to blind them to this by their behavior.

The second group, the seed that falls in rocky soil and so it never takes root. That means it never goes from their head down to their heart. Those are all the people who are going to be left sitting in their pews after the Rapture. Because they may have thought they had something there, they may have been to Bible studies. They may have discussed this a lot with a lot of people. But nothing ever got into their heart.

And when the Lord looks into their hearts He is going to say, no matter what they’ve accomplished, He is going to say, Away from me you evildoer, I never knew you.

Not I did know you and forgot you, not I did know you and lost you, not I used to have you, but I misplaced you. He says, No, I never knew you. Even though you have claimed to perform miracles in My name, even though you’ve claimed to have done all these great things, I never knew you. I never lived in your heart.

That’s the rocky soil. The thorns and thistles apply, in my opinion, to most Christians today. There’s conversion, but there’s no fruit. I have a whole list of these things that I could give you here to explain what these folks are like. I don’t know if I can find them here, let me see if I can pick out just a few as we’re closing up here, just so you’ll get the point.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve collected over the years:

These people have profession, but no experience; they have life but no health. I like this one: They have movement, no progress. Have you ever been in that situation? They have battles without victory; they have service without success; trial without triumph; they’re on the right side of Easter, but the wrong side of Pentecost. I like that, isn’t that great? They are justified, but they’ve never been sanctified.

They’ve never been set apart for the Lord. They’re still saved, but they’ve never been set apart for the Lord. As a result, their lives have borne no fruit for the Kingdom. None.

Now what we want to be is that seed that falls into the fertile soil. We want the Lord to be able to nurture our faith and to make it grow. We want to be able to produce something that bears fruit for Him, don’t we? And so, that’s our goal.

Now you know what? You can’t just go out and make that happen; this is not something you can cause to happen. This is something that the Holy Spirit makes happen. Your job is to permit it, to let it happen. That’s the goal because going out and making it happen, you know what that’s going to produce in you? Dead works. Works of the flesh. And it’s all going to get burned up in the fire.

You have to pray, Lord, make my heart fertile ground, for your seed to grow and produce fruit for Your Kingdom, and help me stay out of the way so that You can accomplish this.

Now that’s a prayer that’s right in the center of God’s will, and that will happen every time you ask. 

Let’s have a closing prayer, and then next time, we’ll take up the rest of Mark 4.