Formations 02.28.2021: Let Anyone with Ears to Hear Listen

Mark 4:2-20

The other three Gospels have the decency to postpone overt reference to the plot to kill Jesus until about the halfway point. Mark, however, is famous for never beating around the bush. In the Second Gospel, Pharisees and Herodians are already plotting Jesus’ demise at the beginning of chapter 3. Though not as extreme, by the end of that chapter we see that members of Jesus’ own family thinks he is mentally disturbed. His radical teachings and behavior are taking a toll on the family honor, so his mother and brothers come to take him away from the crowds.

Even before this, though, Mark paints a picture of the controversy Jesus provokes. In chapters 1–2, numerous arguments arise over Jesus and his teaching. A whole gamut of responses to Jesus’ teaching and ministry are on display.

In this context of strife, Jesus tells a parable about different responses to the word of God. Some are distracted, scared away, or simply hard-hearted. Others, however, take this word to heart and bear much fruit.

What is our response to Jesus’ message? It would be easy to assume that Christians are in the category of those who accept the word and bear much fruit. It would be easy—but wrong. Remember that Peter, who was one of the first to follow Jesus, later rebuked Jesus when he began to talk about his coming death (Mark 8:32) and denied he even knew him when the pressure became too great (14:68, 70, 71).

The truth is, we all fit into more than one of Jesus’ categories, maybe even at the same time. At any given moment, there may be some things Jesus calls us to do that we happily accept and others that we find perplexing, intrusive, or threatening to our personal interests.

Jesus’ parable invites us to reflect honestly on where we are in our spiritual journey. We can celebrate the times we get it right, but we must also be prepared to repent of the times we fall short.

How can we become more receptive to the word of God implanted in our hearts?


• What would be an example of Satan taking away the word that is sown?
• How do people neglect God’s word because of trouble or persecution?
• What cares and desires prevent the word from growing deep roots in our souls?
• In what sense is being “good soil” up to us? How is the condition of our “soil” shaped by factors beyond our control?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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