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On your Mark

The path

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. 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. (Mark 4:13-15, NIV)

The disciples did not have a clue what Jesus was talking about. They ask for an explanation.

Jesus responds back to them with two rhetorical questions, “Don’t you understand ... ? How then will you understand ... ?”

Here’s the problem. If the secret of the Kingdom is being given in the story of the sower and the seed, and even the insiders don’t get it — no wonder Jesus’ questions show a hint of frustration: “Are you also so dense? How will I teach you anything if you cannot pass Kingdom of God 101?”

This entering class in the kingdom of God did not show great promise. They began, as most students do, stumbling. Early concepts are hard to grasp. It’s a new way of thinking. We know the occupations of five of the Twelve — four commercial fishermen and one tax collector. They all are used to dealing with hard, cold facts — not secrets hidden within riddles. So they are on a steep learning curve.

But aren’t we all? Jesus continually stretches us! And we must follow the example of the disciples — when we don’t know something, then ask!

Jesus begins to explain the first element of His story: “The farmer sows the word.” The farmer, of course, is Jesus. The Word is His teaching.

But Jesus does not limit His ministry to the receptive. He continues to speak even when His words fall on deaf ears and hardened hearts.

Enter the devil. For the third time in Mark’s Gospel he gets mentioned — he tempted Jesus in the wilderness (1:13), and the teachers of the Law accused Jesus of being in league with him (3:22-30).

Clearly, Jesus took as true the existence of Satan. The devil is a very real spiritual entity active in opposing Jesus and His mission either through deceit (the temptation) or destroying the impact of Jesus by seizing away the seed sown upon unreceptive hearts.

It’s not Satan who prevents an individual from receiving Jesus’ Word — rather, the predisposition of the person who rejects is what causes the devil to appear and snatch away that Word.

The practical lesson is simply this: any hardness of heart on your part toward the Lord instantly gives the devil an opportunity. If you don’t take the Word of Jesus into your life, but let it lie uningested upon a hardened conscience indefinitely, then the Word of Jesus will be snatched from you by the devil. It will not have a chance to take root because it has been taken away.

Why is there such hardened opposition to Jesus in all sectors of society, and especially the entertainment media, the secular intellectual community, the opinion molders and even religious leaders? Jesus answers — the devil they don’t believe in is the stealth thief of the truth they have rejected.

If you or I do not want the devil to destroy the Word of Jesus sown in us, then we must become something other than hard soil.

GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.

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