The Thorns and the Harvest

Those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold” (v. 20).

- Mark 4:18—20

We see from Jesus’ parable of the soils that there are at least four different kinds of people to whom the Word of God comes. The first group consists of those who pay no heed to the gospel at all. Never do they show any positive response to Scripture, not even on the surface. They are so hardened to God’s Word that the devil is able to snatch it away from them (Mark 4:4, 15). The second group responds in what seems to be an exceedingly positive manner to the gospel. Such people appear to receive Christ enthusiastically, and they may even seem to grow quickly, exercising a wide influence for the kingdom (vv. 5–6, 16–17). Yet appearances are in this case deceiving. The rapid growth hides the shallowness of the faith professed until persecution comes. Under the intense heat of opposition, this second group of hearers finally rejects Jesus.

Today’s passage describes two other groups of people who hear the Word of God. Jesus compares the seed that is later crowded out by thorns and thistles to those who seem to respond in faith but are then buried by the cares and concerns of this life (vv. 7, 18–19). Like those who respond with fervor but then fall away due to persecution, those who later succumb to thorns and thistles appear to start out well. It is not too much of a stretch to think that this group looks even stronger than the group that falls to persecution. Maybe it has passed through persecution without committing apostasy. Perhaps it has started to bear what seems to be good fruit. Yet in the end, these people turn away from Jesus to “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (v. 19). They become distracted, sometimes even by things that are in themselves good, and they forsake Christ for the lesser gods of power and prestige or fame and fortune. Their discipleship is thereby proved to be false.

Finally, we have the fourth group, represented by the seed that falls onto good soil (v. 8). These individuals receive the Word of God gladly, but unlike the seed that fell into rocky soil or is later crowded out by worldliness, a harvest results. Moreover, the harvest is abundant—a thirty-, sixty-, or even a hundredfold return (v. 20). These are the true disciples of Jesus who rest in Him alone for salvation and are firmly grounded in the truth of His Word. They consider all earthly gain to be a loss for the sake of Christ and His kingdom, and Jesus uses them mightily to advance His gospel.

Coram Deo

None of us can anticipate the size of the harvest that will be produced when God’s Word meets good soil. The one thing we can be sure of, however, is that a harvest will come. We will not see in our lifetimes the full results of the harvest that the Lord produces when He sows His Word in us, but He sees it and He will graciously reward us. He gives the increase and He blesses us with a reward for the fruit He produces in us.

Passages for Further Study

Hosea 6:11
John 4:31–38
2 Corinthians 9:10
2 Peter 1:3–11

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