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. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “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. 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 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.”
- Mark 4:1-9
“Satan is the greatest rip-off artist of all time.
”As Jesus illustrated so vividly, the seed – the Word of God – is carefully sown (Mark 4). Yet, shortly after we hear God’s Word, the enemy of our souls, Satan himself, comes and takes away the biblical insights that have been deposited in our hearts.
Before the freshly baked cake is cool, he comes and licks off all the frosting. Before the bike is ridden, he sneaks up and lets all the air out of the tires. Before the dress is worn, he slips up and jerks out the hem and jams the zipper. Before we crank up the car at 12:20, he’s stolen the stuff we heard at 11:45.
“Amazing! … He baits the rip-off trap, then sets it with just the right hair trigger:
“ – An argument in the car after church over where to go for dinner.
“ – Lots of activity, talking, and needless noise Sunday afternoon.
“ – Preoccupation with some worrisome problem during the message.
“ – A personality conflict with another church member.
“ – Irritation over how far away you had to park.
“ – Pride, that says, ‘I’m so glad Doo Dad is here. He really needs to get straightened out.’
“All these (and more) are satanic rip-offs.
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
First, the story behind our older son’s third birthday cake, almost fourth cake, still third birthday.
On the back of this ‘old’ photograph – our son recently celebrated his 44th birthday – is a message to my wife’s mother – getting the photo back after my mother-in-law’s passing. “That’s the ‘cookie monster’ cake. I had to redecorate the blue fur because of an impatient little man who couldn’t wait!”
Yes, my wife and younger son had just come home from the hospital, barely more than a week before. Our younger son is fifteen days shy of being exactly three years younger than his brother. My wife, undaunted by the added responsibilities of two boys, one only two-weeks old, baked a cookie monster cake for our older son’s birthday party the next day. She waited for him to go to bed before she did the painstaking task of piping blue fur onto the cake. The cake decorating tools have a fur or hair fitting, but you are piping about a half dozen hairs at a time. To cover a cake this large took more than one bag of blue icing. She had to make a double batch to ensure all the fur was the same color. We then went to bed.
The next day, we were awakened by our older son, now, being the next day, newly three-years-old. He did not talk much, going from never talking, other than “the car, the car, the car” – into Match Box, big time – to talking in full paragraphs to his younger brother when he thought we were not watching – Go figure. He went to my wife’s side of the bed and I was awakened by the scream. Not our son’s. My wife screamed when she saw our son’s face, with a big cheesy cookie monster blue smile. When we saw the cake, he had carefully eaten, other than what he wore as a smile, every hair from the cake. Every hair. He left the eyes and the teeth in cookie monster’s smile. Bare cake remained, having not even been nibbled. I could have never pulled off the feat. I would have marred the surface of the cake, but no, not a blemish, other than no fur on cookie monster.
While my wife made a double-batch of blue icing, I gave our son a bath. I must have taken that Thursday off. The photo is the original cake, but with the second attempt at the frosting. You can see that our son was pleased with himself. Sometimes “cute” only goes so far! But the stories last forever.
This birthday party was when I was the Facilities Engineer for the Karlsruhe, West Germany area. Meanwhile, my wife was getting every kind of cake pan imaginable. She developed a business, more of a hobby in that her prices were too low. When we moved to South Carolina, she got business cards and spread them around. She sold scratch cakes with real butter-cream icing for less than the grocery store sold a comparable machine painted sheet cake. The grocery store used mixes for both the cake and the icing, functional but tasteless. When my grandmother died and she called to back out of a cake deal for a high-level manager’s son’s birthday party, she never sold another cake. The gossip mill at work – the wrong kind of seeds being sown in that instance.
But Rev. Swindoll is trying to illustrate from the focus of a single sermon how the seeds can fall on a variety of soil. For those distracted during the service, the seed lands in different soil than for those who receive the message but lose it before reaching home or soon after. Neither soil bears fruit.
A noisy Sunday afternoon is not necessarily ‘sin’ in your life, but I know that I have had those noisy afternoons or the quiet afternoons when I fall asleep. With either of these experiences after hearing a sermon in the morning, I might have a hard time telling you the title of the pastor’s sermon by the evening meal. Forget what the sermon was about. Don’t worry, I take notes these days.
But Jesus is teaching us a backdoor sermon here. Jesus is illustrating it from the seed’s point of view. I have often fretted that I was not growing enough in the Christian faith. Maybe I was tossed in with the weeds and choked, but I was asking the question. Would a weedy soil seed even notice? Would they ask the question?
But for Jesus’ backdoor sermon, let’s look at the parable from the sower’s point of view. Jesus is telling us to keep tossing seeds, regardless of the fruit gained from each seed that is tossed.
We don’t want our seed wasted. We want to tell our best friend about Jesus and have that best friend drop to their knees at that very moment and accept Jesus – not just good soil, but soil mixed with a lot of manure – I grew up on a turkey farm and we had a bountiful crop in our garden, hint, hint – and other natural fertilizers that causes instant growth into the most vibrant flowers that can be imagined. Sadly, evangelism produces an awful lot more of the rocky soil seeds. But might that rocky soil seed remember what you said and did years later? There is always hope; that is why we keep tossing seeds.
And Jesus is saying to keep tossing seeds. Satan is still working. As Rev. Swindoll said elsewhere in the devotion that Satan is well practiced. He’s been at it since Eve in the Garden, tons of experience. And if Satan is working overtime, we need to work the fields ourselves – especially now. People are crying out. They are angry, because they see no Hope, but Hope is found in Jesus. Will they hear those words from you today?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.