You have heard of the parable of the sower before. It is recorded in Mark 4 and in Matthew 13. We will not copy it here because of its length. But essentially, you have a sower who went out to sow (Mark 4:3). Some seeds fall by the way side (verse 4) and the fowls of the air devour them. Some fall on stony ground (verse 5), then grow immediately because there is no much dirt. However, when the sun comes up, they die quickly. Others fall among thorns (verse 7), but they are chocked by them when those thorns grow up. And some fall on good ground (verse 8), and end up yielding fruits in abundance and even superabundance. We shall call them “way side”, “stony ground”, “among thorns” and “good ground”.
Our Lord Jesus explains this parable in Mark 4:14-20. In all four cases, the ground refers to people, the seed is the Word of God, and all four types of people “hear” the Word (verses 15, 16, 18 and 20). However, only two of the four types (“stony ground” and “good ground”) actually “receive” the Word.
This said, a little study of the two verbs “to hear” and “to receive” (or “to accept” depending on the version of your bible) reveals that much of the real meaning of this parable has been lost in most English translations.
It’s about HOW you Hear!
Mark 4: 20 – But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
When looking at how the verb “to hear” is conjugated in each of the four cases, we find that only in the case of the good ground (verse 20) is this verb in the “Present Indicative Active”. In other words, this is the only group of people that hear and keep hearing continuously the Word of God! These people are plugged to Christ!
In stark contrast, the same verb is in the “Aorist” tense in all of the first three groups (“way side”, “stony ground” and “among thorns”). This tense means that this action of hearing is not continuous or habitual. The reason for them not producing fruit is because they do not keep on hearing the Word of Christ.
So what about the stony ground? The only other group mentioned as receiving the Word?
Mark 4:16 – And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
Not only did they “receive” it, but our Lord says that they receive it “immediately” and “with gladness”. But then our Lord says that they “immediately” stumble when tribulation comes because they have no root (verse 17). Ouch! What went wrong?
It’s about HOW you Receive!
See, we already established that the first problem with all the groups except good ground is that they do not make it a habit to hear the Word. In the worst case, they hear it one time and that is it. But now focusing on the verb “to receive”, we see that in the case of stony ground (verse 16), the greek verb is lambano, while in the case of good ground it is the greek verb para-dechomai. In a nutshell, these two verbs focus on two “very” different aspects of the reception process.
Lambano emphasizes the manifestation of what has been received while para-dechomai emphasizes the strong and loving acceptance of what has been received. An example of lambano is found in Acts 19, where Paul ends up laying His hand on some people so they may receive (lambano) the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19:2,6 – He said unto them, Have ye received (lambano) the Holy Ghost since ye believed?… 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
There was a clear manifestation/evidence of the reception: They spoke with tongues and prophesied. In the case of the stony ground, the manifestation is that they immediately start to speak or preach what they have just been taught. How do we know? Verse 17 says that it is for “the Word’s sake that they face tribulations”. They do not just get tribulations for any reason. They are attacked specifically on their faith. But that faith is weak because they do not continue to hear! They are batteries and they run out, they are not plugs!
Para-dechomai is actually a stronger form of the verb “decomai” and it is used only 6 times in the New Testament. One of the other five is this great record in Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:6 – My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives (para-dechomai).
Can you sense the intense love God has for us? How He receives us? And by the way, this is also in the present tense, meaning, the Lord continually receives us! Wow!! Want to talk about being accepted by Him? Here you have it!
So what’s the deal here? “Good ground” hears and keeps on hearing the Word. As a result, he starts to accept and receive this Word, becoming one with it, loving it, making it his very own. He cannot get enough of it! So he never forgets that he needs to stay plugged, and as a result, he produces fruits in the most natural of ways, and even in great abundance. Stony ground hears it once, gets extremely excited. Heck, it seems to be the most excited of all! But then he takes the little he received and runs with it. What a pity! Why do you leave? You are battery on your own, and soon after, you are out of juice!
What is the takeaway? Stay plugged! Keep on hearing! Let’s not focus on what we can do, like stony ground did. The Word calls that our works. Instead, let’s focus on being close to Him, simply listening to Him, day in and day out (2 Timothy 1:9). Bearing fruits is not about exerting effort of our own, but about letting His Word dwell in us richly! He who drinks from Him (i.e. He who hears Him) will never thirst and out of him will flow rivers of living waters (John 7: 37, 38 – you want to talk about producing fruits?!).