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Teaching or Concealing?

Teaching or Concealing?

An exploration of the complexity in Jesus’ parables and His reasons behind them.


Mitchell Leach

Community Pastor

Peace Church

Published On:

June 18, 2024

Jesus is the original gatekeeper. Gatekeeping carries a negative connotation in that it is keeping helpful information away from people for the person's own benefit. This — obviously — isn’t the case with Jesus. Jesus spoke in parables for two main reasons. Jesus uses parables to tell a story that points to something greater. He used parables because they made eternal truths graspable for regular people, yet he also used them to hide meanings from people who weren’t ready to hear them. A good definition of a parable’s intentions would be to say, “In a parable, truth is expressed through concrete pictures rather than in abstractions.” [1] We must remember that the bible is an Eastern book more than a Western one. The Bible – especially the parables – doesn’t address a point in a logical progressive argument. But rather speaks around a point to make that point.


We must remember at this point in the gospel of Mark, Jesus had just been called Beelzebul (Mark 3:22) and been receiving harsh criticism of his ministry. It was clear that there were people who were hostile to the gospel he was preaching. So, as the crowd gathered — mixed with people who were against him and for him — he used this opportunity to both teach his disciples and confuse those who were in opposition to him. [2] Jesus, whether we like it or not, withheld information from people who hated him. And that in itself is proven by the first parable (the parable of the sower) we see in the gospel of Mark.

God’s word impacts people’s hearts differently. Some personally, and therefore, it will be fruitful, while others will become distracted and seek after their own gods.

Main Idea of Text

To summarize this parable into a sentence, you could say that Jesus teaches the crowds through parables, emphasizing the nature of the Kingdom of God and the various responses to His message.

The parable of the sower is a powerful passage. It is by far one of my favorite passages in scripture, so much so that my wife and I named our daughter Sower after this section of scripture.

This parable describes a scene where a sower (or farmer) throws seeds into a field to plant them (or sow them). The seeds fall on four soils, each better than the next.

The Path

First, the path, where they don’t take root at all and by far the worst soil. This describes the person who hears the word and rejects it immediately.

Rocky Soil

Next is the rocky ground. This is not soil with rocks but soil with a shallow rock bed, leaving the ground to get hot fast. This would be the first soil to see growth, but this also creates a problem where the roots cannot grow deep, and therefore, the plant would die fast. This describes the person who hears the gospel and believes it with vigor and passion but doesn’t tie their faith to a deeper doctrine of the faith. As the author of Hebrews said in chapter 6, 'Therefore, let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.'

The Christian faith must be tied to the word of God.

Our inward goal is to both know and love God. Those who only rely on feelings will see their faith suffer because when hardship comes, and our emotions play tricks on us, we can be fooled into believing in a new and unbiblical gospel.


Next is the soil with weeds. This seems like a place where the plant can grow, but because it has to compete with plants that shouldn’t be there, it is overtaken and also dies. This describes the person who hears the word and seemingly believes it but allows worldly things to compete for their heart.

Good Soil

Lastly, we see the proper soil. This describes the Christian who hears the word and bears the fruit of it. Jesus implies evangelism in this passage. This seed should also be a seed bearer and sower.

Often, this passage is interpreted and applied like this. “Jesus teaches this parable to show that some people will hear the gospel, yet most people will not become true believers.” While this is not an inappropriate way to interpret it, there is more to this parable than that.

This is often popular in Jr. High and Sr. High student ministry because many students at that age will have friends who — as they gain independence from their parents — look like they are “falling away from the faith.” The youth pastor or leader typically concludes his message by saying, “Which soil will you be?”

This application, unfortunately, misses the mark of what the text is teaching us. To apply the passage this way to become a moralistic one. We’ll end by saying, “Don’t be like the first three soils; be the last one.” Being the last soil is clearly what we should desire to become as Christians. Teaching a message of trying harder to be better is not the message of the gospel or this passage.

I want to argue that this is a passage about how the gospel goes to people and that this is an encouragement to those who are proclaiming the gospel. This would have been primarily helpful for the disciples who would become sowers themselves. Jesus was teaching that it isn’t the soil’s job to change themselves but the gardeners. How does the ground become unrocky? How does soil remove thorns or weeds? How does a path become fertile ground? In short, it can’t.

Soils cannot do anything but be who they are. None of us are naturally like the fourth soil. We all naturally reject God and desire to do what we want. Jesus is saying to the disciples and to all Christians today, you will have to proclaim the good news of the gospel to all, and some won’t come to believe in the gospel.

Sow the seed of the gospel, knowing God is the gardener.

Ezekiel 36:25-26 says

“25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

So if you think you might be one of the not-good soils and you’re afraid that God might not have chosen you, don’t try to change yourself. The gardener is the only one who can change the soil. The holy spirit is the only one who can change your heart of stone for a heart of flesh.

This is the beauty of the gospel: God is the one who saves and transforms us. We are Christians not because of what we have done or what we do but because of what Jesus has already done. When Jesus goes to the cross, he declares, “it is finished,” not “Now it’s your turn.”

  1. Cf. C.H. Dodd, The Pareables of hte Kingdom (London 1961) p.16 “This concrete, pictoral mode of expression is thoroughtly charateristic of the sayings of Jesus…At its simplest the parable is a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, attesting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficent doubt about its precise application to tease it into active thought.”

  2. Doriani, Dan, Hans F. Bayer, and Thomas R. Schreiner. ESV Expository Commentary: Matthew–Luke. Edited by Iain M. Duguid, James M. Hamilton Jr., and Jay Sklar. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021, 524-532.

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