Jesus is describing the meaning of the analogy or parable of the farmer and the seed.
“Don’t you understand this analogy? How then will you understand other analogies? The farmer planted the Teachings. Those who landed on the wayside from where the Teachings were planted – when they hear, the opposer of God comes immediately and snatches the Teachings that were planted in their hearts. Similarly with those who were planted in rocky soil – as soon as they hear the Teachings they receive it with joy. Yet they have no root within, so they hold it for awhile – but when affliction or persecution comes for the sake of the Teachings, immediately they fall away. Those who are planted among the thistles – they hear the Teachings, but the concerns of this world, and the illusion of riches and the lust of other things enter and choke the Teachings and they yield no crop. Then there are those planted into good soil – they hear the Teachings and accept them and yield more crops – some thirtyfold, some sixty and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:13-20)
What is 'the word'?
In most of those translations, instead of being translated to "the Teachings," some translations use "the word."
They are inferring "the word" as in "the word of God."
Yes, many teachers talk about the "word of God." But what does it mean? Are they speaking of God speaking just one word? And what "word" would that be?
If not, they should be saying "words of God."
But no, they say "word of God" is not literal. Well, why can't they speak of God literally? Because they do not represent God. So they have to resort to allegory.
The Greek word λόγος (logos) actually means "knowledge," "doctrine" or "teachings." Jesus wasn't speaking of one word. Jesus is speaking of a collection of words: Teachings: The teachings regarding our relationship with the Supreme Being.
Some translations will also say the "seed" is "sown in them." In Jesus' parable, he uses this metaphor. But in his description to his disciples, Jesus is speaking of the teachings being planted within our hearts. Jesus is speaking of a person hearing those teachings, and then applying those teachings to our lives.
In some translations, we also find that "satan," "the devil" or "the evil one" is snatching "the word" away. Who is this person? And how can a person snatch a word away?
Such a translation is nonsensical, and metaphorical at the least. Jesus would not be using a metaphor to describe a metaphor. He is speaking plainly to his disciples as he explains his parable.
In the above translation, Jesus is referring to the "opposer of God," from the Greek word, Σατανᾶς. This word means, according to the lexicon, "adversary (one who opposes another in purpose or act)."
Jesus isn't using a metaphor
He is speaking of that which opposes the Supreme Being.
Jesus is speaking of the illusory physical world and its various attractions. The illusions that make us identify ourselves with these temporary physical bodies, making us believe that if we keep the body fulfilled, we will become fulfilled.
Yet that is not what happens. It is an illusion. No matter how much food our bodies eat - how much sex our bodies have - how much wealth or attention our bodies get - we do not become fulfilled. We can see this clearly when some of the most wealthy and famous people have depression, commit suicide, or overdose on drugs. Why would they kill themselves, we often ask? They had everything?
Actually, they didn't have everything. Their bodies may have had all the stuff - all the fame, fortune, and attention they could ever want. But they were empty inside. Their spiritual selves - their actual selves - the person within - was empty because they have forgotten their loving relationship with the Supreme Being.
Thus we find that the illusory nature of the physical world - providing opposition to God by shielding Him - can completely distract us and allow us to forget God.
We might compare it to a movie theater, where the darkened room focuses the movie-goers' attention on the movie, allowing the movie-goer to forget reality outside of the movie theater for a couple of hours.
And yes, like a movie, these physical bodies are temporary. They may last a few decades at the most, and then we must leave them behind.
So what is the "rocky soil" that prevents those who joyfully hear the teachings of God's representative but form no "root?"
What does "root" mean?
The "rocky soil" is the lack of determination on the part of the person in not only hearing, but carrying out the Teachings of God's representative.
And the "root" that Jesus refers to is the development of one's loving service relationship with the Supreme Being. Love for God - or the desire for love for God - provides a strong foundation and continuing motivation for progressing in spiritual life. This drives a person to come to know the Supreme Being personally.
Coming to know God personally provides spiritual fulfillment to the deepest degree possible. This nourishes the person within and provides the stability and foundation to continue to develop one's relationship with God despite the various distractions of the physical world.
Without such a foundation, Jesus describes times where a person is tested - "immediately they fall away."
While we may not be subjected to persecution for our faith in most Western countries today (as some still unfortunately do), we are continually being tested in other ways.
In the Western world today, we are challenged by a barrage of speculative philosophies that oppose the existence of the Supreme Being. What are these speculative philosophies?
- Many modern scientists propose there is no purpose for our existence - that the universe was created by accident and we evolved accidentally.
- The "Christian science" philosophy proposes that we are each God, but we just have to realize it.
- This "I am God" philosophy is actually now present among many sects around the world - sects that have not professed the personal nature of the Supreme Being. This leads to the speculation that perhaps God is everything - leading to the speculation that I must be God. This leads to a theory that many have professed - that I am God but I forgot - and now I must remember.
How can God forget He is God?
That is nonsensical. That would mean that forgetfulness is more powerful than God. Logically, that would mean such a "god" is not God - because forgetfulness is more powerful. That would mean that forgetfulness is the real God.
Again - not only does this philosophy make no sense. It contradicts itself.
What about the agnostics?
Then of course, there are the secular atheists and agnostics, which profess that either God doesn't exist or they don't know whether He exists or not. These will utilize as evidence that why would we suffer if God exists? Why would there be starvation? Why would there be genocides? How could God allow this if He existed?
Such a notion arises not only out of ignorance. It arises because many sects and their teachers are not providing clear answers. Most are hedging their teachings on the notion that as long as we attend their institution we will be cured of disease. They profess that we should pray to be healed, or pray to make money, or just pray for anything we want.
As if God is our waiter. Their philosophy is that we are put here to enjoy life and God's role is to serve us and make sure we are happy.
So they say that all our suffering is because we are not asking God hard enough.
This teaching naturally leads to atheism and agnosticism. Why? Because it is easy to see that the prayers of people asking God to heal them or make their bodies whole aren't working very well.
For example, millions of people will go to Lourdes, France each year to have their diseases healed. Yet the vast majority of them are not healed. Why not?
To this, some suggest their faith just wasn't strong enough. How can you say this when some of them traveled from thousands of miles away? Certainly, their faith was strong enough to sacrifice money, time and difficulty in traveling all that way to be healed. Certainly, they had faith.
But in most cases, they are not healed. In fact, there have only been a small handful of people who have had "miracle cures" from Lourdes - out of the millions of people over the past nearly two centuries that have gone there to be healed. Why? Doesn't God care about the others?
Is God to blame? Or are we to blame?
The fault lies not with God - but with the teachings of those institutions that are misleading people about the nature of the physical world and our position in it.
These are some of the challenges that we face as we try to navigate our understanding of the Supreme Being. For some, these challenges are overwhelming, and any "seed" that gets "planted" in our hearts about the Supreme Being will whither due to our lack of determination.
"Then there are those planted into good soil – they hear the Teachings and accept them and yield more crops – some thirtyfold, some sixty and some a hundred."Jesus is comparing a "crop" to helping others escape the grips of the physical world and return to the spiritual realm and the loving arms of our Best Friend God.
The reason we are born into the physical world and wear these physical bodies in the first place is that we rejected this relationship. We became self-centered and envious of the Supreme Being - and wanted to enjoy as He enjoys. So He gave us a physical body along with the illusory energy to help us forget Him and who we really are. After all, could we really try to enjoy ourselves without Him if we could see Him? No.
This is described by Jesus as he explains:
"but the concerns of this world, and the illusion of riches and the lust of other things enter and choke the Teachings and they yield no crop."The "illusion" Jesus refers to is caused by our falsely identifying ourselves as these physical bodies. Because of this misidentification, we think that making the body satisfied will satisfy me.
This is like a hungry person driving a car up to a gas station and thinking that a full tank of gas will relieve his hunger. Because the driver is not the car, filling the car up will not satisfy the driver's hunger.
Each of us who identify ourselves as these physical bodies are by default hungry within - empty within - because we've forgotten our relationship with God. Like the hungry driver, we are trying to become fulfilled by filling up our physical bodies in one way or another.
But if we hear Jesus' teachings and apply them to our lives, we will become fulfilled from within. Those teachings include instructions on praising the Supreme Being, making offerings to Him, connecting with Him in prayer, and coming to love Him and serve Him. The purpose for these practices is explained by Jesus:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:30)