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The Secret of the Kingdom



When we take time to understand the Gospels, it changes us, and it changes the whole world!

Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose to teach in parables or how His parables resonate with our lives today? In this talk, Ben Stuart explains Jesus’ use of parables in Mark 4 and teaches us how parables are an invitation to understand the heart of Jesus and His message.

Key Takeaway

There are those that will be in the Kingdom and those that will reject it. It comes down to your response to the Gospel. If you desire to know and love God, He will tell you the secrets of Heaven.

Sometimes passages in the Bible are confusing. We don't know what to do with them. The portion of Scripture we are using today is going to be one of those. What's unexpected is that some of that confusion is on purpose. However, there is a beautiful promise that if you can understand the secret of the Kingdom, which He puts on display today, then you are going to be changed, and so will everyone around you.

Mark is a fast-paced book with constant little snippets, but there are two teaching sections and Mark 4 is one of them.

Mark 4:1

Up to this point, Jesus is going from town to town, healing and teaching in chapters 1 and 2. As He is going, He starts picking up followers, gaining popularity, and meeting resistance. In Chapter 3, all of those things intensify. As everything is at a peak, He basically holds a press conference. Jesus gets out on the water, and the land acts as a natural amphitheater.

Mark 4:2

Jesus told many things. Mark just focuses on a few things. It's ok to do that. He is explaining the purpose of the story. He proceeds to tell 5 stories. Jesus was telling parables. In Greek, that means to throw something down next to it. Essentially it's stating something, the person doesn't understand, so you throw a different way to say or understand it next to the original and it helps the person to comprehend the lesson. For example, when Ben said that Jesus was building a critical mass to communicate with, it was like holding a press conference. It helps make connections. Jesus just doesn't make the connections...He just tells the story and leaves.

Mark 4:3-9

Jesus tells the parable of the sower. Does not explain it and just leaves. It's very confusing to the people. So confusing that Mark does a flash forward. Mark will return to the story, but he flashes forward to help explain.

Mark 4:10-12

The disciples ask Jesus about the parable. Jesus doesn't jump straight into explaining it, He first lets them know why He tells parables in the first place. When He tells stories like that, it divides the crowd between those who are in the Kingdom and those who are outside of it. Those in the Kingdom get to understand the secrets of God; those outside can't understand. Not only do they not get the information, they don't get forgiveness. When you've done something wrong, the guilt and shame put a barrier in the relationship. When you are forgiven, the relationship can return. So, those in the Kingdom get to have a relationship with God, and those outside don't get to know Him. It matters greatly which group you're in.

  • How do you get from outside the Kingdom into the inside of the Kingdom?
  • It doesn't matter who heard the story, because everyone heard the story
  • It didn't matter if you understood it or not. Nobody understood it. The disciples had to ask later in order to get it.
  • What makes the difference is what you do with the information you're given. It's the reaction to your confusion. One group left. One group was confused and pressed in and wanted to know more. The "want to" makes all the difference. He makes it just hard enough to reveal your hardness of heart. If you want to understand, Jesus gives you grace and forgiveness and will be happy to explain the secrets of the Kingdom. If you want the Kingdom without the King, then there's judgment, and all you get is the story. What matters is the sincerity of the search. Do you have a humble, hungry heart for Him?

Mark 4:13-20

Jesus explains the responses of people to what He teaches. The sower is someone preaching and the seed is the Word of God. The Soil are the 4 responses to it. These apply to today as well.

  • Response 1- immediate rejection. Completely ignores it, and it's swept away. Jesus attributes it to a spiritual battle. Mark 4:15.
  • Modern example- people who are on their phones during church, completely ignoring the teaching on the Kingdom of God in favor of trying to figure out where to go to lunch. It can be animosity, or it can be apathy.
  • Response 2- eventual rejection because of pain. The enemy turns up the heat just enough to make holding on a hassle. Mark 4:16-17.
  • Modern example- When a coworker asks what you did this weekend, you'll mention a lot of things, but you won't mention church because you don't want them to judge you, think bad things about you, or make fun of you. Your fear of rejection causes you to let go of Jesus.
  • Response 3- eventual rejection because of pleasure. Mark 4:18-19.
  • Modern example- No one can wrestle your Bible out of your hand, so they mention something on your phone, and you need to do more research on your computer, and you put the Bible down because your desire is for other things, and you get distracted. The desire choked out the Word.
  • Response 4- Hear and accept the Word; they bear more and more fruit. Mark 4:20
  • Modern example- The person that keeps showing up to church, listening to messages, doing Bible Studies, serving. What started as wanting to know more about Jesus has turned into a love for Jesus. It starts to transform your life.

Jesus is basically saying that every time He preaches, 3 out of 4 people won't work out. Those are not encouraging odds. However, those that do lean in and are transformed will produce 30, 60, or even 100 times what was sown. In an agrarian culture, 10-fold was a massive bounty, so when Jesus uses the numbers He does, He is moving into miracle categories.

Clarifications: So, which soil is the Christian? Only the 4th response. There's a big difference between dating and marriage. If it were like interacting with a dating app, then response 1 would immediately swipe them away, response 2 would go on a few dates, but then something was said that they didn't like, and they end it, and response 3 would entertain a few dates, but then get distracted and desires a better looking person. Response 4 makes a covenant to be with them, takes on the name Christian, and is given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and is changed.

Misconception 1: This a question of salvation. The seed going into the soil is not conversion or placing your faith in Jesus, so it's not like you can lose your salvation. Don't mix the metaphors. It's dating, not marriage. This is about the Word of God landing, and what are you going to do with it? Responses 2 and 3 never made a commitment to Jesus.

Misconception 2: This means you have to produce. You better be hard-working, never miss a day, and strive to make something happen. You have to accomplish enough to get Him to approve of you. That's not how it works! You are not producing anything, He is the one who makes it happen. It's more about your receptivity to His word.

Mark 4:26-29

Jesus says that the seed will be buried, and you will have no idea what is happening in that dirt, but it will slowly grow day by day, and then the end will come. That's what God does in our hearts.

Mark 4:30-32

There was an expectation at that time for the Messiah to come and crush injustice. But the Messiah came to serve and would save the world, not just them. He came humbly. Jesus came as a small seed that was full of greatness. The little seed is the biggest tree in the garden and will be a refuge for anyone who seeks Him. He is victorious, but He is humble. He's gentle with those who want to know Him more.

We are living in the days of grace. Jesus returns to these words when He is about to die. He said unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it will remain alone, but if it dies, it will bear much fruit. See John 12:24. He was talking about Himself. He could do whatever He wanted and be fine, but He died and rose for us so that more and more could live with Him.


"The Gospel is not about a God who is trying to make you earn your way up to Him. It's about a God who gave everything for you."

Ben Stuart

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Scripture References

  • Mark 4:1-34
Ben Stuart Ben Stuart is the pastor of Passion City Church D.C. Prior to joining Passion City Church, Ben served as the executive director of Breakaway Ministries on the campus of Texas A&M. He also earned a master’s degree in historical theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Donna, live to inspire and equip people to walk with God for a lifetime.