In looking at the condition of our hearts we can see that repentance and awareness play a role in preparing our hearts to receive the seed of the kingdom, His word. Another factor to consider is the role of revelation. Jesus had this to say.
11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’” Mark 4:11-12 (NKJV)
In spite of Jesus message that they had the opportunity to understand the mystery of the kingdom, later in His interaction with His disciples it says they could not understand what Jesus was talking about because their hearts were still hardened.
52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52 (NKJV)
This fits with the history of Israel as a nation where Moses summed up their wilderness experience.
2 Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land– 3 the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders. 4 Yet the LORD has not given you a heart to perceive and eyes to see and ears to hear, to this very day. Deuteronomy 29:2-4 (NKJV)
There is a pattern of an inability to see the realities of the kingdom of God. Have you ever tried to share something important with someone and they could just not seem to see or understand it? At the same time it was crystal clear to you and you struggled to understand how they could not see it? This dynamic has spiritual implications as well and the struggle to see is often put off on God’s ‘sovereignty.’ Yet if His is the King of kings and Lord of lords, which He is, then everything He does is sovereign, not just specific things we can’t seem to grasp. In short, ‘the sovereignty of God’ is no answer. So what do the scriptures teach us? What did Jesus say?
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 (NKJV)
Jesus wept over what He prophetically knew would happened to His beloved city. It appears from this scripture that Israel as a nation simply could not see and so was destined for destruction, God’s sovereignty in action. Yet did this need to happen in this way? Jesus also had something else to say.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” Matthew 23:37-39 (NKJV)
There are two very significant phrases here, ‘I wanted to gather’ and ‘you were not willing.’ Jesus desire or ‘will’ was not that Jerusalem be destroyed, yet because of their choice as a nation events were inexorably set in motion. So how does this relate back to Mark chapter 4 and the parable of the sower? Ultimately we need to pursue wisdom and revelation regarding His purposes. We live in a very comfortable and satisfied culture. Someone at church was just sharing that in their efforts to evangelize they often hear. “Why do I need Jesus? I have everything I need.” We would do well to consider the well known expression, ‘The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running.’ If we adapt this to spiritual reality we could say, ‘Revelation comes not always to the wise but to those who keep on seeking.’ After all Jesus said,
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV)
The problem in translating information across languages is that things can sometimes be lost. Read this again in the Amplified translation which captures the different tense in the Greek.
7 Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (AMP)
The Amplified bible brings out the need for persistence in the process. One thing we need to keep pursuing is ‘a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.’ The interesting thing is that we do not automatically understand or receive everything at conversion. It may be there in seed form but something is needed for it to germinate and produce fruit. Paul wrote the following messages to those who were born again and had encountered Jesus.
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power Ephesians 1:17-19 (NKJV)
9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12 (NKJV)
The truth is that even after we are born again and begin to see the kingdom we can only deeply understand and operate in the kingdom of God through deep dependence on the Holy Spirit. Do we recognize our need for Him and pursue Him?