Friday, October 24

Parable of the Sower

Recently at Quest, we started looking at the idea of the kingdom of God and discussing what that encompasses and what it means for the way we live our lives. Over the next several weeks, we are going to look at Matthew 13, because in that chapter Jesus tells six different stories that begin with the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like.” Before we turned to those stories, however, we took at look at the Parable of the Sower that begins the chapter. Since Jesus uses this story to introduce his parables about the kingdom of heaven, we felt like this was a good place to start. Here is some of what we discussed:

· This is one of the few parables where Jesus gives an explanation. After telling the story to the crowd, Jesus turns to his disciples and provides an explanation. He compares the four types of soils to the different ways that people respond when they encounter the message about the kingdom of God. Some people don’t get it. Some people initially like it, but when things get tough, or people give them a hard time, they give it up. Some people initially receive it, but then the distractions of the world choke it out and take its place. Others receive it and create a harvest that is greater than the seed they received. Part of the reason why Jesus puts this parable here, before his stories about the kingdom of heaven, is because these are the four ways in which people are going to respond to parables he is about to tell.

· There is one major element in this story that Jesus does not explain – the farmer. Clearly Jesus is the farmer in that chapter. He is going to be telling people about the kingdom of heaven, so he is the one who is about to be scattering the seed. However, Jesus is not the only person who is the farmer. Any time that we are spreading the kingdom of heaven, whether by words or by actions, we become the farmer. When we live out the kingdom, or when we tell people about the difference that Jesus has made in our lives, we start spreading seeds. In that case, we are the farmer and the people who hear us or see us are the different kinds of soils.

· One thing that is not directly discussed in the story, but is probably assumed by Jesus’ audience, is that the farmer would have done some work to prepare the field. A farmer doesn’t just scatter seed in random places. Instead, there is a lot of work that is done before the planting begins. Similarly, there is likely work for us to do to prepare the fields where we scatter seeds.

· The farmer’s job is to scatter the seed, not to make the seeds grow. The farmer doesn’t know exactly where each seed is going to land or exactly what kind of ground it is going to find. Once the farmer releases the seed, it becomes God’s job to make the seed grow. When we are the farmer, it is important that we don’t prejudge what kind of soil a person is. It is our job to scatter the seed by living out what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, both in words and in actions. Once we do that, it is God who makes that seed grow in someone else’s life.

· When Jesus tells the parable of the farmer, he is speaking to a large crowd of people. The image is that they are sitting on a hill side (1st Century stadium seating!) while Jesus is sitting on a boat with his disciples. He tells the parable to the crowd, using his public speaking voice. However, the explanation is given only to the disciples, who were probably in the boat with him, or else would have been right on shore. So this explanation was given in his conversation voice. I think one of the reasons why Jesus speaks in parables is to encourage people to get closer to him. The closer someone is to the boat, the more likely they will hear the explanation. When we don’t fully understand something, like many people must have felt listening to Jesus’ parables, we can have one of two reactions. Either we can walk away, or else we can go talk to the person and ask questions so we understand better. Jesus doesn’t just want to give people information. If that’s what he wanted to do, he wouldn’t speak in parables. Instead, he wants them to initiate a relationship with him. By speaking in parables, he encourages people to come to him and ask questions and find out more about him.

Those are the highlights of our discussion of the Parable of the Sower. Next week we will turn to the parables describing the kingdom of heaven that Jesus begins to tell later in Matthew 11. I hope everyone is well. As always, if there is anything I can do for you, don’t hesitate to let me know.

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