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Thoughts on the Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13.

 There was a man who had an allotment. He loved growing fruit and vegetables but always wished his plot was more fertile and produced more fruit and tastier vegetables.

One morning during early spring he arrived  do some digging and found that there was a good two inches extra of  lovely soil on his plot. Goodness me, he thought, where has that come from? The next morning he arrived and what did he see? Yet more soil – two more inches of the best quality  possible. He was puzzled – but very pleased all the same. And the next day and the next the same thing happened – what a mystery!

He sat down and thought to himself…….um…. the plot thickens!

Before us this morning is the famous parable of the sower  and the plot thickens as Jesus speaks words which he says only a few will hear and truly understand.

I wonder if when we read this  parable and the  explanation given by Jesus and we say to ourselves, “I’m so glad my heart is the good soil that Jesus holds up as an example of strong faith. I feel so sorry for all those people whose hearts are like rocky, weedy or hard soil”.

It is clear that the good soil represents people who hear and understand the Word of God and the other soils are like people who have trouble receiving  his Word. When we read a passage like this, maybe our reaction is to see ourselves in the best light possible.

We go to church, we know about Jesus; we do lots of good works and bear good fruit and we believe. Surely we take heart in our belief and feel good about our spiritual life?

Maybe it wouldn’t hurt us, should we think in this way, to take a look at the challenges of the parable of the sower and see what it might be saying to us afresh.

After all, Jesus’ closest friends, the 12 disciples had to have the parable explained to them by a patient Jesus in  minute detail. They didn’t immediately get it.

I wonder what kind of soil we feel we are this morning? How can our hearts become more like  the good soil that Jesus seeks for us to be?

Firstly, lets consider  the farmer. I like to think that as Jesus sat down in the boat beside the lake and spoke to the crowds, he was looking across at a field and a farmer broadcasting his seed by hand as was the custom of the day. No mechanical aids, just handfuls of seed drawn out of a bag and cast here and there – on stoney ground and on good soil.

At first glance it appears that the farmer is careless, that he wastes his valuable seed in unproductive areas, but this was not so. In first century Palestine the seed was scattered first, then the soil was plowed to work the seed into the soil.
We can liken the sower to God. He scatters his word on the hearts of people. The condition of the hearts of people are represented by four types of soil: hard soil, rocky soil, weedy soil and good soil.
The hard ground, or path, is a trail through the field made by people or animals. The farmers casts seed there as he will plow through it later – but  before he can get to plowing in the parable the birds take the seed.

Jesus says that the birds represent the activity of  “ the evil one”  against the kingdom of God.  Remember, Jesus has come to bring in the kingdom of God, which is growing and pushing out the kingdom of Satan. What we can see about a heart that is hard like a pathway is that it resists cultivation. It is not that it cannot be cultivated, it can be, but it is very difficult to do so and as a result the chances of the seed being taken away are very high. But the farmer will be back the next year to sow again.

A message of hope lies even in the hard soil ….. even the hardest of hearts may one day turn to hearing God’s word and be changed and flourish and bear good fruits.

The rocky ground. This is not ground covered in rocks but is ground that has rocks a few inches under the surface. It is thin soil, but looks like any other soil before plowing. The trouble begins later after the seed takes root. The roots cannot go very deep, because though the soil looks like any other soil, it is in fact hard like the soil on the path and the result is that the plants become parched and unproductive.

The rocky ground can be read as a reference to superficial adherence to the Word of God. We hear the word but do not apply it well to our every day lives. It doesn’t really make a change in how we live and the attitudes we have.  Perhaps the rocky soil speaks of people who have great difficulty following up what they have heard and translating it into real life style changes

Gal. 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.” These are fruits of the Holy Spirit seen in the life of all Christians. If these are qualities that are growing, even slowly, within us, then the word of God is taking root in a real way, not in a superficial way.

What about the weedy soil?  Does this ring any bells?   Verse 19 describes the lives of  those who are like soil full of weeds  “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

Of course, there are things in life have to be dealt with, and goodness me – how many there seem to be on occasion! Household stuff, family concerns , money issues  relationship troubles and  even church pressures. I know how easy it is for the spiritual side of things to take a back seat.

I know that when I feel I have too much to deal with, one of the first things to suffer is my attitude toward God….sounds familiar?

Finally, the good soil.  It produces thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown. The average yield for Palestine was between 10-100 fold. 100 fold is not miraculous, but it is the high end of the scale. 100 fold isn’t this unattainable yield that only super Christians can produce, 100 fold is the normal yield from the blessings of God on our life, blessing received through hearing and applying the Word of God.

We read in Gen. 26:12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. Isaac wasn’t a super human, he just received a normal blessing from God. A person with a heart of good soil is interested in God’s Word; open to the benefits of God’s Word; convinced  of the truth of  God’s word  and lives by it. Good fruit follow naturally just as a fruit bush will bear fine fruit which grows on healthy well watered soil.

I began with the joke about the allotment and the mysterious way that the soil depth built up much to the delight of the owner. The clue maybe is to let God do in our spiritual lives what the mysterious benefactor did to the allotment in the joke.  To spend time in prayer and quietness, to reread the parables and words of Jesus and let them feed our hearts and minds. To support each other in worship and working together for all the good fruit we hope to bear here as a church community which ultimately adds to the amount of goodness and care in the world. To add depth to our spiritual lives so that the presence of God may be embedded  even more deeply within us, take root and thrive.

Ephesians 3:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

July 10, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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