The Sower And the Seed
Just by way of introduction: as you read this text you note that vv. 3-9 give the parable; vv. 10-17 give instruction embedded in a riddle; and vv. 18-23 give what Jesus really meant by the parable.
Some of this is pretty scary–not as scary as the Jesus’ reference to the guy with the cement block wired around his neck and dumped overboard in mid-Atlantic (Mt. 18:6), for this is a farming parable. A worker of the soil can clue in on the difficulties of trying to raise a crop where the seed becomes bird-food, or the sprout gets sun-scorched, or aggressive weeds overpower the seedling. Even though good shares of the seed went to waste, there was a pay-off after all–from 30 to 60 to 100 fold at harvest! The old revival favorite verbalizes the farmer’s business: “We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!”
So what’s the scary part? The sheer wastage of God’s Word and the human loss! As God’s messengers walk on human soil and broadcast God’s Word into human ears, too little of it is allowed to root, grow, and mature as God intends. Though God does indeed change hearts and lives, the parable reveals our dark side: we humans are entirely capable of taking the only really good, green, growing life we will ever have — and of murdering it. The black hole of Jesus-disdain (and disdain for His Word) will suck a soul down into the bottomless pit; that’s what makes the truth of vv. 11-15 so utterly frightening.
The heavenly message of the parable is simple and clear; each of us must be humbly and painfully aware that God’s Word is under constant attack in our hearts too. Every day when we do not understand a given Bible passage, we are tempted to skip over it as not being our concern, and thus Satan’s weeds grow stronger. Or the good spiritual uplift we receive from a sermon or Bible-based conversation fades away when “real life” isn’t inspiring. Or reaching the end of the money before the end of the month screams for attention. Our sinful flesh makes us vulnerable to becoming an unfruitful variant of parcels one, two, or three of God’s farm.
As we read the center section, we may puzzle over the mystery embedded in vv. 11-17. It just doesn’t seem fair for God to give extra to the one who is already greening with God’s gifts, while He takes away from the other the little sprout he had to start with (v. 12). Yet this has always been integral to God’s fieldcare for humans, as Isaiah declares (vv. 14-15).
The crucial starting-point and growth-stimulus already possessed by the disciples was Jesus Himself. Those who received Jesus into the soil of their hearts and lives were enabled to grow daily under Jesus’ influence, simply because they absorbed the nutriment served by the Savior; while those who shrugged off the Word of life with scorching disdain were bound to be the losers of everything else, even their lives and souls.
So all spiritual life begins with and circulates around Jesus, but without Him it all comes to a bad end.
The person who by God’s grace sees and hears and receives Jesus in his heart and stays with Jesus through the tribulations of life and assaults of Satan is given 30 or 60 or 100 times more than he started with–a huge surplus to be shared with other hungry souls.
Even so, Lord Jesus, bless my eyes, my ears, my heart, and my life so that I bear a bumper crop for You, for Your story of the Seed&soils redirects me to serve others in my living for You. Amen.
–Paul R. Koch