Jesus loved to teach in parables, that is, wisdom stories designed to explain the Kingdom of God. But unlike most educational stories, they required reflection, and often they required further explanation by the Son of God, before His audience could grasp the point He was making.
For us today, the challenge can be even greater because we do not live in the Judean world of the First Century AD. However, when the point does become clear, the resulting “Aha!” moment is more than worth it.
The Parable of the Sower (farmer) scattering seed is a perfect example:
One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” (Luke 8:4-8, NLT)
The crowd thought they understood: look before you sow. In other words, choose wisely where you plan to grow your crops. Simple enough.
And they missed the point completely.
This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. (Luke 8:11-15, NLT)
As a boy, the first time I heard this parable, in fact the first many times I heard it and then read it, I thought Jesus was telling me there are four types of people inside or outside His Kingdom, and I had to discern the category into which I fit.
First, “those who hear the message [of God], only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.”
I hoped this was not me. I loved Jesus, and I wanted to believe and be saved, but was I kidding myself? Had Satan somehow already won?
I was starting to get worried.
Second, “those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.”
I tried to avoid sin, but sometimes I gave in to temptation. I was just a kid, but a sin is a sin, right? Was it time to give up?
Heaven was looking a long way away.
Third, “those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.”
Again, I was just a boy, so riches and pleasures were not an issue, but what about the cares of this life? Yes, I admitted, I did worry a lot. I worried about my mom. I worried about death. And now I worried about not getting to Heaven.
I could feel Heaven slipping further away.
Fourth, those who are “honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.”
Could this be me? Let’s check the list. What about honest? Well, I did lie when I was afraid, and although I had never stolen anything, I was with a friend once when he shoplifted a candy bar – and I didn’t do anything about it. What about good-hearted? I knew I was trying, but there were times when anger and hate entered even my child-sized heart. And what about patiently producing a huge harvest? No, I was very impatient as a boy, and I certainly didn’t see any huge harvest coming by my hand.
My hopes of Heaven all but disappeared.
No matter how young or old you are, the Parable of the Sower should cause you to stop and ponder. Perhaps you will pat yourself on the back and know that everything is well with your soul. But perhaps like me so many years ago, it will trouble you and even bring you to the brink of despair.
In my next blog (on September 26), I will share with you the rest of my story and, more importantly, the rest of the story as intended for you by the Son of God.
Spoiler alert: Jesus saves – again.
-- Dr. John Morris