Through the New Testament in a Year

Today's Reading – Matthew 12:46-13:23 – The sower, the seed and the soil

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The parable of the Sower is one of Jesus' best known parables. It's important to read it in context. Jesus had gone away from the houses to sit beside Lake Galilee. But he could not get away from the crowds who were soon thronging around him. So he got into a boat and addressed the crowds who stood on the shore. And this is the parable he told them.

A farmer scatters his seed, hoping for a good crop. Some seed fell along the compacted soil of the path and was snatched away by birds. Other seed fell on the thin soil of rocky ground. It sprang up, but when the sun beat upon the young rootless plants they withered away. Other seed fell among thorns. The thorns grew and smothered the growing seed. Nevertheless, there was seed that fell on good soil; seed which grew and bore the crop the farmer had worked for.

Jesus tells the parable to illustrate his own ministry. He tells the parable to the assembled crowd and challenges them, "Whoever has ears, let them hear" (Matthew 13:9). What will happen to the word he has spoken to them? Will it bear fruit in lives shaped by the message and power of the kingdom?

Jesus knows that many who hear him will not, in the end, follow him. For some, Jesus provides a form of entertainment – perhaps they have just followed the crowd to see what is going on. The message is snatched away before it even sinks in. For others, the first hint of opposition will result in them turning away; the message had fascinated them but it had not become rooted in their lives. Others, perhaps even with sadness and regret, will find that the demands of life and the pursuit of career will turn out to be more important and all-consuming. But there will be some who hear what Jesus is saying and who will build their lives upon the foundation of his words. These are his family (see 12:48-50); these will bear the fruit that Jesus is looking for.

This parable is generally applied to the act of preaching, particularly to the response to evangelistic preaching. But we each need to apply it to ourselves. For the past few years I have been in the habit of listening to the Daily Audio Bible, a podcast that takes me through the Bible in a year. I listen to it first thing in the morning as I make our wake-up cup of tea. But it is all too easy to have the words of Scripture playing in your ears without really listening to them; without them entering into the heart and bearing fruit. It is easy to be distracted, even to become busy with the preparations for the day and for the word to be snatched away. Having read or listened to the word, it is easy to forget it when the day gets under way with all its demands and pressures.

We who know and love God’s word need continually to challenge ourselves with the question of the extent to which our lives are actually shaped by the message of Jesus? I am the one who needs ears to hear the message of this parable; it's not just about how others respond to the word. In particular, does the word of God shape me in the crisis points of life, when the pressure is on and I tend to react instinctively and display the true character of my heart?

Father God, thank you for the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Spirit of God, till my soil and make me good ground that I may hear clearly what Jesus is saying to me today and respond readily and fully to his calling upon my life. Help me then to be a channel through which Jesus speaks to others.

Peter Misselbrook