Matthew 13:1-23 – Part 6 - DUNGEONS AND MANSIONS?
She is not deaf but her heart is a fortress, cold, hard, defensive. The gates are huge, old and impenetrable, bolted with fear and pride that slide across into their iron brackets at the mention of Christ. She sits in a dungeon of her own making, alone, critical of the world, of God, of life. This morning as I approach her to say “Good morning, Margaret”, she waves me off, saying “Go away! I don’t want anything to do with you! I don’t believe in that religious nonsense! Go away! I don’t want to talk to you!” I retreat from her and give her the distance she demands. So does God. He will not force her to believe. Maybe Margaret is the FOOTPATH person described in Matthew 13:4,18-23.
The concrete footpaths and hallways of the Shalom Aged Care Centre are closed off and if I were a resident I could walk around the fenced garden area in relative safety and eventually arrive back where I started or face a locked door. In Matthew 13:19 Jesus speaks of the pathways of our lives, of CONCRETE HEARTS and closed minds that go nowhere spiritually. I see this parable all around me being lived out in the people I meet everyday.
George and Bill (not their real names), are talking at the door after the Church celebration. I hear Bill say, “I’ll get baptized today if you will”. So that day a millionaire and a politician are baptized in the river after the service by full immersion.
I guess George’s life seems complete. He has a million dollar mansion, money, a wife, kids, a luxury yacht parked at his jetty on the river. He is named among the rich and famous. He speaks at various functions and lives a celebrity lifestyle, available to an exclusive few, travelling extensively around the world staying in places of luxury. He is a millionaire afterall. He even has religion now that he is baptized. His life looks like the fertile soil Jesus speaks of in Matthew 13. He says the right things and does the right things.
The real trouble I have with the thorns in my garden is an underlying root system that is almost impossible to trace, and if I let them grow, they will take over and choke the life out of other plants. If you look closely, very closely, what appears to be genuine growth in George is being choked by the trappings of his lifestyle of wealth and fame. The roots of this thorny ground are growing alongside the seeds of Jesus’ message and it is clear which lifestyle is taking precedent. Jesus isn’t so much Lord of his life but an optional extra. Is George’s heart THORNY GROUND, choked by a whole range of distractions in the world? His affair and divorce are the fruit of something deeply disturbing in his life. The deceptive tentacles continue to strangle his life. Don’t misunderstand me. Having money is not the issue. It’s what I treasure. Jesus says in Matthew 6:21 (NLT) “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
Whether I live in a DUNGEON or MILLION DOLLAR mansion I can still be stupid about what really matters in life.
Somehow Bella’s heart has remained soft as she tells me that she could not have worked her way through the grief of that time without God. She confides how she had prayed that her teenage daughter would be healed of cancer. But her lovely daughter had died and she was devastated. In anguish she had looked towards heaven and asked “Why?” but she does not reject God or blame Him.
Why is it that some people, in the face of tragedy, push God away and allow their hearts to rebel and become hardened to Him? And yet others like Bella, in the midst of their heartache seek to hear His voice and trust Him to help them find their way through the pain? Perhaps Bella is the FERTILE SOIL person of Matthew 13:23?
The invitation Jesus gives is to LISTEN with intentionality - a faithful, diligent perseverance to understand (fertile ground), not with a closed heart (hard ground), or half-heartedness (shallow ground), or with a heart that is easily distacted (thorny ground).
God bless you as you respond to Jesus. It seems that “he who has ears to hear” is the person who has accepted that Christ died for our sins and has come under His authority, not in just in the CRISIS of a moment, but in the PROCESS of a lifetime. Only as His message takes root in my heart will I be able to connect the dots (“the secrets of the Kingdom”) and start to make sense of what Jesus is telling me concerning my life.