Summary: If we want our lives to be fruitful for the Kingdom, we must cultivate the “soil” of our lives and eliminate impurities.
This week Ann and the kids did some planting. We have a little plot in our backyard that we’ve designated for the kids’ garden. Last year we planted a few things – including a short lived goldfish pond, in that area, and on one of the sunny afternoons Ann took them out there and put some seeds in the ground.
But before they did, there was some work to do. They didn’t just throw the seed out and hope it would grow. They got a shovel and turned the ground over. They pulled out the rocks and the weeds. They drew up a plan and recorded what seeds went where, and then they put them in the ground. With any luck later this summer you’ll see some lettuce, some corn, some catnip, some sunflowers growing in our backyard.
Jesus once told a story about a farmer who went out to sow some seeds, too. It’s a story that is meant to teach us about the ways of God’s Kingdom, rather than simply teaching us about seeds. Along the way it requires that each of us do a little introspection about our own life in God’s Kingdom. But we’ll get there in a few minutes, for now let me just tell you the story. It’s found in Luke 8 and in Matthew 13 – you can turn to Luke 8 if you like, but I’d like to just tell it to you in my own words.
One day a farmer went out to sow some seeds. As he threw the seeds out handful by handful, some of the seeds fell on the road. Instead of growing these seeds were quickly snatched up by the birds.
Some of the seeds fell onto rocky ground. These seeds actually grew quite rapidly, but when the sun got too hot, they withered and died, because they didn’t have deep enough roots.
Another portion of the seeds fell into a weedy area where some thorny plants were growing. These seeds started to grow, but they were quickly overrun by the weeds, which gave them no room to grow.
But some of the seeds fell onto good soil. These seeds grew healthy and strong, and ended up producing 100 new plants.
And then he closed with these words: He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
OK – just imagine you are in the crowd of people that day. Farming was a normal part of their culture – everyone was familiar with the basic principles of how to get your crop to grow. But as Jesus finished this story they must have scratched their heads. “yeah – so what? What is this guy Jesus talking about?”
Later that day in fact when the disciples were alone with Jesus they asked him, “Why do you use parables to teach?” In other words they were saying, “when you use parables like that one about the farmer, we’re not sure people are really getting what you are meaning. In fact – we’re not so sure WE know what you’re getting at!” (Aside: I can identify with them, can’t you? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to ask Jesus what exactly he meant when he said some of the things he said?)
And so, Jesus went through and gave an explanation of what he meant by the parable of the sower. I’ll read now from Luke 8:11-15.
Luke 8:11-15 (NIV)
11"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Soil on the road: Not everyone who hears the gospel will respond by surrendering to the Lordship of Christ. In fact, some will be prevented from understanding the gospel by Satan. No sooner is the message shared that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” but Satan comes and snatches that seed away with doubts, with pride, with distrust, with apathy, with cynicism – you name it. Unfortunately for these folks, the “soil” of their lives is on the road. It is packed down so hard and so compact that the message of the gospel can’t penetrate. These folks already know everything – or think they do anyway. Or the circumstances of their lives have created in them a hardness which makes the message of the gospel just bounce off their hard exterior.