Summary: Jesus keeps reaching out to us, even though we have rejected him.
First Presbyterian Church
Wichita Falls, Texas
July 6, 2008
Matthew 13:1-9 (NIV)
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."
There are many ways that I am not naturally inclined to be a disciple of Jesus. There are aspects of my personality that make discipleship something of a reach for me. This parable of the sower depicts one of them. I like to think of myself as efficient, certainly not wasteful. I don’t leave the water running when I brush my teeth. I turn out the light when I exit a room. I save things that I think I might use again. I even follow the directions that come in a box, no matter how tedious the process might be. I’m careful -- hopefully, as I said, efficient.
But then there’s Jesus. He tells this story about a man, presumably a farmer, who “went out to sow,” just as farmers have done for centuries. Jesus says about this farmer that he went out to his field, carefully removed all the rocks and weeds, plowed the soil into neat, straight furrows, placed the seeds about eight inches apart, and carefully covered each one with about a quarter inch of soil.
No. That’s not what Jesus says, is it? He says this farmer simply went out and with no preparation or care started slinging seed. He had to be one of the most inept farmers in the history of agriculture!
And then, once the seed germinated and it was time for harvest, the harvest was rather disappointing. Most of the seed had been wasted. Some of it had been thrown on to the roadside, and much of it had been eaten by birds where it was not sufficiently covered with soil. Other seed had been thrown into clumps of weeds and were choked out. Pretty disappointing, wouldn’t you say?
But that’s not the way Jesus sees it. He says that there was a miraculous harvest. Only about ten percent of the seed actually germinated, and Jesus calls this an amazingly rich harvest that brought joy to the farmer’s heart.
Don’t you find it interesting that the sort of farming that you and I would call a failure Jesus calls a success? Jesus seems to look at things at things differently from the way I do.
In the name of efficiency and the greatest good for the greatest number, the modern world has studied us, analyzed us, grouped us, entered us into data banks, tracked us, targeted us, shaped our preferences, and reduced our identity to a series of integers. For the sake of efficiency, we are the herd, the collective, a sector of the market. We are grouped together by race, by income bracket, by generation -- you name it. It’s all clean and precise and accurate. But, here in Matthew, Jesus points to another way, a way in which, though a small number of the seed actually germinated and bore fruit, it was considered a wonderful, miraculous event.
There appears to be a great deal of waste in the kingdom of God. A great deal of seed is being put at risk with this sort of sowing. A lot of otherwise good seed is going to be wasted. But then you think about how God created the world. He didn’t create just one species of flower. That would have been miracle enough, but God didn’t stop there. He splashed the surface of the earth with all different kinds of flowers, flowers of all different colors and shapes and sizes. And few of the world’s flowers are seen by many people. Why did God waste so much beauty? There does seem to be an extravagance built right into the grain of the universe. A great deal of waste. God is effusive.
Much of the great good that God does goes unseen by this world, unacknowledged, and unnoticed. We will never be able to comprehend the majesty of God or reduce it to our understanding.