Summary: The Word of God has maximum potential when heart and applied by receptive people.
Text: Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23
Thesis: The Word of God has maximum potential when heard and applied by receptive people.
Last week I read a blurb about a research group that was studying something they called “inattentional blindness.” They say inattentional blindness occurs when “people fail to become aware of objects unrelated to their current task.” In other words, when we are busy doing one thing we will likely not see or notice what is going on around us.
The researchers clipped money on a tree branch on a walking trail. The branch was bent about head height so no one would miss it… and then they observed the reaction of the passersby.
Here is what happened. 396 people were observed walking down the path. Most people failed to see the money but 94% of those who were using their cell phones were so distracted they did not see the money. Some of those did not even see the branch until it whopped them in the face.
The researchers concluded that “becoming aware of an object generally requires focused attention.” I think that means you need to be looking for something in order to see it…
When people look at a tree they expect to see leaves so they see leaves… not money. So when they are not intentional or are inattentional they cannot see the money for the leaves. If they had been told there was money hanging on a tree branch when they began their walk down the path, they would have been looking for the money. But because they were not looking for money they did not see money. Inattentional blindness.
You generally see what we are focused on seeing or expecting to see but inattentional blindness is exacerbated when we our attention is focused on something totally unrelated to what we are doing.
Earlier this week I looked across Agate Lake… the same lake I looked across last year. The same stand of dead trees I saw last year stood in a gap between the greenery along the opposite shoreline. But this time, in the morning sunlight I could see what looked to be an old white house with four windows… in the five years we have gathered there in that same spot no one had noticed the house hidden behind the stand of dead trees. Suddenly we could all see it because now we were looking for it. Otherwise we had been inattentionally blind to it.
I wonder if there is also such a thing as inattentional deafness in which we do not hear because we are not listening.
Jesus’ teaching begins with a parable that places the emphasis on the “sower” of the seed.
I. The Parable of the Sower (The Seed is the Word of God)
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across this field…” Matthew 13:3-9
The setting for our text today is lakeside where Jesus had gotten into a boat from which he began to speak to the crowd that had gathered on the shore. The bible says Jesus told them many stories in the form of parables.
I like how the NLT begins with the attention getting “Listen!” Jesus having gotten their attention then asks them to “look” or “imagine” a farmer going out to sow some seeds. It was possibly a scene that literally played out within their view… perhaps they could just look up or over and see a farmer sowing seed. Even if they could not see the sower sowing it was a scene they readily could imagine in their minds because it was familiar.
When I was a kid we had spreaders for scattering or broadcasting seed like oats. We also had grain drills for planting crops like alfalfa or wheat that planted the seeds close together and in narrow rows. We also had planters for planting row-crops like corn and beans. So I get it. We did not walk back and forth across a field broadcasting seed by hand but I get it.
Times have changed. Now it is all no-till and all the planters are no-till planters. The soil is never disturbed and the moisture is trapped beneath the residual remains of the previous crop. Tractors are monstrous and planters extend 40 – 50 feet… everything is computerized. The tractor operates by GPS and the cab is a veritable computer bank… monitoring every detail of the planter. The tractor sets out on a perfectly straight GPS controlled line across the field. If the tractor comes to a low spot or a swale the farmer steers the machine around it and then the GPS takes over and puts the tractor back on course. When the farmer makes the turn at the end of the field the GPS picks up again and the tractor and planter travel in a line perfectly parallel to the previous route. When the tractor comes to that swale and the planter overlaps an area that was previously planted, the planter senses there is already seed in the soil and stops planting until beyond that spot… Not a single seed is wasted on unproductive soil or by over sowing.