Summary: Because God loved you first, You are special
I am quite intrigued as to why, when Jesus spoke in parables so everyone could understand them, he then felt the need to explain them to his disciples later. I wonder if it was to give his disciples a chance to challenge and question what he had said earlier. A chance to see the reasoning and the deeper message that are so often found in the parables when we really think carefully about them. Perhaps this was an early Faith and Worship course. For those of you who don’t know this course, it is a course that potential Local Preachers take to train them in their ministry. The trainees look deeply into the Bible to see what it says and how its message can become part of our preaching. Jesus had 12 people to teach but when I started with Charlie Fair there were three of us and at the end of my course I found myself on a one-to-one with John Woodbridge. I am not sure which of these three course leaders faced the greatest challenge!
Perhaps, as his disciples included fishermen, he had to explain some of the things that would have been more obvious to people around him who would mostly have been brought up in a farming community. If you read the earlier part of this chapter from Mark you will find the Parable of the Sower and the explanation given to the disciples. The parable tells us how life and the way we live changes who we are, just like the seeds that fell in different places grew tall or small depending on the circumstances in which they were planted.
Using the reasoning that Jesus gave then perhaps we can see what he was trying to say in these two parables. In the first parable we are told that the man scatters seed and then it grows all by itself. But the farmer would have known, as we do, that plants do not just grow by themselves. They need the soil to give nutrients and to grow in, the rain to water, the sun to ripen and the night to rest in. Yet the farmer has no power over when it grows. Whether he is awake or asleep it continues to grow.
Jesus is telling us that there is a seed within us which was planted there by God. Unlike the seed sown by the farmer which, when it has fully grown, provides food for the body, this seed, when fully grown, provides food for the soul. As the sheaves of corn declare the food there for the taking, so we show the love of God that is there for the taking.
Yet there is a problem, because while the farmer cannot make the plant grow, he can stop it from growing. The good farmer would do all he can to protect his harvest and help it grow. But a jealous neighbour could do much to destroy the crop. Then, as today, there are many different poisons that could be used to kill the plants. Some can be seen easily, some kill quickly. Others cannot be seen, take a long time to take effect or just stop the plant reaching its full potential.
We, you and I, have the seeds God planted in us. They can grow if we let them but there are so many poisons trying to kill or pervert our growth.
In our world today we are all being told that we are not good enough. Newspapers, TV programs and advertisements, wherever you find them tell us that, unless we do this or that or use this or that product, we have failed as a mother, father, husband, wife, son or daughter. We are encouraged to seek more and more. Better cars, bigger houses, more money, and exotic holidays. Even coming to church you can find the preacher telling you why you have failed. I, like many other preachers, have tried to encourage churches and congregations to show the love of God into the world, to become better Christians. Yet I have to wonder if sometimes we make you feel bad about yourself and have added to the poison we all face.