Our foray into Matthew’s gospel today brings us to a familiar parable. If you spent any time in Sunday School or VBS, you may recall the well-known “Parable of the Sower.” It is a cautionary tale about seeds, soil, sowing, and harvesting. But mostly it’s about listening. If you have ears, pay attention.
I love the scene that Matthew sets in the first paragraph. He describes the cool lake in Galilee, the excited crowds eager to hear Jesus speak, and how Jesus turns a boat into a pulpit to deliver his message.
Matthew 13 (The Message)
That same day Jesus left the house and went out beside Lake Galilee, where he sat down to teach. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he had to sit in a boat, while the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he taught them many things by using stories.
Pandemic pastors can relate. We have had to turn desks, kitchen tables, office studies, empty sanctuaries, pick up trucks, and back yard picnic tables into instant pulpits. My colleague and I even turned a graveyard, a beach, and a staircase at a baseball field house into instant pulpits. When God’s message needs to be heard, any pulpit will do. If you have ears, pay attention.
A farmer went out to scatter seed in a field. 4 While the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the road and was eaten by birds. 5 Other seeds fell on thin, rocky ground and quickly started growing because the soil wasn’t very deep. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and dried up, because they did not have enough roots. 7 Some other seeds fell where thornbushes grew up and choked the plants. 8 But a few seeds did fall on good ground where the plants produced a hundred or sixty or thirty times as much as was scattered. 9 If you have ears, pay attention!
One of the things I appreciate about this particular parable is that you don’t have to try to figure it out. Jesus is very clear and straightforward in how he wants us to interpret its meaning.
18 Now listen to the meaning of the story about the farmer:
19 The seeds that fell along the road are the people who hear the message about the kingdom, but don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches the message from their hearts. 20 The seeds that fell on rocky ground are the people who gladly hear the message and accept it right away. 21 But they don’t have deep roots, and they don’t last very long. As soon as life gets hard or the message gets them in trouble, they give up.
Does this describe you at any point in your life? Hearing, but not listening? Things got hard, so you gave up? I know it describes me. God calls us to listen to his Word deeply enough that it takes root in our hearts and especially our actions…which speak louder than words.
22 The seeds that fell among the thornbushes are also people who hear the message. But they start worrying about the needs of this life and are fooled by the desire to get rich. So the message gets choked out, and they never produce anything.
Or maybe you’re in the thornbushes. You know what God is saying to you, but your concern over your day-to-day life, your worries, or your desire for more material comfort chokes out the message.
23 The seeds that fell on good ground are the people who hear and understand the message. They produce as much as a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was planted.
The message is simple. Be the good ground. Hear, understand, grow, and plant seeds in others.
If you have ears, pay attention!