MAZES AND MAPS
Sovereign Lord, lead me to follow you in joyful obedience this day. May your will be my desire.
Read Matthew 13:18–23
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Lord, give me ears to hear and help me understand what you are scattering upon my mind and heart.
Tom Wright refers to the parables of Jesus as ‘mazes’ (puzzles) that on occasion have ‘maps’ (explanations) provided to signpost the way out.1 The parable of the sower has such a map. Interestingly, having told the disciples that the secrets of the kingdom are already theirs (v 11), Jesus then takes the time to explain the parable to them. Perhaps this explanation is for the benefit of the future hearer, or maybe an indication of the disciples’ slowness to grasp the enormity of the truths being revealed. Either way, Jesus explains that the effectiveness of the gospel does not depend solely on the preacher’s efforts, but upon the disposition of the hearer. In our context, the attention of Jesus here is on the pew and not the pulpit. May we hear him clearly.
The seed, defined in Luke explicitly as ‘the word of God’,2 is scattered generously; nonetheless, adverse elements seemingly render most of the labor futile. While the interpretation that Jesus gives is specific to the farming context in which he spoke, it is also relevant to Christian preaching and mission today. One should not be disheartened by a perceived lack of success, as there is a promise of seed that really does bear fruit. Furthermore, the yield of the fruitful soil abundantly exceeds that of any seed wasted on the unreceptive soil.
Jesus concludes the parable with what appears to be an exaggerated claim. A typical harvest in the area, though more successful than many in the region, would have produced a yield of seven to ten times what was sown. Hence, Jesus’ claim of a hundred times is an announcement that the kingdom he is bringing is one of an abundance that had not been experienced before. This is a promise to those who hear and understand (v 23).
The Word of God is given to you as a gift today. Pray that you may enable it to take root and yield an abundant harvest.
Mighty God, I can be so impatient. Thank you for the reminder that you are working in my life maturing me in the ways of the kingdom.
1 Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, SPCK, 2002, p164 2 Luke 8:11
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.