Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (Isaiah 55:10-13, Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13, Romans 8:1-11)

This week, we encounter the Parable of the Sower.  The issue at hand is this: How to account for the fact that while the Kingdom of God has broken into time and space (or “the present age” as Matthew would put it), some folks do not seem to acknowledge that fact (they do not “hear.”).

There are two ironies in this text that ought to be acknowledged right away.  The first is that the despite its title, the parable does not tell us as much about the sower as it does about the soil.  The second is that the crowds around Jesus are so great that he must board a boat and teach from just offshore: So, the crowd is representative of the very soil that he describes.  (Some will hear, and others will not.)  

The scholar C. H. Dodd once described a parable as, “intended to tease the mind into active thought.”  And so, in a mixture of story and riddle, Jesus describes a powerful reality.  While the seed is good, and the sower is well-intentioned, results may vary.  The great variable is the “soil.”  As Jesus explains, the evil one, shallow faith, and the cares of the world can destroy or inhibit the crop.  On the other hand, some soil can produce an unexpected – indeed, a superabundant – yield.

There are at least two distinct interpretations of this parable.  The first was described above – the kingdom faces real obstacles which inhibit people from hearing/believing the proclamation.    However, there is another meaning – one that ought to give us great hope.  The parable teaches us not to focus solely on defeat – those instances where our faithful efforts fail.  Instead, we are to celebrate instances of success.  Rather than dwelling on defeat, we can instead rejoice at the harvest. We are thus called to be a people of abundance not shortage. 

The promise inherent in Mathew’s Gospel (as one scholar points out) is that the kingdom of God has broken into the present age and will continue to grow towards consummation in God’s own time.  Such growth and consummation will come – come hell or high water – never fear.  Resting on this promise of God in Christ Jesus, we can be people whose lives are the embodiment of abundance.  Abundant love, mercy, humility, kindness, gentleness, service, grace, and faith.