Jesus told a lot of parables. The Parable of the Sower is a familiar one that appears in each of Mark, Matthew and Luke’s gospels. It’s the only one that Jesus, himself, explains. I think that’s a feature that’s part of his explanation to the disciples of why he uses parables, but that’s for another time. Let’s look at the parable itself for a minute.
A sower goes out to sow some seed, Jesus says. As he tosses the seed – by hand in those days, of course – some lands on the stone path and is eaten by birds; some lands on rocky ground and grows, but withers quickly without soil; some lands on ground and grows, but weeds grow with it and choke it out; and some lands on good soil and grows, thriving and producing a great harvest.
The seed, says Jesus, is the “word of the kingdom.” When it’s heard and not understood, that’s the seed that falls on the path; when it falls on rocky ground, that’s those who hear, but the word doesn’t take root and when things are difficult, they readily give up; when the word is heard, but those who hear it choose wealth and the pleasures of the world, then that’s the weeds overwhelming it; the good soil is when the word is heard and understood and lived, that’s what produces a harvest.
Well, that all seems clear: Jesus wants us to be the good soil, to hear the word, understand it and live it. Yes. And we should, hard as that may be at times. Because, aren’t there times when we’re being all of those things in the landscape of our lives? Sometimes we’re like the stone path, sometimes the rocky ground, sometimes challenged by weeds – especially if we’re already challenged to be able to recognize what is a weed. And yes, we can be good soil.
Thank goodness the sower is who the sower is.
You might be tempted to think that you don’t have to be a farmer, in this century or in the first century like Jesus’ first audience, to know that this is one really incompetent sower. Seed is precious. No one would toss it so casually that it went pretty much everywhere. That would be foolish and wasteful. You would want to be careful and cast the seed only where there is a certainty of it having a chance to grow.
Unless … the seed was, literally, life and the sower could see the potential to grow in every landscape. Why else would the sower cast the seed everywhere? Wherever we find ourselves, the word is there. God generously, graciously and lovingly offers life to all. Hear, says Jesus, and listen.