And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. 2 Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:
3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that
13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”‘Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’”
Taking a big chunk here so we get both the parable and the explanation.
I daresay we've all read this parable quite a few times before. But I was thinking about it recently when discussing the question of "once saved, always saved." We've been studying James in our Sabbath school, and in chapter 5, James tells us that he who tells a fellow Christian when he had slid away from the path and turns him back to righteousness, he has saved a soul from condemnation. To me, both James and this parable are pretty definitive on the question--people hear. People believe. Faith springs up . . . then sometimes it dies away.
If they're not turned back--if the soil isn't improved--they end up condemned.
But part of having faith spring up is yielding fruit. It's enough to just be a plant. The whole point of it is to do something. Jesus uses the example of grain, because it's so incredibly useful, the basis of a diet. It's life. And it yields more life. One seed of grain that grows into a stalk of wheat will make hundreds of seeds that can each yield plants that produce as well. That's what our faith should be like--productive.
21 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”
This fits right in with what I was just saying. =) We have faith--so what are we doing with it?
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
I don't think I've ever really paid much attention to this little one! But it's kind of true, right? Even if we could diagram the life of a seed (ahem--yeah, we did that last year in our science, LOL), do we really understand the mystery of it? Not fully. We know what works. But we don't know why sunlight and soil and air and water mix to create this amazing little plant that can turn that mixture into food for itself, and for us too.
We don't really know why faith works the way it is--but we know that it does, and what it does. And we can be those workers in the field.
30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
I love this--the counterpoint to the traditional mustard seed parable we know better. We tend to think If I had the faith of a mustard seed . . . so tiny! But I could do so much. But this, I think, is how we need to understand that mustard-seed faith. Not that it's so tiny, but that what starts as something so tiny will grow and flourish into something so huge. So strong.
33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. 38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
I've written about this before. =) This isn't the only account of Jesus calming the storm in the Gospels, but it's my favorite. Because in this one, the order stands out to me. When his friends come and wake him up--fearful, panicked, faithless--what does he do?
He calms the thing causing them fear. And then he talks to them about it.
That's my Jesus. When I come to him distressed and distraught, first he comforts. Then he teaches.
But our part is to have faith in who He is--when he's asking his disciples why they have no faith, he's saying, "If you know who I am, if you know me, then you know my purpose isn't to be swallowed up in a storm. My purpose cannot be derailed by something like this. You need to have faith that God's purposes here are bigger than this."
Sometimes it's so hard to see the mission, the ministry, the calling when the waves are crashing around us. But we just need to have faith that He isn't threatened by them. And so, our part is to have faith and not feel threatened either--because our hand is in His.