This teaching of Jesus is titled “The Parable of the Sower.” It is an account that is to be read and reread and reflected upon on a variety of levels and perspectives. Normally, a parable has one primary point, often demonstrated in a surprising ending. This “parable” is more of an extended allegory in which we can substitute something or someone for each element of the story. We could say, for instance, that the sower is God; the seed is the Good News; and the different types of soil represent the ways in which we receive or fail to receive the Good News.
Sometimes we are the soil of a hard-packed path, completely resisting or dismissing the Good News of Jesus Christ, allowing the Evil One to come and snatch away the Gospel message, assuring that it does not take root. Satan’s greatest fear is for the Gospel message to take root and grow in us and through us.
Sometimes we are the rocky soil; we hear the Good News and are excited to share it. But, the rocks inhibit the growth of the roots of the message; the roots are frail and shallow. We haven’t really taken time to listen and commit ourselves to the hard truths of discipleship. Once back in our daily routine, our enthusiasm fades; we find it difficult to maintain that sense of joy in the face of daily challenges – difficult to hold the darkness along side the light; and we return to complacency; and the devil smiles.
Sometimes we are soil that is overgrown with weeds and thorns. We all have weeds and thorns in our lives – weeds and thorns that choke out the Gospel message – the message that God loves us and wants the best for us. Weeds and thorns that choke our joy in life – weeds and thorns of meaninglessness and meaningless habits that distract us from daily prayer, Bible study, and worship, and choke out meaningful relationships with our family members and neighbors. How the devil does love that crabgrass with its prolific roots that strangle the flowerbeds of mission and ministry.
The good soil is what we seek to be – good soil – hearing the message, opening our hearts and minds to the message, seeking to understand it more deeply, and bearing fruit – a hundredfold – bearing fruit, so that, in turn, we sow the seeds of God’s goodness everywhere we go.
Ah, it appears that being the good soil leads to taking on the role of sower for ourselves. Let’s look at this parable of the sower from this different perspective. Let’s suppose God intends for us to be the sower. After all, how does the Good News of Jesus Christ get sowed without us to do the sowing?
The sower in our parable seems a little foolish doesn’t he? Why would he cast his valuable seed on a hard path packed down by the many steps of frequent passersby? Why waste good seed by throwing them among the rocks and the weeds? Why not just seek out the good soil for the sowing of our seed?
The Jacob of our First Lesson from Genesis doesn’t seem to be good soil worthy of the sower’s seed. We have followed our Old Testament saga from the first patriarch Abraham through his son Isaac, and now, today, to the birth of Isaac and Rebekah’s twins Jacob and Esau.
As we note from the scripture, the brothers have been mired in conflict and competition since even before their birth. Esau is the first of the twins to be born; yet, it will be Jacob who will carry the legacy begun by his grandfather Abraham’s covenant with God. Jacob, however, appears to be a schemer, a blackmailer, who extorts his brother’s rightful claim to the principal inheritance.
Why would God choose Jacob over Esau to be the one to carry forth the heritage of his people? Yes, Jacob’s scheme to capitalize on his brother’s hunger is cruel and selfish. But, at the same time, Esau doesn’t put up much of a fight. He seems very willing to sell the birthright for a quick and easy solution to a temporary problem – dismissing the responsibility of his heritage for a bowl of beans.
Perhaps God saw that Jacob, in spite of his unseemly actions, had what it took to carry the responsibilities that would be placed on him as the one chosen to carry forth the legacy of God’s word. God’s ways are higher than our ways. We are not meant, for now, to understand the mystery of God’s redemption of creation; God redeems Jacob just as he does each of us.
What is obvious is that God did sow his seed in Jacob. Jacob would go on to make his own covenant with God. Jacob would go on to be the father of all Israel, the father of the twelve sons who would become the fathers of the Twelve Tribes of Israel still, effectively, in existence to this day.
Just so, time and again, God takes the cruel and selfish and unseemly and uses it for his good. God takes the hard-packed soil and the rocky soil and the soil infested with weeds and he makes them good soil.
An important bit of information that relates to our parable of the sower is that it was typical in first century Palestine to sow the seed first and then to plow it into the soil. If we are going to be the sowers we must also follow through to plow the seed into the soil – to see that the seed has the greatest possibility to take root and produce a hundredfold. God, we will see, has yet to do some plowing and tending of the soil of Jacob’s life.
God, the sower, has tossed upon us the gift of his grace. God intends for us to be the good soil, and in being the good soil, to produce a hundredfold and, then, become sowers ourselves, helping each other to be the good soil. We are not to turn our backs on the soil that appears to be hard-packed or rocky or overrun with weeds. Sowing the seed is the beginning; God calls us to plow as well – plow and tend and keep seeking the yield – a hundredfold.