Jesus leaves the crowd at the house where He talked about who His true family was. Matthew tells us He went and sat by the sea. He wasn’t there very long before another BIG crowd gathered around Him. This crowd was so large that He got in a boat and put out to sea a bit to address them all. I wonder who was all in the crowd. Did some of them follow Him from the house? Were there Pharisees in this crowd too? What brought each of these people to come to Him?
While Jesus was teaching them He used parables. The parable Matthew tells us about Jesus using is about a farmer and his seed. This was a story that most of these people could relate to. Many of them were farmers themselves or a family member of a farmer. They could easily picture what Jesus was talking about. Today we are going to look at the story in and of itself. Tomorrow I want to take a look at the crowd who was present for Jesus’ telling of the story.
This story is of a farmer who is planting his seed. So like any good farmer, he has gone out and prepared his ground first. Farming is not easy and you cannot expect a good harvest unless you do a little prep work. Our farmer has been out in the field for three days now with his ox pulling the plow. He plows right up to the edge of the ditches he has dug. He uses these ditches to irrigate his crops. They also help him know the boundaries of his field. One runs beside the road, one down the side of a wild patch of thorns, one by the rocky crag behind his field, and one by the animal pens and his house.
He has plowed this field before but there always seems to be a “new crop of rocks” he has to deal with each year. He carefully picks out all the larger rocks he can. Some areas the rocks are so numerous and small that he just has to give up, otherwise he would be doing this forever. The growing season is here and he has to get the seed in the ground before it is too late. This will have to do.
Bright and early the next morning our farmer goes into his barn to get his seed. Seeds are precious and costly, so he tries to be careful with what he has. He loads his seed bag for the first time this morning and heads out into the field. He knows this is going to be a long day because he needs to get all the seed in the ground at the same time. He walks to the farthest corner of his field and takes a handful of seed out of his bag. He says a small prayer of thanks for the seed he has and asks that God will bless it as it grows this year. He begins to sprinkle seeds as he walks, moving his hand in an arcing motion as he moves down the row right by the road. He knows from experience that the wind will take some of his seeds right onto the road itself, but there is nothing he can do about that. He has at least chosen a day for planting when the wind is pretty calm, so he feels confident he won’t lose too much of his seed to the wind.
Our farmer has been at this for many hours now. He has covered most of his field by now, but is getting tired. He is approaching the area where the soil is a bit rockier. He is struggling within himself as to how much seed to use here. He doesn’t want to waste the seed on an area he doesn’t think will give him a lot of return, but at the same time if he doesn’t put down enough he won’t get anything from this section. “Oh well”, he thinks, “I at least have to give it a chance.” So he decides to use about the same amount of seed here as he has on the other areas. This area is also next to the craggy mountain at the back of his field, so some of the seeds even get blown by the gentle wind into the rocky hillside itself. Again, there is nothing he can do about that, so he moves on.
His last section to plant is along the border of his field by the wild thorns. He fights back the encroaching thorns every year but they are as stubborn as the mountain is rocky. He knows he will lose a little seed here too, but if he wants his full field planted he has to get up to all the edges.
After he finished his last section he heads to the barn with his empty sack. He has lost count of how many times he has refilled it today. He is tired from the long day’s work, but as he looks over his field he is filled with a sense of satisfaction and anticipation. He knows that this is just the beginning for this year’s crop. There is still much work to do, but for today he is ready for a hot meal and a good night’s sleep.
We are going to have to fast forward several times in our farmer’s story to see the results Jesus talked about for the seed. Our first stop in the very same day, and it doesn’t even involve our farmer. It involves the birds in the area around our farm on their daily hunt for food. As soon as the farmer finished spreading his seeds out on the side of his field closest to the road, the birds descend to look for their portion. At least they believe it is their portion. The seeds scattered on the tilled ground fall quickly out of sight, but what the wind has carried onto the road just lies there on surface, waiting for the birds. Exactly what the birds are looking for! They quickly snatch up everything they can find and head to the next field to see what awaits them there.
Fast forward about two weeks now. The seeds have started sprouting. It is beautiful to see the sea of little green plants shooting up everywhere. Our farmer has been diligent about caring for his crops. He keeps the ditches full of water and gets after any areas where weeds try to take over. The area where there are a lot of rocks is not doing as well as the rest of the field. The crops are slower growing and in the heaviest area of rocks the plants have been scorched by the sun and died already. There is nothing he can do about that now. He has to keep pouring his work into the areas that are producing.
Another couple of weeks go by and some of the grain is about to the farmer’s knees. It’s not like that everywhere in the field, but overall it is looking pretty good. The side by the thorns and thistles are having a hard time. He has been fighting back the encroaching plants but the seed that fell in the thorny area is struggling. The thorns drink up as much water from the ditches as possible and leave little for the grain to grow on. They also compete for space to grow in. Since the thorns were there first, the grain has little chance of making much headway.
Here we are at the end of the growing season. Our farmer is taking one last look over his field before starting to harvest it. Some areas did better than others. As expected, the rocky area didn’t do well at all. It is all dry and barren around the edge. The area near the thorns looks pretty sickly too. Near the animal pen looks amazing! The grain is so thick there you can’t even see the ground. It is as lush as grass. The majority of the field looks healthy and our farmer says another prayer of thanks for the harvest he has received and a request for the rains to hold off while he brings in what God has provided.
Lord Jesus, thank You for sharing stories that we can all see plainly. Thank You for the opportunity to dig into Your stories too. What You shared that day painted a picture the people listening could take home with them and think about, or not. That “thinking about it” process was the most important part of Your process. Thank You that I wasn’t one of the people in the audience that day, but that I get the chance to hear the story with the explanation You gave later included for me. I don’t know what I would have gone away thinking if I had actually been there as You told it.
Father God, thank You for being there for the farmer and blessing his seed. When I am working on a project I find I often send little prayers Heavenward as I proceed through it. I can imagine this farmer sending many such prayers to You concerning his crop. Thank You for listening to each and every one of them. You may not have answered all of them how he wanted but You did listen every time he came before You.
Actually, the farmer in Jesus’ story had a LOT more “hoops to jump through” with his prayers than I do today. I have Jesus’ completed work to thank for that. With Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection I can come right to You to offer my requests. This farmer had to go through the priest and offer sacrifices in order to bring his needs before You. I’m very sure You saw his needs even before he went to the priest, but Your relationship with him was pretty restrictive. I don’t know if he actually offered those simple prayers as he went about his work or if he saved them up and brought them all to the priest.
Thank You Jesus and thank You Father for removing all the obstacles between us and opening up an avenue for a personal relationship with You. Thank You Jesus for Your amazing sacrifice! Thank You God for the awesome plan! Thank You Holy Spirit for the power You supplied to the whole process, and beyond! You remind me daily of how blessed I am to be born on this side of the fulfillment of the promise. But You also let me look at those on the other side of the fulfilled promise and imagine life in their shoes. Thank You for my imagination; I treasure this gift You have given me.