By Paul Knudtson
“Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear. . . “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.”. . The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.
Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4: 9, 10, 13-20 NIV)
The parable of the sower and the seed tells us that the kingdom of God does not come through human activity,
not through doing something,
but through doing nothing, through passivity,
through being like good soil,
through hearing, listening.
The farmer does not improve the soil conditions by cultivating the beaten path,
nor does he pick the rocks or pull out the thorns.
The parable is not cast in imperative language, “Be good soil!”
But simply uses the language of description—this is the way things are with the kingdom of God.
The parable is about the kingdom, the mystery of the kingdom. It comes early in the gospel and becomes a kind of interpretive key for understanding the gospel as a whole. As in the parable, so in the gospel it looks as though there is little promise of a harvest. It appears that the kingdom of God, as presented by Jesus, is destined to amount to nothing.
Jesus is rejected by his family and by those from his home at Nazareth.
The love of wealth chokes the word in the case of the rich man who, though he likes what Jesus has to say, is not able to surrender his “many possessions”.
The Pharisees and temple authorities are the hardened path, rejecting Jesus outright.
And most disturbing of all, even his own disciples prove not to be good soil.
Peter, the rock, turns to sand in the time of danger and denies Jesus.
Judas betrays him,
Peter, James and John fall asleep in the garden.
In the end, when Jesus is arrested, all of the disciples desert him and flee for their lives. One looks in vain for much of anything in the gospel that puts them in a positive light. They are known for their little faith.
At one point, Jesus refers to Peter as Satan and indicates that the disciples are spiritually blind and deaf.
Yet, the parable tells us that in spite of evidence to the contrary,
There will be a great harvest.
The Son of Man will “undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:31)
Through suffering and endurance, the kingdom comes to us all.
And though it is “hard to enter the kingdom of God” (10:23), especially if one is rich, “all things are possible with God” (10:27). In spite of ourselves.
And those who have “left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields . . . will receive “a hundredfold now” and “in the age to come, eternal life” (10:30). Though like the prophets of old, they may never receive what had been promised (Heb.12:39) until eternity.
Postscript by Elaine
“Through Gates of Splendor” and “The Shadow of the Almighty” by Elisabeth Elliot are classic biographies that recount the martyrdom of her husband and four other missionaries in 1956 at the hands of the Huaorani people of the rain forest of Ecuador. They are must reads for those who need to be reminded that God works through tragedy. A favorite of mine in the 90’s, it recounts the events leading to the death of the five missionaries and the subsequent return of Jim Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth and Nate Saint’s sister, Rachel, to live amongst the Huaorani along with the Summer Institute of Linguistics several years later. (Wikipedia)
It is our work to show God’s love in the barren places; it is his work to make it grow.