“A sower went out to sow …”(Matthew 13: 2 . So begins the first of the “agricultural” parables in Matthew’s gospel passage this Sunday. The word “parable” comes from two words in Greek “para” (towards or alongside) and “bole” (to throw up). A parable presents an image which is “thrown up alongside” some aspect of the kingdom of God to throw light on its meaning. Speaking to a rural community, Jesus naturally uses images that would have been understandable to them.
In Jesus’ time, grain was not planted in rows but broadcast by throwing handfuls of seed around. With a sack of grain slung over one shoulder, the sower would reach into the sack, grab a handful of seeds, and scatter them. Some seeds landed in weeds, some on the footpath, some in shallow rocky ground. Ploughing took place after the sowing. While a fair amount of seed might be wasted using this technique, that which landed on good soil would produce a generous harvest on a good year.
God scatters the seed of his word and blessings about. Not all seeds come to fruition. The word is often met with indifference or opposition. Nevertheless, the harvest will be plentiful where people receive the seed of God’s word as the good soil in the parable. If we are truly open to that word, allow God to weed out what does not belong, get the word below the surface as with ploughing the field, by letting God soften our hearts to receive it, then that word can take root, grow and be productive.
What type of soil represents the state of your heart towards the gospel message of Jesus?