Times change and there is no better example of that than the changes brought upon us by this virus. We are having to change the way we go about our daily routines and for those of faith, all communities of faith, we are tested to maintain our beliefs and stand firm in our commitments. For the Christian the lack of fellowship is heavy on the heart. The encouragement and strength of coming together as one in praise and prayer is an important part of staying the course, so to speak. Even Jesus found himself in a position that brought about change in his earthly ministry, more accurately a turning point.
Things were changing in the synagogues and Jesus was reminded daily of the opposition to his teaching in them.The scribes and Pharisees and elders watching every action and word, seeking to turn them into an accusation that would give them the opportunity to challenge his teachings. They had not completely shut the door to the synagogues and there was always a warm welcome from the ordinary people but Jesus was not a man of wait and see and he sought other directions and ways to do the Father’s will. He would soon be shut out of them and it is a sad thing to imagine Jesus being banished from the church of his day. Jesus would not be stoped from bringing his invitation to all men and women. Even as the doors were closing he took the Temple to the outdoors, teaching in the open air, village streets, roads or by the lake side; even into the peoples homes. As Christians we can learn from this that we too must always find a way to pass Jesus’ message on. It is in the 13th Chapter of Matthew that we see Jesus starting to use his characteristic way of teaching in parables. This isn’t the first time he had used this method in his teachings. Jesus would use things that people were familiar with to tell a story, thus creating a truth in pictures. These were the first use of what was to become a fully developed and vivid way to bring the message to God’s people. My view of a parable is that of a short story, with a message within and the hearer is challenged to find that message. Jesus was a master of the short story. With Jesus there were advantages to this method of teaching. A parable is effective for many reasons, a few we consider here. A story well told always sets truth to the front and in concrete. A great story of here and now, that which is familiar, will take us to there and then. We must be careful because most of us are a bit lazy and prejudice blinds us from seeing the truth. The one great teaching virtue of the parable is that it compels interest, so much so, that it enables and compels us to discover truth for ourselves. The wonderful thing about a parable was it was spoken, not read, allowing the hearer to feel the full impact. Not necessary for a long study or pulling truth out of a commentary, like a flash in the night it brings to the darkness of the mind a flash of light and the virtue of truth. That then in short was the one most important fact about the Parable. One undeniable truth that stabs you in the heart the moment you hear it.
One commentary I often use challenges us to amass as much detail as possible about the life in Palestine. To understand the things in their lives so that we can go back in our minds to that time and those people and what they were thinking and visualized as Jesus spoke to them. The Parable of the sower found in Chapter 13 of Matthew is an example of using the spoken word to paint a picture of truth, let’s break it down. Here Jesus presents a picture that anyone living in Palestine would understand. They go from the actual here and now to the picture Jesus has painted in his words to the then and there.
The Sower – In their minds eye they can picture the sower sowing the seed. It was something they have always seen. There were two ways the seed could be sown. One you and I may have done at one time or another. The sower could walk the ground while throwing the seed out, that is called broadcasting. If the wind, even a slight wind were blowing, some of the seed could be caught up and blown into all kinds of places, even completely out of the field. In Palestine the ground to be sown was laid out in long narrow strips, separated by ground that was used as a common path and was beaten down hard by the feet of many passing by. The second way was to tie a sack of seed on the back of a donkey, cut a hole in one corner of the sack and walk the donkey up and down the field. With the hard ground between each strip, some of the seed would fall there when crossing over to the next strip. Now about that ground, the stoney ground. This was common in Palestine which for the most part was composed of a thin layer of earth resting on a shelf of limestone rock. There would be enough dirt for the seed to germinate but the rock would not allow the roots to set and thus no growth. Then Jesus came to the thorny ground which is hard to judge as most of us that have planted gardens in the past know. You can prepare the soil and ground and all looks well but lurking below that newly tilled ground are the roots of weeds and other vermin that can kill a young plant. Weeds grow faster than most seeds you plant the result is that the seed and the dormant weeds grow together but as noted the weeds grow faster, thus stoping the seeds growth and it will die out. Many times I have heard the phase good ground and here within this parable Jesus paints a picture that all who heard would understand.
So, we can safely say that second observation of this parable is the hearers. Next week we will pick up there and continue our study of this particular parable.
Stay Safe, Keep The Faith and Remember,
Life is Good