Read Matthew 13:1-23
“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
“Are you listening to this? Really listening?” Matthew 13:3-9
Jesus loved using parables. Mark tells us that, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” (Mark 4:34) He was never without a story when he spoke. Metaphor was his main teaching method. Why did he use them?
Challenge: The parables challenge the listener to make a decision. What is the message of Jesus for? It’s not to be filled up with knowledge it’s for living. The parables do not hide or obscure the message of Jesus. They drive the point home. Jesus wants his hearers to become genuine disciples and put his message into practice. They were not to go hey nice story, tell us another. They were to go away and think and wrestle with what had been said and apply it to their lives and the lives of others.
Invite: Why do you speak in parables? Why are you doing this? It’s hard work. Give us a list. Make a powerpoint with bullet points. Give us a formula. Make it easy for us. If it’s easy it’s shallow. Hidden truths invite people to enter the depths of the story. You can paddle in the shallows and hear a story about soil and rocks and birds and weeds of you can take a breath a plunge into the depths of what this story say about the human heart. The parables invite the hearer into relationship. Parables invite the hearer to ask questions and enter into dialogue. Conversation.
Change: Don’t just listen with you ears, listen with your heart. Make a decision. Choose life. Don’t walk away without applying this. Go deeper. Discover the meaning for yourselves. Don’t be spoon fed. Chew on it, savour the taste. Allow it to change you. Parables are not about information but about transformation. They change our hearts. They invite you into a relationship and into a life that is changed. They help shape the heart that is willing to change. They invite the person into a relationship, to look both inwards and outwards.
If a parable leaves with a “Huh? I don’t get it”. You have 2 choices. Either you can throw a tantrum and say I don’t have time for this stupid childish story. You can respond in anger and arrogance and stomp off. Or you can engage and respond with humility and an eager curiosity to find out more.
If we come at these stories with an aggressive arrogance then we exclude ourselves from the gift that is being offered. The parables and the message of Jesus are like something hidden that becomes visible in the warmth of the good soil the message grows and matures.
What Jesus is giving his listeners is the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom. This is how God works, how he interacts with people. This can’t be condensed to a list. He quotes Isaiah the prophet, who said that when people’s hearts are hard they lose the ability to enter into the depths they don’t see or hear the truth that is given to them. They miss and dismiss the message.
“Parables entertain us at the front door while the truth slips in through a side window and sandbags us from behind.” -Adrian Plass
How will you respond to what Jesus says in the parables? How will you respond to the way of life in the kingdom that is offered to you?
The parable of the sower is really about soil condition, the soil conditions correspond to the heart condition. Where are you hard hearted towards God? Where are you superficial in your relationship to God? Where is life choking out the life God offers you?
How will you cultivate a life with God that becomes receptive to his word and produces an abundant harvest?