Again he began to teach them by the lakeside, but such a huge crowd gathered round him that he got into a boat on the water and sat there. The whole crowds were at the lakeside on land. He taught them many things in parables, and in the course of his teaching he said to them,
‘Listen! Imagine a sower going out to sow. Now it happened that, as he sowed, some of the seed fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground where it found little soil and at once sprang up, because there was no depth of earth; and when the sun came up it was scorched and, not having any roots, it withered away. Some seed fell into thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it produced no crop. And some seeds fell into rich soil, grew tall and strong, and produced a good crop; the yield was thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.’
And he said, ‘Anyone who has ears for listening should listen!’
Jesus taught in parables. One of the first parables in the Gospels is The Parable of the Sower. As a person who has enjoyed gardening since I was a wee lad following my grandfathers around their respective gardens and greenhouses, this parable rings true for me.
This style of teaching in parables by Jesus seems to catch the disciples and the crowd completely off-guard. They were expecting a MESSIAH riding on a stallion carrying the flaming sword of Yahweh to smite their oppressors. Instead they show up and listen to a humble man of humble origin tell a story about planting seeds.
I can imagine the crowds when Jesus finishes the parable, looking dumbstruck at each other the way undergraduate students looked at me when I tried to explain the glycolytic pathways during Biology 101 lab. I imagine the disciples confused faces when they leave the crowd and finally asked Jesus about why he spoke to the crowd in parables.
Jesus doesn’t get mad or frustrated at their lack of understanding: he explains it to them. I can picture Him smiling as He calmly tells them how fortunate they are to be “insiders” to the message before explaining the parable of the sower.
As we “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” and “Fa la la la la la la la la…” toward the stretch run of Advent, The Parable of the Sower can be an excellent gauge for our own faith renewal at the outset of this liturgical year.
How have our Liturgical New Year’s resolutions gone so far? Where did we sow our own seed of faith?
Have we planted our seed on the path where it was quickly swallowed up in the frenetic pace of our own lives?
Did we sow in the rocky ground? Did our faith burn like a lamp in the night for the first week or two of Advent and then falter under the stress and pressure of a secular “Xmas”?
Have we thrown our seed among the weeds and thorns, allowing our family problems, financial problems, or fractured relationships to strangle our faith as it tries to grow?
Hopefully, we have sown our seed in fertile soil to give us the promise of a bountiful harvest. Hopefully, we can tend a beautiful and productive garden of faith as we approach Christmas. Isn’t this what God wants from us? He wants us to be by His side.
Don’t panic, though, if there are some issues in your garden. There is always time to put on your work clothes, hop in with full gusto, and tend to your faith. Pull some weeds, transplant some seedlings, and fertilize with prayer to work your faith into proper condition.
As Jesus most wisely advises, have ears for listening and listen.
Have a blessed and faith-filled Christmas holiday!
Jesus Christ is born!
Copyright 2014, Mike Hays