Millions of seeds will ‘give up their lives’ in elementary school learning situations again this year. As part of scientific instruction, young children plant individual seeds (quite often beans) in soil, water these carefully and wait with anticipation until the plants appear. It is a great learning curve and excitement builds as the new growth bursts through the soil and produces a bean plant. I shared in such a project many years ago but I don’t remember harvesting much of a crop as a result of all my effort.
In Christian circles, we speak of professions of faith. Not all professions, however, result in possession of genuine faith. Throughout my years of ministry, I’ve met several people, who though professing faith were not genuinely converted. Issues of regeneration, repentance, conviction, conversion, etc are all factors in the amazing ‘new birth’ the Bible describes.
In Mark 4:1-8 Jesus is portrayed as teaching by the lake. His popularity was still peaking and such a large crowd gathered, that he boarded a boat and sat in it while his congregation gathered along the shore.
In fulfillment of prophecy and with Spirit-led intent, he packaged his teaching in parables. I’ve heard it said, on more than one occasion, “A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Hermeneutics texts are more precise than this in their definition, but the gist of meaning is the same. Parables are simple teaching tools which have layers of meaning. On the surface, the story seems to mean one thing, yet buried like a seed in soil, the deeper truth is hidden from the casual observer.
I would suggest that the theme of The Parable of the Sower, was professing or possessing faith.
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had not root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”
Sowing was a common occurrence. In an agriculturally based economy, residents of Galilee had observed the sowing of seed on many occasions. The various grain groups had their seasons for planting, and later reaping. But Jesus wasn’t describing just a natural process. He was introducing the topic of spiritual plants.
A few observations –
1) A farmer went out to sow. He did not subcontract this responsibility but donned his clothes, gathered his seed bag and began the process.
2) The same seed was shown on four different types of soils. We don’t learn of the preparation typically made by farmers to ready the soil–that’s a subject for further consideration.
3) The condition of the soil determined the resulting crop, or lack of productivity. The seed landing on the beaten pathway never even germinated. Shallow soil produced a quick result which later proved futile. Seed-infested soil proved deadly to the new plants in yet a third soil. Some of the same seed landed on good soil and produced various degrees of harvest.
As we draw today’s post to a close, let me ask a few questions –
A) What sowing will you deliberately engage in this week?
B) How responsive is your own life to seed that God has sown?
C) What weeds are choking out the good seed in your daily choices?
D) In what areas of your life are you bearing fruit?
All ‘professors’ of faith in Jesus Christ need to ask ourselves whether we are ‘possessors.’ As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?”
Despite the recent rhetoric as part of the political campaign in the USA, it IS the role of Christian leaders to question the faith of those who profess it, is it not?