Imagine yourself at the back of the crowd by the lake, straining to hear the story Jesus is telling. So what brings you to the lakeside today?
The parable of the sower
4 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered round him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 ‘Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’
9 Then Jesus said, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’
Jesus is out in a boat. You’ve heard him tell stories a few times before. You don’t really get what he’s talking about, but they’re definitely not just tales with a twist. Maybe this time you’ll get it? You’ve not heard this one before… Jesus tells parables to sort out those who are just going along with the crowd because of his popularity, and those who are genuinely seeking to understand about God (more about this in verses 10 to 12.) How about you?
You listen, captivated by Jesus’ story of the farmer sowing seeds, and reaping a harvest – or not. It’s the kind of rural scene you see all the time here in the fields by the lakeside. The farmer in the story is doing what farmers always do – it’s all very familiar, nothing unusual there.
But for those of us who long to follow Jesus, just hearing God’s words isn’t enough. We need to focus so that we actually hear them, then with the help of the Holy Spirit, search for the deeper meaning in them and finally do something about what they tell us (James 1:22–25).
Jesus invites us to ‘hear’ what he has to say about life with God in his kingdom (v 9). Pray that as we encounter familiar Bible words in our Bible readings, we will really listen, really understand and really do what they tell us.
Deeper Bible study
‘Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.’1
Jesus is a great storyteller. He tells stories to illustrate truth concerning the kingdom of God. In this story, a sower sows and he anticipates a harvest. Yet as the story unfolds, we read that the results are getting more and more disappointing. Most of the seeds sown do not produce any harvest and this must have been discouraging for the sower (vs 4–7). However, he continues to sow and suddenly the story shifts its focus. There are seeds that fall on good soil and they produce an abundant harvest with unusual yields of thirty, sixty or a hundred times (v 8). What a surprising harvest!
By the time this parable is told in Mark, the ministry of Jesus had already met with severe opposition, both from the religious authorities and from his own family.2 He even had his life threatened.3 One cannot help but feel the rather depressing mode of Mark’s narrative represented by the seeds that do not produce any harvest. Likewise, in our own service for the Lord, we may also feel that our labour is in vain as we may not see any fruitful outcome. Yet the current discouraging situation is not a time to be faint-hearted. We must not allow failures to rule the day and discouragement to have the final word. The ministry of the proclamation of the gospel must still go on. We are assured that the abundant harvest will certainly come – but it will come in God’s time and in God’s way. We have to be faithful in doing what God has called us to do – to sow the seeds of the gospel and wait for the surprising harvest in God’s time. Remember, there can only be a harvest if seed is continuously being sown.
Lord, grant me courage to sow continually in the lives of those around me, regardless of their response. Grant other labourers in the field, to help those seeds grow.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: 1 Chronicles 28,29; Psalms 70,71
Pray for Scripture Union
This week’s prayers all relate to this article.
Please pray that God will inspire us to find ways to ‘adapt’ other SU holidays into holidays at home.