Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:1-52, 1 Corinthians 5:6-7
Until last year, I had never seen the movie Star Wars. This was the cinematic equivalent of blasphemy for my in-laws, my friends—pretty much everyone else in the world, really. Star Wars is part of our cultural lexicon, but when you’ve never seen it, most references to it go unnoticed. It’s as if fans of the film franchise speak another language when they talk about it. Sure, I was familiar with the line, “Luke, I am your father,” but anything more than that, and I was totally lost. I’d heard about Star Wars a lot, but I’d never understood the context of what I was hearing. And I certainly couldn’t contribute to the conversation.
When Jesus taught in parables, He was speaking to two audiences. Some, like His disciples, understood what He was teaching. And if they didn’t understand, they would ask Jesus to explain. Others belonged to the “you will hear but never understand” camp (Matthew 13:14). Much like being a part of a conversation about a movie you’ve never seen or a book you’ve never read, the latter audience could tune out Jesus’ message.
Jesus knew that by speaking in parables, His message would get through to the right people—the people who would open their hearts to Him and who would work to see the kingdom of God flourish. He also knew that the people who were out to get Him (the Pharisees, the Romans) would not understand the parables, and so to some degree, parables were a protective measure.
Reading the parable of the sower, I wonder where I land on the spectrum of listeners. As Jesus sows the seeds of His message, how receptive are my heart and mind? Do I have a hard heart and closed eyes when I read Scripture? Do I read the difficult parts with the same rigor and delight as I do the easier passages? Do I cling to the Jesus who heals and pardons, and shy away from the Jesus who turns over tables and calls out sinners? Do I let the double-edged sword of Scripture do its good, sanctifying work in me?
Eugene Peterson wrote it this way in The Message: “They stick their fingers in their ears so they won’t have to listen; They screw their eyes shut so they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them” (Matthew 13:15).
I know my heart is rocky and full of weeds that choke out the Word. The parable of the sower exposes my idols, holding them up to the light of Jesus’ message about the kingdom of God, about the freedom and peace He, and He alone, brings. But I am tempted to fall away when trials come, turning to my own strength instead of the Word of God. I chase the material, the next-best, and the greener grass, instead of running relentlessly after Jesus alone. My faith is weak, even when I long for it to somehow be enough.
The remedy for my fallow heart is the Word.
The Apostle Paul tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). May it be so with us. May we be eager listeners with hearts rich with fertile ground, anxious know His teaching, and ready to whatever He asks of us.
Melanie Rainer is a bookworm from birth who makes her days writing, editing, and reading in Nashville, Tennessee. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies from Covenant Seminary, spends as much time as she can in the kitchen, and can’t wait until her two daughters are old enough to read Anne of Green Gables. She writes online at www.melanie-rainer.com.