This is one of my favorite parables and a great chance to show off my enormous sunflowers. I was hoping for a picture that contrasted how the plants that grew in the garden beds fared better than the ones that were growing in the walkways (all the sunflowers in my garden are volunteers, I didn’t plant any this year) but the ones in the walkway were also enormous. I guess they didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to be eaten by birds or wilt quickly due to shallow roots…
- V1-2 – Ahh, a relaxing day at the beach… Jesus is having to get creative when it comes to crowd control. I bet things could’ve gotten pretty ugly after the people discovered it was possible to be healed just by touching Him. (9:21-22)
- V3 – Jesus is speaking their “language.” I live in Portland where urban farming is all the rage. In fact, I got to tell this parable to my neighbor and his kids the other day as we were scattering seeds in his backyard permaculture oasis.
◊ How can I tell people about God in ways that will instantly resonate with them? Farming/gardening parables are great. Chickens are big here, there’s definitely the opportunity to tell the parable of the lost chicken – or how about “beware of raccoons in chicken suits.” Lots of people could relate to “my chickens know my voice”! Any other ideas?
- V4-8 – This is such a brilliant parable. Any farmers in the crowd would have known exactly what He was talking about. It’s easy to make the connection to what happens in our hearts when we hear God’s Word when you can just picture the tomato plant that sprang up in your garden path next to the one that’s in the actual bed. (Ok, my garden may be a little less “controlled” than most.)
- V9 – He didn’t start this parable out with an explanation of what He was talking about so the people would not necessarily get it right away. Imagine going to a church service where the pastor just told several seemingly unrelated stories about gardening and never explained what he was talking about.
- V9 – I wonder what He meant by this phrase? “If you want to hear and understand, may God help you?” I don’t know.
- V10-11 – It seems like most of the people in the crowds were there for the show so Jesus didn’t want to throw out the secrets of the kingdom to just anyone (7:6) because without having the desire to follow Jesus, they could take that info and twist it or misuse it in ways that wouldn’t advance God’s kingdom. It was really important to make sure the people who would be passing this on really understood it and were committed to serving God because this was the beginning of Christ’s Church. If a whole bunch of people, some who trusted Jesus and some who didn’t, started spreading mixed messages about the kingdom, it would be like starting a very long game of “telephone” and having the second person botch the message. By the time it got to the 4th or 5th generation, the message would be unrecognizable.
◊ Am I committed to faithfully passing along God’s message without changing it?
- V12 – This seems unfair. But when you think of it in terms of the Holy Spirit it makes more sense. When you accept God’s Spirit, you’ll get it and you’ll be hungry to learn more and more. But when you reject God’s Spirit, there’s nothing in you drawing you to Christ, so even the few things you may have picked up along the way will be meaningless to you. If you don’t think there’s a God, why would you care about the secrets of His kingdom?
- V13 – This must have something to do with v9…
- V3 & 13 – It seems like this may also have been a good way to get the Pharisees to give up and go home. If their hearts were hard, they wouldn’t have gotten it at all and since Jesus told “many” stories (v3) it seems like they could have gotten fed up with these seemingly inane and meaningless stories and left.
- V14-15 – Aha! Here’s why there’s the divide. Their hearts have grown dull. Remember that comparison of sin to leprosy a few weeks back? Their hearts have been numbed by sin. They aren’t moved by the Spirit and they don’t care to change but if they would just turn, “I would heal them.”
◊ Merciful Father, open our eyes and ears and make our hearts sensitive to Your Spirit. Free us from the sin that dulls our hearts and clogs our ears so that we can see, hear, and feel You clearly.
- So back to V9 – I think He’s saying “If you have ears that want to hear, the Holy Spirit will help you understand.”
- V16-17 – The disciples were incredibly privileged. Think of all the prophets in the OT who would have given anything for just a moment with the Messiah they were preaching about. Think of all the times you’ve thought “I wish I could just ask Jesus…” The reactions of Simeon and Anna in the temple (Luke 2:25-38) give us an idea of the longing that these people had to see the Messiah.
- V17 – Sometimes we want something really bad and it’s just not part of God’s plan for us to have it.
◊ Am I faithful in my role as God’s servant where I’m at even if it’s not where I wish I could be?
- V19 & 23 – He uses the word “understand” to delineate the good from the bad soil. It’s all coming together for me now. V9, 11, 12, 13, & 15 are all pointing to our need for the Holy Spirit to reveal God and His kingdom to us. Without the Holy Spirit, it won’t make sense.
- V19-23 – The “seeds” are all good, so it depends on the condition of the person’s heart who is receiving it.
◊ Am I faithfully sowing seeds? When one of my seeds lands in an “unfertile” heart do I take it personally?
◊ What can I do besides throw out seeds? Pray that God’s Spirit would prepare their hearts to be receptive.
◊ V21 – What troubles have I encountered lately? Did they draw me closer to God or pull me away?
◊ V22 – Do the “cares of this world and the lure of wealth” negatively affect my relationship with God? Holy Spirit come do Your gardening in my heart and prepare it to receive Your Word and act in obedience so I can produce good fruit for Your kingdom and Your glory.
◊ What kind of soil am I?
- V23 – More about fruit! This fruit is all good fruit because it’s springing from the Word of God in our hearts.
◊ What’s the fruit that has come from God’s Word in my heart?
- V23 – I like that He points out that some are more prolifically fruitful than others and that seems to be ok. On the other hand, all of those harvests are huge! An amount only God can produce. (A good harvest would be about 10 fold.)
Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:
- Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
- What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
- Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
- What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
- What do these verses move me to pray for myself?