Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gospel Seeds

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the parable of the sower to illustrate one of the principles of His Kingdom to His disciples.

Jesus begins by sharing a metaphor that everyone in his hearing would have easily identified with; a man planting seeds in the ground.

In this agrarian society, the people would have had no trouble picturing this person who went out to plant seeds in his garden. Obviously, someone does this in order to grow something for themselves. The sower is hoping to plant seeds into good soil and reap a harvest of blessings out of their labor in return. Depending upon the seed planted, and the type of soil that the seed is planted in, the sower can reasonably expect to enjoy his wheat, fruit, vegatables, or flowers in a matter of months, as long as he nurtures and cares for this plant as it grows.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus offers several possible outcomes for the seed, depending on the type of soil it falls upon. In fact, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, he fully explains this parable to them, although he seems surprised that they don't immediately understand everything he is telling them. Out of all the parables told by Jesus in the New Testament, this one stands alone because it is the only one he took the time to spell out to his disciples.

My friend, Brent, has an interesting take on this parable. He pointed out we are the soil, and that the seed is Jesus. It's simple, but I believe it fully captures the essence of what Jesus wanted his followers to understand about life in the Kingdom.

Jesus is the seed. Without Jesus, we have no life. We're just soil. There is no life in us, unless the seed is planted and begins to grow. If we are "good soil", then the life of Jesus grows inside of us. It begins to grow stronger. It becomes nourished by the water of the Spirit. It becomes fed by the bread of life. It takes root, deep down in our hearts and it begins to push out the topsoil of our lives.

We already understand all the metaphors embedded in this picture:

Jesus is the vine. We are the branches. Without him we can do absolutely nothing. (John 15:5)

If we have Jesus, we have life in us. If we do not have Jesus, we do not have life. (1 John 5:12)

In fact, we have died to our sins and our life is hidden with Christ. (Colossians 3:1-3)

If the life of Jesus is growing inside of us, then it will eventually bear good fruit for everyone to see, and give Glory to God. (Matthew 7:17)

As I reflect on this today, I am fascinated by the simplicity of the illustration, and the power of what it implies.

Over the last few months I have become more and more aware of my own weakness. I've been focused on myself and not on the life of Jesus which was planted inside of me long ago. Suddenly, I can see areas of my life where I need to water this plant, and nourish this growth. My eyes are opened to the places where I need to prune, and to provide more light, and water more often, so that this life of Jesus in me can take deeper root and flourish.

In my mind's eye I get a picture of myself walking around with a large stalk of corn jutting out of my chest. It's plainly obvious to everyone that something has been growing within me and it's now reaching upward to the sky with leaves starving for light and thirsty for rain from above.

No one can deny this strange new thing sticking out of me. It's alive. It's almost embarrasing. People whisper, "How did it get there?", "What happened to him?" and they scratch their heads in wonder.

This seed was planted in me a long time ago. Longer ago than I care to mention. There have been seasons of growth, seasons of drought, and seasons where the Gardner has come in to cut back the excess. But the fact is, there is something growing inside of me. It's alive, but it's not my life. It's the life of Jesus grafted into mine by the miracle of God.

I can't wait until harvest time.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me." - John 12:24-36


1 comment:

Marc said...

N.T. Wright argues that the metaphor of the sower and seed is not free-floating but rooted in the prophecies (Isaiah I think) which speak of God re-sowing Israel. You are right to point out that we, or our hearts, are the soil and the seed is the Word (read "promise" or "gospel"), the message that God is back!