Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jesus wants People to Think (Listen, Understand and Obey)

So Jesus told a parable.. to make people think. 
Jesus had made unmistakable claims about his true identity, and the division was growing between those who accepted and those who rejected them. The religious leaders had already decided Jesus was not the Messiah. The crowds who followed him, listening to his teaching and observing his miracles, wondered if Jesus could be the “Son of David” (Matthew 12:23), but their leaders told them he was not.

Jesus began using stories to get his listeners to think. These “parables” in all of the Gospel stories, hid the truth from those who had already made up their minds to reject Jesus. Those who truly wanted to know Jesus, however, would understand his words (and at least want, desire to understand it). This first parable features a farmer, seeds, and soils. In ancient Israel, farmers sowed the seeds by hand. Walking across the field, the farmer would plant the seeds by scattering handfuls of seed from a large bag slung across the shoulders.

Here is the first parable. Jesus said, “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and chocked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand” (Matthew 13:3-9, NLT).

What does this parable mean? Jesus explained it all in Matthew 13:18-23. Jesus told the disciples that the types of soil in his parable represent the ways that people respond to the Gospel message. Some have hearts so hard, like the “footpath” that the Word of God makes no impression on them. They hear but don’t understand, and Satan, like the birds in the story, snatches the seeds. “Rocky soil,” however, are people who seem to accept God’s Good News but their faith is shallow, not deep or real, and it doesn’t take hold. These people abandon their faith at the first sign of problems or persecution. Then, the seeds that fall among “thorns” sprout and take hold but produce no fruit because they are soon crowded out by weeds – the “worries of this life and the lure of wealth” (Matthew 13:22). These seem to be true believers, but they don’t grow in their faith. At last, other people are like the “fertile” or “good soil” (Matthew 13:23) – they hear the Word and accept it. The seeds penetrate, take root, flourish, and produce fruit. These are the true disciples – those who accept Jesus, believe his Word, and allow him to make a difference in their lives.

Think about this: Satan deceiving acts, worldly worries, the false sense of security brought on by prosperity, and the desire for material things plagued first-century disciples just as they do us today (I’m thinking of my students who will be graduated soon and will enter the workplace-world). Daily routines overcrowd and materialistic pursuits distract believers, choking out God’s Word so that it produces no fruit. God wants us to weed out those thorns, to be fertile ground for his seeds planted in us. “You [that means, us] are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven”, said Jesus, “but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them” (Matthew 13:11-12, bracket mine). What type of soil [your heart] are you?

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