As I was preparing this devotional, I opened the She Reads Truth daily devotional I keep up with (shereadstruth.com). Can you guess what the topic was? The Parable of the Sower, from Mark 4! Exactly the same scripture that I had planned to do this devotional on weeks ago. I love it when “God Moments” like this happen! Coincidence? Not with our God!
1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.
11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret[a] of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:
‘When they see what I do,
they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say,
they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me
and be forgiven.’[b]”
13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
It is really hard for me to not just glaze over while reading this story. Familiar Bible passages, especially parables, are like that. I usually find myself approaching them in one of three ways:
- I do a superficial read, pat myself on the back since I apparently completely understand the entire Bible (that’s a joke, by the way), and revert to whatever easy/common understanding I have of the passage.
- I give up trying to understand because I’m lazy and don’t want to exert the brainpower/effort/time to re-examine the passage.
- I stop and re-read, consult commentaries, and pray that God would reveal what He wants me to see in the passage because clearly, I’m not getting it on my own.
This week, option #2 was by far the most appealing. I felt a very strong connection to what the disciples say in verse 10 – what is the point of this parable, Jesus?
On doing some additional read-throughs of the passage, verse 13 is what sticks out to me most:
“If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables?
Great question, Jesus. I’m not sure if He’s suggesting that this is an entry-level parable, like Parables 101 or Parables for Dummies, but that thought did cross my mind and made me chuckle. If the Parable of the Sower is a watered-down parable, then I’m in deep doo-doo.
Here are some other ideas of what this verse might mean. It could be that…
- Jesus is exasperated and just beside Himself with the disciples’ lack of faith or understanding.
- The Parable of the Sower is a sort of template or key that helps unlock our understanding of other parables.
- This is Jesus’ first (or one of the first) parables, so it carries extra weight/importance.
- It could be that this is flat out the most important parable.
I’ve sat with this passage all week. I’ve consulted with Jonah, friends in my Bible Study, and commentaries. I’m not going to lie, this is a tough one. Here’s what I think verse 13 boils down to:
The Parable of the Sower is the most significant and basic parable because it’s all about our response to the Gospel. Everything else Jesus has to say builds on how we receive, or don’t receive, the Good News that he’s the Messiah. If we don’t have a response, we’re dead in the water when it comes to understanding His teachings.
When we’ve heard about who Jesus is, we have four basic options on how to respond:
How will you respond?
What are your thoughts on the Parable of the Sower? What do you make of verse 13? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below and let’s start the conversation!
Wednesday: Square Foot Gardening Techniques
Next Sunday: Palm-Waving Groupies