Friday

‘Let anyone with ears listen!’ (v. 9)

Matthew 13:1-17 Friday 7 October 2022

Psalm 74:1-17

Background

This story is commonly known as the parable of the sower. A better title, and one that captures something of its surprise and force, might be ‘the parable of the unbelievable harvest’! New Testament scholar Robert McIvor suggests that a 30-fold yield, to say nothing of the 100-fold one, would seem nothing short of miraculous to listeners in first-century Palestine.

Stories of superabundant harvests are found in some late Jewish sacred texts and some Christian Bibles as the ‘apocryphal’ (non-canonical) books between Old and New Testaments. These harvest stories are eschatological in nature: meaning they relate to the final events in the history of the world and are looking forward to God’s final restoring and vindication of Israel. They involve a huge harvest, symbolising the over-abundant fruitfulness of the land of Israel after God eternally established his kingdom.

Jesus’ parable carries echoes of this kingdom-motif of the extraordinary harvest. But it also subverts it. And herein lies its real surprise and force. The apocryphal stories usually locate the miraculously large harvest at the end of a series of unsuccessful attempts which represent the failure of the present age. In one story in the books of apocrypha (4 Ezra), a barren yield from bad seed must pass away before the harvest from the good seed can emerge.

Jesus' parable that we read today offers a glimpse into his own understanding that there is not a linear progression from the end of the old age, with its bad soil and failed seed, to a new age of fruitfulness, wiping out all memories of old.  Rather, the old age and its failures still continues, but is now seeded with traces of the new age, springing up right alongside.

Jesus is challenging eschatological expectations by suggesting that God’s kingdom can exist, in part, in the realities of the current age, and that the kingdom is already manifesting itself and bearing fruit amidst the lives of his hearers – then and now.

 

To Ponder:

  • Have you seen or experienced anything that might be signs of God’s promised kingdom amidst the failures of a fallen world?
  • Which of Jesus’ parables speaks to you most powerfully of God's kingdom, and why?

First published in 2019.

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