Sunday

12 July 2020

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

'As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit.' (v. 23)

Psalm: Psalm 65

Background

This comes first in a chapter of parables, a word that refers to a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. This story called to mind a familiar picture of farming in Galilee, and in addition to its particular message it served as an opportunity for Jesus to explain (in the omitted verses 10-17 of today's reading) why he taught in parables. This is because they provide an ideal medium for the majority of the crowd to hear a straightforward message, whilst at the same time offering deeper truth that can be perceived by those who have some grasp of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

The simple message, evident at the end of the parable itself before its later explanation, is that a good harvest can be anticipated even if some of the seed is wasted. Seed was broadcast sown by hand. Some fell on hard-packed soil where people had walked, offering easy pickings for birds. Some fell on areas where there was bedrock near the surface preventing deep roots from forming. Some fell where dormant thistles were present. But the fruitfulness of the good soil more than made up for the losses.

Jesus does not usually spell out the deeper meaning that disciples should perceive in a parable; he does so only for this one and the one that immediately follows it which concerns weeds sown by an enemy in a wheat field. He says that in this present parable, the seed stands for “the word of the kingdom” (v. 19) and the four soils represent different ways in which people might receive it. It is only when a person “hears the word and understands it” that it bears fruit, in plentiful amount although with variation from person to person.

The memorable saying in verse 9 also occurs in Matthew 11:15, and seems to stress that real hearing is not what happens in our ears, but in our lives as a result. This accords with what has just been noted regarding verse 23.

 

To Ponder:

  •  Which kind of soil resembles the way you most often respond to Jesus’ message?
  • Can you recall any situation in which this parable was or could have been an encouragement to you when you felt that your own words were falling on unfruitful ground?
  • In addition to money which is singled out, what would you say are the other “cares of the world” (v. 22) that can prevent us bearing the fruit of the kingdom?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

Stephen Mosedale is a retired Methodist minister living near Exeter, enjoying walking, gardening, and membership of a vegetable-growing co-op. He fulfils responsibilities for ministerial candidates, local preachers and worship leaders, and as a school governor. He has a particular interest in the natural world and its significance to faith, especially in the context of climate crisis. A former New Testament tutor at Cliff College, he has a passion for helping others use the Bible as our main way of knowing what God has to say to us in the world of today.

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