bible blog 1028

This blog provides a meditation on the daily readings of the reformed Churches, along with a headline from world news

China commits billions in Aid to Africa  -with what expectation? MDG : China in Africa : the map of Africa at  the Africa Development bank in Shanghai

Luke 8:1-15

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

8 1-3 Not long after this incident, Jesus went through every town and village preaching and telling the people the good news of the kingdom of God. He was accompanied by the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and illnesses—Mary, known as “the woman from Magdala” (who had once been possessed by seven evil spirits) Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s agent Susanna, and many others who used to look after his comfort from their own resources.

Jesus’ parable of the mixed reception given to the truth

4-8 When a large crowd had collected and people were coming to him from one town after another, he spoke to them and gave them this parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed, and while he was sowing, some of the seed fell by the roadside and was trodden down and birds gobbled it up. Some fell on the rock, and when it sprouted it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorn-bushes which grew up with the seeds and choked the life out of them. But some seed fell on good soil and grew and produced a crop—a hundred times what had been sown.” And when he had said this, he called out, “Let the man who has ears to hear use them!”

9-10 Then his disciples asked him the meaning of the parable. To which Jesus replied, “You have been given the chance to understand the secrets of the kingdom of God, but the others are given parables so that they may go through life with their eyes open and ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand’”.

11-15 “This is what the parable means. The seed is the message of God. The seed sown by the roadside represents those who hear the message, and then the devil comes and takes it away from their hearts so that they cannot believe it and be saved. That sown on the rock represents those who accept the message with great delight when they hear it, but have no real root. They believe for a little while but when the time of temptation comes, they lose faith. And the seed sown among the thorns represents the people who hear the message and go on their way, and with the worries and riches and pleasures of living, the life is choked out of them, and in the end they produce nothing. But the seed sown on good soil means the men who hear the message and accept it with good and honest heart, and go on steadily producing a good crop.

springtime confidence

springtime confidence

If this parable goes back to Jesus (and I think it does) the original meaning will have been the springtime confidence of the sower that in spite of apparent waste, the seed should be scattered as widely as possible and that there would be a good harvest. In that way it would have mirrored Jesus’ openness to sinners and outcasts and his faith that God’s rule would grow amongst people. The explanation of the parable given in Matthew, Mark and Luke shows that this original meaning had got lost as the church developed (as the harvest increased!) so that the sowing of the seed was identified as the “word of the gospel” and the focus shifted to the different kinds of soils (people) that received it.

In Luke’s version the parable provides a sharp analysis of the different ways in which the message can come to nothing: it can be wilfully rejected (snatched by the Devil); surrendered as soon as shallow faith meets trials; or choked by worldly concerns. Believers engaged in communicating the gospel of Jesus today will recognise these same failures of growth in the responses to their message and can be comforted by the assurance that there is always fertile soil and abundant growth somewhere.

But perhaps it’s more fruitful to recognise these “soils” not as different people but as different responses within the one person. This interpretation encourages me to see in myself the roadside where the black crow can snatch the seed away; the rocky ground where the gospel can take only a shallow root; the thickets of material concerns that choke the life out o the gospel; and to be nevertheless challenged to believe that even in me there is good soil in which God’s goodness may produce a harvest.

black crows snatch the seed

black crows snatch the seed

(Lying behind the development of this parable in the early church is ignorance of the Palestinian habit of sowing before ploughing. Jesus’ original sower was not really careless. He sowed on hard ground which was about to be ploughed.)

However the parable is interpreted what shines through is Jesus’ combination of shrewd realism and visionary hope about the growth of God’s goodness in the world.

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