Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Matthew 13: The Seeds of the Kingdom

Matt 13:1-9, 18-32 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear"...
"Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."

In Matthew 13 Jesus told a total of seven parables about the kingdom of heaven. Of these seven parables, four of which use the imagery of the seeds. In the first parable, he explained that the kingdom is like a sower sowing seeds on four kinds of soils. The seeds represents the word (Gospel). Of the four soils, three receive the seed (word of God) positively but only one was fruitful and multiplied. These four soils represent four heart conditions.
  • Disbelieving Heart: ("some fell along the path"):  The path represents soil that is repeatedly stepped on by people walking on it. The top-soil is hardened and so when the seeds fall on it, they cannot penetrate through the hardened top-soil. So the birds pick up the seeds. Jesus explains that the birds represent the devil that takes away the word that is sown in this heart. But why is this heart hardened? It is hardened by sin of unbelief. It dismisses what is heard without even taking the message seriously.
  • Divided Heart ("some fell on rocky ground"): The soil with rocks represents hearts that are quick to receive anything that is good (and free!)--but unwilling to give up. There are too many rocks in their lives--rocks of self-interests. They hate any talk of discipleship and its abhorrent talk of "taking up the cross" or "denying self." They are okay with receiving the Good News as long as it does not require them to give up anything. So, when persecutions and trials come, they are the first to pack up and go. Theirs is a shallow faith because their is a shallow heart. They are "fair-weather" and sunny Christians who thrive on "positive" preaching. 
  • Distracted Heart ("other seeds fell among thorns"): This soil with thorns represents people who want the best of both worlds. They understand the message of discipleship, but they are caught up with the stresses and strains of chasing after deceitful riches in the world. They want the riches of Christ's kingdom. But they also want the riches of Satan's kingdom. They want to be successful in both fronts but they end up becoming enemies of God: "You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4). The Apostle John warns us too about loving the world: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world" (1 John 2:15-16). Jesus himself has said: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matt 6:24). 
  • Devoted Heart ("other seeds fell on good soil"): The good soil is one that is loamy--able to receive the seeds sown on it as it is soft and open to deep penetration of the roots. The result is the seed sown grows into a fruit-producing plant. The seeds from the new fruits are then sown again into new soils to reproduce new plants with more fruits and more seeds. So the seeds multiply as more people received, believed and become citizens of the Kingdom of God. That is ultimate fruitfulness--not just being, but doing.
Like seed that carries within it the potential for new life, so the eternal life of God is carried by the word of the Gospel. When sown in the right heart, it germinates and grows and produces fruits with more seeds.  True Christian discipleship and maturity is therefore not measured by how much word is received (knowing) but by how many lives has been transformed through the same word that is given out (doing). Jesus emphasizes not just teaching the word but "teaching them TO OBEY EVERYTHING I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19). Knowing the right theology and doctrines is useless if it does not result in multiplication. Seeds in nature are not content to be received by the soils but to grow into plants that are fruitful and multiplying.

Father, help us to be fruitful and multiply. Grant us opportunity to share the seed with others so that they too may receive Your life and multiply. Amen.

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