Monday, April 09, 2012

120406 - Mark 04 - A different sower parable

Friday SOAP: A different sower parable. Jesus emphasizes how crops grow, having patience for the harvest, and understanding the suddenness of the end of it. Lest I should think the first sower parable is a lesson on carefully directing my seed, this one makes it clear that growth isn't of my own selection or careful wisdom, but primarily of abandonment of myself to the process that will be blessed.


S: And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

O: Here's a slightly different "sower" parable. Whereas the emphasis on the first one, the most common (repeated in all 3 synoptics), is on the types of soil, to help those who sow understand why their efforts don't always bear fruit, and warn those who might ultimately fall away, this one emphasizes that it is the Lord who gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

A: I think all of us who work at evangelism are prone to place too much emphasis on our salesmanship, our personality, our methods of presenting the gospel. This is why it's all about the immediate results. We get troubled about not seeing a response right away. Or, seeing results right away, we presume our methodology is the determining factor on those results. Jesus doesn't praise the careful methods of the sower. All he did was "scatter seed on the ground." (Frankly, from an agricultural perspective, he's a downright careless farmer!) He goes about his business, not toiling over it, but sleeping nights and rising days, and the earth produces by itself, with no help from him.

Furthermore, I notice that the stages of growth are highlighted. It would have been easy to tell the story in such a way that the wait for the harvest is left out. But Jesus specifically emphasized the blade, the ear, then the full grain in the ear, and the ripening of the grain. But in contrast to the extended description of the process of growth, the harvest is "at once."

I also reflect that it's easy for someone who's new at the process to mistake the early stages of growth for common grass. (Or vice versa.) It's only a "blade," at first. Particularly when it comes to wheat - really, it's not until the time of the harvest that it's easy to distinguish the crop from grass. This reminds me of the parable of the wheat and tares. (Matthew 13:24-30) Ultimately, from every perspective, patience is required to get to the real harvest.

And, it being Good Friday today, this reminds me of Jesus' statement comparing Himself to a grain of wheat:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25)

In this picture, the seed "dies." But in dying, it brings forth fruit. He's clearly talking about Himself at the beginning. But He concludes by talking about US. If we love our lives so much that we won't trouble ourselves to do it His way, we'll find ourselves fruitless at the end of our lives and prove to be common grass after all. And we'll lose our lives, we'll lose our relationships, those things we take pleasure in, and eternity. Everything. But if we throw ourselves into His program, allow ourselves to be scattered and transformed, we'll bring forth fruit in His good time.

There are two harvests to think about. The wheat, gathered into the Sower's barn (Matthew 13:30) and the tares, gathered and burned. (Matthew 13:39-42) The book of Revelation explains it this way:

Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

    Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia. (Revelation 14:14-20)

If this picture were foremost in my mind all the time, there would never be a question. How shameful for a genuine Christian to "remain alone" and not take anyone with him to the Householder's barn!

P: Lord, I ask for your eyes to see the end of things with patience. There's so much deception in this world, and I need to be reminded of the harvest.

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