Barry Newman's Blog

October 27, 2012

The Parables of Jesus (part XII) – The Parable of the Sower (part VII)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The Parable of the Sower — barrynewman @ 9:53 pm

The Explanation of the Parable

The explanation that Jesus gives to the parable can be found in Matt 13: 18 – 23, Mark 4: 14 – 20 and Luke 8: 11 – 15.

One might be tempted to see Jesus as the sower but only in Mark’s account of the explanation is there any reference to the sower and no identity is forthcoming.  The emphasis is surely not on the sower but on the seed by whatever means it is delivered and the various “soils” on which it lands.

The seed is identified in Matthew’s Gospel as the word of the kingdom and in Luke’s Gospel as the word of God.  The “word” occurs six times in Matthew, eight times in Mark and four times in Luke. Translate “logos” as “word” or “message”, the parable is about that which comes from God and is about God.

The three Gospels are in basic agreement about to interpret the soils.  However Matthew speaks of “the one who”, while Mark and Luke refer to “those who”. That distinction will ignored in what follows.

Basically, the seed sown along the path situation is identified with those or who do not understand (Matthew and Mark) and clearly little time or attention is given by them to the message for the evil one (Matthew), Satan (Mark), the devil (Luke) snatches away what was sown in their hearts (their minds) so they do not understand (Matthew) so that they are unable to believe and be saved (Luke). The birds have been identified as the evil one/Satan/the devil.

The seed sown along the rocky ground scenario is identified with those who hear the message and immediately (Matthew and Mark) receive it with joy but having no root (for though there is top soil there is little depth to it before meeting the rocky substrate), though enduring (Matthew and Mark), believing (Luke) for a while, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word (Matthew and Mark), in time of temptation (Luke) they fall away. The “temptation” of Luke is probably to be identified with the notion of having to face trial as in persecution. This aspect of the parallel speaks of those who see the great worth of the message and accept it gladly. However, they have not really taken it completely to heart and when they are under personal stress because they have accepted the message in the first place they give up whatever commitment they had in the first place.

Concerning what was sown among the thorns, the reference is to those who hear the message but the cares of the world and the delight in riches (Matthew and Mark) and the desire for other things (Mark), the cares and the riches and pleasures of life (Luke) choke the message and it proves to be unfruitful. The focus on such prevents the hearer of the message of really taking it to heart.  It never really amounts to anything in their lives.  Their other concerns prevent it bearing the fruit that is the potential of the message.

Finally, with respect to the seed sown on good soil, the reference is to those who hear the word, understand it (Matthew), accept it (Mark), hold it fast in an honest and good heart. They bear fruit and yield a hundredfold, sixtyfold or thirtyfold (Matthew, reverse order Mark), bring forth fruit with patience (Luke).  No other situation, not even where the word is first accepted with joy, produces such fruit.  But what is the fruit? That fruitfulness (or lack thereof) is mentioned with respect to the seed sown among thorns is suggestive that the reference is simply but profoundly to how reception, understanding, believing, holding fast with sincerity to the word of the kingdom, produces the kingdom person. A wonderful transformation takes place, as the kingdom message is seriously “taken on board” in its fullness. The mention of “with patience” in Luke may be a reference to the development of the kingdom person over time.

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