46While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” 13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!” 10Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12″For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 13The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ 14With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. 15For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn—and I would heal them.’ 16But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. 18″Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Today’s passage relates one of the best known of Jesus’ parables. It also gives us an insight into why he used this mode of teaching and the meaning of the parable of the sower. However, does its familiarity sometimes limit what we hear in the parable? At first sight, we are offered four ways or modes of hearing the “word of the kingdom”—as a path, as rocky ground, as thorns, and as good soil. It does not require a degree in theology to see which way or mode Jesus wants us to adopt! But there are two challenges we face. The first is where and when do we hear the word of the kingdom? When we read the Bible? Yes. When we hear a sermon? Yes. But that “word” might also come in everyday conversations, from seeing an act of goodness, from a picture or from creation. That leads us to the second challenge: Are we always ready to hear the word and understand it? Are we even always ready to recognize that we have heard the word of the kingdom? My answer would have to be no at times. So maybe Jesus is describing four ways each one of us listens to the word, and the challenge is to recognize which mode we are in. Are we in path, rocky ground, thorn mode, or are we miles from the field? Are we ready to be like the good soil and hear?
Stephen Lyon Author London, England
What are the things that get in the way of hearing the word of the kingdom that we need to recognize and address?
Response from Rev. Mary
I once heard someone speak on children’s mental health struggles. The researcher found in his studies that children who are very, very affluent suffer in similar ways as very, very poor children. I think there is a lot of truth in this. So, what gets in the wayof listening and hearing the words of the kingdom? Food – too much for some, too little for others. A child, or person for that matter, cannot really concentrate in school, at work and especially not spiritually when his or her belly hurts from hunger. Turning to food to heal our wounds, leaves us farther away from healing not closer. The same for money – too little means that you must work constantly trying to earn enough to feed, house, clothe, and keep your children safe. Too much keeps us searching for the next new and shiny thing that can make us happy and distracted. The same for power – too little means you have no voice and no power to raise the kingdom, why try? Too much? What do you need God’s kingdom for? You have built a kingdom of your own. People with too little food, money, and power need those with “too much” to share so we all can have enough. That is one of the foundational principles the kingdom is built upon.
O Lord, help us to clear the ground of our hearing so that your word can land on good soil. Amen.
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.