My family and I started gardening a couple years ago. When we lived in a city rowhome we filled a couple 5-gallon buckets with dirt, planted some tomatoes and peppers and stuck them on our second floor outdoor balcony. Our backyard butted up against a neighboring house that blocked out the sun, so the buckets were a first feeble attempt…and failure. When we moved to our current home with a backyard and garden, we were excited to give it a new try. We’ve made lots of mistakes like when we picked our pumpkins in August because we had planted too early. Each year we learn a bit more, like the need to plant our baby tomatoes far enough away from one another that they don’t become a tangled mess.
We have family and friends that have been very helpful in coaching us about gardening. They have been a great help, and our garden is all the better for it.
This week our study in Luke gets into gardening. In Luke 8:1-15, Jesus tells a parable from the world of agriculture, which was a huge part of his society.
I wonder how people in the crowd felt that day. They came to hear a powerful orator, and what he gave them amounts to Gardening 101. Check it out for yourself:
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
You pretty much get that lesson in preschool when you plant a seed in a Dixie cup and bring it home to grow on the kitchen windowsill.
Why would Jesus waste his time, and the crowd’s time, and all that ink and paper in those bajillion Bibles over the centuries on a lesson in basic farming?
Plant in good soil, get rid of rocks and weeds, and you’ll have a good shot at a harvest. Is that all he said?
Nope, Luke tells us that after Jesus told the parable to the crowd, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” That clarify it for you? Some of you might have heard this parable before, but imagine being there in the crowd hearing it for the first time. How would you have felt? Would you be frustrated that all you got was basic gardening principles? Would you be seeking for deeper meaning? Would you assume that this famous, powerful spiritual teacher must have meant something more? Would it help when he says “whoever has ears to hear, let them hear?”
It seems at least Jesus disciples were questioning like that, because they ask him what the parable meant. Think he tells them?
He responds to them with this “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand’.”
Doesn’t it sound like he is basically saying “I don’t want the crowds to know what this parable means”? How many speakers get up to speak, give a cryptic speech that no one understands, and feel like that was mission accomplished? How many speakers desire to confuse their audiences? Sure seems like that’s what Jesus was doing, doesn’t it?
Or was he?
If you’re not already part of a worship gathering, or you’re just curious to hear the rest of the story, please feel free to come to Faith Church on Sunday.