In Matthew 13:1-9 Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower.1 The parable recounts a farmer sowing seed in different soil conditions, hard, rocky, and full of weeds. Of course, the seed does not do well until it lands on “good soil, where it produced a crop.” Jesus ends the story with these words, “He who has ears, let him hear.” He reveals later that the seed is the “message about the kingdom,” or “the word of God” (Luke 8:11).
I always thought of these four types of soils as four types of people, and of course, I was a good-soil person who could look down on (maybe even subconsciously) the other struggling types. But recently when I read this parable I thought, what if all of us are all the types? What if the parable reveals our journey toward God?
Jesus says that having ears that hear is key to understanding the parable. The hard, rocky, overgrown soils are not ready to receive the Word of God. J.D. Walt has said that hearing and responding to the word of God is the ultimate worship – hearing the seed of the Word, letting it sink down roots into our hearts, the seed sprouting and springing up, bringing life-giving fruit.
Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Jeremiah 4:3
Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12
But Jesus said that the hearts of the people had “become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” Psalm 17 and Proverbs 21 reveal the cause of calloused hearts.
They (the wicked, the enemies) close up their callous hearts, and their mouths speak with arrogance. Psalm 17:10
Haughty eyes and a proud heart— the unplowed field of the wicked—produce sin. Proverbs 21:4
Arrogance and pride – the unplowed field – cannot receive the seed of the Word of God. The people of these fields are self-sufficient; they are alone and barren. And God judges them as wicked – guilty criminals deserving of punishment, rebellious, hostile enemies of God. None of us likes to think of ourselves that way, but that is where we all start on this walk. With amazing grace, we are received that way. We are met where we are and given the faith we need to receive and believe the life-changing word-seed.
And Jesus, lavishly and lovingly, throws seed on our hard ground. We are urged to respond to it, plowing up our fields, breaking up the hard clods, removing (or allowing God to remove) the rocks, and pulling out the weeds. That is the process of sanctification.
… continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling … Philippians 2:12 (Amplified Bible)
But sometimes we sit down by the side of the path and remain unplowed for long periods of time. Fearful, prideful, angry at God. God is infinitely patient, waiting for us to get back up and again get behind the plow. Maybe not so patient, or patient but pained, because he is passionate about the end-goal.
For the goal is intimacy with God, unity. Good soil receiving life-containing seed is a picture of more than farming. It is also a picture of the intimate “knowing” of the marriage between the Bride and the Bridegroom. The two will become one.
“The daring metaphor of Jesus as bridegroom suggests that the living God seeks more than an intimate relationship with us. The reckless, raging fury of Yahweh culminates, dare we say it, in a symbiotic fusion, a union so substantive that the apostle Paul would write: It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Gal. 2:20 NASB)” — Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God
This is what really blew my mind while reading this parable today. Jesus is the ultimate perfectly plowed field. He never had any hard ground or rocks or weeds. He responded immediately and without any doubt or resistance or self-anything to what his Father said to him.
The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. Isaiah 50:5
For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. John 12:49 (ESV)
… I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. John 14:31 (ESV)
And isn’t the goal of our plowing to become like Jesus? To be mixed in with his dirt? To be hidden in him? To be in union with Him? To become one fruitful field? To not be lonely, barren fields any longer?
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2-3
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21
Lord, help me to cooperate with you in breaking up my unplowed ground. Give me grace to surrender the rocks of arrogance and pride, doubt and fear and resistance into your loving hands. Open my ears to hear your life-giving Word. Let me be like you. Let my life be hidden in you.
1Also, Mark 4: 3-9 and Luke 8:5-8.
Photo, fallow, by Robb North https://flic.kr/p/6dWcZL