I wonder what it would have been like to get this parable straight from the rabbi on the boat. No explanation. Just the word picture. Read it now as if you’ve never heard it before, as if you aren’t a Christians and as if you only just now are getting to know this Jesus guy:
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold. … He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
That’s it. Again, imagine no explanation of this word story is offered to you. Instead, the rabbi on the boat simply turned to another parable like it – maybe about a lamp under a basket or a mustard seed growing. What are you supposed to do with this?
Is Jesus crazy? Is he simply an eccentric teacher – a lover of riddles? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
This is a call to think.
The answer isn’t laid out on a silver platter. Granted, Jesus gave his disciples some private explanations, but the “regulars” in the crowd had to work to figure out the meaning of what Jesus had to say.
Are we a people who like to think? Are we well-practiced in the art of thought? To a certain degree, we are. Humans are problem-solvers. That’s how God wired us.
I just built a woodshed. I was using a bunch of old lumber from my old deck. That old redwood was in all sorts of sizes. I had to think through it. How would I build my woodshed so that it would be strong? How big should it be so I would make the best use of the material I had? What were ways I could use some of the broken pieces of wood – and some of the very small pieces of wood?
I would lay in bed at night thinking about that woodshed, pondering it and piecing it together in my mind. I actually enjoyed the challenge of it. Truly, it brought me joy! That woodshed is now finished (mostly). It’s not a work of art, and it won’t win any wood-working awards. But I’m happy with it. It cost me little-to-nothing financially, but it did require a lot of thought.
We are designed to think. And the harder we work to arrive at a conclusion to a thought problem, the more we will value that conclusion. We will grasp it a little tighter if it was hard-earned. We’ll defend it against enemy assaults, should they arrive – assaults that try to make us doubt. We won’t doubt because we’ve thought it through.
I suppose this is why Jesus gave us parables. Even for those word pictures that he explained, there is still much to ponder. For instance, in the parable of the sower, what type of person might be the soil “along the path,” who had the word of God snatched away by Satan. Who might that person be in Mark’s Gospel? The Pharisees? The scribes? Are there people like that today?
Who might the “good soil” be? The twelve disciples? I’m not so sure. After all, they disappeared from the story before it was over. (We must keep reading!) Maybe others in the story represent “good soil.”
We have to think about these things.
Christianity requires involvement from every aspect of our lives – from our bodies and our minds. Unlike some other religions that encourage “empty mind” exercises, Christianity demands that we think. We don’t empty our minds. We fill them.
God told Joshua that he should meditate on God’s Word day and night (Joshua 1:8). That’s more than just reading it. That’s mulling it over in a deep way. Instead of a woodshed, Joshua was to lay awake at night thinking of the story of Adam and Eve and the travels of Abraham and the Ten Commandments.
Psalm 63 is attributed to King David. In it, the king wrote that he remembered God while laying in bed and that he meditated on God in the watches of the night (Psalm 63:6). That means he thought about God when he happened to wake up at night. I suppose that meant he puzzled over God and sought to know him more. I suppose that means there were times David simply could not sleep because his mind was so active with the things of God.
Hard-won truths are ones we prize most highly. To wrestle the truth about God out of what we see in creation or what we read in Scripture is a precious practice.
Jesus in his parables gave us more opportunity to think about him.
A question for your day: Are there ways to bring more God-thoughts into your day – so that you can think deeply about who he is – or so that you can wrestle over some question you have about God and his ways?