A Bump in the Road
I’ve been consistently drawn to the passage I want to put before you today for a good portion of my life, and even more so of late, somehow trying to “get it in me” if you will. The synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each give their spin on the story, and I’ve heard every analysis from preachers to business people, to self-help gurus, who each spin it in a variety of most interesting ways. Some quite accurate, some, not so much. Nonetheless, this has never stopped me from periodically coming back to it like a dog continually intrigued to run after the same bone tossed a thousand times, in order to glean from its hidden gold beneath that rather funky ground we often find ourselves in. And because of that, somehow, I’ve always inferred that Jesus wants this ole dog to set up permanent camp here; put my Martha cap on; sit at the feet of the Master till the cows come home; or until pig’s fly, or, when something starts to actually grow for goodness sakes. You get the picture. So, I guess it’s my new address in between life’s hell and high water, even my permanent one. Perhaps it should be yours too.
The backdrop here is familiar through the gospels. Jesus is getting slammed with people wanting to touch the hem of his garment in light of their dire straits, get something from him, or perhaps crucify him; or maybe even betray him with a kiss. But we won’t be picky here. The names change, but the scenery and the mixture is pretty much the same. And so Jesus is sitting in his fishing boat looking at the people hanging on the beach gazing back at him with bated breath, and he begins to speak in one of his favorite ways that continue to baffle us all; in parables. Nonetheless, the passage goes like this:
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear (Mt. 13:1-9 ESV).
What you Talking About Willis?
Now interestingly, in between verses 9 and 18, Jesus gets the right question thrown to him by the disciples. They simply ask what maybe you and I have asked, or are currently asking, “Why do you speak to them in parables”, or, “how about giving the dog a bone here”? Makes sense. And of course here it is all too easy to skirt by this part and get to his explanation coming up about what the dang parable actually means. But we want to get to the punchline, we just want to pass the gosh-darn test. Cliff notes please! And Jesus gets it. So he responds basically saying that the understanding usually comes to already spiritual awakened people (not even the disciples yet apparently), and to those who are really seeking what the kingdom is about because they’ve run out of bargaining chips. This of course is opposed to those who are not so much seeking the life he wants to give, but what they gain if they decided to do it; or perhaps more importantly, those whose hearts are already hardened by what’s wrong in their ground, and as a result wouldn’t see or hear even if Jesus slapped them upside their nappy heads with it! Evidently, it has a lot to do with a lifetime of shutting their eyes and ears to what’s already been said and done all around them, and as a result have missed the proverbial forest for the trees. Somehow, I wonder if he’s talking to me!
But Jesus doesn’t leave them hanging, nor does he want to. Because it is now that the kingdom is just beginning to be ushered in. And so, he realizes that as the Holy Spirit inevitably comes just a stone’s throw down the road, more awakened people will start to get it, and if they do, he knows some kind of “living water” will then engulf them, and they’ll finally graduate from the class, or at least move on to a new class. And as a result, they’ll get to write a book on 4 steps to Spiritual Gardening or something like that, because there will be fruit-flies everywhere for goodness sakes! And it is here that you and I need to set up camp for the morning, noon and night. So, the Master gets right to it. He says:
Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”(Matthew 13:18-23 ESV)
And the plot thickens.
There’s a Thief Among Us
Jesus opines that the word, His word, actually comes to the lot of us, with often mixed results. No argument there. The first is the majority of us in the vast cosmos so it seems. And in this case Geraldine was partly right, the devil evidently did make them do it. Jesus says that the evil one can and often does “snatch” away what was initially sown somewhat haphazardly along the path. We could chalk it up as bad soil, or that it was kind of strewn about by happenstance and not purposely. The sky is the limit. There are probably no wrong answers here. But what we do know, and the synoptics are in cahoots, is that the devil steals some stuff, a lot evidently. In fact, Jesus reminded us that the evil one came to kill, steal and destroy, whereas Jesus came to give something along the lines of abundant life or something like that. So we get it I think. Evidently stealing is one of the extra special aspects of the Prince of Darkness’ MO. And it makes perfect sense does it not?
Is The Enemy We’ve Found in Lock-Step With Us?
For instance, we see people get little morsels of the word thrown on them in a multiplicity of ways, and all at once, they start to take it in. However, in the blink of an eye it seems, the habitual lies and isms and survival of the fittest mantras that have been on autopilot most of their lives, rush in and talk them off the edge of their merely circumstantial naivete back to the safety of popular consensus and comfort zones. And then “poof”, it’s as if nothing ever happened. Business as usual. Case closed. The curtain is now pulled on what coulda, shoulda, woulda been.
But perhaps before we move too fast and put all the lost in this prayer list bucket, maybe the devil still steals from the enlightened of us too I suppose before we get a block down the road. For the same family traditions, worldly indoctrinations and our own eternal struggle to somehow finally listen to this still small voice more readily while simultaneously seeking to pull our own bootstraps up somewhere I guess, causes us all to buckle, and shuck it off as working perhaps for some; but maybe, just maybe, it’s really not for the likes of us after all. So we dodge the fish, and cut the bait instead; again and again, and again.
So yeah, the devil steals stuff like I said, well like Jesus said. And it’s kind of sad don’t you think. Perhaps we need an alarm or something, or a wall, or maybe there’s something in our ground I suppose.
Stay tuned for Part II