It’s Friday, and it has been a pleasure to journey through the book of Matthew with you this week.
In Wednesday’s podcast we briefly introduced the themes of fruitfulness, multiplication and harvest, and the fact that we are called to be ‘gatherers.’ Yesterday we learnt how Jesus built an oikos family – a community of people around him – with whom he lived out the calling of God upon his life. And we learnt that we are intended to do the same.
In today’s podcast we will bring these two themes together as we look at Matthew Chapter 13 v1-23. It is the well known passage called The Parable of the Sower. This parable is the first in a series of 6 which make up Chapter 13, and my colleague James Brown will be looking at the rest of these next week.
Today, I’m going to be focusing on verse 23: “But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”
When we read the Bible it is important to remember that it was written without chapters and verses. They can sometimes distract us from the flow or continuity of the Gospel story. Yesterday, chapter 12 ended with the words “For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Then, as we begin Chapter 13, we learn that on the same day that he said these words, Jesus also tells this parable of the sower. He left the house, where his mother and brothers had turned up, and went to the lake, where he taught from a boat.
The same crowd of people gathered on the shore. The same people who heard him speak Chapter 12 v50, then heard him say those words from verse 23.
The will of the Father is that people hear the word of God, understand it, and then produce a crop.
This gave the oikos family that Jesus was building a purpose.
A natural family grows by reproduction…..normally one at a time, occasionally in twos and threes! However, the purpose of oikos families is to grow by multiplication – 30, 60 or 100 times. They were a family on mission.
Yet again this is transformational teaching – a family, an oikos, isn’t just about us…..a place where we feel safe, secure and happy, a place where we can retreat from the world. Family isn’t about our life behind closed doors, just the two of us, or the four of us, who share the same living space.
It is the complete opposite. Oikos must have an outward focus, an open door. That is its fundamental purpose.
This is a real challenge!
Thinking about what it means to be or live as a family on mission has to involve us identifying the missional purpose of our oikos; and to understand that through being a family on mission we are aiming to form and create something through which others will experience Jesus, and come into a relationship with him.
Again, Mike and Sally Breen put this clearly and succinctly. The purpose of every family on mission is to, “Multiply the life of Jesus, by reproducing ourselves into the lives of others, so they become disciples of Jesus.”
As we saw earlier these themes of fruitfulness, multiplication and harvest run through both Chapters 12 and 13 of Matthew.
Matthew 12 v33 in the Message translation says, “If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree.” This clearly parallels with Chapter 13 v23. If the seed, the word of God, falls on good soil, and we seek to understand it and put it into practice, then it will produce a healthy harvest of 100, 60 or 30 times what was sown.
If we are not producing a harvest, a healthy crop, then are we really seed planted in good soil?
As we saw in Wednesday’s podcast, part of being a follower of Jesus is committing to discipleship in our own lives – committing to reading the word of God and to praying. This, alongside being part of an oikos, will help to ensure that the Devil does not snatch us away, that we will be firmly rooted and that the worries of this life will not choke us, nor will we wither away when persecution or trouble comes. This is what it means to be planted in good soil, and is the way to ensure that we are fruitful and reaping a harvest.
However, perhaps what is more challenging is thinking about what we are planting or sowing into the lives of others.
How are we reproducing Jesus in their lives?
As I have thought about this, I always come back to the end of Proverbs, Chapter 31 v10-31, which describes the wife of noble character and her oikos. The verses describe both her actions and attributes, and the way they bring blessing – fruitfulness and harvest – to her household and her wider community. Over the years this has really spoken to me in terms of my relationship with my children and those within our oikos.
I have to think about what I do that helps my children, and others, grow and develop into the men and women that God wants them to be. What am I planting into their life that will help them to grow good roots? Do they look at me and see a healthy, fruitful life – something that they want to reproduce? And how can I help them to hear and understand the word of God, so that they in turn can become fruitful?
Reading and understanding the Parable of the Sower reveals the biggest calling or importance of oikos – if we do not live out this purpose as a family on mission then there will be no harvest and the next generation of disciples will have no seed to sow into the lives of others; into their own future oikos.
In this sense we have come full circle. We started on Monday by looking at Jesus’ transformational teaching on children, and the importance of learning from Jesus. We are God’s children. We need to ensure that we focus on our own discipleship – learning from his word in the Bible – and ensure that we are planted in good soil, surrounded by an oikos family who will help us to live a life of faith and follow God’s calling on our lives. Only by doing this will we bring forth a harvest. Only when we do this will we become disciples who make disciples.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are the Lord of the Harvest. Show us how our oikos can have an outward focus, and how we can plant and sow your word into the lives of others, in order that we can see your kingdom grow 30, 60 and 100 fold. Amen.
READING: Matthew 13:1-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’
The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’
He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:
‘Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘“You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.”
But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly 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.
‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’