On your Mark
He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching
said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed.” (Mark 4:2,3, NIV)
Jesus taught people who were not taking notes. Therefore,
how could He teach timeless truths in a way that would be remembered and passed
along to others by word of mouth?
The answer? Jesus taught in parables.
A parable is more than a story. It’s a story with a point.
The word “parable” comes from a combination of two Greek words para and ballo.
We immediately recognize that our word “ball” comes from the word ballo, and it
means “to throw.” Para means
“alongside.” The parable, therefore, is a story thrown alongside a truth.
Jesus never told stories for the stories’ sake. He told them
to illuminate His teaching.
Some of Jesus’ first listeners only heard the story and
missed the application. We must not make their mistake.
The most foundational of Jesus’ parables is that of the
soils — sometimes called “The Sower and the Seed.”
It begins with Jesus saying, “Listen!” That one word at the
start is akin to a speaker striking his hands to gain attention before
launching into an address. It underlines the importance of what Jesus has to
say. When the parable is done, Jesus underscores the importance of listening by
saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (v. 9).
Think for a moment about the farmer. He does not sow seed
unless he goes out. There can be no productive work unless the farmer gets up
in the morning, gets dressed, takes the seed sack, goes out and sows.
Neither can anything productive happen in our own lives
unless we set our minds and hands to it. A harvest of good things does not
happen to lazy people.
In Jesus’ story we have a sensible and diligent farmer. He
not only has gotten up and gone to work — but he has seed to sow. That
is, he has not consumed last year’s entire crop on his own desires. He’s saved
There’s an African story about a small village racked by
hunger. Springtime was planting season, but the winter had been marked by
scarcity of food. All the grain was gone from the prior year’s harvest. A
little boy wandered into his father’s goat shack and saw a sack of seed
suspended from the ceiling. Excitedly he ran back to his hut and brought the
news to his family.
“We have grain,” he said. “Please, Mommy, get the grain out
of the goat shack, grind it, and make mush so our tummies will be full.”
His father sadly said, “Son, we cannot do that. We must take
that grain and sow it into the ground so that we will have plenty of food to
eat in the coming months.”
The father then took the seed sack down, and with tears
walked into the field scattering the grain upon the fallow ground.
Why did he do that? Because he believed in the harvest. He
refused to spend tomorrow’s future on today’s wants.
Are you like the farmer? What are you sowing from your own
life? Are you investing today in things that will not appear until days, weeks,
months or years down the road?
A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, I don’t like the idea of delayed gratification.
What I want, I want now. But, if there is a future of Your choosing in my life,
then today I must forego some of what I want so that in tomorrow’s day I and
others will have the needed resources. Help me, Lord, to be patient and disciplined
so that I don’t consume my tomorrows on today’s desires.
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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