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On your Mark

The farmer

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 some back.

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 of God.

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