3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
9 Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
Over the last six weeks I have read this parable eight times due to a spiritual exercise at church. This time, however, the parable struck me a little different, partially because we discussed why Jesus spoke in parables in care group. Jesus spoke the parable of the sower to the crowds. They all would have understood his story, because most of them would have survived through subsistence farming. The listeners to Jesus were not hearing anything they would not have known. Yet, they did not understand what Jesus was saying. They heard, but did not comprehend.
This is true of most of Jesus' parables. Matthew tells us that he always spoke parables to the crowds (Matthew 13:34). He used stories and illustrations that they knew. They understood physically what Jesus was saying, but they did not understand the spiritual truth. Thus, Jesus took the disciples aside and explained the truth to them. (See Mark 4:10-20.) He did not explain it to the crowds. So, why did Jesus do it this way?
To the crowds Jesus spoke in parables so that they would seek the truth. To the disciples Jesus explained parables to reveal the truth. To the general public Jesus spoke in a way that would create a hunger and thirst within to know more and to ask, "what did he mean?" or "who is this man?" To his own followers who were already pursuing him, he made plain his truth and spoke it clearly.
That leads to some interesting questions for me:
- Should we generally only use parables or word pictures with those who do not follow Jesus? Is that the best way we should communicate with non-followers of Jesus any spiritual truth?
- As a pastor, should I speak in parables or word pictures or stories during the worship service at our church so that non-followers would seek God? Or should I explain the truth clearly? Who am I speaking to?
- When should we speak in parables so that people will seek the truth? When should we speak to reveal the truth to people?
- I remember taking some teenagers to watch Chronicles of Narnia. After the movie, they were excited about the action and the sword-play. But they missed the spiritual truths that were "jumping out" all over the place. So, how do we best communicate? Do we waste our breath sharing the deep spiritual truths of Scripture to those who are not ready or seeking? What do you think?