Reading 2 Samuel 7
18 Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said:
"Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign LORD, is for a human being!
24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, LORD, have become their God.
25 "And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight.
27 "LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever."
Gospel Mark 4
The Parable of the Sower
1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 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."
10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
" 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!' "
13 Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 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. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown."
A Lamp on a Stand
21 He said to them, "Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don't you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear."
24 "Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Those who have will be given more; as for those who do not have, even what they have will be taken from them."
A word about parables. Familiar device used by Jesus. But how did he use them and why?
Collections of parables in gospels give impression parables were main content of Jesus’s teaching. Unlikely to be the case. More likely they were illustrations of his teaching. Memorable because they are stories we can repeat. Also, the details are exaggerated for effect and so unexpected.
Christians have interpreted them as allegories. Some have found meaning in every single detail and every word. Jeffrey John for example. Most scholars nowadays think they were not originally allegories in which every detail of the story has significance.
Truth may be something between the two. Certainly the story is not a recommendation of good farming practice. Hard not to interpret Parable of Sower as allegorical. Jesus even unusually explains the parable himself that way. But not down to smallest detail.
For example, would sower sow seed on path? Would yield of 100 fold be conceivable?
Main message of parable is about teaching and preaching. Seed is the word of God. It’s normal for it to fall on good ground and grow normally. Seed on path or rocks is abnormal. Harvest will come normally. These things are normal, even if they remain miraculous to us.
Maybe even to interpret parable in this way is too much detail. Main point is hearers of the word must be productive. Must not be shallow and accepting, but be prepared to study and deepen faith. Must not be distracted and fall away through pull of worldly pleasures.
Parable is not so much example to the good who are productive, but warning to those that are not. Those whose faith is rootless, or abandoned. Message is that all will not necessarily be well without our free and open acceptance of the word and willingness to nurture it and let it grow.
Follow on parable is Light under a Bushel. Lamp on a Stand. Those who receive the light then hide it under a chamber pot are concealing the light. Faith not meant to be like that. Light is meant to shine out. Hiding the light is as bad as letting seed fall on rocky ground or on path. Seed is the Word – it will not germinate without being looked after. In same way, light will not shine out if it is concealed.
Let those who have ears hear. A stark warning. Amen