In my study of the parables, I have often had the impression that Jesus wants to be understood by some people, and so, He uses the parables as a way to illustrate His teachings, using down to earth stories about everyday life and situations that are easily grasped and easily remembered. However, I have also had the impression that Jesus wants to keep His teachings hidden from others, and so, He also uses the parables as a way to hide certain aspects of who He is and what He is doing from those who really don't want to follow Him. But is this a correct way to look at the situation? Does that sound like Jesus to you? The Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-9) is a good example of this strange tension.

On the one hand, it is a very simple, well-structured parable, with a four-part development. For the first three sowing cases, the seed does not reach its full potential for various reasons (e.g., the ground is hard, the birds come and eat it, the sun scorches it, etc.). However, for the final sowing case, the seed does reach its full potential (e.g., the soil is prepared for growth). From this short description, the basic premise of the parable is fairly easy to follow: Those who allow other things in life to get in the way of the coming Kingdom of God will do that (and the Kingdom of God will not reach maturity in their lives), while those who prepare their hearts for its coming will likewise do that (and the Kingdom of God will reach maturity in them). All to say, it is not a difficult story to outline or to summarize.

On the other hand, although the parable is simple, it is also profound. For example, the things that get in the way of the coming Kingdom are many: from minor interruptions to major distractions. Really, just about anything can keep a person from pursuing Jesus and putting His Kingdom first. From my own experience, I know I am tempted daily to enjoy the blessings that come to me and my family (while not caring about how others are doing), rest in my life as it is (while not trying to do better, work harder, or grow), and not look to God for His help or guidance (while assuming today will continue just as yesterday did). In fact, it is a constant battle to not allow interruptions, distractions, and the small amusements of life to take the place of following after the most important things in life (relationships with God, others, and a proper view of self). I don't want to say that believers can't enjoy the blessings they receive, because that isn't the right conclusion, either, but if we don't understand how easily deceived we can be about what is truly good, I think we are in danger of falling for something that is less than what God has in mind for us. All to say, I believe this parable is teaching that many things will distract from having an abundant life, but if we submit our hearts to the Lord, keeping an eye on what we allow to influence and affect us, He can and will bring about great things.

So, does Jesus want to be understood? I think the answer to this is simply "yes," and He really does use parables as a way to give teachings about the Kingdom in simple, helpful illustrations. But I think the catch is, as with this parable, that even well-intentioned people can easily get caught up in things that don't lead to the kind of abundant life that He is talking about. That is, it is not that Jesus doesn't want to be understood or that He is trying to hide anything from us, but rather, that life is often paradoxical, like the parables, and it takes a sober reflection about life to understand what exactly He is trying to say. In other words, His words are always true, but that doesn't mean they are always easy to unravel and apply. Because of this, my prayer for us today is that God may give us the wisdom to live out well what He has taught us.

by Eric Fields, Elder

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