Seeds

Day 30

Seeds

‘I will open my mouth in parables,

I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’

Matthew 13:35

Found in Matthew 13:1-35

A cool breeze floats across the water, the sound of gentle waves lap the shore, a symphony of sounds and sights whispering, hinting, heralding a Kingdom coming. Creation partnering with God in revealing who He is…

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake…” Matthew 13:1

When a Rabbi sits he isn’t resting his legs, picnicking or taking a break. He sits to show he is about to speak, about to teach, about to invite his listeners on a wrestling journey towards truth and understanding. Something. 

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.” Matthew 13:1-2

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These large crowds, made up of small people, lost people. People searching for something. They stood there on the shore, the shore of their longing for change, longing for hope, the shore of all their hungering questions and cravings for more, more of something they couldn’t quite describe, that nameless something beating deep within every human heart. Something drawing them here to this shore, to this man, to this moment in time.

Where is God? What is He doing? When will this Messiah appear? Who am I? What am I here for? What is this all about? What can be trusted? What is truth? We human beings, we walk with questions, live confusion and wear our wonderings like oversized shoes, tripping over ourselves to work out who we are and what it’s all about.

And then this Jewish Rabbi comes, He comes into this sea of unanswered questions, His voice echoing through time, through two millennia of the thick confusing fog of human history. He sits down in the Galilean countryside, on the hillsides and by the water’s edge and He speaks words into the air like dawning light before the sun, words that draw on realities all around, using them to reveal the one true reality of a Kingdom on the move. 

He points out the birds, the seeds, the trees, He fills the ordinary things (things unseen, things under foot, things passed by) with meaning, depth and message, and hearts begin to awaken to the possibility that life may have some rhyme or reason after all. Something. 

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying…”  Matthew 13:3

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Those standing there on the shore with a salty breeze on their cheeks and sand sifting through their sandals, they had heard all this before, but not like this. These stories were familiar, both in the images they drew and the way they drew on images. Israel had a long history of poets, prophets and storytellers all painting pictures, drawing on creation, writing songs, telling the stories of their great long wrestling partnership with God.

But it had been a long time since words like this were breathed into the Galilean air, new words, fresh from the heart of God. There had been silence from the heavens for over four hundred years until a voice rang out in the wilderness pointing to this man. Could this Rabbi be the one? Raw from the repeated blows of oppression, they had been waiting for a Messiah, longing for a prophet, waiting for redemption. They had questions. They wanted answers. They were hungry, not for food that lines bellies, but for food that revives souls. His words were bread to them before He even opened His mouth to speak.

But these words He wove, while tasting familiar on their lips, had an aftertaste that was strange.  His stories though recognisable, were also foreign; though patterned on the past, they were also unexpected. The words were familiar, but the tune, the melody was new. New. New and old all in one breath. Old with with the wisdom of age. New with the newness of new life.

Like seeds.

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“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.” Matthew 13:3

Have you ever held a seed in your hand and marvelled that you are holding life and death in your palm all at once, simultaneously the death of a plant and the source of its brand new life? Old and new bound in one being, sorrow and hope, the past and the future, life’s beginning intimately entwined with its own dying breath?

But a seed that remains only a seed remains alone (John 12:24 ). A seed without earth will never bud and flourish. A seed without soil will never split with life. And the reverse is also true; soil without the life the seed sows is empty. Vacuous. 

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground…” Genesis 2:7

God, His hands got grit-under-fingernails-dirty when He shaped us into being. We are in the end, all men and women of the soil, created from the dirt and dust beneath our feet; soil forged millions of years ago in the bellies of stars gathered together by hands of love and measured, mounded, moulded into us.

We are the soil. 

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We are soil, we are earth, we are minerals, we are mud. But we are also more, so much more.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7

We are vessels made of clay carrying something more. Carrying the breath of God within us, His image bearing-blessing-breath of life. Like a seed planted deep in the earth of us, YHWH set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) because He has set Himself there: His image, His likeness, His life. His Life like a breath of oxygenating air, His life like a seedling unfurling toward the sun, His life like the flailing first cry of a newborn babe. 

His life like a seed sown into in soil by a farmer.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.”  Matthew 13:3

We are vessels made of clay carrying something more. But since the breaking of all things in that garden long ago, since the soil first soaked up the blood of humankind’s inhumanity to one another, the Breath of life within us has had to strive against the ambivalence of our inner dark. We humans have become adept at forgetting who we are. We wallow in our mud and forget the Breath that brought the mud to life. The life within us struggles and then fails; flailing, failing, falling into emptiness. God walks in the gardens of our lives and we are deaf and dumb to His voice. Empty.  

We live our questions, but God answers with His: Where are you?

“As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” Matthew 13:4

God whispers our name, calling to us “Where are you?”. But then His words are snatched away before they take root in our heart..

‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” Matthew 13:18-19

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Other things draw our gaze, our focus; things that deafen and numb. We hear His voice calling us on the wind but no sooner do we hear it than we walk away and forget. We forget who He is. We forget who we are. We forget altogether our breath and treat ourselves like dirt. Ashes to Ashes dust to dust. Empty. 

But still God calls, like a farmer scattering seed, His voice on the wind calling our name. His words reaching through millennia, ‘Where are you? 

‘Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.’ Matthew 13:5-6

Some fell…. shallow. A shallow heart hears at first, but does not fight to hold onto God’s word. God’s words are precious. They cost. Living them costs.  A shallow heart has no depth, no staying power strength because it has wrapped its roots around other hopes, other desires, other attitudes that feel normal and seem right; the desire to be liked and accepted and at peace with a world at war with God. When we befriend this world we estrange God.

“The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 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.” Matthew 13:20-21

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This Kingdom Word sewn by God spells the seed of destruction for worldly popularity and earthly assimilation. When we become friends with God, we become strangers on earth (Psalm 119:18, Matthew 13:20-21).

God’s word challenges our equilibrium and calls us to grow… deeper. Digging into the depths of us hurts. Shallow is far more comfortable. And the world around us says shallow is just fine.  We avoid the pain of growth and the persecution of difference and agree with lies that wind around our souls. We forget altogether our Breath, assimilating into the dirt around us. Ashes to Ashes dust to dust. Empty.

‘Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.’ Matthew 13:7

Who knew that comfort and convenience could actually be a slow form of death? Slow death by strangulation, choking the life out of a seedling, squeezing it gaunt, fruitless. Lifeless. Who knew that the pursuit of happiness, safety, security, wealth and prosperity were actually the pursuit of emptiness? A succumbing to the busyness business. A binding ourselves to the deceptive dual slave masters of pleasure and prosperity, leaving us breathless on the treadmills of our existence, emptied of both.

“The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22

In all our important whirl we have no time to breathe in the deeply releasing, reviving Breath of God. From dust we came and to dust we will return. Fruitless. Lifeless. Empty.

But still He calls, still He plants, still He scatters seed in hope, this farmer searching for soil, this Father searching for His children, ‘Where are you?’; searching for soil, for the dust of us, longing to revive us,  re-mould us into His image and likeness once more.

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These seeds, scattered by our Father farmer, they are the invitation to new life, but not the promise of it. What happens next is always in our hands.

 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’ Matthew 13:8

There was a silence when we began. The quiet rise and fall of lungs filling with air, the whispered hush of a breath drawn in and a breath exhaled.

We didn’t begin with a loud bang. We didn’t begin with a “Let there be- and it was so”. We didn’t begin with words at all. 

We began with mud.

And breath.

And the intentional heart of God.

Spoken words created everything else in all of creation, but with us, God stood speechless and reached down into mud. He found no words to describe us into being. Just His touch. Personal. Just His breath. Close.

So close we can stretch out our hand and He is there. Right there; responding to our reaching, our longing, our yearning for Him. The Image of God still lingers in the hearts of those who long for Him, His life-giving Life still pulsing through their veins, leading straight to their beating heart. 

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:23

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A heart hungry for Him, a soul with ears that hear and listen and wrestle to understand, will find Him. Will find their purpose in Him. Like small shoots pushing through the soil producing life, growing, stretching, reaching towards the sun. Fruitful. Full. Fully filled and fulfilled in Him (Matthew 13:23). Alive.

These seeds, scattered by our Father farmer, they are the invitation to new life, but not the promise of it. What happens next is always in our hands. 

Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:9

If you’ve got ears to hear, then Listen. His words, they could be poetry, but they are not. Because that’s just it. We human beings, we don’t all have ears that hear and eyes that see. Not because our physical eyes or ears are faulty, but because our spiritual ones are. The Breath of God within us can be drowned out by the surrounding din, shrivelling and withering in the heat of the sun, the bickering of birds and the choke of entwining thorns. Empty.

These parables of this Rabbi, they are not what they seem. They are not children’s stories to entertain, (though they do) they are not the skilful communication of timeless truths embedded into the culture and life of the time (though they are) and they are not simply fables, stories with a moral for a punch line (though a clear message lurks within each one).

No, each parable is like a thermometer testing the temperature of the human soul, like a stethoscope listening, testing the beating heart. Is it drumming in time to God’s Kingdom or it’s own? Is the heart of the hearer warm to the word of God, or distant, distracted, deaf? Is the soil of the listener’s heart hospitable to the seed primed to bud and flourish with new life? Or has it succumbed to mud?

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‘Those who have ears to hear, let them hear’.  Seven times this is said in the Gospels by Jesus, and another eight times in the book of Revelation. Because not everyone with ears has ears that hear, and not everyone with eyes is free from blindness. 

These words, “Who ever has ears let them hear”, though they are a phrase, they are also a question. They ask… are you listening? Are you hearing? They ask the question God is always asking…

Where are you?”

In the first garden millennia ago, God had come looking for His children. And as He searched for them He called out the first recorded question in the Bible, ‘Where are you?’ (Genesis 3:9). This is the question of God. The question God, in Jesus is asking with every action, every word, every parable He breathes. Everything is always this call, the good Shepherd’s call in search of His sheep… ‘Where are you?’.

Every parable Jesus told is a scattering of seed to test the soil for life. Are you there? Where are you? He calls. He questions. He stands at the door and knocks. But this God, He doesn’t force His ways, His words on human beings. It’s an offer. A free gift. But you need to stretch out your hand to grasp it. And what you really want, is what you will truly receive.

These seeds, scattered by our Father farmer, they are the invitation to new life, but not the promise of it. What happens next is always in our hands.

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And these parables, they raise more questions than they answer, disturbing the dusty equilibrium of a soul. They were bewildering then, just as they are now.

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”’

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.’ Matthew 13:10-12

When it comes to hearing God and understanding His words, we always receive what we truly want. We will hear what we want to hear. We will understand what we want to understand. If we want something deeply enough we will find a way to grasp it. It is in the reaching, the striving, the struggle that God’s Kingdom births in us.

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Like the light before the dawn pointing to a rising sun, His words, His stories are the beginning of seeing, the beginning of hearing. An invitation to turn our face towards the thin gold rim emerging from the curve of the earth. It is His to call, it is ours to run towards the dawn, ours to warm in its stretching splaying light. 

God is a profound respecter of the human will, only ever inviting, never forcing us into His Kingdom. This is who He is. These Kingdom parables Jesus tells, they call, they whisper, welcoming us in to join Him there. But only if we want it, only if our eyes are searching, scanning, seeking Him. Only if our ears are listening for His voice (John 10:27), yearning to hear will His words fill our hearts with breath-of-God understanding once more.

Where are you? What do you want? Really?

Through these parables Jesus was going fishing, just as he invited Peter and Andrew to do, fishing for human hearts. He is sifting and sorting the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goats, the light from the dark in every human soul. 

Where are you?

“This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;

though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people’s heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.”

Matthew 13:13-15

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It is a wrestle, a fight to hold onto God’s word. God’s words are precious. They cost. Living them costs. We receive what we truly want. We have what we fight for. When we commit ourselves to wrestle His story to the ground, wrestle like Jacob for the blessing, we are wrestling ourselves into His Kingdom. We are discovering buried treasure, pearls of great price, truths ‘hidden since the creation of the world’ (Matthew 13:35, Psalm 78:2).

When we wrestle a story to the ground, pinning it down with our thoughts until at last it gives up it’s meaning and gives us our great “Ah” moment of realisation, that is when we don’t just hear and know a story, but we we begin to hear and know ourselves through the story.  The realisation of the seed of truth in the story realises that truth in us. 

We move from blindness to seeing…

‘they might see with their eyes,”

from deafness to hearing…

    “hear with their ears,”

from numbness to understanding…

    “understand with their hearts”

..and from brokenness to healing…

and turn, and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:13-15

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Healing, it’s what we all need, the healing Breath of life in us renewed. How God longs for us to hear His voice, to return to our senses, to see again, to hear again, to feel the warmth of His love once more, the sound of His voice in our hearts. He longs to heal us. Hold us. Make us whole once more.

And this healing, happens not by hearing the parables, not by the words, not by the stories or the understanding they bring, but by following their storyline threads all the way to the heart of God Himself. Every parable is an invitation.

To Him.

To YHWH. 

To Jesus.

God in leather sandals.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to entertain us with stories. He didn’t come to ensure that we had the theological story straight, He didn’t come to correct our doctrines. He didn’t come to answer all our questions.

He came to be the question, ‘where are you?’

He came to be the Word, a seed planted deep into soil.

He came to be the seed, sewn into our lives and hearts producing new life.

He came to be our hope, restoring our breath when we have lost ourselves to the mud.

And He came to be the revolution, birthing a Kingdom come.

“See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice…

…Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.”

Isaiah 32:1&3

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He is the seed. Old and new bound in one Being, sorrow and hope, the past and the future, life’s beginning intimately entwined with the breath that gives it life.  He is the seed that was promised in Isaiah, the holy seed that becomes the shoot of a sawn off stump (Isaiah 6:13), the tender shoot that will be despised and rejected by us (Isaiah 53:1-3). The seed, who in death, births God’s Kingdom come on earth (John 12:24).

God, His hands got grit-under-fingernails-dirty when He shaped us into being.  We are the soil. The soil in which new life is sewn, from which new life is born. But these seeds, scattered by our Father farmer, they are the invitation to new life, but not the promise of it. What happens next is always in our hands.

Jesus’ Words, Jesus’ call, falls like seeds on human hearts today, and the dirt we are formed of, the mud of our heart, the state of the soil decides what happens next. Still today His words they sift us, save us or sew us. Still today our ears will hear what our hearts desire.

We live our questions, but God always answers with His: Where are you?

Where are you?

Are you a prodigal son lost in the mud and mire of your own making? Are you a lamb lost in the wilderness of your soul? Are you rocky soil too busy to hear, or thorny soil too distracted to listen? Or are you earth, rich deep nourishing earth ready to receive the seed of His living word and to partner with Him to make it flourish, ushering in a Kingdom come.

“He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13: 31-32

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Half of Jesus parables are asking us this question “Where are you?”. The other half are saying “Here am I, This is who I am and this is what my Kingdom looks like”.

I am the farmer scattering seed in hope for good soil, I am a good shepherd searching for my lost sheep, I am a father waiting, searching, scanning the horizon for my lost child. I am the planter of a Kingdom that will grow slowly, heart by beating heart until it stretches far and wide providing shelter and shade for all.

Hold a seed in your hand for just a moment.

Turn it over and over in your palm.

What is the story of this seed in you?

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Journey Further 

Sit with a seed in your hand for a while.

Which soil in the parable above best describes your heart?

Read Matthew 13:14-15 again…

“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

 For this people’s heart has become calloused;

    they hardly hear with their ears,

    and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

    hear with their ears,

    understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.”

What does turning look like?

Where is God longing to work healing in you life?

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References, Notes and credits

All Biblical quotations are from the NIV Bible UK version (NIVUK) unless otherwise stated. Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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