In Matthew 20 Jesus tells another parable. It is the story of the landowner and the workers that he hires at different times during the day. In the parable the landowner goes and hires men first thing in the morning and tells them he will pay them the daily wage. They agree and get to work. Then at 9 AM, 3 PM and 5 PM he goes out and finds others promising them a just wage for their work if they start right away. They all go. At the end of the day he pays them all. He starts with those hired at 5 and pays them a full day’s wage. Then he does the same with those he hired at 3 and at 9. Finally when it comes to those he hired first, they think that he will pay them more. But he doesn’t. They complain about the “injustice” because they got paid the same as those who started only a short while ago. The landowner says that it is not unfair. He paid them what they agreed to. He says who are they to challenge what he does with his own money and asks if they are envious of his generosity.
Now people can read this a lot of ways. It’s actually a really tough parable. I think first when we read scripture it’s important to think about what it meant to that group of people at that time. Jesus was in the middle of many confrontations with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The heat is getting turned up as we are approaching the time when they would look to kill Jesus. One of the things that they are most mad about is that all sorts of “sinners” seem to be allowed into this kingdom that Jesus keeps talking about and they seem to be on the outside and they don’t like it. After all, they’ve followed all the rules. They’ve been in this since the beginning. They should be first, not last.
I’m a big lawn guy. I love a good looking yard and I work probably too hard to have one. There are a lot of keys to a good lawn and I’ll come back to this analogy at another time. But today I want to talk about preparing the soil for seeding.
If you want to have a good lawn you have to prepare the soil. If you just throw seed on top of the bare spots nothing will happen. You can water it and everything else, but it won’t matter much. What you need to do is till up the soil. Get at least three inches deep. You need to get rid of anything else growing there as well as any sort of rocks or debris. Then you rake it smooth and if you’re really into it, which I am, then you get a roller and roll it smooth. Then and only then do you drop some seed, spread evenly of course. Then you gently rake it in to the loose top soil. Then I typically throw some straw on top of it to protect it from erosion and getting washed out. Finally you water it . . . . for a while. You have to keep it moist until it grows. This is to say nothing of the maintenance of the yard to keep out weeds and encourage deep rooting. It’s a continual process.
The same is true of our hearts when it comes to the soil we become for the word of God.
Last week we began to look at the parable of the sower from Luke 8. Today I want to take a closer look at what these soils look like.
The first soil is that by the road. This is the soil that the seed falls on but then the devil comes and steals the word before it can take root.
This soil is what we might call the people who reject the word outright. They have a hard heart and therefore the word just stays on the surface. It’s like when I seed my lawn and some of the seed gets on the driveway or sidewalk. It has no chance.
In Luke 8:4 Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Jesus tells of how a farmer spreads seed. Some falls on beside the road and is trampled or stolen by birds. Some falls on rocky soil and grows quickly, but withers quickly because it has no root. Some falls in the soil where there are thorns and grows well until a certain point and then it is choked out. Other seed fell on good soil and grew and produced much fruit.
Jesus later explains this to the disciples. He says that the sower is God and the seed is the word of God. Those on the side of the road are those who have heard the word but devil comes and steals it from their heart so that they can’t be saved. Those on the rocky soil are those who receive the word with joy, but then, because they have no root, when tempted fall away. Those who are among the thorns are those who receive the word and grow but are choked out by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life and don’t produce fruit. The final group are those who receive the word with an honest and good heart, hold fast and produce much fruit through perseverance.
This is a tough parable for a lot of reasons. First, it appears that only 25% of people end up producing fruit. Although to be fair, it doesn’t say anything about percentages. Heck 90% of the seed could have fallen on any one of the soils. But as someone who has tried to spread the word to people for over two decades, it sure does seem like 25% of people being the good soil seems about right.
Luke 7:36-50 tells an interesting story that I think is often misinterpreted or glossed over. Jesus is at the home of a pharisee who has requested dinner with Jesus. Let’s push pause right here before we go further.
One of the mistakes we make reading the gospels is that we often turn the Pharisees into one monolithic group. They were not. They were actual people. And Jesus loved them too. Yes they got a lot wrong. Yes many of them did not like Jesus. But Jesus didn’t hate them. He loved them. He kept loving them all the way through the end. Even when He was challenging them He was doing it to try to get them to see the truth. He asks them once – who will save you from hell?! Jesus was trying to get them to get it. Just like everyone else. And some of them were interested. Obviously this Pharisee was curious.
Today is the final part of a three part series on Mark 2:1-12. This is the story where some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus and because they can’t get him to Jesus they dig a hole in the roof and lower him down. The first week we looked at what Jesus did and why He may have done it. Last week we began to see what we might be able to learn about ministry and evangelization from this story. We talked about how these friends loved their friend, worked as a team, and avoided two traps – they realized they couldn’t fix him, and they didn’t stop because there were obstacles. Today we continue this line of thought.
Their Faith Mattered
These people who brought the paralyzed man had faith in Jesus. They knew that only He could offer eternal forgiveness and that only He could heal the man. Not only that, but they had so much faith that they were really to work really hard to do it. They didn’t let obstacles get in the way. They didn’t quit because it was hard. They were sure that if they could get their friend in front of Jesus that good things would happen.
In the account it says that it is when Jesus saw their faith He said to the man, “You sins are forgiven”.
This is a really tough thought. It doesn’t say that Jesus saw the paralyzed man’s faith. He sees the faith of those who had brought him.
Last week we began to take a look at Mark 2:1-12. This is the story where Jesus is teaching at a house and some people come bringing a paralyzed man to Him. They can’t get him to Jesus because of the crowd so they go to the roof and drop the man down in front of Jesus. Jesus forgives the man of his sins and then heals him. Last time we looked at Jesus and what He was doing in this story. Today I want to look at how this might be applicable to us in evangelization.
Today I’d like to look at Mark 2:11-12. This is a great story. It tells us a lot about Jesus and I believe can tell us about some ways we think about evangelization.
Here’s the story in brief. Jesus is teaching at a house. It is full of people. People inside and probably surrounding it as well. His ministry is really starting now. People are showing up to hear this new teacher and perhaps see a miracle.
In todays look at the scriptures I’d like to look at what I like to call The Other Parable of Two Sons. When most people think of a parable with two sons they immediately think of the familiar parable of the prodigal son. That is indeed a great parable and perhaps we’ll dive in another day. Today I want to look in stead at the parable of the two sons in Matthew 21.
One of the things that is clear throughout is that we are called to love everyone. Which leads us to today’s scripture. Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus is working His way through the sermon on the mount.** He says:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 Therefore [b]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
On its surface this idea does make sense, at least theologically. After all we are called to love everyone. God loves everyone. God loves your enemy. The one who persecutes you was created in God’s image. Jesus died for your enemy. Jesus prayed for and loved His enemies while He was here, even while they were crucifying Him. We’re supposed to follow Jesus.