As an infant I was forever asking ‘why‘?’ Some ‘whys’ were protests (‘Why can’t I have
sweets instead of cabbage’?’) and others were quests for scientific understanding (‘ Why
won’t my toy cars fly like my kite does?’). Nowadays I ask biblical ‘whys’.
 Surely, here’s a problem?
Matthew, Mark and Luke each recorded Jesus’ benchmark parable of the sower – how
various states of soil affect the outcome of his efforts, even his success on good soil.
Since it was a key to many other parables, Jesus may have repeated it in several settings,
using slightly different turns of phrase. But I have only recently noticed that each writer
ends both the parable and Jesus’ explanation with his own pattern of numbers for the
estimated increase in the quantities of grain produced in good soil. Let me show you.
The parable ends: “And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold ’ (Luke8:8).
The interpretation ends: As for that in good soil, they are those who, hearing the word
hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience’ (Luke8:15).
The parable ends: “And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up
and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold ’ (Mark 4:8).
The interpretation ends: ‘But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear
the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold ’ (Mark 4:20).
The parable ends: ‘Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a
hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty ’ (Matthew 13:8).
The interpretation ends: As for what was sown in good soil, this is the one who hears the
word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in
another sixty and in another thirty’ (Matthew 13:23).
 ‘Perhaps’ this is an answer?
Mark and Matthew insert a section on the purpose of parables between the parable and its
interpretation, quoting Isaiah concerning hearers who will never understand, because
their ‘heart has grown dull lest [Greek mepoto = maybe] they should understand with
their heart and turn, and I would heal them ’ (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4: 12). The
perhaps ’ is not rendered into English in these verses. But Paul used the word about a
parallel situation: ‘the Lord ’s servant must be kind to everyvone, correcting his
opponents with gentleness. God may [= perhaps] grant them repentance leading to a
knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of
the devil, after being captured by him to do his will’ (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
Solomon counselled sowers in Ecclesiastes 11:6, ‘Be sure to plant a variety of crops,
for you never know which will grow ~ perhaps they all will ’ (New Living Translation).
The varied harvest quantities are just another way of saying ‘perhaps’ – ‘whatever! ’ we’ll
see. The important issues are:
(a) that we tell the gospel fully, and (b) that hearers receive the message totally,
because ‘Satan ’ (Mark 4:l5)/ ’the devil’ (Luke 8:12)/ ’the evil one ’ (Matthew I3: l9)
snatches the seed away; but, hallelujah, God is also at work in the field (2 Timothy 2:25).
* So, don’t dither and analyse, just do it- evangelise!