‘The answer lies in the soil’

‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ is a long-running BBC radio programme. One of the panel that I listened to in my younger days for advice on a duty I hated was Ralph Whiteman, an old countryman from the south of England. His favourite catchphrase was, ‘As I always say, the answer lies in the soil.’

Of course, the best of soils will only grow the best of weeds if it has not been sown with quality seed.

After his world famous tale of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ best known parable – his first, in fact – was the one about the Sower dispersing his best of all Seed – ‘the word of God’ otherwise called ‘the word of the kingdom’. Why not pause to read it again in Matthew 13:1-23? It’s always good to give close attention to what the text says.

Jesus was that original dispenser of the good seed, and the soil was every hearer of his message then and ever since. His apostles continued to spread that message, and a quick survey of the accounts of their missions in the book of Acts tells us:

  • they were constantly ‘preaching Jesus and the resurrection’ (Acts 17:18; compare Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15; 4:10; 10:40-41; 13:30, 33-34,37; 17:31).
  • They also preached that he had died for our sins, and having paid the debt he did not owe, he was released from the debtors’ prison of death (‘for the wages of sin is death’, Romans 6:23), and was promoted to the place higher than every other human and all spirit beings (see Philippians 2:5-11). And
  • ‘if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’ (Romans 10:9). When you accept Jesus as your Lord he automatically becomes your Saviour!

But the parable showed that the condition of the soil determines the outcome of the sowing:

[] Plough up your hardness of heart; (‘some seeds fell along the path,’ and ‘other seeds fell on stony ground,’ Matthew 13:4-5);

[] Drive off your distractions (‘the birds came and devoured them’, verse 4);

[] Root out your prejudiced mindsets (‘other seeds fell among thorns … the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word’, Matthew 13:7, 22).

The good soil, said the Master, are those who grasp this essential message. Each of the three gospel writers who record the parable emphasise a different aspect of ‘grasping’:

[] Accept it (Mark 4:20, ‘receive it’),

[] Understand it (Matthew 13:23), and

[] Hold it fast (Luke 8:15).

The Bible just seems full of contradictions – every one of them true and meaningful!

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