Today we will touch upon a recent, recurring theme, the latest chapter of which is found in Romans 8:1-11. Here we find summary statements about the flesh and law, sin and death. Next, we’ll spend most of our time with Jesus, turning to seeds and planting as we consider a selection of Matthew’s gospel (13:1-9, 18-23).
As far as Romans, one of the definitive verses today is this: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2). Here we have a splendid statement that can set us straight. We no longer are slaves to the Old Testament law as a power in itself. Instead, we have God’s Spirit, through Jesus’ life and message, providing us salvation from darkness and destruction. If this doesn’t encourage us then not much can. God’s Spirit resides in us, and as such we are no longer condemned to live apart from God in a distracted, mere physical existence.
Now we turn to Matthew, whose discussion by Jesus about seeds and planting reminds us that the growing season is here. Gardeners know that preparing the soil and providing water, sunshine and nutrients for plants are key to a healthy crop. Similarly, Jesus’ words in Matthew remind us that our spirits/souls require attention analogous with proper gardening techniques. Is Jesus your master gardener? If not, then perhaps Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:1-9 will convince you.
Jesus illustrates four different results from seed sowing. The first instance was seed that had fallen onto the path before being planted; the birds quickly ate these. The second example involved seeds falling into shallow, rocky soil; lack of good roots destroyed the unfortunate seeds. The third instance of seeds fell into thorns; competition from weeds choked the life out of them. The fourth and final situation involved seeds that landed in good soil; these multiplied and fulfilled their full potential. If you were a seed, which situation would you want to face?
We know that seeds, unlike people, don’t decide where they go (seeds don’t have legs!). Seeds do not have choice; we do. This brings up the huge freewill issue. We are powerless over the situation of our birth, but from then on we arguably have more control over our choices, hence our lives, and ultimately our responsibilities. A seed cast in the wrong spot can’t be blamed for what happens to it. We, on the other hand, are held responsible for our choices and varying fates await depending upon the who, what, and where of our lives.
Okay, so people are not seeds, and no analogy is perfect. Nonetheless, if we consider how people can be likened to seeds the power of the analogy can move us. Various fates awaited each of the four seeds, each dependent upon the circumstances. The point is clear: Some people are productive and others not so much. Sound obvious? Perhaps. The key here is that we are invited to interpret these things spiritually. So, the seeds in Jesus parable likely represent God’s truth and Spirit, cast in many directions and similar to the way in which a farmer scatters seeds.
On a more general level, seeds and people have in common roughly similar outcomes. That is, people and seeds wither from various causes. The best outcome for a person, according to a spiritual application of Jesus’ parable, is to respond positively to God’s leading. In this way, a person is enjoying vitality through growth and full life. Parsed in spiritual terms, this means that we should increase righteousness, goodness, morality, etc. Bearing fruits of the Spirit through spiritual growth can also refer to conversion and salvation through sharing the gospel with every living creature.
Any way you plant it, the ideas emerging from today’s message can lead us to a deeper understanding of our spiritual journey. And even more important is the message that God’s people can and should seek spiritual health and multiply it across the universe. Are you planting anything this spring? I sure hope so when it comes to love and truth in God’s kingdom!