Although Jesus is found teaching from a boat at sea his teaching uses farming images, the sowing of the seed in differing types of soil. In the latter part of our reading the parable is explained by Jesus. Does that mean there is no room for our own interpretation? Not at all for there are still some thorny questions to answer! For instance, who qualifies as “good soil”? Since soil cannot change by itself, is there any hope for the hardened, rocky, and thorny soil? [Living Liturgy 2014]
There are examples throughout Matthew’s Gospel of each kind of response to the Gospel. The religious leaders of the day “hear the word” but consistently fail to understand. Even the crowd who listen avidly to Jesus teachings and respond so well to his miracles will turn against him at the time of his crucifixion. Maybe they never really understood any of it! And the rich young man who finds that he cannot part with all his worldly goods is a great example of how we can be seduced by the things of the world so that our ability to bear fruit can be choked out! Even the disciples themselves are found wanting when trouble comes along.
So what about the good soil? Who are the ones who will hear and understand and ultimately bear fruit? As people accustomed to judging success by quantity, this parable challenges us in an entirely different direction! Our journey is measured by the quality of seeing, hearing and understanding God’s Word and communicating that to others by the goodness of our lives.
What about the main character in the story, who is the sower? It could be you or me. It could be God. It could be Jesus. The sower scatters his seed generously and seems to waste so much of it on ground that holds little promise of a rich harvest. Those who offer the Gospel to the world often seem to squander so much of their time and resources with little chance of a return but we can be assured that Jesus has invested in each one of us as his disciples. He too seemingly squandered his time with all sorts of people, outcasts of all hues and yet the harvest has already been a good one. Surely a great encouragement for us all!