Certified Seed: Cultivating the Kingdom of God for Abundant Harvests
7th Sunday after Pentecost -7/16/2023 | Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
As summer embraces us with warm days, many find solace in tending to their yards and gardens. Amidst flourishing foliage and ripening produce, we recognize that successful gardens and bountiful harvests don't occur by chance. They begin with quality seeds—genetically robust and sourced from healthy plants.
After all, we reap what we sow. Inferior seed yields lackluster results, while superior seed produces thriving plants that bear delicious fruit. Hence, it's no wonder we often seek out "certified" seeds, guaranteeing their quality.
However, planting seeds alone doesn't complete the process. Cultivating a garden or nurturing crops requires additional efforts such as tilling the soil, fertilizing, weeding, watering, and pest control.
The Spiritual Garden of the World
In many ways, we can view our world as a vast garden, where diverse individuals coexist. Besides physical and cultural differences, there's profound spiritual diversity among us. Some embrace faith in Christ Jesus and dwell in the kingdom of God, while others adhere to various alternative beliefs or profess atheism.
This raises questions: Why aren't we all united in one faith, considering we are all created by the same God? Moreover, why do some individuals, even within our own families, drift away from the church or turn their backs on Christ and His Word?
This disparity in the spiritual garden of the world has puzzled humanity throughout history. Jesus Himself addressed this mystery through a profound parable, providing insights into the nature of God's kingdom and the human response to His Word.
The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
Jesus, the master storyteller, often conveyed profound truths about His kingdom through parables. In this particular parable, He spoke of a sower who ventured out to scatter his seed.
Some seeds fell on the hard, compacted path surrounding his garden or field. Birds swiftly swooped down and devoured this exposed seed. Other seeds landed on rocky terrain, where they sprouted quickly but lacked sufficient soil for the roots to anchor. Under the scorching Middle Eastern sun, these sprouts withered away. More seed found its way into thorny patches, where thistles and noxious weeds competed for nutrients, suffocating the tender plants.
However, a portion of the sown seed fell onto good soil. It germinated, took root, and flourished, yielding abundant fruit—some thirty-fold, some sixty, and astonishingly, some even a hundred-fold.
Unlocking the Parable's Meaning
To understand why some embrace or abandon faith in Christ, we must recognize that the true meaning of these stories is not readily apparent to the rational mind. As Scripture teaches, "The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Jesus employs parables to reveal the hidden mysteries of His kingdom. Yet, the proper interpretation of these mysteries can only be found in Christ Himself, as He is the incarnate Word—the gateway to understanding God's grace and truth (John 1:14, 17).
Thankfully, Jesus provides His own interpretation of the parable, unlocking its secrets for our understanding. He explains that the seed represents the "Word of the Kingdom" (Matthew 13:19). This divine seed takes root in people's hearts and lives when it is preached, proclaimed, and taught.
The Power of the Certified Seed
The "Word of the Kingdom" is not a mere synonym for the Bible. Just as we carefully select high-quality seeds to yield fruitful plants in our gardens, the seed that brings forth the kingdom of God is none other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Good News about Jesus is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). True faith is not engendered or sustained by Bible trivia or adherence to the Law, but by the "Word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
This seed is certified by God as completely reliable and efficacious. As God declares through the prophet Isaiah, "Just as rain and snow descend from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it bud and flourish, yielding seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Isaiah 55:10-11). The challenge lies in how individuals respond to this Seed.
The Path, the Birds, and the Devil's Deception
The first scenario is akin to a seed falling on a beaten path, swiftly consumed by birds. Jesus explains that this represents those who hear the Gospel but fail to comprehend it. The devil snatches it away before it can take root. Sadly, this is a common occurrence. The words of the preacher barely leave their lips before they vanish from memory. The Gospel enters one ear and exits the other.
Just as birds seize scattered seeds while the sower is at work, the devil, like a bandit, snatches away the Word of the Kingdom before it can even sprout. Furthermore, we inadvertently aid the devil in his thievery by allowing our minds to wander during sermons. Instead of engaging with the Word we are hearing, we occupy our thoughts with unrelated matters.
Additionally, we often confine the Word of the Kingdom to designated time slots, as if the Gospel were subject to our scheduling whims. To prevent this, we must "watch and pray," remaining mindful of Jesus' warning that Satan desires to sift us like wheat (Luke 22:31-32). Through faith in Christ, we can implore God to keep us alert to the devil's schemes, to firmly grasp the truth of His Gospel, and to fortify us against the devil's attacks.
The Rocky Ground and the Importance of Deeply Rooted Faith
The second unfortunate scenario occurs when the Word of God's Kingdom is sown. It mirrors seed falling on rocky ground. The seed quickly sprouts, but the harshness of the sun swiftly snuffs out its life.
Jesus explains that this represents those who receive the Word with initial enthusiasm but, when faced with troubles arising from their faith, abandon it and fall away. Their faith proves to be superficial, lacking deep roots.
True faith must find its anchor in Christ and His Word alone. His Word of forgiveness and life saves us and fills us with joy, while external factors offer mere transitory solace. A faith grounded in Him can never falter. In fact, this faith itself becomes a shield that extinguishes the fiery arrows of the Evil One.
The Thorny Soil and the Lure of Worldly Concerns
The third way in which the life-giving Gospel is often stifled occurs when individuals hear the Word but allow worldly worries and the deceitfulness of wealth to choke it out. Jesus likens this to seeds sown among thorns and weeds.
In such an environment, the tender seedlings quickly succumb, strangled by the thorny undergrowth. This danger looms large for many Christians today. Materialism has become an idol, to which we willingly bow every day. Our lives revolve around our jobs, sports, recreation, television, and accumulating wealth and possessions.
We gladly allow these preoccupations to consume our time, talents, and existence. Regrettably, we witness the repercussions in our personal and family devotional lives, as well as our modest attendance at worship. The thistles and thorns strangle the spiritual life within us.
Yet, Jesus declares, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).
Cultivating a Fruitful Harvest
Understanding the parable of the sower allows us to recognize the importance of our response to the Word of God. The Seed of the Kingdom, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, possesses the power to transform lives and bring forth the kingdom of God.
It is our responsibility to receive and nurture this seed in our hearts and lives. To cultivate a fruitful harvest in our spiritual journey, we must approach the Word of God with open hearts and attentive minds. We must strive to comprehend and internalize its truths, actively engaging with the Word, allowing it to take root and grow deep within us.
Moreover, we must guard against superficial faith, firmly anchoring our faith in Christ and His Word. We need to be aware of the seductive power of worldly concerns and prioritize seeking God's kingdom above all else. By placing Christ and His Word first, we will experience the transformative power of the Gospel and bear witness to the flourishing of God's kingdom within and through us.
As you tend to your gardens and fields this season, remember the importance of the certified seed in producing a fruitful harvest. Likewise, nurture the Seed of the Gospel in your life, cultivate a heart open to God's Word, and witness the abundant life that flourishes in the kingdom of God.