July 7 – Friday of the Fifth Week after Pentecost Matthew 13:3-9
Jesus the Sower: Matthew 13:3-9, especially vs. 3: “Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow.’” The Lord Jesus shares this parable with the crowds during the early period of His ministry. Already there is intense debate as to whether or not He might be the Messiah. Very different opinions are circulating among the people of Palestine about His miracles, the legitimacy of His teachings, and His relationship to God.
The Pharisees conclude that He must be in league with Satan. So convinced are they of the danger He poses that they are actively planning His destruction (vs. 12:24). His disciples, on the other hand, are coming to realize that Jesus is indeed the Messiah (vss. 16:13-20).
Hordes of the people gather to hear the Lord Jesus speak and to have Him heal their sick and crippled (vss. 12:15, 22; 13:2). He discourages talk about Himself (vss. 12:16; 16:20), yet He also quotes the Prophet Isaiah in such a way as to suggest that He is the Beloved and Servant of God (vss. 12:18-21). Now, by means of a parable, He presents Himself as the Sower.
Of course, although our Lord begins with the words, “a sower went out to sow” (vs. 13:3), He never explicitly links this phrase to Himself. His preaching and ministry, however, certainly suggest that He is engaged in the spiritual work of sowing seed.
Saint John Chrysostom remarks on this paradoxical idea of God, “who is present everywhere, who fills all things,” going forth to sow. God, he asserts, does not move from a specific place into His creation; rather, His going forth as Sower is a condition, a “coming nearer to us by His clothing Himself with flesh.” The Sower enters human existence to cast life-bearing seed into human souls. And “by seed here He means His doctrine, and by land, the souls of men, and by the sower, Himself” (“Homily 44 on the Gospel of Matthew,” NPNF First Series, vol. 10. p. 281).
Let us be careful, at this point, not to minimize the potency of what Saint John means here by doctrine, lest we narrow the Lord’s teaching to a mere matter of words. The Word of God – that is, God the Word – is Himself the seed. He falls upon our hearts and souls and takes root in them. Who He is, and what He says, can and does grow within the human soul. This insight is beautifully expressed in the cry of the paralytic who has been healed: “My life-creating Word, Thy word bare vivifying strength for members weak and palsied” (Orthros for the Sunday of the Paralytic).
The Word sows without distinction. He takes the risk that His message may fall upon stony-hearted souls, or be snatched away by predatory demons, or be trampled before the “seeds of life” take root and produce godliness. He knows His word is often choked out of our consciousness by our obsessions with the riches and toys of this world. And yet, according to Saint John Chrysostom, “There is such a thing as the rock changing, and becoming rich land; and the wayside being no longer trampled on, nor lying open to all that pass by, but that it may be a fertile field; and the thorns may be destroyed, and the seed enjoy full security” (281-2).
The Sower plants graciously. He is still sowing. Were He not broadcasting His life-bearing seed for the soul, we would all lie fallow, like non-productive land. As it is, growth, life, fruitfulness, transformation, abundance – all good things are possible and are taking place in the heart even now, for the “good ground yielded a crop” (vs. 8).
“At the end He speaks of the good ground, thus giving us hope of repentance,” observes Blessed Theophylact. Although some will bring forth more and others less, we must all direct our attention to the goodness of God, “who accepts everyone: those who achieve great things, those who achieve moderate things, and those who achieve small things” (Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Matthew, 111).
Implant in me perfect love, O Christ God, that I may return worthy fruit to Thee. – Saint Ephraim the Syrian