Let's Expect An Abundant Harvest!
January 10, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Like A Sower Of Seed
1. Today I read to you "The Parable Of The Sower " that Jesus gave. "A sower went out to sow seed." Jesus began with that statement. There is an explanation later on regarding this "seed," which is put another way in verse eighteen as "the message of the kingdom [of God]." It [stands for] the word of God, the word of salvation, the word of proclamation. What is meant by the man sowing the seed of "the word of the kingdom of God" is first of all [a reference to] Jesus. When we read this parable, first of all, we can see Jesus in this "person sowing seed." Jesus looked at what he himself was doing as "sowing seed."
2. [As for this matter of] sowing seed back in that day and time, I'm told that it is very different from the farming that we know of. They did not sow the seed after first tilling the ground and making the rows. If you go by today's standards, their way of planting was very haphazard and careless. They would grab a handful of seed and scatter it randomly upon the field. Or, they would load a seed bag with holes in it on the back of a donkey and walk it however it worked out. Then after sowing the seed, they would till it a bit. Then, the seed would be covered up with some of the soil. Of course, since they scattered it randomly, sometimes it would fall on the pathway. They wouldn't till it in those spots. So, the seed wouldn't be covered with soil, but instead, as a result, it would wind up becoming feed for the birds. In addition, because they did not use irrigation, until the rainy season came, the seed would have to find sustenance from the moisture in the ground. The seeds on the stones might sprout, but unfortunately, they would dry up and wither. Or else, the scattered seed might fall in places where thorny shrubs would be. When the thorny shrubs grew tall with [the scattered seeds], since the thorns were stronger, the wheat would not grow to its fullest. This is "the seed sowing" from around that day and time.
3. Jesus looked at his own work as a kind of "seed sowing" like they used to do. What does he mean more fully then by "seed sowing?" First he is saying that in this type of thing "there is hard labor that seems to be futile." Even though he may have sown the seed, it would end up eaten by birds. Even though he may have sown the seed, it may end up dried out. Even though he may have sown the seed, it may not yield forth fruit. All of this is part of what he meant by it. There is hard work that seems in vain. The farmer just knows it, that when it comes to sowing seed, it is a given fact of farming [that some of the seed will be for nothing], but he never says, "Oh, you lost [some seed], how stupid of you!"
4. Also, with "sowing seed," it means it takes time to see the results. That's part of it. After the seed is sown, it doesn't immediately sprout forth, and so, just like in this parable, things look iffy instead. "As the soil is shallow, right away it may only sprout forth buds." It ends up withering right away. It takes time for what is properly covered with soil to sprout forth. To say nothing of the fact that when it comes to looking for a harvest, it takes [even] more time. Therefore, the farmer has to wait patiently. When it comes to "sowing seed," that is also an expected part of it.
5. But, Jesus' talk didn't end there. When we read this, for some reason or other our eyes look more to the seeds that were wasted, but the most important point does not lie in that direction. What Jesus is really wanting to say is at the very end. "Even so though, some other seeds fell on the good ground, yielded forth fruit, and turned out one hundred times more, some sixty times more, some thirty times more," (verse eight).
6. "Sowing seed" is something one does in anticipation of a crop. It is something one does believing in a harvest. There is certainly waste. It also takes time. But you always look at the end product. As you believe that way, you sow the seed. Therefore, there is also a great joy in it. Jesus was looking at what he was doing as akin to "seed sowing."
7. Indubitably, you have probably experienced a lot of times when things looked useless and wasted. Even though you have spoken God's word and have spoken the message of salvation as best as you can, you have had people stubbornly unreceptive to it. You have had people who were openly hostile to you. No matter how you sowed, it would not sprout forth a bud. Furthermore, even the people who seemed to have believed have made their exit. Even the twelve disciples would desert Jesus and run away. Furthermore, even he himself, who spoke the word of God, would be crucified and killed on the cross. But, Jesus understood something. [He knew that] it would surely sprout forth buds. The time of the harvest would come. The time, when it would turn into thirty times more, sixty times more, one hundred times more, would come. Jesus obviously sowed seed like the farmer who expected the harvest. And how did it actually turn out? Did it not bear fruit? Did it not bear thirty times more, sixty times more, one hundred times more, and indeed, even more fruit than that?
8. "The sower sowing seed" -- That was Jesus' mental picture. Therefore, we too will scatter the seed with this awareness of "sowing seed." We should see in this parable of "The Sower," not just Jesus, but the figure of the disciples, the figure of the later church, and even our own figures, the way we should be. Like Jesus did, the church continues the work of preaching with this mental picture and awareness of "sowing seed."
9. To be conscious of "sowing seed" is to expect a harvest. You don't get caught up in the part that seems a waste. You don't get irritated by the time it takes. Determined and expectant of a great harvest, you sow the seed with joy. Some will surely be saved by this gospel. By the preaching of the gospel, in this sanctuary, there will be an abundance of folks who are filled with the joy of heaven. In our families, in this society, there will be an abundance of folks saved and filled with joy. We will see a great harvest of salvation. We sow the seed believing that to be true.
10. To go a bit further with this, because Jesus said thirty-fold, sixty-fold, one hundred-fold, salvation does not stop with the person to whom seed was sown. It goes on spreading from there even further. On Thursday the husband of sister K received clinical baptism (that is, sickbed baptism). Upon being baptized [they] looked so happy. God's salvation had come upon him. [They were] filled with joy and peace. In this way then the harvest of salvation has extended from sister K's mother, to sister K and then further on to her husband. The seed that was sown bears fruit thirty-fold, sixty-fold, one hundred-fold. Let's sow seed expecting a great harvest, even this new year! Let's sow the seed of the gospel!
Like A Field In Which Seed Is Sown
11. In addition, I would like for us to stop and look not just on "the sower sowing the seed" but on "the field" in which the seed is sown. It is important that we see Jesus in "the sower sowing the seed" and that we see ourselves there too, and it is also important that we see ourselves in "the field" too.
12. Jesus spoke about four kinds of soil. One is the roadside, one is the rocky ground, one is among the thorn bushes, and the last [one] is "the good soil." I mentioned "four kinds of soil," but Jesus was not actually speaking about four different places that were separated from each other, he was telling the story of one field. In referring to the roadside, he meant the path through which people had passed and had beaten down, the pathway made in a field. Also, in the same field is "a place full of stones and with little soil." When I look at various photos of Palestine, it looks to me like there are a whole lot of rocks by nature in the fields there. They remove those rocks the best they can. They use them for materials for stone walls. But they cannot completely and thoroughly remove every single stone. Quite a few stones remain behind. What [Jesus] is talking about here in this text is the place where a thin covering of soil remains upon some rocks. Also, in the fields "thorn bushes" are mixed in big. [Their] roots spread deep down in places. As I've already mentioned, they don't make use of irrigation. So, they never till deeply because the moisture ends up evaporating out. Consequently, the deep roots of the thorn bushes remain. It looks like many a time [the bushes] would [simply] grow right along with the wheat.
13. Well, when we place ourselves into this story, there is a lot we can see. Furthermore, when we read the explanation from Jesus in verses eighteen and on, we may even hear it as story very painful to our ears. Jesus said, "If anyone hears the message of the kingdom but does not understand it, the evil one will come and snatch away that which was sown in his heart. What was sown on the roadside stands for this kind of person." With that we think, "Ooh, that's me. I'm always beaten down by the devil with God's word, and nothing remains left. I am the roadside [seed]."
14. Furthermore, Jesus says, "What was sown in the places full of stones stands for a person hearing the word of God and receiving it gladly right away, but since it has no root in the person, though it continues for a while, when hardships and persecutions come up because of God's word, then he ends up stumbling right away." "What was sown amid the thorn bushes stands for the person who hears God's word, but then the world's worries and the temptations of wealth choke out God's word, and it does not bear fruit." We may hear any one or all of these as applicable to ourselves.
15. However, as I already stated, the soil at the roadside, or with the rocks, or with the thorny shrubs, or even the good soil are not in different and separate places, but rather the story is about one field. Therefore, it is not necessarily true that the roadside will be a roadside for ever. Next year, the rocks may be removed from the rock filled soil. It may not necessarily be true that next year the thorn bushes will grow. Any one of them is a part of the field which can become good soil. When you hear the word of God and accept it and understand it, then it is like that soil which brings a great harvest of thirty times, sixty times, one hundred times more. Yes, indeed, we can become like that soil. And here we are in this place, with some of us like that now. Christ has sown seed fully aware of "the seed sowing" [process]. Right now the Lord expects a harvest and is sowing seed for us. Believing for a harvest, he is sowing seed for us.
16. Since this is the truth of the matter, let's expect ourselves to become fruitful persons! We mustn't write ourselves off by dismissing ourselves with "I am the beaten down path. I am the rocky soil. I am the thorny soil, and so forth." We never know what's going to happen whenever the Word remains in us, sprouts forth buds, and begins to bear fruit. We never know what kind of wonderful things will happen out of it all. We are fields with such incredible potential.
17. Long ago, a man named John Wesley was completely reluctant but nevertheless had attended a meeting at Aldersgate in London, and in that meeting the seed of the Word that had been sown had put forth a sprout. It was May 24, 1738, Monday at about 8:45 P.M. At that time, just one person had heard God's word and understood it, and that has significantly changed the world. The Methodist Church started from this man. The harvest from it has spread from England to America and to Canada, and has even reached Japan. Had there not been that one seed, this church would not have been [here] either.
18. The same thing can happen in us. I repeat. We are fields with such incredible potential. God's work of salvation which begins in us does not remain [just] with us. It turns into thirty times, sixty times, one hundred times more. Not only expecting a great harvest as persons who sow the seed, but as fields in which [God] has sown the seed, let's be passionate in our listening to the word of God, all the while expecting a great great harvest!