““Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow.” (Mark 4:3, ESV)
Imagine that you hear about this rabbi, Jesus who is doing extraordinary things, some say he is even tossing demons out of people and others tell you that they swear that they saw Jesus heal a guy who was paralyzed. Off you go, intent on having an encounter with this extraordinary man.
You gather with eager anticipation as the crowd builds and builds. Many people have obviously heard about this strange rabbi. What will he say? What is he going to do? Perhaps you are even ill yourself and hoping that he will heal you of what ails you.
After much anticipation and waiting, the moment arrives. Jesus, who looks rather ordinary to you, gets into a sail boat and his disciples push him back just a little way from the shore. This is the big moment; this is what you’ve been waiting for. He begins to speak:
““Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”” (Mark 4:3–9, ESV)
Jesus’ disciples pull the boat back into shore and Jesus steps out of the boat and disappears among the gathered throng.
“What just happened?” you think. “Is that it? That’s all we are going to talk about. Jesus gave us a practical lesson in crop science?”
As we study the parable of the sower, we need to remember that most of the crowd didn’t get the explanation. Most of those who gathered, 99% of them, got only the lesson in agronomy and were left to wonder. Jesus did this for a reason, although even his explanation of why he did it doesn’t seem to make sense [a quote from Is. 6.10; or rather he quotes a Targum that quotes the verse].
Here’s the thing, however. While the crowd definitely did not understand what Jesus was talking about [which we are certain about, because not even his disciples understood it]. What they must have known was that he wasn’t just talking about agronomy. There are two immediate reasons for this. First, he was a trained carpenter, not a farmer; and second, he was a rabbi! Rabbis didn’t speak without meaning something deep, something that would teach a lesson, something that would make a difference to the hearer.
What the disciples will come to find out is that Jesus was indeed teaching something beyond crop science and what he taught was very deep indeed, and very important.