Sowing via WhatsApp – Wednesday, 16th week in ordinary time – Matthew 13: 1-9

Chapter 13 is the third of the five major bodies of teachings found in the Gospel of Matthew. This section has seven parables and uses examples from every day Palestinian life that involved farming, trading and fishing. The parables illustrate how God’s empire is at work in the world. The parables also challenge the audience afresh to continue to live on the basis of God’s empire in the midst of various difficulties until its full purposes are accomplished. The word ‘parable’ appears twelve times in chapter 13 and one third of the teaching of Jesus are in parables. A parable comes from a Greek word which means ‘to throw alongside.’ That is, basic to the parable genre is the notion of comparison; one entity is set alongside something else to be illuminated by the comparison.

The text of today reminds us that the parables were given ‘that same day’, namely the Sabbath which we learn of in Chapter 12. Chapter 12 narrates several stories of Jesus’ conflicts with the Pharisees, who are now plotting to destroy him (12:14) and have accused him of working for Satan (12:24). By the end of chapter 12, Jesus appears to be at odds even with his own family (12:46-50). In spite of the personal attacks of the Pharisees against him in 12:24 and his own rejection by his family members, Jesus chooses to carry on teaching and working; he did not let the barbs of the religious establishment get to him.

The parable ‘of the sower’ which is also found in the Gospel of Mark 4:1-9,13-20 and Luke 8:4-8,11-15 takes place “beside the sea” of Galilee where Jesus called the first disciples (4:18-22) and involves a sower, seeds and soil. This scenario was familiar to the gospel’s largely rural audience who knew well the ways of its agriculturally-based society.

Right away I want to draw your attention to the name of this parable. The ‘parable of the sower’ is a misleading title that appears in our Bibles. Over the years we have come to believe that the focus of the parable is on the sower. The focus of the parable is not the sower or the seed but the soil or the listeners of the parable.

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