Lent Devotional 51


Reading Jesus' parables in Easter week is particularly fruitful. Imagine Matthew's friends reading his book, with their own Easter celebrations now a regular weekly feature of life, and hearing them in a whole new way. Jesus had spoken elsewhere, after all, about his own life in terms of a grain of seed falling into the earth and dying, and then bearing a great deal of fruit. It looks as though he was applying to himself the strange picture in the parable of the Sower, where much seed seems to be thrown away (how sad, people some- times say, that Jesus died so young when he had so much still to give! What a waste!), and yet some bears fruit 30, 60 or 100 times over.

What started life, then, as Jesus' explanation of how his own kingdom-work was going ahead during the course of his public career can be translated, without difficulty, into the explanation that the Easter church now needs for how the work of world mission will fare. One of the standard objections to the Christian message, as we saw, goes like this: how can you say the kingdom of heaven has arrived on earth, when it's obvious, looking around you, that nothing of the kind has happened? Things are still pretty bleak. Often Jesus' followers seem to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Jesus' own explanation of how the kingdom works is still the classic answer to this question. What did you expect: that God would send in the tanks like a totalitarian dictator, crush the opposition and set up a 'kingdom' which would leave half the world bruised and resentful? What sort of a 'god' would that be? No! God will bring in his kingdom by the same means, the same strange process, that he seems to use in the natural world. Seeds will be sown; many will apparently be lost, but others will be powerfully fruitful. Or, as the chapter goes on, there will be seeds sown which are then threatened by weeds. One day the weeds will be pulled up, but for the moment they grow side by side. Or again, the kingdom will come like seed growing secretly. At the moment there may be nothing to see, but suddenly, one day, people will be putting in the sickle because it's harvest time. In other words: yes, the kingdom has indeed been launched; yes, it is making its way in the world; but no, it isn't doing so in the way you might have imagined. It is doing so in the way God has imagined: by the Sower himself becoming the seed sown in good soil, and rising again to celebrate the harvest of God's new creation.

Give us the faith, good Lord, to see your kingdom at work even when seeds seem wasted and the soil seems bare. Thank you for the promise of the great harvest, of which your resurrection was the first fruits.

Matthew 13:1-23