Story of The Sower
WELCOME to Feast at Home!
I pray that the Holy Spirit will use our time together to speak a powerful word into your life.
Today is the day we start a new series called OG Tales.
The acronym OG is slang for Old Gangster or Old School. It refers to somebody incredibly, exceptionally authentic, so in a sense we’re using OG to mean Original Tales.
I believe God has two powerful messages for you today.
Here’s the first one: “God will meet you where you are.”
Perhaps you’re hurting right now because someone has betrayed you and you’re listening to me with a broken heart.
Or perhaps you’re feeling down because your business is not earning or your finances are not picking up or your savings are being depleted and you’re confused whether you should continue or shift to another business.
Or perhaps your family members are not in speaking terms. And there’s so much heavy emotional baggage in your relationships.
Or perhaps you are sick and you’re in need of healing.
Or perhaps you’ve fallen. You’ve sinned. Again. And you want to stand up but you feel so frustrated with yourself.
Wherever you are right now, whatever storm you’re facing, whatever burdens you carry, believe that God is not sitting on the throne, waiting for you to come up to Him. Instead, He is going to you.
He is visiting your place of need. God will meet you where you are.
This is the message of the Parables– which is what our new series is all about (more on this later). And this is the core message of the Parable we’re going to talk about today—The Story of The Sower.
You Don’t Go to God,God Goes to You!
Matthew says, “Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. 2A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. (Matthew 13:1-2 NLT)
This set-up was normal in ancient times. They had no microphones and loudspeakers then, so speaking from a boat on a lake facing a hillside provided great acoustics.
But in saying this, Matthew was also establishing here that at this point in the story, Jesus could no longer preach in the synagogues. Religious leaders wanted him dead. So, He preaches by the lakeside and roadside and hillside to people who—like Him—were not welcome in church: the lepers, the poor, the sinners…
So, as early as this time, Jesus was already challenging the tradition or notion that church can be done only in the temple. He was showing that church can be done outside. Just like our Feast Light for our jeepney drivers. Up to now, they still meet to do fellowship, to hear the Word of the Lord on an open street in Makati during the Coronavirus Pandemic.
I repeat: God will meet you where you are!
God is not waiting for you to go to church.
He is there in your home. He is there in your office. He is there when you watch TV. He is there when you exercise. He is there when you’re making that sales call. He is there when you fall. He is there when you’re doing stupid things, calling you to come back to your senses.
One Sower, Four Soils
He is there even when you think He’s not there.
Introducing The Wasteful Sower
Jesus then tells the story of one sower and four soils: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still, other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (v.3-9)
What a wasteful sower!
Perhaps you’re wondering why a farmer will waste 75% of his seeds in this way. In ancient Israel, a farmer scatters seeds by throwing them into the air and letting the wind carry them far and wide. Another ancient method was to tie a sack of seeds onto a mule or donkey, and then the farmer cuts a hole on the sack and leads the animal through his farm. While he walks around, the seeds continue to “leak” out, falling into the soil.
So yes, as the parable describes it, some seeds fall into the hard path, rocky ground, and thorny bush. So, you could say it’s wasteful. But isn’t God’s Love wasteful too?
He gives His love lavishly to everyone—whether we accept it or not. Sadly, not everyone accepts His love.
What does God do? He gives away the seeds of His love again and again. And again. On the off chance that someone who rejected them before will eventually accept it.
Friend, have you been rejecting His love? Open up to Him.
He is pouring His healing, forgiving, and transforming love into you.
One Sower, Four Soils
Later on, Jesus had to explain the parable to His disciples because they couldn’t understand it. Note that out of 36 Parables, this happened only twice. Here was His interpretation: “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (13:18-23)
Friend, do you want an abundant harvest?
Do you want a thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or a hundredfold increase?
You must be good soil.
Here’s how to become one…
Recall our previous talks?
This Parable is a graphic picture of the many responses to Jesus— some negative, some neutral, and some positive. One sower, four soils. One Jesus, but many responses to Him. The Pharisees wanted to kill Him. John the Baptist and the family of Jesus seemed like they were doubting. But surprise, surprise: It was the outcasts—the lame, the lepers, the poor, the sinners—who were believing in Him. They were the good soil. They had nothing and they made Jesus their everything.
The Bible calls them the Anawim. Meaning “the Poor of the Lord”.
They had no power, no prestige, no position, and no pride.
They only had Jesus.
Today, I invite you:
Will you be the good soil?
Will you be like the Anawim?
How? Be empty. Be humble.
Honestly, we don’t exactly fit the description of Anawim.
We’re too comfortable. We’re too privileged. We’re too distracted.
We lack spiritual roots beneath us and we’re surrounded by the thorns of materialism around us.
Yes, God will meet you where you are.
But what is your response? Your response is crucial. Will you be good soil?
He’ll Meet You Where You Are,
But Will You Say Yes to Him?
That’s why Jesus ends the Parable of The Sower– and many other parables– by asking for a good response.
He declares, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (v.9)
We think Jesus was just saying, “Hey, listen up!”
But His Jewish listeners instantly knew that He was referring to the Shema, the most important prayer of Judaism, because Shema in Hebrew means Hear, and the prayer’s first line is, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord…”
Shema was prayed 3x a day.
Every single day.
Meaning? Jesus wanted His listeners to chew His parables every day until they understand them. And obey.
Because in Hebrew, Shema isn’t just hearing sounds.
Shema means to Hear AND Obey.
Will you be good soil?
Will you obey Him?
Today, I invite you to ask God right now, “Lord, I want to be that good soil. I want to be empty and open and humble. I want to welcome you, hold on to you, and bear fruit for you. In Jesus’ name!”
I’ll do something different today.
I want to bring you “behind the scenes” here at The Feast.
Instead of just letting you eat at the dining table, I want to bring you to the kitchen. I want you to see how we prepare the spiritual food that we serve at The Feast. Are you game?
Here’s why I want to do this…
God has a second message for you today. Once you allow God to meet you where you are, He’ll ask you to go deeper.
Shout out this declaration: “I’ll go deeper!”
When my kids were growing up, we loved watching Veggie Tales. That was a highly successful animated series of Bible stories for kids, hosted by Bob the Tomat0 and Larry the Cucumber.
Yes, as strange as this may sound, they were talking vegetables with no arms. (And if you know the song, let’s sing together,
1, 2, 3…. “Veggietales, Veggietales, Veggietales…)”
They were great.
But here’s the major problem: A lot of Christians still look at the Bible as a Collection
of Children’s Stories. People have not gone deeper in their understanding of the Bible.
That’s why I’m very excited over this month because as we
continue our deep dive in Matthew, our brand-new series will not be called Veggie Tales but OG Tales—OG for Original. We’ll go back to the original stories as told by the original storyteller: Jesus.
In this mind-bending series, we’ll explore the parables of Jesus.
When you think of the parables, a lot of people have these two presumptions about them…
In one sense, it’s true.
Great speakers are great storytellers.
But this is only partially true for Jesus because I believe Jesus deliberately used parables not to clarify but to confuse a specific group of people—like the Pharisees. In one sense, by speaking in parables, He was buying time to delay His crucifixion just a bit more, to complete His public ministry.
Here’s the second presumption…
For a lot of people, parables are like Aesop’s Fables– “Simple stories that teach morals.” For example, the
parable of the Prodigal Son teaches forgiveness. Or the Good Samaritan teaches compassion. Once again, this is only partly true. Because woven within the parables were many “design patterns” found in the Old Testament—and all of them pointed to Jesus. The parables were about Jesus and His Kingdom. Yes, the parables taught morality, but only because it was describing the life we live inside Jesus’ Kingdom.
Let me put it in another way: Aesop’s fables teach us to be good.
The parables teach us to follow King Jesus, and in the process, we become radically good.
Don’t skip Jesus.
This is precisely what we’re telling you at The Feast.
We’re not just telling you to be good.
We’re telling you to follow King Jesus, and in the process, He’ll be the One to make you good.
This ties in with how we prepare our Feast talks.
The process goes through two phases…
Feast Talks 1.0
In 2006 in Valle Verde, Pasig, we launched The Feast for the unchurched. Yes, just like Jesus who went to people who didn’t or couldn’t go
to the synagogue.
As the months and years went by, we multiplied the Feasts to hundreds of cities around the world.
Because we wanted to reach the unchurched, we preached simple, down- to-earth, practical messages that were gift- wrapped like self-help talks. Our messages were bite-sized. Predigested. Liquified.
But before we closed a Talk, we always led people to Jesus. Yes, we quoted Scripture, but we didn’t go deep into it. We went straight to the practical application.
The Feast was a resounding success. Many came to Jesus for the first time. People who had not gone to church for years came back to church.
But along the way, something happened.
After many years of doing this, we saw our faithful Feasters hungering for something deeper. They wanted to grow roots– which was a great sign of spiritual growth.
So, in 2019, we made a giant shift in our Feast Talks.
From Feast Talks 1.0, we shifted to Feast Talks 2.0.
Here was the big difference: Instead of jumping right away to the practical application, we
first dove deep into Scriptures.
The adjustment was tough for some people…
The Shift Happened
One day, after I stepped off the stage, a dear friend walked up to me and said, “Brother Bo, I’ve been attending The Feast for years now. I’m so super grateful for all your Talks. But I noticed you changed the way you give them. Years ago, you preached to us very practical, easy to understand messages. You told us what to do in our marriage, in our job, in our finances. But now, it’s like you give your talks in two steps. First, you bring us into the Bible and only after do you give us the practical stuff. Why? To be honest, the original way was so much easier…”
I chuckled and said, “You’re absolutely right. What we’re doing now is more difficult. Let me explain through an analogy.
“In Feast Talks 1.0, we were giving away fruits. People loved it because they don’t have to do anything but eat.
“But in Feast Talks 2.0, we were now giving away the entire fruit tree.
“It’s more difficult. Because you now have to plant it, water it, and protect it. But if you do it, you’ll have all the fruits in the world.”
Unpacking the Bible is not easy. But in the end, it will be better for you. Because you’ll have all the fruits all year long. And your roots will go deeper.
Why Difficult Is Better
Why are roots very important?
Let me end with this story. Busy Bob and Beautiful Barbie are neighbors who live beside each other, separated only by a white picket fence. If this was a Hollywood Sitcom, Bob and Barbie are already doing “it” by Episode One. (Censored.)
But if this was a Kdrama, Bob tells Barbie, “I like you” in Episode 6, kisses her in Episode 8, and kisses her again in Episode 16. The End.
But I digress. Sorry, this is not a love story.
This is a gardening story.
Next door neighbors Bob and Barbie are avid gardeners and they plant many tiny trees in their backyard.
Because Busy Bob is busy building buildings (any similarities to Bob The Builder is purely coincidental), he is always out of the house. So, he waters his plants regularly, but not as often as Beautiful Barbie does.
Barbie is a Fashion Designer who works from home. (Any similarities to Barbie doll are purely coincidental.) She sketches her fashion designs in her garden, so she waters her plants very frequently throughout the day, every single day.
After one year, both their gardens grow beautifully. But as expected, Barbie’s plants are a little taller, a little fuller, and a little bigger compared to Bob’s plants.
But one day, a fierce storm comes. Strong winds and heavy rain blow on their gardens. Early the next day, Bob and Barbie rush out to check their beloved gardens.
Barbie is so heartbroken to see many of her little trees pulled out from the soil.
But she is shocked when she looks over the white picket fence. On the other side, she sees Bob’s trees still standing strong.
“Bob,” she asks, “why are your plants still standing while the storm has yanked out my plants from the ground?”
Bob says, “My plants have deeper roots.”
“Why?” Barbie asks, totally confused.
Bob says, “You watered your plants too much, it was too easy for them to get water. So, their roots were shallow. But I watered my plants sparingly, so their roots had to go deeper to search for water.”
At The Feast, I don’t give you easy talks.
Unpacking Scriptures is difficult. Especially the way we do it, where you have to take off your modern eyeglasses, and really enter into the mind of the original Biblical authors.
But because of this, you’ll grow deeper roots. Friend, go deeper in your relationship with Jesus. Jesus was the seed that died, was buried deep into Go deeper. the earth, but three days later, rose from the grave.
You are His fruit.