Matthew 13:1-9; Matthew 13:18-23

Part of me is disappointed in part two of today’s reading. Did Jesus really explain this parable? He said the parables contain “the knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven,” and then he just told us what this one meant? What? This just doesn’t make sense. The parables are supposed to be abstruse. The seed, birds, thorns, and so on don’t say anything directly, so why ruin that? And it’s not just this week – next week’s readings (which we’ll spend very little time on) also include a parable/explanation pair. What’s up with this?

What’s up is that the explanation is totally unsatisfying. It doesn’t enlighten anything, does it? Jesus outlines this allegory – the seeds and plants are people hearing the Good News, and there are Powers of Evil, troubles, worries and money, and understanding hearers. That’s great – this story about inefficient agricultural practices is really about epistemology (how people learn), and next week will be about ethics – so what? Jesus explains this parable in detail and leaves it hollower than at first. Lining up the pieces doesn’t tell us how to live. And I think that’s the point. Even when you “get it,” you’re not supposed to get it. There should always be something more to ponder.

So, what else is there to get? First, who is the sower? Jesus doesn’t say. Preachers? Maybe. Teachers? We’ll try on that idea later in the service. There’s reason to see the sower as Jesus, the first giver of this Good News. If we read God as the sower, this suggests something important about God: God broadcasts the Words of Life to all people, not just to where we want it (grace is like that). We can go from there to claim our invitation to spread the Gospel just as extravagantly, to reflect God’s image in our lives. That’s a good idea, right? But that’s all interpretation. It’s good interpretation, but it still goes beyond the raw words of the text.

And it’s more valuable because we worked for it. You usually know the answer better if you arrived at it yourself, if you wrapped the story around you and let it teach. That’s why Jesus spoke in parables – not simply to keep secrets from us, but really to let the secrets draw us into God’s realm. That’s what I love about the complex, obscure, confusing parable we call the Bible: it reveals just enough to make us discern the truth. It invites us to spend time with it. The simple explanations are not enough, but the stories come to life and draw us deeper into the mystery of God.

We’re invited to seek that mystery in Scripture, in worship, in service to others; to witness in all we do to God’s unfolding truth. So may the Word – written, incarnate, and mysterious – bear fruit in our lives and throughout the world, and may we have the grace to see it and rejoice.