Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”
“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Here, in this pared down reading, a valuable conversation between Jesus and his disciples is omitted. They questioned why Jesus spoke in parables to the ignorant masses, because everything Jesus told those crowds flew well over their heads. The disciples understood the meaning (usually), but they wondered why Jesus did not speak in easy to understand language.
Jesus told his disciple that they had been allowed to understand by a higher power, due to their devotion to Jesus and his message. Paul explained that ability to understand as such: “You are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9a) Jesus told them, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” (Matthew 13:16) This means a test of one’s being “in the Spirit” is how well one understands Scripture – Torah, Psalms, Prophets, and Jesus parables.
When Matthew wrote, “Such great crowds gathered around [Jesus] that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach,” can you see the symbolism of a boat in Christianity? With Jesus sitting in a boat, was he not symbolizing how he promised to turn his disciples (James and John of Zebedee) into “fishers of men”? Do you realize the “bark of Saint Peter” is the symbol of a ship as the Church of Rome? Do you understand that the “nave” of a church is designed to symbolize the inside of a ship (upside down)?
Notice who is doing the rowing of that boat.
Jesus explained to his disciple by quoting Isaiah 6:10, where God told his prophet:
“For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.” (Matthew 13:15)
The model that modern Christianity has adopted, which attempts to mirror the ministry of Jesus, is the trained disciples taking Jesus’ place in the boat, speaking in parables to the ignorant masses on the beach. This model is further reflected in how the “pulpit” is (by definition) “a raised platform in the bow of a fishing boat or whaler.” Of course, the pews become the white sandy beaches of a seacoast, where sermons drift over the listeners like warm and salty ocean breezes and the words sound as comforting as seagulls cawing overhead. The water becomes the barrier that keeps the masses from trying to act like a sea captain.
A “sermon” today becomes like a parable, when all listeners are expected to interpret metaphor, catchy phrases, and the life experiences of a priest-pastor-minister as comparisons to Biblical stories. Too often, an oration (12 minutes or 1.5 hours) is boldly spoken as if everything read aloud in church is being explained as it was intended to be understood. However, many sermons come across like someone saying, “I’m thinking of a number between 1 and 10,” or “1 and a million” – depending on the complexity of the sermon. It seems I frequently come up with the wrong number, or I get lost contemplating the values of only a couple of numbers in the range, before the sermon is over.
Whoops … another sermon flew over my head.
In a reading like the one from Matthew above, it seems clear to me that Jesus is testing the abilities of the masses to understand – without explanation. I imagine how then is like now; and I imagine when Jesus finished telling the Parable of the Sower, he rowed to shore and stood there shaking the hands of all the masses as they passed by. I imagine Jesus would hear things like this:
“Nice sermon rabbi,” says one. “Thanks. What did the parable of the sower mean to you?” asks Jesus. “Makes me want to go home and do some gardening,” is the reply, with a smile. “Hmmm,” ponders Jesus, before asking, “Would you mind speaking from the boat to the masses next Sabbath?” “Oh no, rabbi!” Jesus is told. “I could never do what you are doing. Besides, we love you being there for us. We love the imagery of your parables.”
The reason I imagine that today is because priests-pastors-ministers today read Paul and think Paul wrote to the ignorant masses, just like Jesus attracted. That assumes everyone sitting in the pews is filled with the Holy Spirit, because Paul would say some confusing things and then abruptly say, “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
Yes!!! Thank yo brother Paul. I needed to hear that!
I knew I was saved! Thank you Jesus!
How often have you head a reading in church and thought, “Oh no. I hope I won’t be pointed out as a sinner in church today,” only to have the priest-pastor-minister kindly say, “But I’m not talking about anyone here today, because we are all filled with the Holy Spirit’?
Whew. That was close.
The news flash is this: Christianity is not about selfish contentment through absolution by berobed speakers. Christians are not filled with the Holy Spirit by eating wafers, sipping wine, or having their political persuasions stroked by the words of a sermon.
A Christian is Christ in a body that does not look like Jesus; but a Christian is Jesus reborn, through the Christ. This is what Paul said, when he wrote: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”
You see, Paul was writing to those who were all filled with the Holy Spirit, so he could abruptly say, “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.”
The crux of the matter is that being a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with what someone says or surmises, based on what someone believes. A Christian’s body is no longer ruled by sin … PERIOD. There is no need to recite a confession of sin, when one is truly a Christian. The actions of a Christian are only righteous. Therefore, a Christian is a Saint.
To be a Saint, one does the same things Jesus did. You go into the boat and preach to the ignorant masses. You teach those who believe you are a manifestation of the Christ to also be Saints. You pass onto those disciples, through their faith, a holy allowance to understand God’s Word. You understand that a refusal to welcome a test, in particular as to meaning of Scripture, means you are not a Christ, but one of the ignorant masses.
It is the either-or principle. The only gray matter in-between comes from being drawn to be near a Saint. However, since gawking and rubbernecking are common amongst the ignorant masses, just because they have eyes and ears does not mean they have a mind that can make sense of righteousness.
The ignorant masses represent every place where seeds of thought, like those being sown by Jesus in his parables, land and take root. The crack in rocks, where the seed grows into joy … for a short time … quickly fades away when the heat is on. When they have to stand up to protesters at the state capitol, when the atheists are demanding laws that protect their rights, while trampling on the rights of the religious, they run away. Those parts of the ignorant masses that take root amongst thorns are those who are pathological sinners, looking for someone to accept their filthy selves as is, without demands for them to change. This is not merely the drug addicts and hookers, but also the pushers and pimps of all industries, who make a living using people so they can be rich. They only appear to grow when they think they have been washed clean of sin, simply by the fact Jesus came into the world 2,000 years ago. However, they quickly run away from all calls to righteousness, when sin becomes opportunity to do as one pleases.
The good soil can be in the crowd of ignorant masses. After all, that is where the disciples came from. Despite the allowances given to them they were still fairly dense, to much of what Jesus said to them. At the last Seder meal, they were asking Jesus to tell them the address for his Father, because it dawned on them that Jesus never told them what town God lived in. When Jesus was arrested and executed, all those brave disciples were trying their best to blend in with the ignorant masses. Still, they were good soil, because they had been tilled and prepared to give strong root to the seeds of thought Jesus gave them … through the Christ Mind from the Holy Spirit.
When those seeds of thought took root, the eleven grew into Saints. They were the first Christians, as Christ first returned in each of them, the day after he Ascended. By 10:00 AM on Pentecost Day, Christ returned in 3,000 others who were parts of the ignorant masses, but they were willing to be educated as to the meaning of that they worked so hard studying. So much of it seemed like questions without answers, because they were led by those whose roots were in bad soil.
What was then is still the way of today. People want a religion that is simple and easy. They want parables explained to them, so they do not have to figure anything out. If someone has told them what they want to hear and they happily go about thinking they are going to heaven (filthy with the sins they think are washed clean), only to have someone speak to them from the holy boat offshore:
“The kingdom of heaven has come near. Repent and follow Jesus,” the Saint says.
“I don’t believe you,” they shout. “If it says I am going the wrong way, then why doesn’t it say that in the Bible, or why didn’t some priest-pastor-minister tell me before?”
That is when you knock the dust off you sandals and say, “Have a nice life.” Then walk away.
P.S. As far as parables go, you do known why Jesus told the disciple to do that when rejected by Jews who did not want to hear about permanent repentance being a requirement for entrance into heaven, right?
The ignorant masses are ignorant to anything beyond this world. They work so hard getting what they have gotten that they never want to hear anyone tell them, “You must give all that up and take a leap of faith.”
So, when they tell a Saint, “Scram!” it is polite to make sure the Saint does not walk away and take anything that the ignorant have sold their soul for … not even the dust from their doorstep. Leave it. They own it. The ignorant masses deserve everything this world has to offer them.