“With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything.”
From this parable, we are reminded that by trade Jesus was a carpenter who spent his time with fisherman. That’s because this parable sounds unreal to any farmer or gardner. How many gardeners would love to be able to scatter seed and then not worry? No water, no weeds, no bugs, no animals, “the seed [just] sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”
But instead of giving us a planting almanac, Jesus’ parable teaches an important spiritual principle: understanding comes through patience. The grain takes time to ripen and grow, “first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” So also does understanding God’s purpose with our lives and with the world. Jesus only explains things in cryptic parables, saying only enough as to be understood. Only on the rare occasion, alone with the disciples, did Jesus explain everything clearly.
Our impatience demands results and understanding immediately. We respond to breaking news and to-the-moment weather reports. Yet, like planting, so little of what matters in life can be understood and appreciated in a rush.
At our home in Pembroke, we keep chickens and collect their eggs. We can get about a dozen eggs in a week, but of course not all at once. The chickens lay when they are ready. Of course we could just pick up a dozen eggs at the supermarket from a factory farm.
But if you’ve ever had a farm fresh egg, still warm from the roosting box, you know the difference between that and the tasteless supermarket egg. It’s the same difference in flavor between a pale, hot-housed tomato and a bright, juicy tomato from your own garden.
Jesus’ parable points us toward that old adage that “life can only be lived forward and can only be understood in reverse.” Life moves forward at an unforgiving speed and to see the world “from a worldly point of view” leaves us breathlessly rushed and without deeper understanding of our lives.
Rather for us who are in Christ, we heed his parable that understanding our lives, our world and our God come only with age and experience, with patience and reflection, and with meditation and prayer. Amen.