4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
This is familiar parable for many of us, but sometimes we stop at imagining it is about the spreading of the gospel to those who are not believers. However, Jesus continues to lavishly sow his seeds of truth about Himself and about who we are in Him, and our response can be very different depending on the day.
- As you ponder the different types of ground in this parable, how would you describe your own heart these days?
- What emotions are stirred in you as you ask this question?
- What would it look like to write a prayer from this place in your heart?
Gracious God, thank you that you keep on sowing your love and truth in our lives, never growing weary in your faithfulness to us. We confess that our reception to your generosity can change every day. Please help us to find you in those places of hardness, of shallowness, of distraction and of receptiveness, and draw us close to you in your mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that ‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
Jesus is patient with his followers as they ask him for the meaning of the parable. His desire is for them to understand the un-understandable by imagining a kingdom that can only be described by parables. As he explains he helps the soon-to-be apostles prepare themselves for being agents of the sower, and faithful regardless of the recipients’ responses.
- Which recipient are you most often like?
- How does understanding of your own resistance to the word of God help you in your sharing His word with others?
- Who can you pray for today, who needs to hear the good news of Jesus?
Gracious God, we come and gratefully receive the word that you desire to plant in us. Help us to practice those things that keep us sensitive to what you are saying to us so that we might bear fruit that honors you and draws others to you. May we never grow tired of your expanding kingdom, in, through, and around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
7 Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
This invitation is part of the sermon on the mount, one of the key messages laid out for us who follow Jesus. He invites us to ask, to seek, and to knock, and promises that it will not be for naught. This is a time to ask boldly, to seek diligently, and to knock loudly, trusting in a Father who gives good things to those who ask.
- What are some good things that God has given to you as you have asked Him?
- In this moment, what are you asking for? Seeking? Knocking on?
- Where do you desire to see God work?
Gracious God, these are bold promises you make and at times like this, it is difficult to reconcile your invitation to ask with the reality of loss and grief. We need you and ask for your comfort for those who have lost loved ones, for your strength for those who devote themselves to caring for the sick and vulnerable, and for your patience and creativity as we wait in physical isolation. Help us to continue to reach out to one another in love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
What a beautiful account of Jesus’ generous healing of those who were sick and alienated from the church. On their way, as they realized that they had been made clean, all but one continued on their way to the religious leaders, realizing they could return to worship. But the Samaritan, filled with gratitude, returned to Jesus and worshiped him as the one in whom he would find the presence and acceptance of God. We see in his actions echoes of the Samaritan woman’s conversation with Jesus, where he invited all who followed him to worship him in spirit and in truth.
- Have you experienced a time in your life when you have felt alienated from the church and if so, why?
- Are there ways that you are looking to the church or another Christian institution for the acceptance that only Jesus can give?
- Do you know of someone who feels alienated from God and/or the church? How can you pray for them and invite them back to Jesus?
Gracious Jesus, thank you for swinging the gates wider than our cultural and sometimes religious restrictions. Thank you for healing each of us in some way, whether we felt worthy or not. We give you praise and glory for all your healing and restorative work in the world and help our gratitude be reflected in our generosity of spirit in the world. In your Name, Amen.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Here is Jesus’ final command and invitation to his disciples before he returned to God the Father. The disciples had been through a lot over the past few days as they watched their kingdom leader die a gruesome death, then return to life. It led them to worship even in the midst of their doubts (vs.17). As we worship Jesus Christ and follow him and do what he has called us to do, there is comfort knowing that doubt can sometimes be a part of the journey, but in our faithfulness, Jesus promises to be never leave us.
- What questions do you have for Jesus in the midst of your context today?
- What does it mean to you that he has promised to be with you always?
- What does it look like for you to be faithful today in the midst of uncertainty?
Gracious God, thank you for receiving us and commissioning us to continue your work, even when we struggle with doubt. Help us to make disciples by sharing with others the journey of faith that we are on and how your presence comforts, guides, and transforms us as we follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.