Monthly Archives: July 2013


The other night at our little gathering we had a boisterous time reading Matthew 13, Jesus’ parables of the kingdom. Here’s some things we learned from the Sower.

We saw that only one of the four soil types was described as “good soil”.  A good farmer would surely be aware that the three inferior soils would not produce good crops. But this is not about a farmer. This is about a sower who sows not sparingly but widely and profusely, with joyous abandon.

We could see that the results of sowing seeds of the Kingdom of God vary. But here, the human heart is hidden from the sower’s view. Like Jesus, the sowers –his disciples—must sow generously and not prejudge whether certain ‘soils’ are worthy, even though they are aware that only the good soil will produce a crop.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Mat 13:9—17)

We were impressed that Jesus keeps stressing this. So it is a very important phrase, used 5 times in the Gospels, 8 times in Revelation, plus there are similar sayings scattered in the NT. We were deeply challenged to take note!

We noted the obvious: hearing is what ears are for! The Greek akouo (to hear) also means to obey, to heed, to act. The strong implication is that if understanding does not follow then it is critical that the listener finds out, asks. So this is what his disciples do. They ask.

He tells them and us that the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven is given “to you”: “to you who have left everything to follow me”.  These secrets are not even revealed to many prophets e.g., John-Baptist and “righteous” people.

Jesus assures us: There is abundance for those who see it, who hear it, who get it! Those in the Kingdom. To those outside the kingdom everything remains puzzling, parabolic, mysterious. Even what they have will be taken from them.

Of the crowds, Jesus quotes Isa 6:9,10: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

We thought: what a terrible fate, to remain without this precious understanding.

We saw with great sadness, that many of Jesus’ listeners, like those in Isaiah’s day were happy to listen to stories like this but avoided the truth in them in case they understood and were disturbed out of their complacency into action. So today, many are like those in Isaiah’s day and are like the crowds who clamoured for his touch and yet remained without understanding. Complacent. Sterile. Unfruitful. Stagnant. God’s frozen people. Valleys full of dry bones.

We could see that the true people of God are now found outside unbelieving Israel. This is the true flock of God who are identified in Isaiah and the O.T. prophets as the righteous remnant of the chosen people. And the true people of God are now today also found outside the unbelieving churchgoers.

We could see that Jesus’ parables gradually took hold on the disciples. They followed him and understood the radical new way Jesus was starting, especially post-Pentecost.

As we 21st century disciples, listened to Jesus explaining the various soils, we sensed the dreadful, the tragic, the hopelessness of  merely hearing Jesus’ words but not understanding and those precious words being snatched away (sown on a path). Then, sadly, for the ‘rocky ground’ there was joy for starters, but when trouble came and the word had failed to take root, then the precious spark of life dies. So also among the “thorns” when people inside and without the fellowship of believers, allow the world, or worry, or wealth to choke the treasured word.

Only on the good soil is the word heard and understood and obeyed and a crop produced. This is the meaning of a disciple, to bear much fruit.

This parable is very relevant for us following as it does the previous words and practices of Jesus about the ready harvest and the sending of the disciples on mission.

The metaphors Jesus uses, we saw, are organic! The Kingdom of God is not institutional.  And the gathering (church) of God is never seen as an institution in the Bible! We must stop reading institutionalism (a tradition of men) into the biblical text.

So what have we learnt from this parable?

  1. We are sent to sow seeds of the kingdom, spreading seeds abundantly.
  2. It’s not up to us to decide the worth of the “soil”, to discriminate
  3. Seeds are powerful, they will germinate—the sower expects plants!
  4. Everyone has ears, but few have ears that will hear, heed, that is, obey, act, change, turn, fear God.

This hearing is a matter of the heart. Hard, calloused hearts cannot hear. Here is a call for us to examine our hearts –do I have “ears” that can hear and obey the word of God? or a hard, calloused heart, a heart that does not want to hear and so cannot hear?

We ask ourselves, does our soil produce abundantly from the seeds of God’s word? Or, are we stuck in doing things our way, the safe way, the known way, like everyone else, tradition? Am we capable of hearing Jesus’ voice above the noise of tradition, the world and earthly wisdom? Would we love to be producing abundantly?

There is a design from above. We are to listen to Jesus, ask him, study him, let him teach us. We realise we must not just assume that the way our mentors, our teachers, have practised, is Jesus’ way. The road to fruitlessness is paved with assumptions.

Copy Jesus.


Yeshua (Jesus) was once asked by Thomas, one of his Jewish disciples for an explanation of his saying “I am going to prepare a place for you. And you know the way I am going” (see the Gospel of John 14:5-6).

So then Thomas said: “Lord, how do we know the way?”

This was a thoroughly legitimate question for a disciple to ask his rabbi (teacher). He wanted to follow Jesus wherever he was going. That was the seriously magnetic personality of Jesus. And Thomas had a desperate need which Jesus met.

But it is important, as always, to thoroughly examine the context of this saying which is often used by ardent evangelicals to stop all arguments, to cut off all possible means of intellectual escape for the ones they are trying to convince.

Now Yeshua answered Thomas by saying these astonishing words:

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except by me!”

He tells all his followers that I AM the way, not I am one of the ways which his disciples, his committed followers, will come to the Father. He, himself, his actual person, knowing him, is the only way for them if they want to go where he will go, that is, the way for them to come to the Father. And it is the same for each of his followers, Jew or non-Jew. And today.

This is not about Thomas going to heaven when he dies. This is about access to the living God! Period.

Note, we will not see him repeating to everyone he meets the same words which he used in this context. Actually, he never uses slogans, seldom repeats metaphors, but each occasion is landscaped with fresh sayings. So here we have one of the hundreds of superb examples in the New Testament documents of Jesus’ dependence on the Holy Spirit, on only saying what the Father says, hence the amazing diversity. He is the living word! This also points to the authenticity of these documents. Marvellous.

Thomas by this time had been following Yeshua for many days and along with the others had been drawn further and further into the essential meaning of this person, his identity, his I-AMness, even to saying to the others who were afraid of the religious leaders, “Come on let’s go and die with him” (see John 11:16).

Jesus had a spirituality which was built-in, inherent, authentic.  He was it! the way! The Kingdom of God was totally incorporated into his person.

So, when speaking to others of Jesus, let us be inspired by the Holy Spirit instead of trotting out the same old, well-worn texts which will stop communication dead. Let’s tell stories of Jesus and his love, his acts of mercy to people in need, hungry, thirsty, with ears to hear –everywhere and always.


Isaiah’s prophecy, made centuries before the vicarious sacrificial atonement of the Servant was spelled out in such remarkable detail, as we have seen. Isaiah now predicts the Servant’s victory:

After he has suffered, he will see the fruit of his suffering and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)

Jews could not accept that Messiah could die. But death could not hold this Servant of Israel.  And the outcomes were absolutely unexpected. The Lord God of the Jews, the God of Abraham, the God of Moses,  is the God of surprises, time and time again acting in ways never dreamed of by his people but made known to his prophets, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Hosea, Amos, Zechariah ……

The slain Servant will see the results of his suffering –Isaiah wrote in the future tense. To see the results of his suffering means he will come back to life. Yes, he walked out of the grave, he rose from death. YHWH would not allow his holy one to see corruption! (Psalm 16:8-11).

Isaiah foretold the servant’s sacrifice would mean justification for many, and he will bear their iniquities. This is in the Old Testament, not just the New Testament! It is in the Book of the prophet Isaiah! So the Jewish, Messianic believer, Saul of Tarsus (Paul), the former Pharisee, the former persecutor of the disciples of Jesus, writing with eyes wide open, says …

just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)

Isaiah continued to prophesy what the results of his suffering would be:

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great and he will divide the spoils with the numerous. Isaiah 53:12a

Again we read Saul in his Letter to the Phillipian believers:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:9-11. And all this! Why? Because …

because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12b

He said to his disciples just before his suffering:  It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’ and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.” Lu 22:36-37

You will recall he was crucified between two criminals—numbered with the transgressors. Can’t you see how extraordinary this all is?

If you have any ears to hear with, then hear for God’s sake! Do not just sit there and harden your heart.

More!  Matthew (26:28) records the suffering servant before his ordeal saying . … my blood is poured out for many. No doubt this was said at the third cup taken after supper (the cup of redemption) at the Passover feast with his disciples. Of course this Passover meal would coincide with the night of his arrest by the religious leaders and his sacrifice on the tree with the Temple sacrifices of Pesach. What does Pesach stand for?

The sacrificial lamb dies

Those who obey Yahweh are saved

There is protection from judgment

There is deliverance

Finally, to cap everything off, Isaiah has the miraculous prophetic foresight to declare in the Holy Spirit what he would never appreciate until the new world:

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12c

Note this is in the past tense!  This is all extraordinary, amazing, totally surprising.

Look, reader, you just have to believe in the suffering servant of Israel who the writers of the New Testament had met, touched, heard, learned of him, watched him die and saw him raised from death.

The time you have left is very short. Today if you will hear his voice do not harden your heart.