Tuesday, June 23, 2009
N.T. Wright on the Parable of the Sower
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
“For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55.10-13)
The sowing of seed, resulting in a crop that defies the thorns and briers, is a picture of YHWH's sowing of his word, and the result is the return from exile and, indeed, the consequent renewal of all creation. At the heart of the story is the cryptic announcement that the time foretold by the prophets is at last coming to birth...Israel's God is acting, sowing his prophetic word with a view to restoring his people, but much of the seed will go to waste, will remain in the 'exilic' condition, being eaten by the birds, or lost among the rocks and thorns of the exilic wilderness. The eventual harvest, though, will be great. We are here no far from Jesus' story about the great banquet. The party will go ahead and the house will be full, but the original guests will not be there. Judgement and mercy are taking place simultaneously. (Jesus and the Victory of God, 233-234)
Not only does Jesus tell us about the different reactions to the word that is being sown but he also, by reaching back to the Old Testament, tells us what the word is and what it is accomplishing. Jesus was announcing God's kingdom in a radically new way. God was becoming king and, as a result, was accomplishing the great restoration. God's purpose is to have a 'returned' people who are saved from the great curse. What a great blessing it is to be a part of this people. What a great savior we have who took this curse upon himself, going down into exile so that we might emerge clean. What can be said but 'Praise be to God'.