Sowing in the Kingdom
Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

Over the last couple of weeks we looked at prophets and the way they went about calling God’s people back to him.  This week we meet Matthew, who had a different role to play in God’s kingdom.  He was an unexpected follower of Jesus who had a major impact on the kingdom of God through spreading the Word of God, the message of Jesus Christ the Messiah throughout the land especially amongst God’s own people.

Now that might sound a little weird but it is the truth, Matthew was keen to point out to God’s people, the Jews, that Jesus was the promised Messiah, who had come into the world to set them free from sin.  It was also weird because Matthew was not one of the most liked of people in the region.  He was a tax collector, who worked at a toll booth near Capernaum. He was a Jew, but worked for the Romans taking taxes of off his own people and giving it to their oppressors.  Tax collectors were notorious for adding a bit of cream on the top of the tax so that they could keep it for themselves to ensure that they lived a comfortable lifestyle.

Matthew was apparently no different, yet when Jesus saw him sitting in his booth he simply said, “Follow me”, and Matthew got up and followed him.  In the other two Gospel accounts of the calling of Matthew he is called by his Jewish name Levi, and yet all other aspects of the account match up.  The call is followed immediately by Matthew having a big dinner party and inviting all of his friends over with Jesus as the guest of honour.

And we know that those who saw Jesus eating with these tax collectors and sinners weren’t impressed with what they saw.  They believed it made Jesus guilty by association; shouldn’t he be eating and drinking with all of the so-called good people?  But that’s how Jesus rolled! 

We’re not told how or why Matthew suddenly believed in Jesus and left his lucrative little profession behind, but we do know that at some stage he put pen to paper and wrote his own account of the life of Jesus and who he truly was. The goal he had in mind was to explain to his Jewish counterparts that Jesus was truly the Messiah that God had promised; he quoted the scriptures more than any of the other three Gospel writers, apparently in an attempt to convince them, yet for many it fell on deaf ears.

We can learn a lot from Jesus, we too can sometimes hang out with less savoury people, and it is after all these people who truly need to be saved, just like the rest of us.  We too might be found guilty by association, some of their bad habits might even rub off on us, that is the risk we take, but when we look at the parable that we read earlier today we see clearly what the risks are. 

It may be a bit of a long bow to draw but let’s think about it for a bit.  When the seed (which as was explained in the reading is God’s word which is not understood) falls on the path the evil one like the birds can come and snatch it away, when it falls on rocky ground the one who hears it might understand and get excited by it, but without it going deeper the person will fall away when things are difficult or they are tested.  Then when the seeds fall among thorns the cares of the world get in the way and they are choked and yield nothing.  When the seed of the word has fallen on good soil though, it is heard and understood and bears fruit and yields a hundredfold, sixtyfold or thirtyfold.  How do you think that happens? 

Well firstly the Holy Spirit waters the seed that has been planted through the word, and as we heard in our first reading the word of God is like the rain and snow that come down from heaven, they water the earth and then return, it doesn’t return empty.  In all but one of the cases above the word of God returned with some response.  In the first case it was taken away by the evil one, but in the case of rocky or thorny ground there was a response, action was taken.  But where the multiplication effect took place was where there was good soil, that’s where we come in.  For most of us we have been fortunate enough to have been prepared as good soil, able to receive God’s word and believe it, and then act on it in response to the blessings, that God has given us through it. 

When we are able to be among those on the path, or rocky ground or even among the thorns we can speak God’s word into the lives of the people once again, we can continue to sow the seeds, just like the farmer in the parable.  We can be the apologists in the situation, to speak the word of truth, or at the very least act it out in the lives of others.

All of us are at some point in our lives each of the various types of ground, sometimes we are ready to hear God’s word to us, but when things are difficult around us we too become hard of hearing, allowing God’s words to bounce off of us and be taken away by the evil one, we might hear it get excited and then wither, we might struggle against the thorns and give up in despair, but at times we will again be good soil, because the time is right and God’s word will drive us deeper into our connection with him in his kingdom.  We need others around US to help us along the way and so do those who are outside the kingdom, those who are less likely to be fertile ground waiting for the seed to come.

The moral of the story is this; never stop sowing the seed of God’s word, for yourself or for others around you.  We all need to be constantly fed by it, so that it can eventually multiply in us and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit until the entire world sees, hears and understand God’s word and his message to us that Jesus came to take away our sin and restore us into a right relationship with God.  Give thanks to God that someone cared enough to sow and nurture that seed in us and that God has never given up on us.

Matthew wasn’t the most popular individual around, yet he was still able to have an influence on the people around him and even on us today, let’s give thanks to God too for him and for all of the great people in God’s story.

Amen.