It is almost Easter and this Sunday thousands will gather in churches to hear the Gospel message. For some, this will be the year that they hear the message and it makes sense in a way that it never has before. They will understand their sin, they will understand their need for a Savior, and they will give their lives to Jesus for the first time.
What many of us will experience this weekend was told in parable form by Jesus. How many times have you read the parable of the Sower and the Seed? I have read and heard this dozens of times. Yet, this morning I came across the account yet again in Matthew 13 and I saw something new that I have never seen before - the responsibility of the sower.
The basic picture of this parable is that Jesus is giving an illustration of the Kingdom of God. He said that it is like a sower who sows seed. The seed is thrown and some lands on hard ground, rocky ground, thorny ground, and fertile ground. The growth of the seed depends on the soil that it landed in. The seed represents the Gospel and the soils represent the hearts of people who hear it.
When I have heard this parable over the years I imagine it coming to life on a Sunday morning in an Easter service. The pastor who has prepared to share the Gospel is the sower. He preaches and "scatters the seed" over the audience. This seed falls on hearts and some respond and some do not.
The nature of seed is that it must be scattered if it ever has hope of growing. As the parable demonstrates, even in the scattering not every seed will find fertile soil and grow, but the seed that is kept in a package is guaranteed to have no life.
The mass preaching of the Gospel is a good thing. It is the equivalent of scattering seed.
It needs to happen.
But what about the sower?
When I have read this parable in the past I have not really focused on the sower as much. But as I read this parable this morning I had this thought - "Does the sower have any responsibility in all of this?"
Some might argue that the responsibility of the sower is simply to scatter the seed and allow whatever happens to happen. In some ways, this is a valid argument because ultimately the reception of the Gospel is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of an individual.
But I think there is more.
There is one particular line that caught my eye. In Matthew 13:18-23 the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable to them and he does so. In verse 19 Jesus says the following:
"When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches is away what has been sown in his heart."
The words "does not understand" stood out to me like they never have before. One of the reasons that the seed does not fall on good soil is because it is not understood. Therefore, I think that one of the responsibilities of the sower (pastor) is to do everything in his power to make the seed (the Gospel) understandable.
I read a tweet from Pastor Brady Boyd earlier this week and he said it well, "Make the Easter Sunday message clear, simple, and easy to digest. The building will be full of people who are not interested in our weighty exegesis, but they sure need a cup of cold water. Give them a clear path to come home."
Certainly, there is a responsibility on the part of the pastor to make sure that the Gospel that is being preached is understandable to the hearer.
The second part that stood out to me was in verse 20:
"As for what was sown on the rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself."
Jesus goes on to say that when trial and tribulation comes this person falls away immediately.
What stood out to me was the line "he has no root."
I think that we as church leaders need to own partial responsibility for this lack of roots.
I have been in way to many services where the Gospel is proclaimed but no next steps are given, thus, people received the Gospel for the first time but are given no guidance on how they can begin to grow roots. I think that this is one of the great mistakes that we make in sharing the Gospel -
We share the seed, but provide no follow up for establishing roots.
The sharing of the Gospel should be followed up with a first next step, so that as much as we are able, we can mitigate the seed not taking root.
In the end, the reception of the Gospel is a great miracle that happens as God draws the heart of a person to himself and the Holy Spirit reveals the reality of Jesus' sacrifice. In many ways, we can rest in the fact that salvation is the responsibility of God. Yet, this does not dismiss pastors from doing everything in their power to make sure that a person who receives the Gospel understands it and has clear next steps to take in the journey.
May your Easter service be a time when many hear a clear presentation of the Gospel and that many lives are changed forever because of it.
Have a great Easter!
If you would like a model for a helpful resource for next steps I encourage you to check out the Next Steps book created by Faith Bible Chapel. You can access this resource for free at www.faith.church/nextstep This resource is designed to help guide a person who has just made a decision for Christ into their next steps and give them every opportunity for establishing roots.