The parable was a well-known method of teaching in the Jewish tradition, which Christ continued. The rabbis … there were thousands of parables known. And the essence of the parable was that it contained a sort of riddle. And the riddle was solved by thinking deeply about the meaning and then applying it to ones own self. For instance, a classical riddle in the Old Testament refers to King David, in the days when kings had to be literally the fathers of their people … most children died and the king had several queens. And in spite of his several queens, King David fell in love with a young wife and sent her husband … who was a brave … known to be a brave soldier, to a very dangerous battle where as he expected the husband was killed and David then married the widow. The prophet Nathan appeared before David and said ‘What would you think of a man who had a hundred sheep but when a guest came … to entertain … he took the one ewe lamb of a poor man and sacrificed that?’ And King David said ‘Such a man should be killed’. And the prophet Nathan made him apply the parable to himself. King David hadn’t done that. Nathan said ‘You are the man’. The parable had to be applied to himself.
The parable of the sower … most people think it’s quite obvious. But there are many riddles in it. If we read it … it’s a very short parable ….’ Listen, ‘a sower went out to sow and it happened that, as he sowed, some seed fell along the footpath and the birds came and ate it up. Some seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprouted quickly because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun rose the young corn was scorched and as it had no proper root it withered away. Some seed fell among thistles but the thistles shot up and choked the corn and it yielded no crop. And some of the seed fell into good soil where it came up and grew and bore fruit. And he added. If you have ears to hear then hear.’ When he was alone, the twelve and other disciples questioned him about the parables and he said, ironically, ‘To you the secret of the Kingdom of God has been given. But those who are outside, everything comes by way of parables. So that as scripture says: They may look and look but see nothing. Hear and hear but understand nothing. Otherwise they might turn to God and be forgiven’. So he said ‘You do not understand this parable? How then are you to understand any parable? How dull you are’.
There’s something extraordinary about the sower. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground … some fell among thistles. He was sowing among thistles. Some of it fell on the road … he was sowing on the road. If we think of sowers, the soil is turned and a furrow is made and then the seed is dropped into the furrow of good ear, then the earth is brought down over it. This sower was just going… (gesture of scattering randomly).
There’s a riddle. Why was the sower doing this? The parable has to be applied to oneself. It fell on the road and birds ate it. The seed is eaten by the bird, nourishes the bird and becomes the bird. These are the people who use religion as a field for their ordinary attitudes. If they are conquerors they become crusaders and they use religion as an excuse for invading a superior civilisation in the Middle East and trying to conquer the territory there and set up new kingdoms. The birds eat the seed of religion. People who are full of hatred use religion to nourish their hatred and they burn the heretics. People who like a social life join a religious group in order to exercise social talents but the religion disappears, except as a name. The seed becomes the bird. Those who don’t receive it in depth … who don’t really think about it. They’re enthusiastic for a time and then it withers because it hasn’t been really taken in. But in the good crop the seed is deep in the soil and then the seed begins to take the soil, the chemicals in the soil, into itself and then it comes up … the soil becomes the seed. The man who takes the seed of the teachings into himself begins to change and become the seed. In the case of the bird, the seed is taken in and simply becomes the prevailing attitude of the man.
With many such parables he would give the people his message … so far as they were able to receive it. He never spoke to them except in parables. Well this seems an unfair way of doing things. Why … if you want to proclaim a message … Why hide it in riddles? One reason was that it would make them think and think and think and the seed would go deeper and deeper and deeper. And then the day would come when they would apply it to themselves … Then they would become the seed and the plant would come up. Well, what about the people who can’t understand? They’re not guilty. Christ was quoting Isaiah when he said ‘They will look and look but see nothing. They will hear and hear but understand nothing’. In Isaiah it was very strong. Go and tell this people. They may listen and listen. How will they understand? You may look and look again, but how will you know? Why hide it in a riddle? … So that it may go deep. ‘How dull you are’ he says … This people are dull … the people’s wits are dulled … their ears deafened … their eyes blinded … they cannot see with their eyes, nor listen with their ears, nor understand with their wits … so that they might turn again and be healed. Why are the people guilty? If they’re dull, they’re dull. No, because they have come … and because they have come to listen to the teacher, to Chris, something is already stirring in them. They have the capacity to understand and hear, because they have come.
A man in whom nothing is stirring, he won’t come to hear a spiritual teaching. He’ll simply sa, ‘Oh, no … those … those ranting preachers, you know. Look at him, he hasn’t got a hope. Blessed are the poor … no they’re not. You’ve got to get something and you’ve got to look after yourself in this world. Blessed are the peacemakers he said … They’re not … both sides go for them … You’ve got to fight for what you want and get it. Don’t waste your time going to these ranting half mad people’. Those people are not guilty, nothing is stirring in them yet. But those who come to hear the teacher, something is stirring … the inner light is stirring … and if they don’t foster it and encourage it, then as Christ says … then they are guilty.
© Trevor Leggett
Posts in this series are:
Part 1: Christianity and Yoga
Part 2: The Gospel to the Hebrews
Part 4: The parable contains a riddle