“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:1-15
Let’s join Jesus on his kingdom expedition as he passes through the towns and villages with his team. Unlike some misogynistic elements in the Church today, Jesus totally included women in his team which was a radical statement to the society and culture of his day.
“Mary (called Magdalene)… Joanna, the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others,” were all part of this missionary band.
They were not there just to do the cooking or wash Peter’s socks! They were also on the discipleship journey with Jesus. Like most of those whom Jesus chose and loved, they had come to him broken but were transformed by his presence. They, like many of us, had been “cured of evil spirits and diseases” at the hands of the ultimate healer. They also, probably through their business acumen, had a vital role in the financial support of the ministry.
“These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”
I can imagine each of them having a testimony to share at the bustling village gatherings where they could all identify with the struggles of the folks around them to receive God’s word.
Jesus draws the crowds with his charismatic power and down to earth authoritative teaching. He sets the scene in an agricultural community by speaking of a farmer going out to sow his seed. For the simple who have ears to hear, they soon understand the link that Jesus is making between the seed and the life giving Word, and the ability of the different soils, the various states of human hearts, to receive this Word. Although we only have Jesus’ words in the authoritative text I’m sure that Jesus didn’t monopolise these gatherings but encouraged his team to join in.
Having spoken of the seed on the path being trampled I picture him looking over to Mary and calling her forward.
“Well if you want a testimony of a life that has been trampled on, here it is.” I imagine her saying.
“I was literally “on the path”, hoping to find love but meeting only rejection from an early age. Hope after hope was dashed to the ground as everyone I trusted betrayed me and walked over me. I became an object to be sold. The rejection was so deeply rooted in me that I could not reach out and touch anyone in a true relation. My heart was as hard and trampled as that path. No words of hope or love could survive in my environment. The smallest seed of encouragement was quickly gobbled up by the blows, cruelty and shame which became my lot in life.
Then one day Jesus crossed my trampled path. He was different from the brutal men I had known all my life. He listened to me, the outcast. I was so used to giving myself away to others that it was a shock to find someone willing to give himself for me. He brought “shalom” to me and drove away the suffocating sense of my low self worth. Like our old prophet Zephaniah says, it seemed that he “was mighty to save. He took great delight in me; he quieted me with his love and rejoiced over me with singing.” He set me free to receive the word of life.”
The crowd is moved as they hear Mary. Many who had come to mock and jeer are deeply challenged by the sincerity and transformation that they can see in her.
Then Jesus, having moved on to talk about the stony ground looks over to a timid, wiry woman.
“Come on Susanna, go for it, now’s your chance.”
“You do not know what a miracle it is that I can stand before you today,” says the woman gradually rising to her feet.
“My name means “lily”, something frail and delicate. And believe me I was so weak and timid. I’ve battled with fear and intimidation all my life, never daring to live my own life for fear of what others might say. Like many of you here I was brought up to know the Torah and religion. I knew God as a hard taskmaster always ready to punish and condemn. I would go to our festivals but they were always so dry. I would resolve to be a better follower of God but somehow it seemed so superficial and never lasted. Then one day at the festival of Tabernacles I heard Jesus speaking in a loud voice. “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!’ He spoke about “living waters” flowing from within. And yet I was blocked up with a big hard rock of inner fear. However he challenged us to simply believe in him and by some miracle I went from fear to faith as his word raked out the rocks from my heart.”
Susanna sits down again sensing Jesus’ approving smile, an inner glow on her face as she has once again overcome the fear barrier in giving her testimony.
Jesus has moved on to a thorn bush, miming the throwing of seed amongst the vicious barbs.
“Could anything grow out of these choking thorns?” he asks.
Right on cue Joanna, a self assured woman of standing begins to speak.
“Many of you here know my husband. Cuza. We had a privileged place in Herod’s household. I could tell you stories of our amazing banquets, our gold and silver and prestige. We lacked nothing. And yet life was so unfulfilling. In the midst of the wealth and the hedonistic pleasures our very dreams were dying. The love which we had known in our innocence of youth was quickly choked by the ever increasing worries of work. We were on the verge of breakdown when one of my servants reported to me words that he had heard the Rabbi Jesus speaking on the mountain. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” I went myself and listened to him. His words cut away the thorns that bound us up as I found the strength to focus on relationship with God and people rather than on material things. I’m still learning but the idols are now being broken in my life.”
“These are the good soil” says Jesus, pointing proudly to the women.
“They have pulled out the roots of rejection, cast away the stones of fear and cut down the selfish thorns of materialism and hedonism. Their good and noble hearts are now ready, through more prayers and service, to produce a harvest of good fruit for the world.”
Can this same word dwell richly in your own hearts too?
Extact from the devotional book “A Fruit in Season”