Originally, I had grand visions of writing some amazing work for this assignment. Then, other schoolwork took over and I ran out of time. 😦 So I just went with the option of sharing a piece I’d already written. My original assignment, waay back in tenth grade, was to write a personal essay as if I were one of the people involved or an observer in an incident from the book of Matthew, to describe the event, and to emphasize what I learned from the experience. As least half of the essay had to focus on what I learned and how my life was changed. So, enjoy!
The afternoon sun beat mercilessly down upon my head. I wished I could pull off my shawl and let my dark hair tumble down my damp neck — but not in public. I walked down the shore, digging my bare toes into the sand. My uncles, Andrew and Simon, were fisherman at this lake, the Sea of Galilee. My mother — their sister — had married my father, who was a carpenter in the town of Capernaum. However, this week, my parents had taken my younger siblings with them to visit a friend’s family. I would have gone too, except that I had to wait at Rabbi Joseph’s dinner party. So instead, I stayed with Grandfather Jonah and Grandmother Hephzibah. I went with my uncles and aunt to the synagogue today — that sure was interesting! My aunt went to visit her mother afterwards, but I decided to stay with my uncles and their friends and go down to the shore with Jesus.
I was curious about Jesus. He taught wonderful things; He was kind and generous and serious — was He the Messiah? Some said so; I had heard my uncles discuss it several times during my brief stay at Grandfather’s. But the priests and Pharisees had seemed quite agitated by Him, His words, and His actions — especially this morning because He healed on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out that any of them would have rescued a sheep from a pit on the Sabbath. Why then was it wrong for Him to heal on the Sabbath? Personally, I thought healing the way Jesus did — with a word or a touch — was a lot less work than pulling a foolish and uncooperative sheep out of a ditch. However, if Jesus was the Messiah, He didn’t fit the description I’d always heard from the religious leaders. On the other hand, based on the healing episode this morning and some other inconsistencies I’d wondered about in the priests teaching and living…. I would have to give this subject some more thought.
I had been walking down the beach towards my uncle’s fishing boat, and had made my way through the growing crowds, denser about Jesus and His friends (including my uncles). I squeezed past between Phillip and Thomas, two of my uncles’ friends, to where Uncle Andrew was standing, chatting with Nathaniel. My uncle glanced up, “How was your stroll, Rachel?”
“I enjoyed it very much, but now, I am getting extremely hot.”
“I don’t wonder!” agreed Uncle Andrew. “This sun is enough to fry any fish foolish enough to surface.” I liked Uncle Andrew. He was always friendly. Uncle Peter was nice too, but he wasn’t as staid as Uncle Andrew. He was more impulsive. He could be happy as a bear with a hive full of honey, then as stormy as Kinnereth in the winter, then his mood would swing back to the happy bear again.
“Uncle Andrew?” I asked. “Could I just sit in the boat for a little?”
“Okay,” I replied. “Don’t mind me.”
Uncle Andrew helped me climb up into the boat. I found an out-of-the-way niche behind some ropes and nets, and settled myself comfortably. Jesus, my uncles, and the other men climbed aboard shortly after. I listened from my position as Jesus taught the eager throngs on shore. “A farmer went out to sow his seed,” He began. “As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”
What was that supposed to mean? Uncle Peter must have had the same thought. “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” he asked Jesus.
Jesus replied: “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” I thought of His words, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Jesus continued, “For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
He went on. “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means.” My ears perked up; I’m sure Uncle Peter’s did, too. “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and deceitfulness of the wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Jesus began to describe the kingdom of heaven with more parables, but my mind still lingered over the parable of the seeds and soils. I wondered about the meaning. Which soil was I? He had talked of ‘the message about the kingdom.’ If the Messiah was to bring God’s kingdom, and Jesus was proclaiming the message about the kingdom, was Jesus the Messiah? I thought about what I had heard Uncle Peter mention to Uncle Andrew last night. Uncle Peter had told Uncle Andrew that he believed Jesus was the Son of God. The thought of that was astounding! Could God’s Son really be this humble carpenter from Nazareth sitting in my uncles’ fishing boat? He taught with authority, unlike the priests and Pharisees. If the priests were supposed to have the greatest knowledge of God and the law, and they didn’t teach with the authority of Jesus, Jesus must have an even greater knowledge of God and the law. If God had instituted the priests to be the mediators between Himself and the people, then what would be the status of One who was greater than the priests? I couldn’t think of anyone besides the Son of God who could fill that position. If Jesus was the Son of God, then He had to be the Messiah. Who else could better fill that position? What else would God’s Son have come down to earth for? Jesus had to be the Messiah!
My mind wandered back to the parable about the soils. I knew I was not the soil of the path, because I had received the message. Would the soil of my heart prove to be the good and fruitful soil? I hoped so! I also hoped that I could find a time to talk to Jesus about some of these things. Now I realized why Uncle Andrew and Uncle Peter spent so much time with Jesus, talking to Him and about Him and observing Him. To learn from Jesus was what I wanted as well. I wanted to ‘produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’
Scripture taken from Matthew 13:3-23, New International Version © 1984