As I approached the shed, I saw Jesus come out the little red door in his grubs and mud boots. His hands were soiled and sweat on his brow. Above the door frame was a sign with the verse
THE GRASS WITHERS AND THE FLOWERS FALL, BUT THE WORD OF OUR GOD ENDURES FOREVER. -Isaiah 40:8
Before I could say anything, Jesus reached back into the shed and picked up a big bag of grass seed and dropped it into my arms.
“Are you ready for some mud-busting?” he asked.
“Mud busting? What’s that?” I asked.
“Come and see.”
We walked down behind the cabin to a shady area where the grass was spotty with large barren muddy areas. I noticed most of the spotty black areas were nicely tilled and ready to receive the seed.
“Who did all the tilling, Jesus?” I asked.
“We were working it over all night while you slept,” Jesus said. “Haven’t you read in John’s Gospel that ‘My Father is always at his work…and I, too, am always working’ (John 5:17)?
“You were up all night?” I asked, shocked and yet not surprised.
“Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep,” Jesus said, quoting Psalm 121:4. “While the world sleeps we are tirelessly breaking up hard soil, tilling rocky ground and trying our best to bring green growth where there is currently only a muddy mess.”
I pondered his words, remembering one of my favorite parables of Jesus that has always made me scratch my head:
“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head (Mark 4:26-28).
Jesus, again reading my mind, interrupted my thought saying, “Yes, I love that parable, too. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I said ‘all by itself the soil produces grain’ I was a little misleading. From your limited perspective it seems to just grow by itself, but of course the Father, Spirit and I are always involved in the tilling process, prepping the soil for growth. And each soil in its own time.”
I looked around at the lawn and began to see the state of humanity mirrored in the varied state of the lawn. Lush green patches here, dark muddy patches there. New shoots sprouting here, and brown withering grass there. On one side of the path you can run bare feet on nature’s soft green carpet, and on the other side one hurts their feet running over embedded rocks.
“Alright, now the fun part!” Jesus exclaimed. He reached into the bag of seed in my arms and started tossing it everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE!
“Come on, Jeremy! Mud-busting time! Let it fly! Let’s turn the muddy messes into gardens-for-God!” I grabbed a handful of seed and began carefully sprinkling it over the bare spots. Jesus looked over and said, “No, no! Not like that. Watch me!”
He grabbed another handful and started tossing it wildly up into the air like a child throwing confetti at a birthday party.
“Everywhere! Everywhere!” he shouted as he flung seed indiscriminately about the yard. Some fell on good soil. Some fell on the path. Some fell in the bird bath, and some fell among the thicket beyond the lawn.
“Aren’t you wasting a lot of that seed?” I asked. “Why don’t you just sprinkle it over the bare spots? Why bother tossing it in the woods or on the path where it will probably never take root?”
Jesus smiled, “I’m glad you asked. The Father is a very impractical farmer. He’s terribly inefficient as well. But grace requires it.”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“Look, certainly there are soils that are more likely to produce growth, and other soils that have at best a 1% chance of growing anything. But if there’s even the slimmest chance that something might grow out of that unlikely soil, the Father is going to make sure seed reaches it.”
Hmmmm. I pondered his words and recalled 2 Peter 3:9: “God is not willing that any plot of land should remain barren but that all should be changed in order to bear fruit” (my paraphrase).
“Remember this Kingdom lesson: I have sent you, Jeremy, and all my disciples, out into the world to spread the good news of the gospel everywhere you go. As you go about your days interacting with people, resist the temptation to judge who is more likely to respond to the gospel and who is not. Your job is to spread it everywhere, indiscriminately, and then step back and be surprised at who responds!”
I shook my head, marveling again at the strange nature of grace. Even the worst mud holes can become lush gardens of grace to display the riches of our Father’s glory.
“So, let that seed fly, Jeremy! Everywhere! Everywhere! Grow!”
At this rate, my bag is going to run out quickly. But to my surprise, no matter how much seed we tossed out the bag never ran out.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (1 Cor 3:6-7).
13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4)