God’s Big Personality. Matthew 13.1-9
The other day in “What do you want—really?” I asked you what you really wanted in order to believe. The hyper-religious Jews had asked Jesus for another sign, remember? Jesus had already done various sorts of miracles, he had taught in the temple, synagogues, in-doors and out-of-doors, to small gatherings and large ones—all, so that folks could hear the message of his Father in Heaven. He taught that they might know, believe and experience a love greater than any other, and thereby love others in kind. Jesus came to revolutionize the simple lives and the educated ones of first-century Palestine, and every person born since.
Turning the page to Matthew 13, we see Jesus take a different tack:
Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”1
Generally, we refer to this as a parable - a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.2 Matthew records seven such stories in chapter 13. This passage is often called the Parable of the Sower. What was at play? The Sower, seeds, the growing medium—the kind of ground upon which the seeds were broadcast. Symbolically, what does each represent? The Sower – God, the seeds – the gospel, the type of soil or ground – the hearts of people who heard. To the disinterested ear, it was just that—a story; to those who had ears to hear, or the desire, deeper things of the Word of God are delivered.
Juxtaposed with the first miracle that Jesus performed—the one John captured as an eyewitness at a wedding festival, recorded in John chapter two—Jesus turning the water into wine. Scientifically speaking, one could look at the molecules of the compounds of water, and those of wine; mathematically speaking, or from the eyes of the party planner/hostess—one could consider the amount of wine Jesus delivered that day.
Most of these pots held about 30 gallons – approximately 680 liters.
Most wine bottles hold .75 liters of wine; therefore Jesus produced
more than 906 bottles of wine, or 2 full pallets, if they were being
delivered via truck, camel or forklift.
The passage records the host as saying it was very fine wine, surprised it was served after the first wine. When Jesus comes to the party, he always provides the best.
On the one hand, seeds and soil; on the other hand, a cabinetmaker becomes miracle worker before their very eyes. Jesus is no longer a private Rabbi.
As I looked at these two aspects of Jesus, and prayed about them, in the middle we see the originator of both--and find a God of great personality. Jesus did not do his first miracle in a church; he did it at a party, a wedding celebration filled with joy, laughter and dancing. Do you ever stop and think about the BIG personality of God? We see pictures of it all over in Jesus’ life, and as Jesus said, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!3
But we’ve settled with what we have picked up here and there about God. We have not investigated him for ourselves, have we now? ‘It seems as though we have settled for a God “on call”, a God available for crises and fiascos, who does a bit of juggling with weather patterns and parking stalls but who otherwise remains unobtrusive as a chambermaid, tidying things up while you’re at brunch, leaving a crisp sash of tissue around the lid of the toilet bowl to let you know all is in order. The problem, obviously, is that this god—so kind, so shy, so tame—has nothing whatsoever to do with the God of the Bible. This god resembles not even remotely the God whose Spirit broods and dances, the God who topples entire empires, sometimes overnight, the God who reveals himself in the Christ who looks big men in the eye and says ‘Follow me, and then walks away, not waiting for a reply.’4
Unfortunately, though we humans were made in the image of God, we have remade God into a simple image we can quantify and put in a box we can handle, and oft put on a shelf when we are too busy to be bothered or don’t want him to see what we are doing.
As one author wrote, “We've made elevator music of Jesus Christ. We've made Him the most boring, bland, blah person; and He was the most revolutionary man.”5
Which is ~why Jesus first miracle was at a celebration – he was joyful;
~why prostitutes and people of ill repute liked hanging with him – he was fun,
And he accepted them just as they were;
~why he turned over the tables and drove out thieves from the temple – he was unafraid to show righteous anger;
~why crowds walked for days, stayed with him for hours because he was a masterful teacher with a charismatic personality that held their attention;
~why children loved him, because he affectionately loved and touched them; ~why men would follow him because he was a man’s man and courageous beyond anything the world has ever seen;
~why his miracles saved reputations, saved lives, and saved relationships—because he was incredibly compassionate, and all mattered to him.
Nonetheless, as the parable illustrates, not all would be open or interested in him. And after all, from the beginning, it has been all about free choice.
Christine Todd DiGiacomo
1 – Matthew 13.1-9, NLT
2 – parable – Google online dictionary
3 – John 14.9
4 – from The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan