The impossibly extravagant harvest
In tomorrow's Gospel reading Jesus tells of a man going out to sow seed, some falling on stony ground, some thorny, some on the path and some on good soil.
John J. Pilch has written of how this parable was heard would depend on one's position in society:
In today’s parable, the first question is, who is the sower? In the ancient world, sowing preceded plowing. Still, the manner of sowing described in this parable is sloppy and wasteful. If the sower is a landowner, the peasant audience would despise his waste of precious seed.Knowing that the harvest would be plentiful in that real context allows the hearer to know that the sowing of the Gospel would also result in the harvest desired by the master.
If the sower is a tenant farmer or a day laborer, the peasants would sympathize with his careful sowing which ends up wasting seed anyway because conditions are so difficult.
The impossibly extravagant harvest gives a clue to the identity of the sower. On average, one might expect a four- or five-fold return on sowing. Thirty-, sixty-, and a hundredfold boggle the imagination.
If a wasteful landowner realized such a profit, Jesus’ parable is hardly good news to the peasants who made up 95 percent of his audience.
But if the sower were a peasant, then the good news is that the crop will satisfy the landowner, provide seed for next year’s sowing, pay all taxes, and still leave enough for the peasant to feed the family.
Moreover, since it is clearly God and not human effort that produces this humongous harvest, the “something other” or “something more” that the parable intends is now very clear. The scenario describes sowing and farming, but it really points to a loving and provident God who looks after needy peasants.
Labels: Gospel reading