The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image itself is called “Sower (after Van Gogh)” and was created by Ned Bustard.
Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one: “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven.’” Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Dear God, I used to pray this parable a lot when my children were little. I prayed that the seeds my wife and I were planting each day would find good soil. I prayed that we would be able to plant good seeds in the first place. I loved this illustration.
Now that they are in their 20’s, my prayer has shifted a little. They are on their own paths now. They struggle. They succeed. They have revelations and they have blinders. Just like me. I have all of those things in my life as well. But my prayer for them is slightly different. I am not the one doing much planting in their lives so I end up praying over the seeds that were planted long ago, some of which I am hoping are still there, but dormant with roots that are reaching for good soil. I pray for those who are planting seeds in their lives today. I pray for the soil in their heart.
Sometimes I have the presence of mind to pray about the soil in my own heart. Am I able to listen to those who bring your word to me, or do I dismiss them? Does Satan steal away the seed? Do I allow selfishness and pleasures of the world to choke it the seeds that get through? Do I intentionally cultivate the soil of my heart and make it seed-ready?
Now, for this image from Bustard. I guess one thing about this story is that the sower is not very discriminating. He is very generous with his seeds, scattering them everywhere. He doesn’t seem to care what kind of soil it finds. He’ll put some on the path. He’ll put some on shallow soil. He’ll put some in the thorns. And it seems that, just as randomly, some will find good soil. But the sower doesn’t seem to care. He just throws it out there. I should probably be more conscious of how I sow seeds. Am I stingy with them, or do I just spread them everywhere?
Another thing about this image is that I can see a big crop in the background. I think Bustard must have thought about what a 100-fold crop looked like and included it in the image. The Sun and the sky are there. The ground where the sower is walking is there. But the crop in the background is our goal.
Bustard says that his rendition of this story is inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s painting. Here it is for reference.
Apparently, according to Bustard, van Gogh’s piece was inspired by Jean Francois Millet’s piece describing the same parable Here is Millet’s image.
I guess the last thing I will notice about all of the art is that none of them created an image set in Jesus’s time. They are all more modern than that. I suppose Millet is the one who started with that concept. This isn’t just a story with a lesson for 2,000 years ago. It is a modern story.
Father, I will have opportunities to spread some seeds today. I will also have opportunities to prepare the soil of my heart to receive the seeds you have for me. Help me to be mindful of that. Help me to embrace this whole concept. Help me to give you a great harvest that will help your kingdom to come and your will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In Jesus’s name I pray,