Passage: Luke 8:4-21
And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable,
A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said,
To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.
Then his mother and his brother came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told,
Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.
But he answered them,
My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
Whilst the passage covers much ground, the thematic driver behind the parables was to convey an understanding of the nature of the Kingdom of God. As per my summary Threadless design, the key verse I believe is V8: He who has ears to hear, let him hear. This is reinforced by the verse 21 at the end of the passage. Those who hear the word of God and obey them are considered family to Jesus.
Retelling the story for someone else (you – my audience):
Jesus gathered together a group and taught them on the nature of the Kingdom of God. A farmer sows his crops and brings forth his message. However, depending on the nature of the receiving soil, or the listener to the message, the environment will lead to different outcomes. Where the environment is inappropriate, the message is lost and unheard, becoming useful to others in unintended ways. Where the environment is harsh and cannot sustain and promote growth, any growth is brief and ultimately wasted. Where the environment can support growth but is crowded with competing interests, those competing ideas will ultimately prevail unless addressed. Finally, the ideal environment of a healthy garden bed for the plant, or a listener surrounded by like-minded God-seeking individuals, with the right attitude, the outcome is a yield so beneficial it has a big impact. The challenge was thus made to the audience to consider their own position and decide for themselves to receive what he had shared.
To help clarify the meaning, which was not directly provided in the parable of the sower, Jesus then switched teaching to directly talk about the secrets of the Kingdom of God. The seed is the message and word of God. For the first harsh environment, unbelief and resistance to God blocks the growth of faith and salvation. The rocky second environment allows for some growth because they initially receive it with joy. However, when times get difficult, the lack of a solid and enduring foundation will see their faith erode and disappear. In the third scenarios, the distractions of life and competition that the Word of God faces prevents the faith from maturing and developing. The ideal situation however is the final scenario where a believer receives the Word, allows it to refine them and with application and obedience, bears much fruit.
When someone gains clarity of vision, their expected reaction is to share it and allow it to guide others to do likewise. To hide the clarity and intentionally keep it to oneself is inherently unnatural and to be discouraged. Since everything is knowable through the power and belief in God, we are to be careful in hearing and receiving the word of God. The Word of God is indeed like a sword which requires and evokes a response. Once the message has been delivered, the responsibility on the audience means God will shower and increase the blessing for those who are being obedient. In contrast, for those who do not heed and hear God’s word, when it has been clearly made know to them, God will remove the blessings.
The large crowds prevent Jesus’ own mother and brothers from approaching him. However, as Jesus learnt that they were present and wishing to see him, he used the opportunity to reinforce the point that obedience to his commands would ensure that the believer was considered family in the eyes of God.
What I Discovered
Obedience is highly valued by Jesus such that he used it as a measure and means for determining who to consider family within the family/community of God. Obedience is the first step in developing faith.
In terms of the seeds being sown over the different environments, the challenge is for us as believers to constantly remain the healthy soil where the seed can be fostered. It is possible for the third thorny environment to become healthy soil – just as the analogy extends – the act of pruning and removing the weeds and thorns will bring about the fourth/final conditions of healthy soil. In this way, if we do have distractions and things competing for our attention, alongside the Word of God, regular pruning and reminding will help to keep us connected and receiving the blessings from God.
Likewise, the second environment of a rocky environment, where access to good healthy soil that promotes growth is lacking can also be treated. The ability to recognise if we are on rocky ground is an important first step to taking action in addressing and correcting our attitude, heart and environment.
I also interpret the section verses 16-18 as meaning that when we hear the Word of God, we cannot simply ignore it. We are compelled to address and deal with it; there can be no fence-sitting and avoidance of the core issue at stake – we either obey and believe, or reject the Gospel. God’s judgement is such that obedience, blessings and belief will be rewarded richly, but the unbelief will be severely dealt with, particularly if it develops after having had the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
When we have heard and received the Good News/Gospel, we should also not be afraid to spread news of it.
I will be obedient to what I hear from God and step out in faith to declare it and act upon His instruction appropriately. I will encourage friends and family who have heard the Gospel to prayfully consider the challenge that is posed in this passage – believe and be obedient.