Luke 8:4-15 describes Jesus standing before a huge crowd of people and teaching this parable. He said that a farmer, or "sower" began to scatter his seed. Picture a man reaching into a bag of seed and tossing it all around him as he walked. The seed landed on four different kinds of soil and produced four different results:
1. The path. This seed was eaten by the birds. No fruit.
2. On the rock. This seed grew, but withered away due to lack of moisture. No fruit.
3. Among thorns. This seed grew up with the thorns, but was choked by the thorns. No fruit.
4. Good soil. This seed grew and produced much fruit.
After Jesus told this story, he did not explain it, but simply said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (v8). Of course he was speaking of spiritual ears, not physical ears. But isn't this odd? "Whoever has the spiritual equipment to receive what I am saying, receive it."
Then we learn who had the ears. Most of the crowd apparently went home confused - and they were ok with that. They could live without understanding Jesus. But his disciples couldn't take it. They stuck around and asked Jesus what the parable meant. Jesus immediately told them, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God" (10). The ones who "had ears to hear" were the ones who dug deep and asked questions and persisted with the Lord until he explained truth to them. To them it had "been given" to know God's truth. What about the others who didn't persist - the ones who gave up and left confused?
"...but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand." Luke 8:10, ESVDid you catch that? Here we are told why Jesus spoke in parables! I always thought that Jesus spoke in stories in order to make his teaching easier to understand. Not according to the Bible. Jesus was hiding truth in plain sight from the ones who did not have ears to hear, the ones to whom it had not "been given" to know God's truth. God is sovereign over his truth. And yet man is responsible; the many in the crowd didn't care about knowing the truth. They left without asking for an explanation. They actually lived out the meaning of the story Jesus had just told! Their response to Jesus' preaching showed the condition of their heart.
Jesus makes this even more clear as he explains the parable to the disciples. He tells them that the seed "is the word of God" (v11). The farmer in Jesus' story is a preacher! The four different types of soils are four different kinds of responses people have to preaching. See if you can identify yourself:
1. The Path. "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" (v12). Jesus wants us to know that their is an enemy of preaching; The devil does not want people hearing and believing preaching! This demonstrates the importance of preaching. God has chosen the method of preaching the gospel as the way of salvation (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18, 21-23).
These people hear the word, but it is taken away before they can believe, and by believing be saved (2 Cor 4:3-4). These are the ones who are unaffected by preaching. Unmoved by God's word. The many in the crowd who had just heard Jesus tell this parable, and were able to leave without caring to know the truth; these people had just lived out Jesus' story. They were the ones on the path.
Is this you?
Does preaching go in one ear and out the other without affecting you? Be warned! Your soul is in danger! Can you sit under the preaching of the gospel of Jesus and doodle, text friends, play video games or endlessly daydream about sports or other things? If so, the condition of your heart is being revealed by your response to preaching.
2. The Rock. "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" (v13). Many of us have seen people who looked like devoted followers of Jesus; but as time passed they fell away. Before long they are no longer connected to a church or serving the Lord. These are the ones on the rock. They look good for awhile (think of Judas!), but the truth eventually comes to light: they are not real. There is a faith that does not save! A temporary faith is not a saving faith. A faith that does not last is a faith that does not save. Note what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
"Now I remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESVWarning! A believer who does not, by grace, endure is not a true believer. A genuine Christian will persevere through tests and trials and continue to bear fruit under the preaching of God's word. The seed that fell on the rock shows us that there are some who will start the journey but not finish.
3. Among Thorns. "And as for what fell among 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" (v14). This group also starts out looking good, but are simply distracted from a pure devotion to Christ. Cares (concerns) steal their focus. These cares do not have to be sinful things, just other things. Or maybe riches or pleasures. This is perhaps the great danger for American, or Western believers. The American Dream replaces Jesus' call.
Can you hear the preaching of God's word but be more concerned about your own comforts, hobbies, possessions, etc - so that you don't get around to actually obeying the word? Receive Jesus' warning!
4. Good Soil. "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" (v15). Jesus doesn't say it will be easy for this group who hears the word. They will face the same tests that those on the rock faced and gave up. But these will "hold fast." They will endure. It will require "patience," but they will hear the word and continue in it to the end, with the result being fruit.
Which one are you?
What is your response when you hear God's word preached?
Do you see yourself in Jesus' story?
May God give us grace to hear his word, hold it fast, and bear fruit with patience!