One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear Him: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When He had said this, He called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”Luke 8:4-8
Luke in his desire to get straight to the point by-passes the setting of this parable. Luke just says there was a large crowd gathered from many towns to hear this parable. He doesn’t tell us, what Matthew and Mark tell us, that Jesus was in a boat and they were gathered on the shore. That is not important to Luke. But it was important to tell us in the verses before this that Jesus was traveling with many women. Hold that thought. Now Jesus launches into this story in the form of a parable. Literally Luke says “through a parable“, by means of a parable. Jesus is talking to them in parables. Parables are becoming more common in Jesus’ ministry. He is saying things in parables, in ways that the meaning is not immediately apparent and those who are diligent will seek for themselves the meaning. But in this case, this parable is too important for the meaning to be missed. So following this Jesus will make explicit the meaning that is implicit in the form of the parable. He doesn’t want them to miss the point on this occasion. If that is the case then why did He use the parable. Why not just come straight to the point and omit verses 5-8 and begin at verse 10 with the explanation?
Note the parables Jesus tells will get progressively more complex, and require the careful attention of His hearers and the readers of the Gospels to work out what He is meaning. Oh careful. That means you and me too because we are readers of the gospels. As Jesus liked to say frequently let he who has ears let him hear.
- Not all who have ears hear or actually listen and take it in.
- Not all who have eyes to see, to read the gospels, actually pick up on the meaning that Jesus is communicating.
- It all depends on our attention span and desire to know.
- The parables are not designed to impress the careless or distracted.
The sower went out to sow; what sowers do. And sowers know how to do it. Well, how is it he can get the seed on paths, on rocks and among thorns? He must be a pretty careless sower if that’s the result. There is much debate over this section. In essence was the field ploughed before the seed was scattered or was it ploughed afterward? Joachim Jeremias (1900-1979) argues that the field was ploughed after the seed was sown. The seed was scattered first and then the primitive plough was used to scratch the surface and allow the seed to penetrate the hard ground. K D White appeals to Pliny who claims the field was ploughed first and then the seed scattered.
Some fell “beside the path” – this can mean actually on the path or alongside the path. i.e. on the edge of the path. Bear in mind we are not talking about a tar sealed path or roadway. We are a talking about the pathway that has been formed by people moving back and forth over this section and trampling the ground and packing it down hard. These paths would NOT be ploughed when the time came. They would be left unploughed as they always have been. So the hard ground is not to be equated with the path. Both are hard and dry but the path is not destined to be ploughed, the field is. That is why Jesus indicates this seed is destined to be trodden on, stepped on. Stepping on the seed is meant to signify the contempt for the seed. One doesn’t normally walk all over the fresh seed sown. One ought to handle it with care, or tread carefully. But for some when it comes to the Word of God there are those who handle it contemptuously.
Some fell “on the rocks” – fields in ancient Palestine were very rocky. In most cases when the field was prepared many of the stones which could be plucked from the field were and either heaped up, used to build stone walls of simply thrown away. I.e. Thrown off what was to be the field. But other stones were buried deeper and were hard to get out so were left in the field. With each successive ploughing new stones would be unearthed. So the fields were always in a rocky state. Seed which fell on the rocky areas didn’t last long, no root could form and the heat of the sun would soon dry the sprouting seed out and it would wither. Much of the seed scattered on the soil per se would bounce on the hard ground and end up on the rocky surface.
Some fell “in among the thorns” – notice this is not on the thorns but among them. The thorns [akantha] refers to weedy plant which have thorns, spikes, needles or nettles. These are hardy, quick growing plants (weeds are unwanted plants) which regenerate season after season. It is not meant to signify the farmer throws the seed on the top of the weeds or deliberately among the weeds. The text says “among thorns that grew up”. The plants have roots which have been left behind under the surface of the ground from last season. Or the seeds of which lie dormant in the soil. The heat of summer comes and warms the ground and the soil receives moisture again these seeds grow faster and more vigorously than the wheat seed or other grain. They are hardier and more prolific and faster growing. They sprout again and grow up to choke the good seed. When moisture is available the fast growing thorns and weeds come to life and smother the wheat seedlings.
Some fell “into good soil” – this signifies soil that has not been hardened and compacted by human foot traffic. Note the soil falls “into the good soil”. Is this a clue suggesting Pliny and White are corrected as compared with Jeremias? The good soil is that which has been prepared for the receiving of the seed. Note how the preposition changes with each soil type. It is not “on the path”, “on the rocks”, “on the thorns” nor “on the good soil”. It is more correctly “beside”, “on”, “in among” and “into”.
The good seed produces [hekatontaplasion] a hundred times as much. I.e. 100 grains for every seed sown.
After the yield has been given Luke has a unique element indicating that Jesus called out in a loud voice with emphasis. The imperfect tense here likely means that with each saying he called out the same thing. Meaning the emphasis was added with each soil type.
What was called out? “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” The first “hear” implies hearing ability, the sense of hearing. The second “hear” implies the ability to listen and take it in. To listen and pay attention and to retain that which has been heard.
Note that the difference lies in the soil type or garden not in the seed. The seed is the same throughout; it’s the soil that changes to determine what the yield will be. The hearer with spiritual discernment ought to hear at a deeper level and apply the teaching to himself. Soak up the meaning and apply it. It is interesting that the idea of moisture or rain when applied to dry hard ground doesn’t penetrate. It only sinks in a few millimetres. So too our hearing. Remember the steps to hearing, understand and application from David Wong (Gem 674). The same thing applies here.
Next Gem we will look at the comparisons between the other gospel writers and Luke.
The only evidence of life is growth/change. Dead things don’t grow/change. So when we are done changing, we are done.Sidney Mohede
Some people go to church just to gather, and some people go to church “to grow”. Why do you go?A R Bernard
Your greatest obstacle to personal growth isn’t ignorance; it’s the illusion of knowledge. It’s in believing you’ve ‘arrived.’Bob Gass
Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in shade.Leo Buscaglia