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
His disciples asked Him what this parable meant.
He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables to teach the others so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: ‘When they look, they won’t really see. When they hear, they won’t understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.”Luke 8:9-18
In the first instance we will look at what is here in Luke’s account. After we have done that we will look at the comparison between the gospel accounts to see what we can add to our understanding. Then we will address the issue of 30, 60, 100 / 100 / 100, 60, 30 – why Luke only chose 100 and why Matthew set them in reverse order. In the mean time let me give you the broad brush strokes.
Notice Jesus tells the people “anyone who has ears to hear should listen and understand”. Now just who does that concern? Who among you have ears? I trust everyone does. So listen and understand. This is a saying which implies it’s up to every one to pay attention to this. Jesus uses a parable to tell them the truth because he knows that some will get it and some won’t. For those who don’t want to hear or understand, it is better that they don’t. That which is heard and understood becomes the standard by which you will be judged later. If you have heard the truth and chose to turn your back on it is more serious than having not heard or not understanding. Hence the inclusion of the passages quoted from Isaiah.
Even at the time Jesus told the parable to his disciples it was obtuse enough to cause them to ask Him what it meant. Clearly it was just as unclear to them as it is to some of us these days. Spiritual things are discerned spiritually. Interesting isn’t it that Jesus responds by saying, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of God; I teach in parables so only the astute among them will get it.” If they are permitted to get it, why didn’t they? Is He saying this after He has told them or before? Clearly afterward. They don’t get it, they should, but they don’t. So they need further instruction to make it clearer. We are just like that but God permits us to know and understand. Why? What is the basis of the selection for the two camps of people. Those who may get it and those who are doomed not to get it? It is all to do with the soil types. That is why I call this parable the Parable of the Soils. The sower is the same, the seed is the same, the growing conditions are the same. Only the soil type varies. The soil type is indicative of the human heart. Jesus makes this very clear and I have outlined it below. But before we start, you need to notice something. The goodness of the last, good soil is found in the fact that it is precisely the opposite of the other three soil types. It was not hard, not stony and not weedy or thorny. As those who are involved in this planting of seed (the Word of God) or the reaping thereof we are not in control of the seed, we are not in control of the growing conditions but we can control the soil. We are both the sowers of the Word of God (well some of us are) and we are simultaneously the soil. The soil represents the human heart or condition. Some of us are just the soil; others of us are sower and soil, are we not? We are responsible for our own heart condition. Isn’t that what Jesus is talking about? These soils depict the condition of the human heart and we are each responsible for our own heart.
The seed is the Word of God. Luke clearly tells us that in 8:11 (Matthew calls the seed the word of the Kingdom. Something he does throughout his Gospel). No, it is not money we are talking about. It is the yield or the fruitfulness of the Word of God that is at stake here. This is the fruit in our lives as a result of the Word of God. The seed itself yields a difference in fruitfulness. No, it is not determined by faith or faithfulness. It is determined by our responsiveness to the Word of God or the seed. Oh the sower has to sow the word in the right place so to speak, but note here that the seed is scattered everywhere. All may receive the Word of God; the seed is not just sown on the cultivated field (the one from which the hard soil has been turned over, the stones taken away and thorns removed) but it is sown in other places as well. The sower is not being wasteful with the seed. The seed is for everyone who has ears. God wants all to come to a saving knowledge of Himself. The seed is scattered everywhere! Just like God’s rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, so too God’s word goes out to the hard hearted and the soft-hearted alike.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear what these soils represent.
- The hard path soil represents those who hear the message, but allow the devil to take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. No seed (taken away)
- The rocky soil represents those who hear the message, and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. No fruit .
- The thorny soil represents those who hear the message but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. No maturity.
- The good soil represent those honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. No hard hearts, no rocks, no thorns.
You become “good soil” when you remove those elements that make the effect of the Word of God in your life unproductive.
- Hardness of heart; soften your heart to God.
- No roots / no moisture (a la Luke); develop yourself in the Word of God. Wash your life with the Word and let it affect you.
- Too many weeds; de-weed your life of the cares, riches and pleasures that are not of God.
Notice something about the good soil. It is the good soil that produces fruit. For those who claim the 30 fold and the 60 fold ground are lost are not correctly interpreting the parable.
Notice too there is no mention of money. This parable has nothing to do with money or fruitfulness with money. It is all about fruitfulness of the Word of God. Some folk planted in good soil produce 30 fold, some produce 60 fold and still other produce 100 fold IN GOOD SOIL. Think on that one.
PS I havent forgotten the 30, 60, 100 increasing and decreasing scales and the difference between Matthew and Mark. I will handle that at the end. Keep thinking about it. Why the switch?
A text without a context is pretext.Anon
You’re a product of your past but you’re not a prisoner of it. You can choose to change.Rick Warren
If you want to do anything great for God, you’re going to have to make your mind up that you’re never going to quit.Joyce Meyer
We have THIS day, shining brightly in our hands YET melting like ice. So seize each day and LIVE it to the fullest.Sidney Mohede
If you have a pulse, you have a purpose.Morgan Carey, 14 y o. victim of constant epileptic seizures