Where does the seed fall? : Luke 8:1-15
Yesterday our church leaders met together for six hours to pray for God’s wisdom, to reflect on our vision, to review our five year plan and strategise for 2007 and beyond.
It was an exciting day and many important proposals were made about how we can fulfill our God given mission as a Church. What is it? To know Jesus and make Jesus known. That’s why we exist as a church. We were planned for God’s pleasure, formed for God’s family, created to become like Christ, we were shaped for serving God and we were made for mission.
God is at work in our world and he wants us to join him. This is our mandate. This is our assignment. This is our calling. This is our purpose. This is our reason for living.
And one thing I can
guarantee you in 2007. We will not be deflected. We will not be deterred. We
will not be distracted. We are going to raise the bar. We are going to turn up
the heat. We are going to sharpen our focus. We will be refining our goals. And
we will be faithful to our mission. And we are going to prune so that we can
become more fruitful. Here are some specifics.Our membership covenant is being
enhanced. Our building project is being revised. Our Home group strategy is
Our Sunday service times are being reviewed. And next week, to fund it all, our budget will be released. One word will mark out my mission in 2007 - discipleship - assisting you and others become more fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. With one purpose - that we introduce Jesus to many more of our not-yet-members.
Now Jesus described this task, this goal, this mission, this work, this ministry, as building his kingdom. His Kingdom. Surprisingly, Jesus never gives a definition of the kingdom, he instead talks in metaphors: the kingdom of heaven is like a woman who lost coin, an shepherd who lost a sheep, a father who lost a son; the kingdom is like a treasure buried in a field, a pearl of great worth, like seed in a field, yeast in dough, a net in the sea… And even then, he doesn’t much say what the kingdom is, he speaks more about how to enter or join the kingdom, or how to miss it rather than what it looks like when we do enter. Story telling comprised a large part of Jesus ministry. 7% of Mark, 14% of Matthew and 18% of Luke is made up of stories, illustrations, parables.
The word ‘parable’ is derived from two Greek words, para and ballo. Para means “beside,” or “alongside,” and ballo, which is where the English word “ball” originates, means “to throw,” or “to lay down.” A parable is basically when one story is thrown or laid beside another story, and the two run beside one another. In other words, the two stories are “parallel” to each other. Put simply, a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And we have one in our gospel reading today as we return for a few weeks to Luke’s life of Jesus. Now one thing I can guarantee - this is not a difficult parable to understand. Why? Because Jesus explains it! The challenge is not therefore in understanding it but in applying it. But lets begin with:
1. The Context of the Parable (Luke 8:1-4)
2. The Meaning of the Parable (Luke 8:11-15)
3. The Application of the Parable (Luke 8:8-10)
1. The Context of the Parable
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God…While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:” (Luke 8:1-4)
What do you read into the
detail which Luke provides? It probably depends on your perspective. If God has
wired you as an evangelist or even a pastor, seeing a large crowd will energise
you. Like Jesus you’re looking for the nearest boat. If you are a church warden
or operations manager, however, you might be counting the available chairs -
you are practical. If you are a policeman you might be thinking about crowd
control - you anticipate problems before they happen. If you are a media person
you will be thinking how to maximize the event. And if you are a despotic ruler
you will be worried about subversion. Large crowds mean different things to
Remember this is still early in Jesus public ministry and he is attracting large crowds. Jesus spoke in parables for two reasons:
1. Parable as Effective Communication
Because story is a more effective and memorable means of communicating truth than straight propositions. Let me test you on this. Can you remember the three point outline of any sermon over the past year? Possibly. Can you remember any story or illustration? Probably. Stories are the most effective and memorable means of communication. And the funnier the better. The way Jesus conveyed the truth of the Kingdom is as timely and relevant today as it was then. Because story telling is trans-cultural. However, this is not the actual reason Jesus communicated in parables. In answer to the disciples question, Jesus says This is why I speak to them in parables… “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”’ (Luke 8:10). This is the real reason.
2. Parable as Appropriate Communication
Story is a more appropriate means of conveying truth in a hostile environment. Jesus had come to die - but not yet. He would only reveal why he came when the people understood who he was. Here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he is therefore very careful not to agitate the crowds or give the authorities an excuse to arrest him. In Luke 8:9, Jesus says “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables.” (Luke 8:9)
Now why would Jesus hide the truth? Why not continue to reach out to them? Why not continue to offer grace? Why not teach them in a more clear and direct way? Why use parables? Why? Because these are people who have already heard the truth about Jesus - they have seen his miracles - they know the scripture prophecies are coming true. They are hard. They are resistant. They are unrepentant. These are people who have already seen Jesus heal the sick and raise the dead. In the previous chapter Jesus says this:
“To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” (Luke 7:31-34)’
Do you want to know why Jesus teaches in parables to these people? Why Jesus hides the truth from people who refuse to receive it? Jesus hides the truth because Jesus honors the truth. We need to see something else Jesus said. Look with me at Matthew 7:6. Listen carefully to what Jesus says.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6)
Here’s something we must remember. The good news of Jesus Christ is precious. There is nothing of greater value in all creation. In Christ we find all the fullness and glory of God. In Christ God held nothing back. Jesus died our death. He paid our penalty.
In Christ God loves us with unconditional love. In Christ God receives us when we deserve to be rejected. He forgives us when we deserved to be condemned. In Christ, God gives us heaven when we deserve hell. In Christ we find freedom and peace and joy. In Christ, God gave Himself up for the sake of wicked people like you and me. There is no greater truth than the truth about Jesus. It’s sacred truth. And God will not let the cross of Christ be profaned by people forever. For those who mock, the day of grace is always followed by a day of judgment. This explains why Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6. Isaiah had encountered a similarly hostile reception when delivering God’s message. God longs for people to turn and be forgiven. He is not willing that any should perish.
But some people are resistant. They do not want another god in their lives. This then is the second reason Jesus spoke in parables. Not just the most effective method but also the most appropriate method. Put simply, people who don’t get it won’t get it, and the people that do, will. In fact, this particular parable itself is all about who will receive the message of the kingdom, and who won’t get it at all. “Its purpose was to reveal just enough truth to raise intense curiosity, promising more if listeners went along, but also concealing enough of the truth that the complacent could walk away uninspired.” Jesus says,
“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matthew 13:12)
Jesus means that whoever desires to understand, will come to an understanding, and whoever does not have that desire will fall farther from the truth. Jesus does not restrict people from understanding his parables; they prohibit themselves. So parables both reveal and conceal, and they do both at the same time to the same audience. Parables are therefore both the most effective means but also most appropriate means of conveying truth in a skeptical and hostile environment. The context for the parable. Lets now examine:
2. The Meaning of the Parable
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 11:8-15)
Somebody once said, "This parable doesn't really need explanation, just application." The sower is clearly God. The seed is the word of God - the scriptures. The seed is cast everywhere. These do not vary. It is the type of soil on which the seed falls that determines whether the seed bears fruit.
2.1 The Hard Path: Not Understanding the Good News of Jesus
How often have you been listening to someone and yet you haven't heard a word they said? You can tell when someone is doing it to you. Their eyes glaze over, they focus on some distant object as if they are looking right through you. They are miles away. Jesus said "hearing they hear not". We would say it went in one ear and came out the other without passing through the brain. They hear the message but they are hard on the surface. It washes off. It cannot penetrate. What makes people hard? Things like cynicism, indifference and pride act like asphalt or concrete and the good news just bounces off.
Our drive way is made of asphalt. Its hard and the seeds that fall on it get washed away. But if you take a look at it sometime you’ll notice the asphalt is actually breaking up. Seeds that fall on it may not be able to get through, but amazingly some seeds already in the soil below are breaking through. It’s incredible to see the power of a seed, a plant, a root able to break through even asphalt. So don’t be discouraged. The Hard Path represent those who do not understand about Jesus. They may be hardened to the good news of Jesus but through you, through your loving witness and your prayers, God’s word is powerful and can break through misunderstanding, it can crack open pride and soften indifference. I know, because God’s word did for me. The hard ground.
2.2 The Stony Ground : A Shallow Understanding of Jesus
These are the impressionable ones who hear the word and have an instant and positive response. They join all the groups, buy all the books, come to all the courses. A great beginning but no finish. Shallowness. When the heat of adversity comes along they wither.
The problem here is the lack of depth to enable roots to grow down deep and draw up nourishment. How can we avoid shallowness in our lives? Some people think that Sunday School is just for children. That shows shallow thinking. One of the primary reasons we come together on Sundays is to learn from God.
Our worship of God and prayers to God are a response to what God says to us in Scripture. We meet to put our roots down into the Scriptures and learn how to draw strength from Jesus so that we become mature. Let me ask you, are you reading the bible daily? Hearing a few verses each Sunday are not enough. Are you in a bible study group? Hearing a sermon once a week is not enough. The word ‘Disciple’ actually means a learner. How do you feel about making notes during the sermon? I’d rather you do that than fall asleep. What ever will help you become a workman who can accurately handle the word of truth - do it. We also learn from God through the school of life. At Sunday school, Monday school, Tuesday school... Life is an exciting adventure learning from Jesus every day. One of the best prayers to pray is “Lord, make me teachable today.” The Hard Path stands for those who do not understand the good news about Jesus but are deceived. The Stony Path, stands for those with a shallow faith that easily dries up in adversity.
2.3 The Thorny Ground : Choked by Worries and Distractions
Then there are the people who hear the word gladly. They are sincere, and they make a solid beginning in the life of faith. God begins to bless them. They have children, grandchildren. They succeed in their jobs, promotion brings a pay rise but also additional responsibilities. They must be away more often. There’s the second home to keep up, the club membership privileges to take up. And the first thing you know, these good things begin to choke out their primary commitment, their first love for Jesus. You cannot serve God and money said Jesus. You made the right choice to be here this morning. Can you think of thorns that grow in our lives? Jealousy is one, greed is another. Worry is another. Root them out.
The Hard Path, an indifferent faith that's easily deceived.
The Stony Path, a shallow faith that quickly dries up.
The Thorny Path, a cluttered faith that's become choked.
2.4 The Good Soil : Bearing Much Fruit
What a difference when seed is sown on good soil! What a difference hearing, understanding and applying God's word makes. The Bible is the word of God. It is the seed Jesus is talking about here. When we share the word of God we can trust that people will come to faith in Jesus. People will only come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Scriptures about Him are proclaimed:
‘"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?... "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! … Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.’ (Romans 10:13-17)
‘For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ (1 Peter 1:23)
It is our privilege to be the sowers of God’s seed in God’s field here in VW and beyond. This s our first priority as a church. We’ve looked at the Context of the Parable and the Meaning of the Parable.
3. The Application of the Parable
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear”’ (Luke 8:8) Each one of us is somewhere in God’s field. What kind of soil do you identify with? Are you hard soil? Do you dismiss God’s Word without consideration? Are you rocky soil? Do you profess faith in Jesus only to turn away when things get rough? Are you crowded soil? Just too busy for Jesus? Too worried? Too materialistic? Or are you good soil? Is Jesus first in your life? Are you producing fruit? We were born to reproduce. It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late to repent. But one day it will be.
Don’t let that day come for you. Listen. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day to put your trust in Christ. Jesus died on the cross and paid the penalty for all your sins.
He rose from the grave and lives today to be your Lord, your Saviour and your closest friend. Trust Him and he will save you from your sin. Forever. Seek Him and He will not hide His truth from you. Which soil do you want to be like? Which do you want your friends and family to be like? Which do you want our church to be like? Yesterday, the church leaders began to identify what our priorities are going to be in 2007. They are summed up in this story of Jesus. We are going to focus on our primary task - sowing seed. Let’s become wise, experienced, skilled, fruitful at sowing seed.
Have confidence in the Seed
“I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
The seed is the word of God and it is the power of God. Think of the power contained in a dry seed - when it is exposed to water and nutrients. The Bible is the word of God and the power of God. Get to know it and love it. Do not be ashamed to read it, to quote it, and to share it. Learn to handle is accurately and sow it widely. Have confidence in the seed.
Always be Sowing the Seed
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15).
Look for opportunities to talk about Jesus and his words with your friends and family, neighbours and colleagues. Have confidence in the seed and always be sowing the seed.
Trust the Lord of the Harvest
"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10:2) This is our mission in 2007. This is our motivation. This is our mandate. Remember that He is the Lord of the Harvest and the world is His Harvest Field. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest, for our church family, for our mission partners, and for those in our community who have yet to respond to Jesus. Have confidence in the seed. Always be sowing the seed. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to bear fruit in you and through you, for his glory. So that by God’s grace, and in God’s time we might see a harvest, “a hundred times more than was sown”. Lets pray.
Sources used in this sermon include inspirational material of Mike Wilkins, Damian Phillips, Joel Pankow, William Mouser, Dean Shriver from www.sermoncentral.com