Mid-Semester Meditation Luke 8:4–18; A Modest Square One Teaching to Consider
Luke 8:4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Luke 8:9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“ ‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
Luke 8:11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 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 8:16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (NIV)
This is a no doubt a familiar passage to you. It has been one that has been used in many church situations to explain to fellow believers why so many "followers" of Christ do not seem to make the long journey with Him, do not seem to have a life well-lived, and, frankly, do not seem to bear much fruit. Sometimes it's used to explain to non-believers roughly the same thing.
After all, only one of the four responses would be considered clearly good. The first type described is most probably not a follower of Christ. There is some controversy as to whether the next response qualifies as being of a true believer or not, because under testing, they fall away.
However, for this devotion, we don't have to settle that question as you will understand later; so, let's provisionally accept for this devotion the interpretation that describes this as a Christian who has or will fall away from the faith during a period of testing. For one reason or another, the shallowness of their faith cuts off their potential fruitfulness.
The third type, we are told, as they "go on their way" are effectively choked off by the ubiquitous distractions and seductions of this life's "worries, riches and pleasures,.." and they "do not mature."
It should be noted, there's nothing in this passage that says that you or I have to turn out bad or not so very good. But, I’m getting ahead of myself and I will come back to that later, too.
One thing to see from the context is that Jesus was teaching this parable to a large group of people, but only explaining its meaning to his disciples when they asked…not just to anyone hanging around him or along the path. That can come as a surprise, because if this is an important truth, wouldn't He want to make His teaching clear to everyone? We do, however, see Him attempting to focus everyone's attention, including his disciples' attention on what He was teaching by saying mid-way, “He who has ears to hear, let them hear.”
There are possible explanations for his keeping some of His teaching "hidden," as it were. Perhaps, if He knew you wouldn't pay serious attention, He was not obligated to waste the time explaining everything to you. Perhaps, also because timing was important in his earthly ministry, he chose to disclose things in the manner He did because the timing could lead to immediate situations and consequences He didn't desire.
But, apparently at this point in His ministry and with His disciples, it was both worth his time and the timing was right for carrying out His earthly ministry. It was as if He was saying something like this to His disciples: you are very important to me both as human beings and to My cause--lend me your ears and let me clarify what I'm saying by means of this parable, and why your response to its meaning is so important.
What was at stake?
Immediately, it had a lot to do with the efficacy of His ministry to the children of Israel and His annointing and call to atone for sins on the cross. From a human viewpoint, He was investing a lot in certain people to become future leaders of His movement and they needed to be the right kind of people.
Let's move beyond this (further reflection on interpretation is left as an assignment), to consider application(s). Let's think about ourselves a minute.
Imagine yourself in that holy huddle with the Lord almost 2,000 years ago as one of His disciples and you were privileged to hear His explanation of this parable. Wouldn't that have been something?
I remember about 45 years ago a friend of mine asked me to consider these same words. He asked me, which of these four responses to Christ did I most identify with?
I suppose I could have said that Jesus was talking to the disciples and since I wasn't there and wasn't one of them, it wasn't meant for me. Strictly speaking that probably is in line with the right interpretation of what's going on in the text, but the application of the principles could be (and I think are) trans-cultural and apply across time to our current moment.
I do remember saying that it was either the second or third response that I identified with the most...after a pause and some relection, I said I hadn't been tested that much, so I thought it was most likely the third response.
In keeping with that, I think it was legitimate for my friend to ask me a further application question. And indeed, my friend further asked me, "Which kind of response would you like to be or identify with?" He gave me some time to think about it.
The good news is that for anyone who reads these words and pays attention, there's a chance to assess their own life in terms of the kind of relationship--or maybe better, the kind of fellowship--they have with the Lord. Further, there is an opportunity, if one does not like where they are, to make a choice to be available for change.
I remember thinking about this 45 years ago and thinking I'd like to identify with the the fourth response suggested and bear fruit in my life. I don't remember if I shared that desire or not with my friend, but I did breathe that prayer to God...and I believe He heard the desire of my heart.
God also will be faithful to hear the desire of your heart as you express that to Him. So, let Him know where you think you are among those types and where you would like to end up. He takes very seriously the desires, rather than the mere whims of our hearts.
(Perhaps you now identify with the fourth option and do not need change. Fine and good, but if you do see a need, don't waste this oportunity to tell Him so--He will hear you.)
Coming to faith in Christ is a matter of grace. Our response to that grace is also bathed in grace. But our life response to that grace is also a choice.
In a profound way this identification and choice is square one in terms of being a disciple of the Lord--a disciple whose telos is to become like the Lord, in order to become a leader in His church. So in that sense the proposal He makes is not so modest at all. It's going all in or not, and that will make all the difference.
Enjoy taking a quick look at the the options below, including a few thoughts about the election in Café Cook, keeping up with What's New?, and Court Watch.