Parable of the Sower
Scripture: Luke 8:1-21
This morning we will read the Parable of the Sower, which is an important parable because 3 of the 4 gospels include it. That alone makes it one of the most important teaching moments in the ministry of Jesus. But first, Luke gives us a few other details about the ministry of Jesus. Luke chapter 8 verse 1:
1 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,
2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Luke wants us to know that there are women also following Jesus and that these women have also put their life, reputation, and property on the line to do so. Why? Clearly because their lives were also being changed by Jesus! They served in different ways from the twelve apostles, but they were clearly a valuable and important part of the ministry effort – from the beginning!
But Luke also wants us to see a congregation forming around Jesus. His travelling companions were becoming a church. Let’s keep reading.
4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable,
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it.
6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.
8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus uses parables anytime he talks about the kingdom, because openly talking about a new kingdom in the Roman empire was a bad idea. And He trusts that God’s Spirit will be at work in the hearts of people who “have an ear to hear” as he says.
The crowd knows all about the topic of this parable. It’s just basic farming. Most of us know a little bit about farming because we live near the Delta.
What is strange about this parable is that the farmer’s method of planting seeds is terribly inefficient. In those days, farmers would scatter seed before plowing the soil. But what farmer would intentionally throw seed on a path or on rocky soil? It sounds to the crowd like he is wasting seed.
Years ago, I wanted to plant some grass under a tree in my backyard, so what did I do? I spread the seed in that area. I didn’t throw the seed on my driveway. That would be a waste!
The farmer sounds a little careless to the crowd. Shouldn’t he be more careful with his seed? And yet, the punchline is that he still produces an insanely large crop! Normally, a farmer could expect to get 5 or 10 times his seed at harvest. This farmer yields as much as 100 times more. That would get the crowds’ attention.
But what does it mean? Let’s find out.
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant,
10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’
11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12 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.
13 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.
14 And as for what fell among the 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.
15 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.
That’s a clear, simple explanation. But there are really two messages here – two applications. One for the crowds and one for the disciples.
This is the message to the crowd: My kingdom is coming, but most of you will not benefit from it. In other words, it is a warning… a moment of crisis.
The question is this: Where do I stand personally in my relation to the kingdom of God?
Am I the one who has ignored God’s Word? Or am I the one who responded a long time ago with joy and now it means nothing to me? Or am I the one who has allowed everything else to come before God’s kingdom?
Don’t assume that being around Jesus is enough. Unless your heart is good soil, you will be excluded from the kingdom. Good intentions, positivity, trying to live a good life – none of that is enough. Either God’s Word is rooted deeply in your heart, or it is not.
Of course, the problem is that most people will hear this and it will have absolutely no impact on their lives… no conviction. No assessment of their heart. No change of direction. Not unless the Spirit of God breaks up the soil.
And that brings us to a second application here – for the disciples.
God’s kingdom is God’s work. Jesus is the farmer. He is inviting his followers to help cast seeds, but only God can make them grow. A crop of this magnitude from this amount of seed is a miracle. The work of the kingdom is always a miracle.
Our job is to cast seeds. But Jesus teaches his disciples not to be discouraged when the seed doesn’t take root. Many times, it won’t, or at least we may not be around to see it.
I can attest to that. As a pastor, I’ve met hundreds of people over the years and in many cases I have tried to love and serve and share the Gospel with them. And most of the time it bears no obvious fruit.
Sometimes people are completely resistant to God’s Word and they won’t respond at all. Others respond quickly to the Word, and it can be exciting, but it doesn’t last. Others may be in and around the church for years, but God’s Word never really becomes a priority for them.
That’s because in an unbelieving heart the motive is not repentance and faith. Instead, it was only about what God might be able to do for me. And when they realize God’s not that interested in our temporary happiness, they bail.
God’s kingdom is about breaking the curse of sin that separates us from Him and hurts everyone and everything in this world. It’s responsible for the sense of despair and anger and fear that is all around us. And this is God’s heart.
God is interested in dealing with that and helping people recover from it. His work creates joy and healing and contentment, but it doesn’t necessarily make us happy and comfortable all the time. It’s an invitation to a greater purpose and to a community. Look at what Jesus says next. Verse 16:
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.
17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.
18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”
This is actually another warning and a challenge. How are we receiving the Word of God? Is the kingdom of God our chief priority? Can other people see that, because if God’s Word and His kingdom are the most important thing in our lives, then it won’t be hidden or secret. It will be obvious. It will be on display.
That’s the calling of the disciple – to bring glory to God… to put Christ on display in our daily lives. And that involves community. Look at how our text ends.
19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd.
20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.”
21 But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
I love this because it is so shocking and blunt. This is Mary and James… this is the biological family of Jesus! And Jesus makes this statement at their expense. Not because He doesn’t care about his family, but because He wants to teach his disciples something important about the church.
This right here… this community… it matters more than your biological family. Not that your family doesn’t matter. It does. But in the eyes of God, this is more important.
God’s Kingdom, God’s Word, and God’s Church are all tied to one another. Please hear me.
You can’t have the blessings of the kingdom without Jesus. You can’t have Jesus without His Word. You can’t have His Word without His church. Let me repeat that.
You can’t have the blessings of the kingdom without Jesus. You can’t have Jesus without His Word. You can’t have His Word without His church.
What does Jesus say? “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
There are a lot of people who have convinced themselves that they can have Jesus without the Bible and without the church. And I understand why they have come to that decision. I understand the struggle. I’ve heard the reasons…
“Church people are so judgmental!”
“Churches are too focused on money!”
“Churches don’t do anything for the community!”
And very often, there’s a lot of truth behind those excuses… or some very personal experiences of hurt or even spiritual abuse.
But I also know that the people in North Mississippi are lonelier than they’ve ever been. Anxiety and depression are the new normal. Broken families are the new normal. Addiction. Alcoholism. It’s everywhere.
We need community. We need people in our lives who care about us. Most of all we need Jesus, and this is where Jesus promises to be. We need His Word, and we need His people around us.
This is not a perfect church. You won’t find one of those. But we are a family… trying to follow Jesus together… and we’re always adopting.