7 February 2018Luke 8:4-15
“’Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’’’ (v. 8)
Psalm: Psalm 17
In the famous parable of the sower, Jesus explains that the word of God sown in the world will not always bear fruit. Indeed, only when sown on the right soil will it survive and grow. The parable is also found in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew (Mark 4:1-20; Matthew 13:1-23), and in each case the interpretation of the parable follows a short explanation of the purpose of parables.
The parable is found in verses 5-8. Taking the agricultural imagery of a sower sowing seed, Jesus paints a picture of the seed ending up on different grounds: the path, the rock, the thorns and the soil. But it is only when planted in the soil that the seed yields its fruit, and “when it grew, it produced a hundredfold”.
Before interpreting the parable, Jesus offers a brief comment on the purpose of parables. Citing Isaiah 6:9-10, Jesus notes that the parables are given so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand” (v. 10b). While those who are drawn into the kingdom are given its secrets, those who resist the kingdom are blind to its true meaning. Parables are given, then, as a way of dividing – or distinguishing – between those who are within the kingdom and those without.
In verses 11-15, Jesus gives an interpretation of the parable. Offering such an interpretation is unusual for Jesus, but here he explains that the parable illustrates different ways in which people receive the word of God. The seeds that fall on the path, the rock and among the thorns demonstrate how the word of God can be received without yielding fruit. When people hear the word, they can allow its truth to be taken from their hearts, fall away when things get tough, and find it choked under the pressure of testing. Those who receive the word rightly, however, are like good soil who hold fast to it, bearing fruit as they endure.
- What are the pressures today that might lead people to ‘lose’ the word that they hear from God?
- How can parables – and Jesus’ teaching more generally – be divisive?
- How can we ensure that we hear the word rightly with an “honest and good heart” (v. 15)