Summary: A look at the four conditions of the human heart and the receptivity of each to the Word of God
A Lesson in Farming
Text: Luke 8:4-15
Introduction: For the next several weeks we’re going to be looking at the parables of Christ as they are found in the Gospel of Luke. The word for "parable" means, "to throw alongside." Therefore, a parable is a type of illustration thrown alongside of an important spiritual truth in order to explain it. What’s odd about the Parable of the Sower is that Jesus spoke to people living in a culture that was very familiar with farming, yet many were confused by His illustration. That’s why Jesus would say to them, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." For those who hung on every word because they had a hunch where to find "truth," this illustration became a wonderful tool to help them consider the condition of their hearts. To others who failed to hear (comprehend) this saving word from Christ, it was a sign that they were under the judgment of God and unable to understand truth. In John 9:39-41 Jesus indicted the Pharisees because they had seen His miracles, yet failed to reach what should have been the logical conclusion. Therefore, they remained under the judgment of God. They were simply unable to detect the work of God though it happened all around them. This reminds me of a story I heard recently.
It seems that a Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the Native American said, “I hear a cricket.” His friend said, “What? You gotta be kidding me. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!” “No, I’m sure of it,” the Native American said. “I heard a cricket.” “That’s crazy,” said the friend. The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!” “No,” said the Native American. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.” “But that can’t be!” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in this noise.” “Yes, it’s true,” came the reply. “It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see the money spread across the pavement. “See what I mean?” asked the Native American. “It all depends on what’s important to you.”
Luke knew what was important, the words of Christ. He recognized that one of Christ’s primary means for teaching truth was the use of parables. It is no wonder, then, that we find he records more of them than any other Gospel writer. Since Luke was not only an historian, but also a doctor, I have decided to title this series: A Physician’s Prescription for Living. Of all the Gospel writers, I find it interesting that Luke was the only one to have quoted Jesus when He said, "The physician doesn’t come to heal the healthy but the sick." Who better than a doctor himself to understand the message and methods of a fellow healer?
In the parable of the sower, the fundamental characteristic that distinguishes the good soil from the others is not the sower, the seed or the presence of hazards since all received the same seed from the same source and faced the same threats (i.e. the Devil, trials, the worries and the temptations of this world). The distinction between the soils is measured by the ability to persevere in the Word and produce a crop! Some people are able to walk with God over a long period of time and ultimately produce fruit while others are not. What makes the difference? It’s all about the condition of the human heart. Here Christ addresses four different conditions.
I. A Hard Heart (See Luke 8:11,12). Some of the seed fell on the hardened soil that had been trampled under foot. Because it had no opportunity to take root, it was left for the enemy (Satan) to snatch it away in order to prevent the person from exercising saving faith. The Hebrew word for "harden" means "to strengthen." It can be used in a positive sense as in Deuteronomy 11:8. It can also be used negatively as we’ll see in a moment.