Summary: In each case the seed is the same, but the soil into which the seed falls is what makes the difference. In this story four different responses are given, along with four different causes and having four distinct results.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 19
Are You Ready To Listen?
After over twenty years in the ministry there is one thing that I am absolutely convinced of and it is that there variety of listeners in every congregation. You would literally be amazed at what a pastor sees from the pulpit as he looks out over the congregation each week. You have the opportunity to watch as people struggle to stay awake, and some cases not struggle to stay away. Almost every pastor has some funny stories to tell about people falling asleep in the service. Of seeing someone fall asleep and hit there head on the pew in front of them or being elbowed by their mate and standing to their feet and pronouncing the benediction. I find great consolation in the fact that even the Apostle Paul had people in the congregation to fall asleep while he was preaching (Acts 20:9). Perhaps even worse I read that “One Sunday during the sermon, a child settled in with her crayons and children’s bulletin. Seated next to her mother, this four-year-old glanced around at the adults in the pews, played a game of peek-a-boo with the “grandpa” behind her and inspected her elbows. Finally, she noticed the preacher way down in the front, ‘Momma,’ she whispered, ‘Who is that man talking to?”[Lori Carrell. The Great Sermon Survey. (Wheaton;
Illinois: Mainstay Church Resources, 2000) p. 33]
I really have a great deal of sympathy for those who have to fight to keep from falling asleep. Sometimes it is because of too keeping to hectic a schedule so anytime they slow down they fall asleep. Other times it is because of medication or other times, although I do my best to see that it is not, the sermon is just boring.
But falling asleep in the service is not my greatest concern. As I said it can happen for any number of reasons. What does concern me is that numbers of people who sit in a pew each week with their bodies awake but their souls asleep. Some people pay more attention to the commercials on television than they do to the Word of God. This is also a problem that Jesus was faced with.
As Jesus moves from the home of Simon the Pharisee and he continued his ministry in the surrounding region of Galilee, whole towns emptied to see the miracle worker in action and to hear his unique message (v. 1). The parallel account in Mark (4:1) adds that “… There was such a crowd along the shore that he got into a boat and sat down and spoke from there” (NLT). It was an impressive scene, one we might expect Jesus to have been impressed by such a large crowd. Today when we see a large gathering in church we are tempted to conclude that the Lord’s work is being done, but that is not necessarily true.
Any church in our country could be packed if just appealed to only the felt needs of the today’s society. People of the world love the “good news’ as long as it is the good news as they define it. But Jesus knew why that many had come to hear him. Some had merely come to sample it, to see what was going on. In fact some of them had no spiritual interest at all. Perhaps the more frightening of all some of them by their repeated hearing but not believing were become hardened to the gospel. Some people today that sit in church around this country are gospel hardened, because they have heard the truth so many times while doing nothing at all about it. It is to these people that Jesus now explains the truth through a parable. This parable is so important that it is recorded in three of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).
Verse five begins the parable, "A sower went out to
sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. (6) Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. (7) And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. (8) But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold."
As Jesus completed the parable in verse eight he called out to the crowd, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
“The word “hear” is used nine times in this section and it means more than just the physical ability to hear. “Hearing” hear means listening with spiritual understanding and receptivity.” [Weirsbe. p. 85] Luke records that Jesus said, “Be careful how you hear.” And Mark records a different emphasis. According to Mark, Jesus said, “Be careful what you hear.” The emphasis is obviously on the receptiveness of the listener. Jesus is revealing that the condition of one’s heart determines whether there is any receptivity to the truth or not.